5 in 5: ST sports editor to tackle a weighty matter - the ST Run's 5km challenge

The Straits Times' sports editor Lee Yulin, photographed before she goes on a journey to better fitness.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

"So, are you going to do the ST Run?"

It was one of the first things a colleague asked me the day it was announced I would take over as sports editor at The Straits Times.

I was already somewhat apprehensive about taking over a role which I never saw coming. This question sent me into near-panic mode.

You see, I might be the sports editor but anyone who has met me knows I can hardly be called sporty. In fact, my record of participation in sports events in recent years has been spotty.

It wasn't always like this. I was a competitive swimmer as a child, and loved nothing more than to play badminton on the streets outside my Serangoon Gardens home or climb in and out of the longkangs in the estate. I cycled a lot - mostly to my math and Chinese tutors' homes. Sometimes I achieved great distances (all the way to Jalan Kayu, before Ang Mo Kio came up) and sometimes speed, when chased by the neighbourhood dogs.


I went to uni in Perth, where I played soccer for the UWA team and took part in all sorts of sports representing the college dorm. The city's cool, breezy weather and mild winters, the school's location on the banks of the beautiful Swan River, as well as cheap and easy access to sporting fields both on and off campus made it easy to do something. Anything.

But then I returned to Singapore and working life at the ST sports desk began. Even though sport was in my life every day, I was not disciplined enough to make it a part of my life every day. And as my workload expanded over the years, so did my girth.

Sure I made the odd attempt to be more active here and there. Like when I tried to take up netball both for fitness and as a means to develop an in-depth knowledge of the game. My glasses broke in my very first training session with the SPH team after the ball hit me square in the face. I've stayed on the sidelines since.

But taking over the portfolio of sports editor led to some serious introspection.

First, the fact that I am no longer sporty and my physical specimen is a far cry from the subject of my profession. I'll never be Gabrielle Reese but surely I could be more than a little teapot, short and stout?

Second, the painful daily realisation as I try to button ill-fitting shirts and pull on too-tight pants that among my many challenges is a sartorial challenge.

So when New Year's Day rolled round on Jan 1, I re-made my annual resolution - to lose some weight.

I have friends who lost a lot of weight on a juicing regimen. They made it look so easy. No pain, no sweat. Just juice. I decided to give it a try.

But $700 and a couple of incidents of gastric pain later, I told myself: To hell with it. Bring on the big pants.


The Straits Times' sports editor Lee Yulin, photographed before she goes on a journey to better fitness. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Chinese New Year for my family is typically an open house for relatives at our home on the first day. I hedonistically wolfed down buttery pineapple tarts and heavenly bak kwa all weekend.

At the end of the first week, a friend decided to stand on the weighing scale. Out of curiosity, I did so too and the number hit me like a stone from David's sling: 66.6kg - the heaviest I've ever been.

It was time for a more penitent approach.

Temptation, the devil's curse

How did I get this heavy?

Food. And lots of it. My mantra with good food: Lead me not into temptation, I shall find it myself.

It doesn't help that my favourite foods are all largely comfort foods - Mac & Cheese, garlic mashed potato, and my all-time favourite - hot rice with melted butter, topped with a raw egg and seasoned with Bovril. I cannot remember who invented this - my mum or an aunt. But since said persons are still alive, it is best to leave it unattributed.

My clan also appreciate good food, my buddies are foodies and there are always snacks and treats to be found in the office. At ST, we even have a name for this little slice of heaven: TUP (the usual place).

But all this is no laughing matter if you, like me, stand barely above five feet at my weight. The BMI calculator I found online did not mince its words: "You are overweight. To obtain a normal bodyweight, you should lose between 8.31kg and 23.29kg."

That advice left me baffled. So which should it be? Lose 8kg or more than 20kg? Pondering what to do was almost an out-of-body experience.

Then a friend suggested instead that getting fit should be my main focus, not just weight loss. And that I should take part in an event, which would give me a solid goal (not just some airy-fairy wish) and a deadline to work to.

A vow to change: 5 in 5

Several research studies have shown that those who make a public commitment to their fitness goals achieve more than those who don't. Apparently, having to live up to expectations from family and friends after you've told them your goals works as a sort of "pressure" to succeed.

Hence this blog = 5 in 5: To be fit enough to do a 5km run in 5 months - March, April, May, June and July.

For many, running 5km is like 5 cents. Literally nothing.

But not for me. Me who huffs and puffs after taking the short spiral staircase up to my office on the mezzanine level.

Me who doesn't subscribe to car-lite. Or any form of lite for that matter - be it Coke (my go-to tipple), or fat or sugar.

Me whose calves ached after I did a 1km "test" on a treadmill last Monday. (It was my orientation at the gym).

So I am under no illusion that this journey towards running 5km will be a stroll in the park.

But as my favourite movie character, a wise, ancient creature, says: "Do. Or do not. There is no try."