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Chitchat This Week's Fit Chiobu - Vanessa Chong



Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Vanessa Chong​

Be inspired by the success stories of fitness influencers, celebrities, models and trainers in Singapore​

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week Vanessa Chong is a doctor.

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week Vanessa Chong is a doctor. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)
Life goes beyond the digits on the scale and your body is capable of so much more! Yahoo’s #Fitspo of the Week series is dedicated to inspirational men and women in Singapore leading healthy and active lifestyles. Have someone to recommend? Hit Cheryl up on Instagram or Facebook!
Name: Vanessa Chong (@vanessachongcl)
Age: 33

Height: 1.60m
Weight: 50kg
Occupation: Doctor
Status: Single - very
Food: Food makes me happy and it also helps fuel my work and activities. My diet is predominantly carbohydrates to fuel my training, so a lot of rice, noodles, chapati, thosai and sweet potatoes. This year, however, I’ve started being a lot more intentional in adding more protein into my diet, as I think this was the missing link in my training, possibly contributing to some injuries.
Exercise: As an endurance-based athlete, most of my training focuses on cardio, but I’ve also started incorporating strength work this year. I started going to the gym for the first time since I started running. I go once a week to lift weights and I’ve actually grown to love the sound of heavy metal clanging.
Q: Were you active in sports when you were younger?
A: No! Haha, I was very inactive. I was head prefect in primary school so that was my CCA (co-curricular activity). Then I represented the school in debates from secondary school to junior college (JC).
I was also the vice-president of the medical society in JC. Very academically busy but sedentary lifestyle, just eat and talk type of CCAs.
Vanessa kickstarted her running journey in 2018, when she joined the SAFRA Punggol Running Club.

Vanessa kickstarted her running journey in 2018, when she joined the SAFRA Punggol Running Club. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)
As you got older, did you try your hand at any sports?
Medical school was very intense so I didn’t join any CCAs in university, but my interest in fitness was piqued by some senior doctors who reportedly ran marathons (who knew I’d be doing that later in life?) and also wanting to keep fit as metabolism noticeably slowed down in the 20s.
I did try some gym classes for a while and I found that I really enjoyed moving to music, but wished I could dance as I have zero talent in that arena. I didn’t continue these classes for long as I found it too tiring to go anywhere else but home after work.
How did you start running?
I love nature, especially beaches and waterfronts. One evening when I was taking photos of the sunset by the beach in my neighbourhood, a group of runners ran past me. I had no idea running groups existed so I asked if it was a “running competition”. They told me they were from SAFRA Punggol Running Club and told me to join them.
That kickstarted my running journey in 2018. I was the slowest runner initially, but I kept showing up every week because the members were so warm and I was drawn to this social community which offered a respite from the hospital life.
I realised that I love running even if I run alone, especially to music as it made me feel free and somewhat felt like my form of self-expression and dance. As the years progressed, running has become a very spiritual experience for me as I see the wonders of God in nature and in how He has enabled me to run.
How did your running journey progress?
I actually raced a lot in my first two years running and finished on the podium nine times in 2018 and another nine times in 2019. I thought races was something everyone joined on the weekends. I had no idea and no structured training, so yes, I might have joined every race available in back then.
Coming in third in my first StanChart Singapore Half-Marathon in 2018 was one of the highlights, and running friends encouraged me to keep running and try the full marathon distance one day.
Share your marathon experiences with us.
My first marathon was at the Gold Coast Marathon 2022. I was down with a knee injury after I signed up and it healed, thankfully, but left me with less than seven weeks to train including the taper.
I was then down with food poisoning the very weekend my grandmother passed away, just four weeks before the race and I started doubting if I could toe the line. I did a single 30km run as my longest run and it felt good. But then I developed a right hip pain at the two-week taper mark.
Vanessa managed to complete her first marathon - the Gold Coast Marathon - despite pain in her foot.

Vanessa managed to complete her first marathon - the 2022 Gold Coast Marathon - despite pain in her foot. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)
A day before the marathon, I was doing a shakeout run when an old foot injury flared up and I couldn’t even run 500m pain-free. I was quite distraught to say the least and stayed in the hotel room all day to rest. That evening I joined my regular bible study group over Zoom. We prayed about it, trusting it all to God’s hands whatever the outcome.
I warmed up the next day with a friend and the pain came again just minutes before the gun went off. I decided to just try and see how far these legs would take me. I felt the sharp pain increased with every kilometre and my parents were waiting at the 1km mark as they were certain I’d drop out. Yet somehow after 5km, the foot felt better.
I didn’t dare to push myself too much given this was my first marathon and I was worried I’d hit that wall everyone spoke about. I held onto hymns in my heart and smiled heaps at the supportive crowd. Before I knew it, I completed my first marathon in a time of 3hr 1min 54sec. It was so surreal and one of my most enjoyable runs!
What was next?
I did the StanChart Singapore Marathon in December 2022 as I wanted to experience a tropical climate marathon. Thankfully it rained that day and it was quite cooling. Again, I had a very beautiful and positive race experience. I was so happy to complete the race in one piece and even had the bonus of coming in first Singaporean female.
I really enjoy long distance running as it feels like an unknown journey, giving me time to enjoy nature and also as a personal spiritual meditative experience. Yet running has really taught me to relinquish control.
Coming from a very academic background, I’m very used to “study harder and you’d do better”. But running isn’t like that; injuries and sickness can occur anytime. This year, unfortunately, has truly not been a running year for me as I contend with both those challenges and am still seeking health answers.
This year has really tested my faith. And as much as I would love to run and run well for a long time, above all I’m learning to let go of control, surrender my plans and go wherever God leads.
As a doctor, how do you manage your work schedule, training, family and a social life?
Actually, running is often the thing that gets me through my work day. When I encounter a challenging long work day, I would tell myself, “It’s okay, after this I’m going to go home and escape and run my heart out by the seaside." Even if it’s past 9pm, I’d still go out for a run in nature as it really fills my cup again.
My parents are super supportive and, being single, I don’t have the stressors of caring for young children. That being said, my mum did tell me to stop running so much and go “Christian dating”. I’ve no idea what’s Christian dating.
When you were younger, did you experience any incidents that made you feel insecure about yourself?
I’m very thankful I was brought up in a very body positive family. I’ve never heard my parents ever talk about dieting or “feeling fat”. All through my schooling years, my dad would even drive out at 11pm to buy roti prata and durian suppers. We ate normally, never skipped meals, and tea breaks and suppers were the norm in our household.
Despite this, I was actually underweight in primary school as I was quite sick with childhood asthma that we had to buy the nebuliser machine. Thankfully I outgrew that but remained small sized. My friends and cousins have told me I’ve an insanely fast metabolism and I think genetics play a role as both my parents are very slim even though they never dieted or exercised at all. However, I did notice a visible slowing down in my own metabolism in my mid 20s.
Vanessa views running as a refuel of her body and mind after her work as a doctor.

Vanessa views running as a refuel of her body and mind after her work as a doctor. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)
When did you feel the least confident about yourself?
Perhaps when I first started working as a junior doctor. It was an extremely busy time, especially working those 30-hour shifts without time to sleep, bathe or even change my clothes. I worked then came home and the cycle repeated without much of a social life either. That’s when I felt so lethargic and socially reclusive.
I was just working and neglecting my own well-being as I learnt to adjust to working life. I think that’s also the phase of life where most of our metabolism slows down. As someone who was always quite energetic, I remember feeling so sluggish, out of shape and tired possibly because I was sleep deprived from the long working hours.
That’s why I think running revived my life in a sense. It really opened up my social circle and gave me something to look forward to beyond work.
Are you satisfied with your body now?
I love running because it’s not about your physical appearance, but rather it’s about what your body can do especially if you fuel it well. I see food as fuel and also something that makes me happy. Because I had to take so much time off running this year and I also started lifting weights, I gained about 4kg, which I didn’t realise until I had to take my weight for this interview.
But I feel fine, I’m happy with how I look and feel. Ultimately, my goal is to have a healthy strong body that can withstand the physical demands of running.
Have you ever received any comments about your body?
I’ve had visible abs since secondary school and it’s been something that has stayed with me since. It does give a fit-looking physique and that’s something people have commented on.
But honestly it’s very transient; after a big meal it’s hardly perceptible. It also doesn’t change how strong or fast I am, so while it’s perhaps nice to look at, it’s not something that is important nor is it long lasting.
I’m happy with how I look and also thankful I’m a doctor, so my patients couldn’t care less about my appearance but rather on my knowledge and my heart for them.
I once heard on a podcast – it’s not what you eat, but what’s eating you. So I’d say, focus on the heart, figure out what’s eating you on the inside. Also, focus on physical performance goals (like lifting heavier weights or perfecting that yoga flow etc) and your body’s natural physique will come.
Of course there are days I feel super bloated and like a bus ran over me. Those are days which call for rest and recovery which is something I’m learning to do better.
Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Vanessa Chong.

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Vanessa Chong. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)