Why working in a pizza restaurant is a good workout

SINGAPORE - Mr Matthew White throws the stereotype of a potbellied chef out of the window.

The 33-year-old American is the consulting chef at the Lo & Behold Group, which owns and manages restaurants and bars such as The White Rabbit at Dempsey Hill and Extra Virgin Pizza in Marina View.

For four to five days a week, the 1.85m tall triathlete who weighs 81kg works up a sweat in front of a 500 deg C oven in the kitchen. He calls this a good workout because he has to work fast to serve dishes.

Outside of work, he keeps up a strict regimen of running, cycling and swimming six days a week.

He represented the University of Washington in the United States in swimming competitions until a traffic accident at the age of 20 cut short his collegiate athletic career. He tore two knee ligaments and cracked his knee cap in half, necessitating three operations to repair them.

Being kept in bed almost caused him to sink into depression. One doctor said he would never run again.

But after six months of rehabilitation, he began to walk slowly, then jog, before finally going back to the extreme sports he enjoyed, such as skiing, rafting and mountain biking.

Since 2005, he has competed in one marathon, five half-marathons and 40 triathlons.

What do you do to keep fit?

I participate in triathlons, and cycling and running events throughout the year, so I train specifically for each of them. I stick to a routine of running, cycling and swimming - each sport twice a week - and take the remaining day off to recover.

I run in the Orchard area, cycle all over Singapore and swim in the pool at my apartment complex.

I am currently training for the Ironman Australia in May. In a week, I will usually clock 20 to 30km of running, 220 to 280km of cycling and 9km of swimming.

I will also spend a day or two on exercises that focus on stretching and core work.

How has your exercise regimen changed over the years?

When I was in my 20s, I could run or cycle almost every day and still feel fresh the next day, ready to push myself.

After long, hard workouts these days, I crawl out of bed feeling stiff. I need to do some stretches to awaken my muscles and ease the pain from my back and neck.

I have now learnt to listen to my body and let it recover. On an easy day, I cycle or run at a very slow pace, usually with a friend who chats with me. On a hard day, my workout is at a very high intensity, at near race pace, for long or short distances. It is more tiring and I take longer to recover from it.

Every other week, I go to a professional sports masseuse and get a 90-minute massage.

What is your diet like?

As I am preparing for an Ironman now and looking to shed some weight, I stick to a vegetarian diet 95 per cent of the time. The exceptions are when I am tasting food at work and developing new menu items.

For breakfast, I usually have gluten-free, hot cereal mix with almond milk and lots of raw nuts.

I make myself a smoothie right before the restaurant's lunch service, which is when we serve the bulk of our lunchtime crowd from 12 to 2pm. The smoothie keeps me fuelled up and is my lunch basically.

In the afternoons, I like to snack on an apple or banana and, sometimes, a granola bar.

For dinner, I cook healthy grains, such as cous cous and quinoa, and other food such as sweet potato curry, grilled veggies and Thai red rice. If I do not have time to cook, I make another smoothie and snack on rice cakes, baby carrots and raisins after that.

I do not count my calories. I know eating healthy raw food and exercising can help me to slowly lose weight and be race-ready.

What are your indulgences?

I love pizza, sushi and Indian food.

I like to reward myself with food on Sunday nights, which marks the end of the weekend when I have completed my biggest workouts.

I usually have a vegetarian pizza or sushi and sashimi.

Sometimes, I have biryani rice with great curry and vegetables.

I love the taste of coconuts. I drink the water of three to four coconuts and eat the flesh over the weekend.

How do you relax and maintain a healthy work-life balance?

I am pretty busy throughout the day, so it is important to have an hour to myself at the end of the day to unwind and let my mind relax.

After a good workout, I sit back in my recliner with my feet up, read a book on my balcony or watch a funny movie. When I am out exercising, it is also the time when I sort out my problems at work or in my personal life. It is like my meditation period.

I also try to get at least eight hours of sleep a night and stick to the same sleeping schedule so my sleep patterns are not interrupted.

What are the three most important things in your life?

My family members in the United States means the most to me. Without them, I would not be the person I am today.

I was raised in a military family, so we lived all over the world, which really opened my eyes to what is out there. We relied on one another wherever we went and we still are a very close family, even though I live very far away from them.

My bikes are No. 2. They allow me to stay fit, see the world from the ground and keep me sane.

My health is very important too. I want to live a long time and feel good about it. Being healthy allows me to be good at work every day and to be a good employee and manager.

What is your secret to looking fabulous?

My biggest secret is my diet. Besides my weekly pizza, which is my favourite food, I pretty much stay away from dairy, meat and gluten.

Eating a healthy diet gives me energy, keeps me looking young and helps balance out my cravings for sweets and other processed food.

Would you go for plastic surgery?

No. I am comfortable with what God has given me and would not change a thing. Ageing is a natural process that humans go through and I look forward to change. It would be boring to keep looking and acting the same throughout your whole life.

Do you think you are sexy?

Being a chef and a triathlete gives one a certain sex appeal. Women love a guy who can cook and I pride myself on being in the best shape I can be.

Sexy, to me, is just confidence in who you are, so based on that, I would say I am above average on the sexy scale... haha.


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