Fit And Fab

In good shape

Ex-wrestler Leonard Kong tells Joan Chew why he made the switch to CrossFit

Mr Leonard Kong, 31, doing kettlebell swings, one of the CrossFit exercises.
Mr Leonard Kong, 31, doing kettlebell swings, one of the CrossFit exercises.ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN

Q How and why did you pick up CrossFit?

A I was introduced to CrossFit by Mr Kevin Lim, who started the first CrossFit gym in Singapore in 2009.

He invited me to try a sample workout with him, doing three rounds of five repetitions of 220kg deadlifts and 10 burpees.

  • Bio Box


    Age: 31

    Weight: 89kg

    Height: 1.8m

    In September, Mr Kong pushed himself to the limit to raise funds for underprivileged young people. One of the 190 men and women who train at CrossFit gyms across Singapore, he helped raise a total of $194,146 for Reach Community Services, an organisation that helps at-risk youth.

    In 2009, the former wrestler picked up CrossFit, a strength and conditioning programme that focuses on constantly varied movements such as squatting, pushing and pulling executed at high intensity. He is now one of three owners and trainers at Innervate CrossFit. The elite athlete has represented his schools and the state of Victoria, in Australia, in swimming and cycling competitions. In 2013, he came up tops in his weight category for both Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling at the pre-SEA Games Wrestling Tournament in Myanmar.

    He is engaged to a 28-year-old who works in human resource in the finance industry.

He finished in less than four minutes, while I was still struggling to complete the workout after 10 minutes. That was a very humbling experience. I thought that I was in good shape being a national wrestler, but I was wrong.

I signed up for the CrossFit fundamentals class a week later, and have not looked back since.

Q What is the most extreme thing you have done in the quest for fitness?

A I used to do some pretty extreme things to get to the right weight for wrestling competitions, such as having to drop up to 5kg in a short period of time to be at 84kg.

These weight cuts involved eating or drinking very little in the lead up to weigh-ins and working out in a sauna wearing a plastic suit to lose the extra water weight.

Q Has there ever been a time when you were not fit and fab?

A For three years in primary school, I was in the Trim and Fit Club for overweight kids.

I was deemed overweight based on my body mass index, despite being a school swimmer.

That had a negative impact on my self-esteem as I associated my weight with being unfit and obese.

When I left for boarding school in Australia at the age of 14, I was encouraged by the teachers and mentors there to try new things. I learnt a wealth of life skills and gravitated towards sports. I realised that getting people to be capable and active are significantly more valuable than putting any label on them.

Q What is your diet like?

A For 90 per cent of the time, I stick to a diet consisting of lean meat, nuts and seeds, some fruit, a little starch and no sugar. I have two to three meals a day. I typically skip breakfast because I do not like to have a heavy meal before going to work. Also, I often do my own workout in the late mornings and I prefer not to do so on a full belly.

Q Has your diet changed over the years?

A Yes, my diet has changed significantly. I used to eat a diet that was high in carbohydrates - pasta, rice and noodles - in order to "fuel" my various activities.

I have learnt that I do not need such large quantities and can now make better food choices with protein and good fats.

Q What are your indulgences?

A I enjoy a good burger and Belgian beer. I do not live like a monk and will not turn down a cake at birthday parties, though I am careful with what I eat on a daily basis.

Q What do you do to relax?

A I find relaxation in doing various sports. I try to avoid getting stuck in a routine by keeping things varied.

I enjoy swimming, inline skating, sitting down with a good book and taking my five-year-old miniature schnauzer Schnapps out to play.

Q What are the three most important things in your life?

A My family - meaning my parents, younger brother and now, my fiance - is the single most important thing to me. They are extremely supportive of my personal endeavours and life goals. Next, would be good health and fitness, which allow me to lead an active and full life.

I also strive to lead a meaningful life, which is why I coach and help people improve their lives.

Q Would you go for plastic surgery?

A No, I would not. We have been born and blessed with attributes and features that make us unique. I do not believe in altering one's looks artificially. I do not see the point of facing the potential risks of plastic surgery for the sake of vanity. We need to be comfortable with our appearance and have the mindset to accept who we are.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2015, with the headline 'In good shape'. Subscribe