When you think of what passion really means, what do you think of? The word ‘passion’ is used very often in casual conversations that we have with each other, but only a few individuals can truly say that they are passionate about what they do. Michelle is a triathlete and coach who embody the true meaning of passion.
As a coach for the last 6 years, Michelle has devoted her time and energy to help many athletes achieve their personal bests and encourage them to be a better version of themselves.
As a triathlete herself for the last 8 years, Michelle understands the difficulties that her athletes go through on a daily basis, juggling work, family and training.
She is a committed coach who is always there when her athletes need her expertise and never fails to deliver. She is a firm believer of utilising sport as a tool for personal growth and development.
We speak to Michelle to find out how she got into the sport of triathlon and tap on her wealth of experience to learn more about her training, competition preparation routine and coaching philosophies.
RS: Michelle, can tell us about yourself?
Michelle: I am a mother of 2 very active children. I have a day job as a Language consultant. I was formerly a rigger with the Singapore Armed Forces Commando formation. It was when I was in the commandos that I met my husband who played a pivotal role in influencing me to pursue my dream of becoming an athlete and subsequently, a coach.
RS: What is your training routine like and where do you usually train?
Michelle: On the off season, I go to the gym at Aranda Country Club twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays) to do weight training and spinning. I go to Pasir Ris beach or Tampines Eco Green to run twice a week (Tuesdays and Fridays) regardless of the distance for about 90 minutes to clock in some mileage.
Once a week (Wednesdays) I will swim 20 laps or occasionally more. On Saturdays, you can find me doing high intensity interval training (HIIT) at the running track in Our Tampines Hub. Sundays are my rest days.
RS: What running shoe do you recommend our readers to use for training?
Michelle: Asics GT-1000 7.
RS: What healthy snack would you recommend to our readers?
Michelle: Almond nuts.
RS: What is your guilty pleasure?
Michelle: That would be Laksa but without the cockles. I still prefer to watch what I eat even on my cheat days.
RS: What is your secret to handling the stress and pressure of competition?
Michelle: There is no ‘secret’ per se, but just knowing and accepting the fact that I am my own competition and everybody else is also doing their own thing and fighting their own battle.
Before and during the race, I constantly tell myself to stay focussed on what I want to achieve. In moments when I face immense pressure, I remind myself that, whether or not I perform up to expectation, there is always a learning point for me to reflect on for my next race.
RS: What does triathlon mean to you?
Michelle: To me, triathlon is a discipline and it is my discipline. If not for triathlon, I would not have discovered that I can run, swim and cycle the distances that I am now doing.
Before I started doing triathlons, I could only dream of taking on those distances. Triathlon holds a special place in my heart. It encompasses commitment, self-awareness and a forward-looking, positive attitude, which is applicable to life as well, isn’t it?
RS: We are interested to know how you got into coaching. Tell us more.
Michelle: I started going to the gym frequently after I left the commandos, but did not set for myself a specific fitness goal. One day, whilst catching up with my husband, he suggested that since I used to be a competitive swimmer both in school and for the commandos, coupled with the fact that I was already actively running and working out, why not train for a triathlon?
I started training for triathlons and in the midst of it, I called up a friend, Fabian Williams, whom I used to train under for the Singapore Armed Forces cross country meets for some training advice. After thinking about it for some time, I decided to explore the possibility of becoming a triathlon coach.
I got myself armed with a sports science certification and Fabian offered me an opportunity to take up a triathlon coaching certification course with the Triathlon Association of Singapore. After completing the course and passing the exam, I began my journey as a triathlon coach.
RS: What do you enjoy the most about coaching?
Michelle: I enjoy the challenge of helping my athletes achieve their personal bests. All my athletes are age groupers and they all have day jobs, but they are very committed to training.
I think that the best reward coaches can have is seeing their athletes achieve PBs and overcome obstacles they never thought they could conquer.
RS: How do you motivate and push your athletes to achieve their fitness goals?
Michelle: I motivate my athletes through frequent communication and always being available to help them. They are assured that I am with them all the way.
On the days that they do not have a session with me, I advise them on their diet as well as maintenance training. Sometimes they hit a wall, we all do too.
They will tell me about how they didn’t achieve their goals and I will talk them through with positive guidance and revisit their goals to make it more achievable. I always believe that little steps do count!
RS: What is your most memorable moment as a coach?
Michelle: My oldest athlete is 50 years old this year. When I started working with him in 2015, he had just completed a Discovery Triathlon after many years of leading a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight and unhealthy.
He wanted to improve his fitness further and I agreed to help him out. Training under me, he did his first Sprint Triathlon (a long distance triathlon compared to a Discovery distance) and exceeded both our expectations of PB by coming in the top 10 in his category.
It made me exceedingly proud. When I saw the results, all the memories of our trainings, hard work and sacrifice came flooding back. It brought tears to my eyes and I will never ever forget that moment.
RS: Do you have anything else that you would like to share with our readers?
Michelle: Triathlon is a great sport and an excellent platform to develop self-awareness. The demands of training for a triathlon gives me a different perspective. Focussing on my breathing, steps or strokes take my mind off issues that are not urgent.
It is highly dependent on the situation and that is what I love about Triathlon. You discover a lot about yourself and you will be more attuned to what you are capable of achieving. I emphasise this point when I train my athletes, and this is something that I would like to share with everyone.
Being mindful when you train will not only improve your form and performance, but it can also give you clarity of mind and focus which can make you a more productive person.
If you have any thoughts, questions, comments or ideas, feel free to share it below!