Interviews

This Founder is Running the Singapore Marathon Not For Himself But For At-Risk Youths

by On Nov 21, 2018

Running a race is not only for one's fitness but also for a cause.

CrossFit Meets SCSM 2018!

The Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2018 (SCSM 2018) is right around the corner and many are training diligently for this race. At least 40,000 participants have signed up for this marathon, including a varied pool of Under Armour ambassadors such as Lionel Choong, Tiffany Teo, Paul Foster and Natalie Yeo, with Under Armour as the official apparel sponsor for SCSM 2018. For some of them, their reason for running the marathon has got nothing to do with their personal fitness, but rather running for a cause.

We had the opportunity to interview Lionel Choong, co-founder of social enterprise Innervate CrossFit, who will be running the 10km category for at-risk youths.

Lionel gets hyped up whenever Operation Broken Wing, which is a charity event aimed at raising funds for at-risk youths, is being mentioned. Outside the SCSM wise, he already does work in various youth organisations and schools to teach these youths Crossfit and fitness.

The social enterprise Innervate CrossFit helps disengaged communities such as at-risk youth and the disabled through exercise. Therefore, this upcoming 10km is to encourage his youths to try new things and is following a dedicated training regime to make it happen.

The following below is an exclusive interview with Lionel Choong himself.

RS: Why did you co-found social enterprise Innervate CrossFit?

Lionel: My partners and I founded Innervate Fitness because we were very passionate about and saw how it has impacted and changed our lives at that point in time. For some reason, the stars aligned and we were all aligned with the desire to start something new, so we decided to run with it.

We also saw a gap at that point in time for the communities that might have missed out on CrossFit as a movement and as a lifestyle, namely persons with disabilities, the elderly, kids and youth at risk. As such, we decided to slant ourselves towards a family-friendly CrossFit Box.

CrossFit Meets SCSM 2018!

RS: What is/are your reasons for participating in this year's Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon?

Lionel: I wanted to take part in this year's Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon for the same reasons as per last year and anything completely new that I'm trying. To show everyone – the youth that I'm teaching, the elderly that I'm helping and everyone else out there – that you can try something completely new and out of your comfort zone. You might not necessarily be the best at it, but what matters is that you pluck the courage to give it a shot. You'll never know how that will benefit you!

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RS: Can you share with us how your training regime looks?

Lionel: I do CrossFit mostly. However, I also do know that doing High-Intensity workouts alone won't cut it, and I'm trying to compete in Olympic Weightlifting. As such, a balance in training for me is especially important. Since last year, I've been incorporating this #LiftHeavyRunLong regime. Basically, I lift heavy, and then instead of burning in a short workout, I run long and go the distance, gradually increasing mileage as I go along! I'm currently up to 8km at a relatively fast pace (To me at least) and I hope to ramp that up and peak within the next 2 weeks!

RS: What are some of the challenges you’ve had while training for the race?

Lionel: 2 things. Time and Discipline. I'm currently running the gym and the events associated with the gym, such as the big fitness event Operation Broken Wing, which is happening in late January. Because of that, I struggle to find time to clock in my runs while running around for meetings and doing proposals, marketing and whatever work is behind the computer and at the same time, handling classes. I've definitely been extremely fortunate to have very helpful teammates who understand and help cover whenever there is a need to.

Second, discipline, because as mentioned, running like this is something completely out of my comfort zone – I'm totally not used to running long and do not have the patience to do so. So yes, I need all the encouragement and help I can get, from donning the best shoes I've run in, the Under Armour HOVR Sonic, to purchasing new earphones to keep me company while running. I'm used to 15-20 minute workouts, not running for 45 mins to an hour, so it's hard to find the discipline to keep up this exercise!

CrossFit Meets SCSM 2018!

RS: Is there any strict diet that you follow?

Lionel: I haven't tweaked much of my diet for the race. I usually eat clean when I'm eating at home for most meals in the week. However, I tend to 'cheat' a little when I'm eating outside. Also, I probably drink a bit more water these days.

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RS: Can you share a few tips & tricks for excelling in long distance running?

Lionel: I wouldn’t say I have race tips but I do have some training tips to keep the motivation going during the training phase. Set achievable goals for yourself – short-term ones that lead to a longer-term goal. For me, I broke it into chunks, slowly achieving timings and increasing my mileage, setting fortnightly goals for myself. Of course, the next tip would be to DO THIS WITH SOMEONE – find a running buddy, someone you can share the experience with. We are all very much social creatures after all.

RS: What do you hope to achieve from this race?

Lionel: I hope to increase my aerobic capacity because that definitely is a chink in my fitness game. Of course, I also hope to inspire others to try something new and out of their comfort zone!

RS: Can you share with us more about Operation Broken Wing?

Lionel: Operation Broken Wing is a Fitness Charity Movement that has been running for 5 years now. The movement, championed by Fitness Enthusiasts, aims to raise funds for youth at risk. OBW was founded to help Fitness Enthusiasts engage in social good by using their fitness for a good cause to help raise funds for youths at risk or similar beneficiaries. In 2017, the event raised S$175,000 to fund programs that help in the rehabilitation and reintegration of troubled youths. In past years, we have had the backing of various corporate sponsors such as Under Armour, AIA and Dymon Asia.

A key element of Operation Broken Wing was to directly impact the youth at risk. We did so by going into schools and various youth organisations to interact, build, educate and welcome them to take part in the workout themselves as well as assist with the running of the entire event. This provided a huge sense of significance for them as well as boost their confidence dramatically. This year, we also hope to be more inclusive and reach out more to schools as well as those with disabilities.

Essentially, OBW is really about helping the community – rallying people to lend a hand to the marginalised in Singapore and rallying the wider community to be a part of these initiatives. You do not need to be the best or the fittest to make a difference. After all, we always say, your heart is the strongest muscle!

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CrossFit Meets SCSM 2018!

RS: How did you get at-risk youths interested in Crossfit?

Lionel: We get them interested from the base level first, from school programs and programs with youth organisations. We then invite them to continue their training with us at the gym and from there, we hope to commence the process of rehabilitating and reintegrating them back into the community.

RS: What made you choose to raise funds for at-risk youths?

Lionel: This group is a group that we feel has the biggest potential for impact and change. A small change in their lives now, and their trajectory of who they can become in the future changes dramatically.

RS: Can you share with us an inspirational story while you are dealing with at-risk youths?

Lionel:There was once my colleagues and I were teaching CrossFit in a school. Towards the end of the session, the students got really hooked on it. They started to really enjoy training with us and our program. Some of these kids are from a background that might not be the best, mix with the wrong company or live with many family members in homes too small for them. Towards the last session, as we were inviting them to the gym, one of them said out loud, "We should go leh, I would really want to go. I like this and I think I would rather do this then go smoke downstairs the HDB with my other friends". That was the moment when we knew we had changed this kid’s trajectory for the long term.

Lionel is a great role model for at-risk youths and had shown them that exercise should not be boring. With faith, discipline and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that Lionel cannot achieve. Did Lionel inspires you to do more for the disabilities, the elderly, kids and youth at risk? Give him a Hi-5 when you see him at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon on the 9 December.

What used to be a couch potato, now an active sports person. A person that enjoys all kinds of sports, especially Ultimate Frisbee. Running constantly on the weekends to keep himself fit as a fiddle.

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