He tells maid: Complete marathon and $2k is yours

He tells maid: Complete marathon and $2k is yours

He threw his maid a challenge: Complete a marathon and you’ll get $2,000.

And Mr Tan Kok Sing kept his promise when Ms Leah Martinez, 45, completed the 42km Standard Chartered Marathon three years ago in seven hours.

“It wasn’t easy as I had put on a lot of weight at that time,” Miss Martinez said.

Having caught the running bug, she has gone on to complete three more marathons without the need for monetary incentives.

Her only training for the marathons is the regular exercise she does with the Tiong Bahru Joggers club.

The Filipina began working for Mr Tan, whom she calls “uncle”, in 1999 .

Mr Tan takes her along when he jogs and plays basketball every morning.

She even has both the official blue and white Tiong Bahru Joggers club singlets, which Mr Tan prints for the members.

“You can really see the progress she has made in her fitness. She can run so fast now,” said Mr Tan.

Mr Tan, who is also the founder of Tiong Bahru Joggers club, is a fitness fanatic who jogs and plays basketball regularly despite his age.

He buys retirees basketballs out of his own savings

Retirees play a mean game of ball

Mr Tan Kok Sing, 86, a retired director of an import-export company, exercises regularly and gets his friends and neighbours to take up basketball by buying them basketballs out of his own savings.

Mr Tan’s enthusiasm for sports and leading a healthy lifestyle was triggered when, at the age of 35, he was afflicted with rheumatism in his knees.

His condition improved after he took up jogging, and he even formed a jogging club, called Tiong Bahru Garden Joggers, which now has around 300 members.

The combined age of the members of the basketball club he founded may well exceed 1,000 years.

But it does not stop them from playing the game every weekday morning.

Members of the Tiong Bahru Joggers club, ranging in age from 45 to 87, have been exercising and playing basketball for more than three decades now.

And they play a mean game, with such moves as three pointers, lay-ups, rebounds and fast breaks down the wings.

The club was started in 1977 by Mr Tan, and was initially only for jogging.

The club has 50 members, most of them retirees, and they follow an exercise regimen that would put some young people to shame.

Every day at 5.30am, they meet at Tiong Bahru Park for a warm-up, followed by a jog of between 4km and 7km. After that, they do exercises such as shuttle runs and sit-ups.

And there are cash incentives for transcending one’s physical limits in the club.

Speaking in Mandarin, Mr Tan said: “We challenge ourselves. If anyone achieves 30 sit-ups under a minute or under 12 seconds for the shuttle run, I will award them $20 NTUC FairPrice vouchers.”

He buys the vouchers out of his own pocket, from his life savings, which he described asdecent.

After the exercise regimen, at about 7am, those interested will play basketball, after which they would have a hearty breakfast at a nearby coffee shop at 8am.

On average, there are 15 basketball players a day. Their only day off is when it rains.

Birth of the idea

Birth of the basketball idea

Mr Tan’s enthusiasm for sports and leading a healthy lifestyle was triggered when, at the age of 35, he was afflicted with rheumatism in his knees.

His condition improved after he took up jogging, and he even formed a jogging club, called Tiong Bahru Garden Joggers, which now has around 300 members

It used to be solely a jogging club until 20 years ago, when it struck Mr Tan that basketball was another sport that his friends would enjoy.

“Soon, more and more people joined in. Over the years, there have been different people leaving and joining, due to them shifting houses and other reasons,” said Mr Tan, whose nickname is “Lao Chen” or “Old Tan” in Chinese.

If that’s not enough, the club meets for a jog to Sentosa every Sunday, covering distances that vary from 6km to 12km.

Slower runners start at 5am, while the faster ones set off an hour later.

Mr Tan is a firm believer in the wonders of exercise and even gets his maid to participate actively in it.

Retiree Mr Gay Hai Hing, 76, the team’s unofficial basketball coach, also agreed that exercising is crucial for health.

“I was at Henderson Community Club when I saw Mr Tan shooting hoops on his own at the basketball court, so I decided to join him and have been here ever since,” he said.

Mr Teo Kee Huat, a 68-year-old member of the club, said basketball is not one of his hobbies, but he enjoys the company of his club members, so he joins in.

Mr Tan hopes to inspire others through his involvement in sports. His message is simple: One need not be handicapped by age.

However, his children are not totally convinced that the game is suitable for him.

Fear of falls

Fear of falls

“I had a fall some time back and spent five days in the hospital with abrasions on my left arm and a swollen left eye,” Mr Teo revealed.

His elder son Wilson, 39, self-employed, explained that he is worried his father might get injured.

“Old people’s bones are so brittle. Sometimes, exercising can do them more harm than good,” said the younger Mr Teo.

But he is glad that his father is putting in effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Mr Leslie Ng, a physiotherapist at sports injury clinic One Physiotherapy, explained that the elderly have more wear and tear in their joints, and loss of elasticity in their tendons and muscles.

He stressed that to avoid muscle and joint sprains, it is important they spend more time warming up and stretching before and after sporting activities.

A benefit of exercising into old age is that it helps maintain muscle mass, joint flexibility and overall fitness.

“The main benefit would have to be that they (the elderly) are exercising the most important muscle in their body, their heart.” Mr Ng added.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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