Running away from the high life

Dog behaviourist and trainer Marie Choo started running two years ago when she felt lost in life.

Q How important is it for you to keep up with your fitness routine?

A I can't imagine a life without exercise now. I am constantly training as I have race events lined up for the year.

I will be doing the 21.1km half marathon at NTUC Income Run 350 on April 10. That will be followed by a full marathon in the Gold Coast, Australia, in July and the New York City marathon in November.

I also walk my dogs twice a day, for a total of 1 to 1 ½ hours.

And if I can't make it to a gym class, I will do push-ups, dips and other exercises at home.

Q How did you become an exercise fanatic when you have never exercised previously?

A About two years ago, I was looking for more meaningful things in life to pursue.

I had my own PR agency, working with luxury brands and living the high life. But I prefer a simple life. Over the years, I had also become more involved in dog welfare and charity work. It was a big disconnect from my work life.

That was when I started running - to seek clarity and tire myself out as a form of escape. I managed only 2km when I first started, and I had to walk too. However, I continued running and went on to set small fitness goals for myself.

Q How did running change your life?

A It helped me to garner enough courage to make a career switch.

I walked away from my previous job and became a dog behaviourist and trainer, as well as a part-time lecturer in project management at Lasalle College of the Arts.

Q What was the most extreme thing you have done in the name of fitness?

A Less than a year after my first 2km run, I completed the Tokyo Marathon in five hours and 58 minutes. Sometimes, I still wonder how I did that. (The cut-off time for the 42km race is seven hours.)

Q How did you prepare for your first marathon?

A I followed a training plan and got tips from my coach. I also consulted a sport physiotherapist to ensure I was in good form.

I trained in my race-day outfit and shoes a few times so there would be no nasty surprises such as chafing or blisters on race day.

Q Which is more important to you - to run well or to look good?

A I was trained as a fashion designer in London and, having worked with luxury brands in my previous career, looking good is in my DNA.

I always joke that what I lack in speed and stamina, I make up for with style.

Stylish activewear helps to motivate me to run.

Q What is your secret to looking fabulous?

A Daily exercise, eating well, meditation, yoga, a dose of the outdoors and being grateful for all things in life.

Q Has there ever been a time when you were not fit and fab?

A Prior to picking up running, I led a stressful life, working long hours, and smoked and drank because I had to entertain a lot in my job.

Q What is your diet like?

A I eat organic produce as much as I can. At home, it's mostly vegetarian food, if not vegan. If I have to eat meat, seafood is my only choice. I also avoid processed food and carbs like rice or pasta as much as I can.

Q What are your indulgences?

A I indulge in local hawker fare and delicious desserts in moderation. I also love french fries.

Q What are the three most important things in your life?

A My husband, my two dogs and my health.

Q What's your favourite body part?

A My abs.

Q What are your must-dos before and after a race?

A I like to prepare my outfit and gear the night before a race. On race day, I will have a healthy breakfast, empty my bowels (all runners have no shame talking about this), meditate and do some light stretching to loosen up my body and joints.

Post-race, a hot bath, a good meal and a massage. Then wear compression socks and sleep.

Q How has your active lifestyle influenced your family and friends?

A My husband embarked on a healthy lifestyle a year after I started running. He goes for classes at the gym and has changed his eating habits. He lost 15kg and now has abs to rival mine. Some of my friends also started running after seeing my transformation.

Q How extensive is your collection of sports-related paraphenalia at home?

A I have many pieces of activewear and countless pairs of running shoes. I also keep all the bibs and medals from the races that I've participated in. My most-prized possession is my first marathon medal from the Tokyo Marathon.

Q Would you go for plastic surgery?

A Only if I ever got into an accident that required me to undergo plastic surgery. But not for aesthetic reasons because, at the moment, I love the way I look.

However, I won't rule out the possibility of going for a facelift when I am 60 and need one.

This article was first published on March 22, 2016.
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