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: Goh Chui Ling (@gohchuiling)
Diet: Depending on the nature and intensity of my training that day and the day before, I would go for food with higher micronutrients like carbohydrates and protein. On race days I also have specific meals I go for, such as a particular sandwich or cream pasta, more as a routine. Apart from that, I do not follow a strict regime on my food. I do avoid fast food, fried food, and other types of food with excessive oil in them.
Training: I train 8 to 10 times a week, and I get about 2 days off training every month. My week will consist of 2-3 hard interval sessions, 2 gym sessions, 2 tempo long runs, 2-3 easy long runs. My fitness regime will lighten up when I am preparing for competitions.
Q: Did you get into running straight or tried other sports first?
A: I have two officer parents who pushed my sisters and I to very active activities since I was young, but apart from track and field, I did not join any other competitive sports. My sisters joined track and field in their secondary schools, and I just followed in their footsteps.
What led you to start competitive running?
I was mainly competing in sprints, such as the 400m and 400m hurdle events, since 2009. I represented Singapore in sprints for four Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and two Asian Championships.
I started distance running in 2017 after I retired from sprinting after the SEA Games 2017, where I last ran the 400m hurdles competitively. I found running to be an effective outlet to the stress and insomnia I was experiencing at work, and from thereon, I begun structured training for distance running and started running competitively.
What are some of the highlights of your running career?
The most significant achievement would definitely be breaking the Singapore 40-year-old national record for the 4x400m event with Dipna (Lim-Prasad), (T.) Piriyah and Shanti (Pereira) at the SEA Games 2015 held in Singapore.
I’ve also had some races that have been rather memorable, such as running the 400m hurdles event at the Asian Athletics Championship in 2017 (with a timing of 1:02.90) and the 800m at the 2019 edition (with a timing of 2:11.66). These are some of the best races I have had for the respective events, and I really did enjoy running with the best athletes in the field in Asia.
How did it feel being part of the 4x400m Singapore Women's record at the 2015 SEA Games?
I mean it was a great privilege to have been part of that team. The girls – Dipna, Piriyah and Shanti –were already trying for the record since before 2013, and I only joined this team as a reserve in the 2013 SEA Games.
During the two years, I was able to witness the growth and improvement of the team, especially the individual timings of the girls and myself, and it was a very momentous occasion when the stars aligned and the record was broken.
I think before the race we were discussing about how we stood a good chance at a medal and we were gunning for it, so it was a wonderful surprise when we found out we broke the national record by three seconds. We also found out that the ex-national record holders came down to the race to witness their record get broken, and we managed to get a photo with them. The previous generation of sprinters set the mark so high for us to reach and they were so visibly excited when we broke it. It was very pleasant.
What are some of the lows of your running career?
I guess the lowest I have ever been in my athletic career was in 2017, when I was in my first years working as a professional and the pressure of work was significantly affecting my training and recovery. It was very low time in my running career because I could not enjoy sports as I usually do, and it was also a particularly stressful year with SEA Games in August.
I ended up having to resolve in myself to prioritise training and set boundaries around my training time and recovery space, which made it slightly more manageable. It was this year that I moved away from sprints into distance running, and I started to enjoy using distance running (rather than sprints and hurdles) as a safe outlet for the stress I get from work and study.
Do you still have plans to represent Singapore again?
It would be a great privilege to continue to represent Singapore. There is Asian Athletics Championship and SEA Games, which are both scheduled for next year. It would be great to get better at my events and continue representing the country.
What did you do during the Circuit Breaker and how did you train then?
I was quite blessed to have been based in Australia at the beginning of this year, so I almost had a full season of competition last year. The CB and the break in competitions fit into my training schedule rather well. I was off training for a good month during CB, before starting general preparation training again, which consisted a lot of long runs, intervals and body weight exercises, so that fit into the runs in the parks and home-based exercises during CB perfectly.
Why did you decide to pursue sports law? How do you think your academic pursuit aligns with your legal career?
I made the decision to pursue sports law sometime in 2017, when I was figuring out my professional career. I was exposed to a lot of criminal and sports law cases in my work, and I always felt that the regulatory and legal regime in Singapore for sports is still underdeveloped compared to our western counterparts, in areas such as selection processes, sponsorship regimes, disciplinary processes, and dispute resolutions.
I also always get questions about sports regulation that I was not able to answer will full academic understanding. I was also very incentivised to understand the nature of sports entities, regulations and their processes as an athlete, given that I was the receiving end. So in 2019 I took a sabbatical to pursue my Master of Laws in University of Melbourne, which is the most established sports law university in the world and they attract the best sports law professors from Europe.
When did you feel the least confident about yourself?
It was probably also in 2017 when I was struggling with my workload and training. My health took a toll because I was still learning to manage and juggle the different pressures in life. I was not able to sleep well, or function well mentally, and it was in that season that I lost purpose about my work and training.
Through that season I learnt the importance of mental health and setting boundaries in the various areas in my life, so that I will be able to manage myself and my life properly. Distance running, as a lifestyle and outlet, gave me a stability that I was looking for to structure my difficult days at work and study, and was a huge factor in me overcoming those difficult seasons of my life. It was when I was finally able to function physically and mentally well, that I was able to once again find purpose in my endeavours and be confident again.
Are you satisfied with your body now?
Yes I am. I know that the shape that my body is in is the result of rigorous training in order for me to function and perform well for my event.
Have you ever received any comments about your body?
Yes, different people have told me different things, but the comments are more often about how I may not have the muscular body type or weight for the power events in track and field. And of course, I have gotten the usual comments from my uncles and aunties about how I am too skinny and have got to eat more.