By Champa Ha
Watching five women train together for an event such as the recent Spartan Race is a little unorthodox, especially so when these women are of different ages and have never met each other outside of the gym they train in.
But as these five women would prove, unorthodox is merely a word to be ignored. When we sat down with three of the group during dinner, you would have assumed they were merely friends hanging out.
Despite their wide age band, from the youngest at 26 to the oldest at 53, there is a palpable sense of optimism when they speak.
Hilda, who is the founder of a company dealing with business services, was the one who suggested joining the race.
“Two years ago, on my 51st birthday, I decided that I would join the Spartan Race. It was something to tick off my bucket list. So, I was looking for people to join me, and on my birthday I asked this lady here,” she gestures at her friend, Michelle, “to join me. She said yes, she would think about it. And then one year passed with nothing happening!”
So Hilda decided to put her foot down.
“I said no. I don’t care. I had to do it this year.”
With these two women as the starting point, they started looking for more people to join them, because they thought it would be fun to train as a team.
They struck gold when they asked Jacqui Heng, the owner of Herlifts, the women’s gym they trained at, to see if she could find any others to join them.
“She actually gave a shout out to the members of the gym, as well as helped tailor a training program specially for the Spartan Race. And that was when they found the rest of the members of the team, including Min Jie.”
Min Jie decided to join them because she wanted a challenge that was more than what hot yoga and Pilates could offer.
“I saw the notice on the gym’s website and I felt that I needed to do something that would change things up.’”
“I wanted to, ‘torture’ myself, so I signed up.”
The Avengers Initiative
They trained for three months before the race, with different kinds of programs, two times a week.
“On Tuesdays, we would focus more on upper body strength. Then on Thursdays, we would work on the lower body, which means things like squats and lunges. As the race day approached, we focused more on endurance. That’s when we do a lot of circuit repeats of running, push-ups, squats, and box jumps. “Michelle explained.
Michelle and Min Jie elaborated that it had more to do with being functionally fit and stamina, especially since the event was going to be more based on staying the course.
While the team were all initially strangers to each other, Hilda, Michelle, and Min Jie all agreed that there were no problems working together and training in a team.
“A lot of fitness people are super positive!” Min Jie quipped. The other two enthusiastically agreed.
Hilda added, “We train together, we die together, we complain together!”
“The moment we started training, whenever someone was new and didn’t know how to do a particular workout, we would help them,” Michelle said.
Min Jie related a story where she had a problem with the rope climb and how the team was patient, throwing her tips and encouragement her way, which was different from how she saw the situation.
“They were patient, while I was extremely impatient with myself”.
The training, however, did have its drawbacks.
“I have three kids, and I have always promised my family that I would always have dinner with them. Because of the race, training time at the gym increased. I had to sit down with my kids and my husband and said that for these three months, I may not be home so often to eat dinner with you guys. I would try but please give me the time to train,” Hilda shared.
“So yes, I had to juggle my time.”
For Min Jie, it was her dating time. She had to sacrifice some of her pak-tor (dating) time for training. She also could not join for family time, but her mother has been very happy about it, because of the weight loss.
She then lamented that she still felt that there was no progress strength wise on her side, but Michelle and Hilda would protest, saying that Min Jie had worked so hard that she was becoming stronger than yesterday.
When asked about what they felt finishing the event, Michelle said her first thought was, “That’s it?” because she was expecting obstacles. Hilda’s first was, “We did it!”
“I felt good. I felt energised. In fact, I was so happy that when the rest of the team saw each other, we hugged.” Hilda continued.
And this was the great part of the whole dynamic of the team. The whole time discussing the event, telling me stories on how they managed each part of the event. Like when Min Jie didn’t heed the proper warning to wear proper shoes, laughing together at men who were cursing their way through the obstacles, and musing on the difference between Western athletes and Asian athletes.
It was less an interview, more of a sharing session, like giggling over the accidents happening to each other, the challenge of the obstacles being harder than expected.
The women shared all their feelings, their fears, and their joy in being able to finish the event. They teased each other, they challenged each other, and they even tried to rope me in to join them in for the next Spartan Race. I declined politely, for it was more interesting to hear their own stories and their own journeys.
To sum up the entire experience, when asked whether they would try the event again with the same team? The answer was obvious on their faces.
“Of course.” they chorused.
I have lied to you about interviewing a team of women who were running the Spartan race. In the end, I was interviewing a family.