Health

'Confidence grew, as I took charge of my body'

Shape magazine's March cover girl Victoria Pang gives her tips for living a fit, healthy life

Under the glare of the camera, 22-year-old Victoria Pang moves fluidly and confidently, executing jump splits, twists and turns with ease.

This comes as no surprise, given her 15 years of dance training.

The cover girl of Shape magazine this month enrolled in her primary school's Chinese dance troupe when she was seven and continued dancing till she was in university.

Miss Pang loved how she could express herself dance, and it was the only form of workout she did.

"I hated any other type of exercise," she admits. "I tried my best to skip physical education lessons my whole life, even resorting to hiding in the toilets for the entire class duration in order to avoid running."

This posed a problem once tertiary life got busier, as Miss Pang eventually stopped attending dance classes.

"When I stopped dancing, I felt like there was something missing in my life but I wasn't keen on trying other forms of exercise," she says.

And just like that, an active life became a thing of the past.

It was her boyfriend, a fellow undergraduate who's into calisthenics, who got her to start working out again. She had a taste of strength training and loved it. Now, she hits the gym four times a week.

How has your life changed since making fitness a part of your routine?

I used to feel so insecure about my body. I thought that my arms were too flabby, my legs were too short and my thighs were huge. I constantly tried to lose more weight as I believed I wasn't skinny enough and needed to have a figure like local blogshop models to be considered pretty.

This all changed when I started working out and going to the gym more frequently.

I began to appreciate my body more. I still don't have stick-thin arms and may never have a thigh gap, but I've become much more confident because I know that I've taken ownership of my body - and this makes me proud.

What has your fitness journey been like?

Though I was active in dance, I wasn't in very good shape. I thought that burning a few extra calories in dance class gave me a free pass to indulge in whatever I wanted.

Nowadays, I recognise that keeping fit and healthy includes feeding my body right and having everything in moderation. It's a balance of eating well and exercising regularly to feel good both physically and mentally.

What's your exercise regimen like now?

On average, I exercise four times a week for an hour each time. I do a mix of weight training for strength, HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts for cardio and yoga for flexibility.

Do you have any favourite workout move?

Squats! They work the entire lower body.

How do you want to inspire other women to keep fit and active?

I want to encourage other women by promoting body positivity and sharing fitness tips through social media, including my own Instagram account.

Nowadays, it has become commonplace for Instagram to be a platform that promotes unhealthy body image goals such as the thigh gap. But I want people to know that there isn't only one perfect or ideal fit body type. Instead, we need to work towards building up our own fit bodies.

How do you motivate yourself on days you don't feel like exercising?

This might sound funny, but I enjoy watching motivational fitness videos on YouTube. It encourages me to get moving on days I feel lazy or lethargic, since I aspire to be as strong as those athletes.

What's one aspect of fitness you would like to focus on this year?

Endurance. Pushing oneself harder is not just about physical strength. It's a mind game and I've got to get stronger mentally in order to reach my goals.

Do you have any tips for women who have just started working out?

Ultimately, fitness is a journey and not a means to an end. It's not about achieving an ideal body, but a process of continual improvement of your physical and mental state. Include small milestones in your fitness journey to make it fun and enriching.

dawnchen@sph.com.sg

This article first appeared in Shape.com.sg, the only women's health and fitness magazine in Singapore.

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