Cheryl Chua is an extraordinary woman. In 2003, she fell into depression due to her passing of her father. Being at the lowest point in life, her husband was there to be her pillar of support. Without giving up, he encouraged her to start exercising in order to overcome this tall hurdle. Since then, Cheryl has persevered and managed to not only lose weight, but also overcome her difficulties.
Having become an inspiration for the eldest daughter, they decided to run the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) together 8 years ago, when she turned 18. Cheryl’s second daughter now 24, also ran the full marathon with Cheryl when she turned 18 too – it’s a rite of passage for the family.
As a flight stewardess, she has to fly frequently and has to remain disciplined to keep fit, but she describes keeping fit as mind over matter. To her, the joy of completing a marathon is indescribable.
We speak with Cheryl Chua, 51, a mother of three children, who will be running the Standard Chartered Singapore full marathon with her youngest son who turns 18 this year to understand more about her journey to overcome depression with running.
RS: How long did you take before overcoming your depression?
Cheryl: It was 2 weeks of crying and my husband, Leong Kin Weng, 55, gave me the ultimatum – go see a doctor or go running. I thought, going running is easier than to see a doctor. I gave in after his stern warning. I followed him to run a distance of 3km and my mood got better. The next day, he pushed me to run again and again. I began to lose weight and found myself in a better mood. Eventually, I went back to work after 1 month of unpaid leave.
RS: Why did you choose running as your choice of exercise?
Cheryl: Running is the easiest. All you have to do is just put on your shoes and shorts, there you go – you’re ready for a run.
RS: What was the feeling after completing your very first marathon with your eldest child?
Cheryl: Ahhhh….. the overwhelming feelings that only those at finishing line can describe and relate to. The finishing line is always the beginning line for the next.
RS: Can you share with us any special training you undergo with your children to complete the marathon?
Cheryl: My husband was our trainer and my pillar of support. He will keep telling us to slow down, slow down if you want to run far or else you will die down.
RS: What were the most difficult obstacles you’ve faced?
Cheryl: In trying to plan my training, I have to often overcome my jet lag. I’m a cabin crew and fly too often. I have to really arrange my time and sleep properly before I can go for a run.
RS: Would you say that your son is ready for the marathon?
Cheryl: Fingers crossed because he is busy with his upcoming A Level exams too. I’m looking forward to finishing the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2018 with him!
RS: How did you find time between work and running?
Cheryl: Time is how you prioritise it and I believe if you put your mind to it, you can manage both.
RS: Do you have anything else to say to those who are experiencing what you’ve experienced?
Cheryl: My advice would be to try running. A friend told me that her daughter was having depression, seeing a doctor and taking medicine. I had a casual coffee with her daughter and shared with her about my own experience with depression and how running made me feel better and recover fully. She took up exercise and she brightened up after one month of running.
Did you know that just an hour of exercise a week can help prevent depression? Yes, just an hour of any intensity. A recent study has found that people who don’t exercise at all are 44% more likely to develop depression than those who exercise just 1-2 hours a week. It’s still not totally clear why, but it’s likely a combination of both the physical and social benefits of exercise.
We are glad that running has helped Cheryl to overcome depression and her family to be happier. How have running impacted your life? Why not share with us in the comments below. We would love to be inspired!