SINGAPORE - What do you do to keep fit?
During the weekends, I typically run and cycle for more than two hours. On weekdays, I go for shorter runs that last under an hour, swim between 1.5km and 2.5km and cycle for an hour or two, as long as my schedule permits.
I make it a point to do at least one strength training session a week.
My exercise regimen is determined by the race I'm training for. As the upcoming Viper Challenge requires me to run and clear obstacles, I have cut back on my swim and bike sessions and increased my weekly run mileage and strength training.
I now cycle only once a week, do long runs twice a week and have three gym sessions a week.
I do dragon boating with a local team called Paddlers Against Limits when I'm not racing, typically between December and March.
How has your exercise regimen changed over the years?
When I was working part-time as a fitness trainer with a now defunct private gym, I had the luxury of long daily training sessions.
But having a rigorous academic load now means that my training sessions are shorter and I focus more on intensity than duration.
I have started doing high intensity interval training workouts such as circuit training - alternating sprints with weights - for days when I'm short on time as these are more efficient workouts.
What is your secret to looking fabulous?
Great genes? Honestly, I haven't a clue. I had no skincare routine until an acne breakout this year and I don't like to fuss over clothes or make-up. The only thing I do is to keep my body in good shape so I can do well in races.
Has there been a time when you were not fit and fabulous?
Several times, in fact. Before I turned 19, I rarely exercised. I was terribly unfit and had no self-esteem. Then I took up mountain biking that year and became more active.
Last year, after I raced in a triathlon in Massachusetts, I fell sick with a bad flu and had problems breathing, so I stopped training for almost six months.
What is your diet like?
My diet may seem like a nightmare to others.
I'm a very picky eater. I don't like to eat anything with a slimy or squishy texture, or that which tastes extremely sweet, salty or bitter. If I eat too much of dairy products, wheat, additives and food colouring, they give me headaches or stomach problems.
I don't count calories because it seems like an unnecessarily painful thing to do but I make sure that I consume at least two cups of vegetables a day, stay away from food I'm sensitive to and minimise my intake of processed food.
Usually, breakfast will be rolled oats, an egg and an apple, lunch is a salad or vegetable soup and dinner is something I've cooked and frozen.
How has your diet changed?
It's changed quite a bit. For one thing, I absolutely hated vegetables when I was young.
Now, I make the effort to learn how to cook them in ways that I'm more likely to enjoy - either roasted with some salt and pepper or stir-fried with some water and a lot of minced garlic.
My diet used to be carbohydrate-heavy but gluten is one of the things my stomach reacts badly to. Now, I avoid processed white carbs, such as white rice, instant or quick-cook oats and white bread.
Instead, I stick to two servings of minimally processed whole grains such as brown rice or rolled oats. Sometimes, I just eat sweet potatoes for carbs as they are rich in vitamins and protein.
What are your indulgences?
I do like a good single malt Scotch whisky and steak once in a long while.
Apart from that, most of my favourite junk food does not go down well with my stomach, so having them can be more like punishment for me than indulgence.
How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
Working and studying in fields I'm passionate about can be a kind of double-edged sword. It means I can sometimes do it to the exclusion of everything else.
Good planning helps as well as having the discipline to follow a schedule. It may sound strange but I feel most relaxed when I have my days planned to the very last minute and know that I've made time to do everything I want.
What are the three most important things in your life?
As selfish as it sounds, I have only one and that is to look after myself. Over the years, I've learnt that no matter how important everything else can be to me - my family, the causes I support, friends, training - I cannot give 100 per cent to them if I'm not in good shape physically or emotionally.
Would you go for plastic surgery?
Not for money or love. I think my body right now is just fine; it gets me through races and isn't too unhealthy, so I would not consider plastic surgery unless it is life-saving.
Do you think you are sexy?
No, I don't, because that's not how I want to be perceived as. I'd rather be thought of as confident, smart or determined but certainly not sexy.
Ms Priscilla Ting-Chen
Ms Ting-Chen once called a friend who had completed her first Ironman triathlon "insane". But now, the naysayer "cannot imagine a life without endurance sports any more".
Her first race was the Singapore Mountain Bike Carnival in 2010. She raced solo for 12 hours and found the experience "absolutely fantastic".
The graduate student, who is studying for a Master of Arts in Autism Studies from the University of Kent in Canterbury in Britain, has raced in about 10 endurance races, including duathlons and marathons.
In about two weeks, she will be taking part in the Viper Challenge, a 20km obstacle course challenge at the Sepang International Circuit in Kuala Lumpur.
Ms Ting-Chen will have to crawl through barbed wire, slide down a hill, jump into ice water and run on tyres, among other obstacles.
She is one of close to 1,000 Singaporeans and 8,000 participants from places including Malaysia, Hong Kong, Australia, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia.
To register for the Viper Challenge individually or in a team, visit www.viperchallenge.com/sg for a special discount. Registration closes on Aug 11.
Stand a chance to win one of 10 Viper Challenge race spots worth RM170 (S$68) each. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name, address, e-mail address, identity card number and contact details by next Wednesday. Specify Viper Challenge as the subject.
Get a copy of Mind Your Body, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.