Meet a Fan: Celena Tan
Remember using #NewYearsResolution or #Resolutions2015?
In this New Year, I have tried to swim daily but I concede last week effectively killed my resolution to lose weight. Late night burgers at McDonalds, Popeyes’ comforting fried chicken, a heart attack inducing Beef Wellington at Wooloomooloo and Sunday brunch at Catalunya which conveniently turned out to be one of those buffets where you needn’t get up from your chair… yup, I’m definitely buying turtlenecks from Uniqlo to hide my double chin and sending that Twitter status to oblivion to avoid any further embarrassment when I next see my friends, in particular my CrossFit friends.
For those unfamiliar with the term, a ‘CrossFit friend’ is a friend who first joined a ‘box’, the CrossFit term for a gym, then started to gain incredible amounts of Hulk-like strength by following a renegade workout programme and now uploads videos of him or herself doing handstand pushups – again, handstand pushups – or some other combination of exercise normal human beings would not wish upon their greatest enemies. CrossFit friends also speak in their own language which requires advanced deciphering skills, often mentioning ‘WOD’, ‘AMRAP’, or ‘PR’d’ followed by multiple exclamation marks on Facebook statuses. Essentially, they are the friends you avoid standing next to when the cameras are whipped out at birthdays, weddings and reunions.
But don’t let my bitterness and jealousy get to you. In fact, CrossFit has witnessed explosive growth over the past seven years and now has over 10,000 affiliate gyms all around the world. It has transformed hundreds of thousands of average men and women into much healthier individuals, a claim confirmed by separate studies by the U.S. Army and Ohio State University: participation in a CrossFit program significantly improved VO2 max (the volume of oxygen you can consume while exercising at your maximum capacity) and decreased body fat percentage in both males and females across all levels of fitness.
Seeing as Valentine’s Day is in less than a fortnight, I sat down with my very own CrossFit friend, Celena Tan (the chick deadlifting in the above picture is her!), to find out more about CrossFit, the rumoured Zen-like pain, and enquired whether I must flagellate myself every day to look as good as she does.
Q: Celena, we’ve known each other since 2007, but for everybody else, how would you describe yourself?
A: Hi! I’m Celena and I work in ANZ Bank as a mortgage specialist, also known as a ‘licenced ahlong’ as I provide mortgage solutions for clients. I completed my graduate studies in Finance & Economics at University of Western Australia where I had one of the best times in my life with a bunch of soul mates. In my free time I like to do all things that require you to move about as I can’t sit still, such as CrossFit, diving, figure skating, pole dancing, yoga, fishing, travelling, cooking, baking and volunteering.
Q: No wonder we’re friends. We like to do the same activities, although these days I only partake in the virtual versions through my Nintendo Wii. What’s an interesting thing about you that most people don’t know about?
A: I can catch a cockroach and kill it without even flinching or feeling grossed out by it. But please don’t make me do that unless it’s absolutely necessary!
Q: Uh, impressive in a sort of creepy way. So how did you get into Crossfit?
A: About a year ago I was lamenting to a friend that I’m severely lacking in upper body strength and I need to gain strength to get better at pole dancing. I struggled with arm movements and core-related movements as I haven’t actively followed an exercise regime for a while.
My friend casually mentioned he knows of friends who opened a CrossFit box and asked me to give it a go. I knew nothing about CrossFit till the first class where I was introduced to the words “HIIT- high intensity interval training” and “functional movements”.
I found CrossFit to be highly addictive as it was the sort of workout I wouldn’t get bored of. You never know what is to come till you turn up for class. The thought of that thrilled me a bit but mostly would completely wreck me at the end of class.
Q: Getting wrecked is a good thing?! Hmmm. There has been a lot of praise for CrossFit all over the world, but lately it seems there are some baseless rumours going around. What are some of these common misconceptions about Crossfit?
A: A lot of people believe that CrossFit is for overzealous gym rats in search of a crazier workout to attain their perfect body image. As we execute some high reps or heavy weights from time to time, a big misconception is also that you will injure yourself easily, too early in life and will suffer the consequences in the later years.
Another deterring misconception most people who have not tried an introduction class at CrossFit is that CrossFit is unattainable, unachievable and its crazy intensity will demand your life. While that intensity is necessary, often our trainers are professional enough to scale down according to one’s abilities, and you’re not thrown to the deep end alone to attempt crazy movements at insane reps or weights.
Q: Thanks, that’s reassuring for couch potatoes like me! Why do you think some people have described it as a ‘cult’ or likened it to the book/movie Fight Club, with regard to the tight bonds between Crossfit members?
A: Part of the reason why we forge very strong camaderie and friendships is that we train hard together and we support one another along the way. We grow in strength together, breaking new achievements over time and sharing the same passion. Having gone through the same journey of growth before makes us naturally gravitate towards other like-minded people.
I won’t say we behave like a cult but we just happen to relate better to people who share our journey of blood, sweat and tears. If you think it’s cultish to continue working out despite getting your palms ripped and feeling sore, then perhaps you’ve not tested yourself beyond your limits. I don’t continue in a workout because of some cult-ish influence, but I trust my coaches and peers who encourage and inspire me to improve and complete the workout as soon as possible.
Q: What do your Crossfit buddies mean to you?
A: They are my life buddies for sure. We do everything besides just CrossFit. We can keep talking about CrossFit all the time, but we also share our lives together. Our latest diet trends, best shopping bargains, cutest boys, etc. We have a very close-knit community somewhat likened to a family. If someone stumbles in life, you’ll be sure one of the CrossFit buddies will pick you up or be beside you. What we do and learn in our training is also applied in living our lives. That’s what I appreciate about CrossFit. It is truly functional in all aspects.
Q: What are some tips for those of us trying to lose weight at the last minute in preparation for a hot date on Valentine’s day?
A: Haha! I would say try this out as a beginner without having much experience in exercise. In introduction classes we conduct the 369 EMOM in 12 minutes. EMOM stands for every minute on the minute so in 1 minute you will have to complete the set of movements:
At my first introduction session I managed 8 rounds with 2 x 1 minute rests in between. I thought I could manage and finish it but halfway through it was a struggle.
Coupled with that, try the ‘Paleo’ (Paleolithic) diet. It’s basically a diet that has no processed food and encourages us to eat like the cavemen. If you cut out processed food, carbohydrates and sugar, you will definitely see results in a short 1 week, and notice your body getting leaner.
Try to do the workout at least 3 times a week, and stay on the paleo diet and you will surprise your date on Valentine’s Day!
Q: How important is eating clean to you? Do you think it is important for your partner to eat clean as well?
A: Eating clean is important for health and performance in training. I like to imagine my body as a car. If you pump a better grade of petrol, the result is your car runs more smoothly and its a lot less susceptible to breakdown. I do try to eat clean as best as I can, although I have a notoriously sweet tooth. I don’t have a partner now but I would imagine I’ll ask him to eat clean alongside me to motivate and stay encouraged to prevent a relationship gut!
Q: Ha, relationship gut. I know that too well. How has Crossfit changed you physically and as a person?
A: As I mentioned earlier about the functionality of CrossFit, it isn’t about how heavy I squat or lift or whatsoever. While numbers are important to keep track of performance and what to improve on, CrossFit has trained me to be mentally fitter.
It requires you to push yourself beyond your limits, be it for time or reps or weights, and it has made me a stronger minded person, choosing to believe I can do better than what I thought myself to be capable of. This functional mindset can be used in real life. When I face challenges I’m reminded that if the training has not killed me but made me fitter, faster, stronger, surely I can emerge victorious from challenges as a better human. Physically… well if you ever need someone to do a fireman carry or lift a heavy weight off the road pavement, you know who you can call on!
Q: Aw, thanks Celena! Would you recommend Crossfit to everyone?
A: Definitely to everyone! And I strongly recommend my box, CrossFit Mobilus, where you know you’ll be well taken care of by the team of dedicated trainers and the bunch of crazy life-loving people like me.
Q: Mobilus – cool name. Has being a part of CrossFit Mobilus taught you any valuable lessons?
A: I will share my most emotional one.
At some point in training you will certainly reach your threshold – either for pain or emotions and I have been there several times. I have sat in a squat and felt so overwhelmed during the Team Series 2014 competition that I wanted to cry because I didn’t think I could carry on. I was extremely worn out but still had to carry on, lest I disappoint my team members. In times like these, you need to brace your emotions and overcome those negative feelings instantly. Beside that, my teammates and my brother were there screaming at me to refocus and encouraging me to finish. The beauty of overcoming something difficult not just alone but with your loved ones was simply ‘WOW!’ This is what you get with CrossFit.
Another important lesson that I value is remembering where you began. When I was new, I needed a lot of help from the trainers and others who had been there longer. They patiently guided and corrected me along the way, making sure I had proper form. Likewise, I constantly remind myself that the new girl or guy was the same person I was not too long ago, needing guidance along the way. It’s like having a blessing and passing it on.
Q: Final question: what would your perfect Valentine’s date be like? Does it involve CrossFit?
A: Haha no! Not everything is about CrossFit!
I’ll say if a guy invited me over to a home cooked dinner that he took time to prepare and surprised me with a bunch of nice flowers. We could then sit on the couch to watch Love Actually after dinner; that would sweep me off my feet. Something perfect need not be expensive and unattainable since it is the heart that matters.
If CrossFit seems like something you’d love to try, join Celena at CrossFit Mobilus:
No. 61 Ubi Avenue 1
Interview by You and No Other’s Augustine Goh.