Transforming her life through Sport
30 December 2019
Name : Jen Macapagal
Medical history : Overweight, smoker & drinker
Age : 32
Occupation : Programme Manager and Team Lead
“Without any friends, I relied heavily on vices like smoking and drinking, habits that I picked up from my university days to get by my sedentary days” quipped Jen as she explained how her downward spiral began.
Having graduated from university in the Philippines in 2008, Jen made her way to Singapore to join her family but found the going tough in a new and sometimes strange country. In order to deal with this as well as the ongoing stress at work, her natural response was to find coping mechanisms in the way of smoking and drinking, all of which she had picked up during her university days.
“I was severely unhealthy and was in a very stressful work environment with challenging demands. During the weekends I would be exhausted and so I would stay in to binge eat and watch TV shows. If I did go out, my food choices would be poor.” said Jen as she relayed to us how stress was taking a toll on her life.
In her opinion, Jen felt that her risk of becoming diabetic was also very high due to her inclination to consume sweet and sugary food on top of other unhealthy habits that continued to dominate her life. In 1995, her auntie passed away due to health complications arising from diabetes and this made her take a step back to re-evaluate her life choices regardless of how much stress life would throw at her.
The Turning Point
Determined to make better choices and to turn her life around, Jen began a journey of becoming more active in 2009. However, she found the going tough even though she was part of a dragon boat team and still hung on to some of her bad habits, especially smoking. She was consistently breathless despite her training and found that smoking was still an avenue for her to cope with the stresses of life. In 2013, she decided to try her hand at triathlons and has not looked back since despite her fear of swimming in open water. It was then that she decided to quit smoking altogether because she found herself always out of breath during the training sessions.
Jen feels that balance is key in staying motivated and disciplined. For her, moderation is key and believes that having a much longer term goal than just completing races has been a huge motivation factor for her. Her goal: to always seek the better version of herself in her fitness journey.
“I keep my eyes on the goal and tell myself that nothing ever comes easy and hence I need to persist and sacrifice if needed.”
Despite a bike crash in September that resulted in a sprained wrist and finger, Jen went on to complete her first Ironman race, a symbol of true grit and determination and of someone who has decided to make positive change in her life.
Her advice to peers is to be patient when embarking on this fitness journey. It gives you the ability to discover yourself and to reflect on the reasons for the journey. Discovering the why is so important and accept that it will not be an easy journey. The intrinsic rewards of owning your own body and health however, far outweigh the difficulties faced every step along the way. She believes that many people give up along the way because of the fear of failure.
“Failure should not define who we are but it should never be something that holds us back. When we learn to embrace it, we understand that there cannot be any progress without the occasional failure and stumbling blocks.”
“My journey has not only been about how many dragon boat competitions, marathons or triathlons I have completed but also one of self-discovery. It is not always about being fast or first or receiving medals or recognition but rather about being appreciative, humble and staying patient along the way, especially when you learn something new.”
In the next five to ten years, Jen is looking to share her positive energy and learnings with her family members and through her social enterprise, Race2Share where sport is used as a platform for change, she hopes to impact the lives of those around her as well as for the foreign domestic workers based in Singapore.
“I believe that sport is a universal language that unites all people regardless of background and it is a right that everyone should have access to. It is only through sport that we can truly touch the lives of those around us and to truly transform society into a more cohesive one.”
To date, Jen has completed nine full marathons, four half distance triathlons (70.3) and one full distance triathlon (140.6). On top of this, she also races in obstacle course races.
Follow Jen on his journey via Instagram @jnmcpgl
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