S'pore dragon-boater Jimmy Chan on keeping fit at 43

SINGAPORE - It is frustrating for Mr Jimmy Chan, 43, when hearing people think he cannot do everything they can.

He told Mind Your Body he was "very disappointed and discouraged" when he was exempted from national service at the age of 18 because of his hearing impairment.

It was ironic, as he had run his first marathon at the age of 15, which he reckoned would have made him fitter than many young men his age.

Last December, he took part in the 12km category of the Commando Challenge, an urban obstacle race. That is on top of the 20 marathons he has done to date, in addition to countless other shorter races.

Mr Chan lost most of his hearing in both ears when a fever at the age of three damaged his ear drums.

He can make out only high-pitched sounds, which are also unclear to him.

To amplify these sounds, he uses a hearing aid and he also lip reads and does sign language to communicate with people.

Last July, the senior process engineer joined the Deaf Dragons, one of two dragon-boat teams with hearing-impaired members.

In January, he signed up for the Fitter U campaign, organised by NTUC's U Sports and LiveFitter to improve his fitness. The campaign aims to inspire Singaporeans towards a health transformation in any one of the four areas of endurance, physique, strength and sports.

He chose to improve his endurance and aims to complete a full marathon in under five hours.

He came close in his most recent marathon, the 2XU Compression Run on March 2, with a time of 5hr 30min.

He wrote in an e-mail interview: "When my wife said she wanted to see my six-pack at the end of the campaign, I kept laughing because I had one big belly.

"Now, my tummy is gone, I have lost 6kg and my chest, bicep and tricep muscles have been built up."

He is married to a 35-year-old teacher. They have two daughters, aged 11 and two. He stands 1.71m tall and weighs 68kg.

How do you keep fit?

I train with Deaf Dragons, a dragon-boat team of hearing-impaired rowers, three times a week.

We do land-based training at Ayer Rajah Industrial Estate on Fridays and row on the Kallang River on weekends.

Instead of relying on verbal commands and listening to drum beats, we watch for the coach's or coxswain's hand gestures and feel the vibrations from the drums to guide our movements.

On Sunday mornings, I usually run with a running group at MacRitchie Reservoir or East Coast Park.

I also go to the gym three or four times a week, spending two to three hours there each time.

In the gym, I do high-intensity interval training, as well as attend programmes created by the Les Mills International group, such as Body Pump (a barbell workout) and Body Jam (a hip-hop dance form).

To devote this much time to training, I give up leisure activities like watching television.

At home, I also do 40 push-ups daily and use the resistance band whenever I have the time.

How has your exercise regimen changed over the years?

Before joining the Fitter U campaign (a fitness programme co-organised by NTUC) in January, I exercised as and when I felt like it.

I procrastinated a lot and would work out only two or three times a month. Now, I have a more regular workout regimen.

During the campaign, I attended four workshops that taught me how to exercise and plan my meals.

I had my interpreter with me so I could understand what was being taught.

I used to do only 100 skipping rope counts, once or twice a week. Now I can do 500 each time.

What is your secret to looking fabulous?

Keep a positive mindset, exercise regularly and have balanced meals.

Has there been a time when you were not fit and fabulous?

While I consider myself fit now, I have not been very fit in the past 15 years or so, since the age of 27.

Although I was not overweight and could make it to the finish line of endurance races, I did not clock good times.

I got married at 26, had a full-time job as a drafter (someone who prepares technical drawings) and delivered fast food part-time to cope with living expenses.

As a result, I did not focus on my health and fell sick often.

What is your diet like?

I used to have up to four meals a day, including heavy suppers of fried rice or noodles, or roti prata and a soft drink.

These days, I watch what I eat and have cut down on oily food such as fried chicken. Instead, I eat more fruit and vegetables.

What are your indulgences?

Hawker fare, ranging from laksa to Hokkien noodles and char kway teow, though I try to limit such meals to once a fortnight.

Previously, I did not keep track of how often I ate these hawker food, choosing to eat it as and when I felt like it.

How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?

Spending time with my children helps me relax and feel joyful. We enjoy cycling, swimming and reading books in the library together. My children communicate with me through sign language.

What are the three most important things in your life?

Family, health and career.

I will have my family for a lifetime, so it is important to stay bonded.

Health is essential for the mind and for a happy family.

Without a career, it will be difficult to survive as there are mouths to feed.

Would you go for plastic surgery?

Definitely not. I won't even consider a cochlear implant.

Although many hearing-impaired people rely on them, I declined to have one put in because of the numerous follow-up consultations and maintenance involved.

Moreover, cochlear implants do not always guarantee that one can hear clearly. I personally just use my hearing aids when I need to. I also believe God created me as a unique person in spite of my hearing impairment.

Do you think you are sexy?

I don't consider myself sexy.

All I want is to be fitter, leaner and stronger. I think I have improved in these areas since participating in the Fitter U campaign.

joanchew@sph.com.sg

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