Benny Yeoh believes it is never too late to turn your life around or start being “tough”. Yeoh, 38, says that years ago, an unhealthy lifestyle resulted in him being overweight.
“Being in event management then, I had to work at midnight and would often have my meals at mamak stalls in the wee hours of the morning,” he shares. “So I started to gain weight. When I was hospitalised for kidney stones, it was a wakeup call. The doctor advised me to reduce my weight and start exercising.”
He started with cardio exercises and then proceeded to do weight training. From 93kg, Yeoh, who is 178cm tall, says that his weight went down to 74kg. Mondays to Fridays are his workout days while weekends are his “cheat days”, he says good-humouredly.
Where food is concerned, Yeoh doesn’t stick to any special dietary rules except to “eat clean”. “I tell myself to stay healthy, and that includes eating healthy.”
He reveals that for breakfast, it’s raw oats with a protein shake; lunch time, it’s brown rice with chicken breast and salad; and for dinner, it’s mainly protein such as chicken breast, eggs or beef.
Yeoh, who is from Kuala Lumpur, admits that even his family members were surprised at his journey into fitness.
“To them, it was impossible for a person to lose weight and achieve peak fitness after the age of 30. Career wise, it is also difficult for a person to move from the corporate sector into a totally different field,” he shares.
In 2016, Yeoh decided to take part in the R U Tough Enough (Malaysia) competition, and won.
“When I joined, I told myself I just wanted to challenge myself to be better and complete all the obstacles and quests. That year, all the challengers were very fit and tough, and very young too, from 20 to 30 years old. I was one of only two contestants over 30. So, I never expected to win,” he recalls.
Yeoh believes that the formula for success in such competitions involves brains over brawn.
“In R U Tough Enough, there are many who are physically strong, but speaking as a judge, what defines the winner is a strong mindset. You need mental strength and emotional resilience. That always comes first, followed by physical strength,” explains Yeoh, who is ambassador and head judge for R U Tough Enough 2019.
Currently, Yeoh is a fitness activation specialist for a chain of fitness clubs, handling mass workout activities. He also heads a team of judges and marshals for the clubs’ fitness activities.
Overall, he shares that his journey with R U Tough Enough has made him more confident in life. “If there are obstacles in my life now, I just think back that if I could win R U Tough Enough 2016, then I can surely overcome this obstacle,” he says.
Never give up
No matter what background you come from and what difficulties you’ve been through, it is still possible to be successful in life, asserts the winner of R U Tough Enough South-East Asia 2018, Mohd Saddam Mohd Pittli.
When the 28-year-old Mohd Saddam was just 11, his mother passed away and he had to learn to be independent to help support his nine siblings.
The Teluk Intan boy found comfort in running and eventually decided to join the army after completing his secondary school. Mohd Saddam, who has been a soldier for almost 10 years, believes that enlisting in the army has made him stronger.
He then became a fan of R U Tough Enough in 2015, but only took part in it in 2018, after his brother and a friend – who was participating in the event – encouraged him to do so.
Coming in first in the Spartan Race in 2016 and 2017 also motivated him to sign up. However, he admitted that he did not expect to become a finalist representing Malaysia, let alone win the regional Toughest in South-East Asia 2018 title.
“I was not feeling well during the closed-door auditions but I did my best to complete all the tasks,” he recalls. “It was worth it because, over a week later, I received a call telling me I had been selected as one of the finalists to represent Malaysia at the final showdown.”
Mohd Saddam trained two and a half hours daily in the mornings and afternoons to prepare for the competition. “My fitness regime included running to strengthen my legs and improve my endurance, as well as weightlifting and pull-ups to increase my upper body strength,” he shares.
But, he admits he doesn’t really have any special dietary plan. “At the end of a long day of training, I enjoy good food, but I just make sure that the food intake is beneficial. I also drink plenty of water every day to stay hydrated,” he reveals.
To him, both physical and mental resilience are important in such events. “The competition is unique because the obstacles, which are different every year, are designed to put your mental as well as physical strength to the test,” he says.
He adds that participants need to stay focused, have the right mindset, and plan their strategy to complete the game without penalty. They also need to have the physical strength for challenges like climbing walls or carrying big tyres.
Mohd Saddam encourages people to push beyond their limits and move out of their comfort zone. His advice is to “always believe in yourself and never give up because you don’t know what you can achieve until you try”.
To Mohd Saddam, winning the competition is just the beginning. “My long-term goal is to run boot camps for Malaysians so that I can help those who want to stay fit and live healthier lifestyles,” he says.