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Fit Humans Of SG — Cheryl Foo

"Do you even lift?" has become a cringeworthy catchphrase reserved for gym junkies who take their topless Instagram game way too seriously, but CrossFit trainer Cheryl Foo has redefined it for herself. As a self-professed sports enthusiast, fitness has always been a part of her life, whether she's crushing the weight rack on land, or rowing across the sea on a canoe. Cheryl's love for lifting weights and the need to prove wrong every man who believes women can't lift has pushed her to where she is today, making the catchphrase something of a trophy for the determined sportswoman.

We had a chat with Cheryl and she shared what inspires her and keeps her real and true to the sports she loves, without letting how clean she eats or how heavy she squats govern her aptitude.

Sports is a huge part of my life. Other than CrossFit, weightlifting and working out in the gym, I am also actively involved in dragonboating and canoeing. Aside from work or school, sports is all I want to do at any time during the day. If I wanted to hang out with my friends, the gym would be our central place to meet.

I used to compete in strongman competitions in 2012, 2013 and 2015. I placed first runner up, and was the winner for the other two.

My personal best with lifting was 152kg for a back squat, and 150kg for my deadlifts for two. During the strongman competition, I lifted with an axle bar, and that went to about 180kg.

I got started with CrossFit through training at the old Solitude of Strength outlet that we shared with another CrossFit box. They saw me training for awhile, and asked if I wanted to give CrossFit a try, because I was training without a goal. Friends got me into it, and it took off from there.

In order to coach CrossFit you have to be certified with a CrossFit level one. You can be a certified personal trainer prior to that, but it doesn't mean you can teach CrossFit as there is no direct affiliation. Every CrossFit box also needs to be officially affiliated with the institution in order to teach.

I started coaching because I enjoyed the learning process behind getting the certification. If I can use CrossFit as a tool for people to get fitter through the high intensity training, it's satisfying for me as well because I'm a personal trainer. It has its fun side too. If a client comes in and wants to shake things up, I can swap over to doing sprints, the gymnastics aspect of CrossFit, and more. It's not limiting.

A typical workout session would be some foam rolling and stretching to start off, because mobility is very important, especially with weightlifting. I have injuries in my lower back and shoulder, so stretching to me is injury-preventive movements. I begin with compound movements like snatches, clean and jerks, followed by some accessory movements like squats and straight presses. I typically end off with something high intensity that gets me huffing and puffing.

I eat whatever I want. To be honest, I love my alcohol too much to eat clean. We're all humans, and we're allowed to enjoy life. I'll just ensure that I have more proteins than carbs, and consume loads of greens throughout the day. If it is competition season, I am more careful with my meal prep. I try to keep my diet as natural and whole as possible.

Cajun chicken breast and steamed broccoli with some soba is my go-to clean meal. My favourite cheat meal would have to be Korean food.

During competition season I'll take multivitamins and fish oils. If recovery becomes an issue, I take some amino acids as I prefer it to whey protein.

My primary motivation was to lift more than the guys. I had a really bad experience when I first started off at the gym, and the men were all hogging the rack. I wasn't small then either, probably around 80kg or so. I would be attempting to squat about 40kg, and they'd make fun of me, asking me not to waste their time as I was squatting such a light weight. The anger to throw their ego out became my fuel.

Motivation and encouragement also comes from my dragonboat team. It's not a sport you do alone, so even if you feel down that day and not keen to push yourself, everyone will keep each other on track.

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