Seah Zhang Yu

Fight of his life

Article from the Sun daily by Jason Lim (posted on 13 September 2018)

SEAH Zhang Yu founded Fitness District in Bukit Mertajam, Penang, with the idea of educating his community about the differences between bodybuilding and functional training through CrossFit.

The 22-year-old Penangite has earned several gold belts and trophies, including the Malaysian Invasion Mixed Martial Arts (Mimma) championship belt, which he won when he was 18, and subsequently defended twice.

Just recently, Seah won the Under Armour Test of Will 2018 competition.

He said: “When it comes to training, I don’t [make] excuses, but it’s easier said than done.

“That is why I always change the fitness regime, at the same time [I] think: ‘How can I improve it to be more creative or intense?’, because generally speaking, routine is an enemy. You can’t train [based] on the same routine over and over again.”

Speaking to him, I could sense he was a man of passion and dedication, perhaps a little too harsh on himself when it came to assessing his own fitness accomplishments.

Seah said he constantly likes to challenge himself, not to prove anything to others, but out of a sense of fulfilment for himself.

How would you explain CrossFit to newbies?

“This is exactly what I’m doing now; 95% of the people come to Fitness District with zero knowledge about fitness, they just want to sweat it all out.

“Usually, after the first workout, some of them [would vomit], some of them turn pale [and] they almost pass out. 

“CrossFit is a very unique way of training that combines all the fitness elements to become a workout of the day (WOD).

“It includes running, biking, weight- and power-lifting, gymnastics, pull-ups, tabata, and many more.

“Essentially, CrossFit is a lifestyle, it’s an experience. It can be described as constantly varied, functional training executed on high intensity [comprising] various fitness aspects.

“In CrossFit, we define fitness through 10 scales – cardio, endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. If you’re good at all these, it means that you’re fit.

“The founder of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, said: ‘The fittest should be ready for any challenges’.

“So if a fitness challenge is thrown at you at any point, you must be able to execute it.

“The beautiful aspect of CrossFit is that people of varying fitness levels, be it the elites or the amateurs, can come together under one roof and work out together to push their individual potential.”

How do you stay motivated?

“I always tell myself that I need to be better, and constantly achieve and exceed my targets. It may sound like a lot, but it’s only the beginning to everything else.

“My dad told me: ‘The more you win, the harder you must train’.”

How did the idea of opening up Fitness District come about?

“One day, I discovered CrossFit with my current team. We saw how insane and hardcore the fitness regime is compared to the usual ones.

“It [showed] how we can push the boundaries of human abilities.

“We wanted to train like them, following the path and ideology [of CrossFit], so we started to look deeper into it – its methodology, knowledge and different forms of training.

“Also, I wanted to change the views about fitness within my community: when they hear the word ‘fitness’, they think it’s always about going to the gym to lose weight or to gain muscle.

“But it’s not at all about that.

“CrossFit is not about bodybuilding or losing fat.

“It is about being healthy, to be good in all fitness levels and modern domains for a long period of time.”

Are abs really ‘made in the kitchen’?

“It’s 50-50 ... I don’t really look after my diet, but I do make up for it by training a lot. That being said, I won’t cheat, of course. If I eat a lot, I’ll train even more.

“When a person wants to lose weight, he or she should eat clean in order to see the abs take form, but if you don’t eat well or don’t train at all, then you definitely won’t get abs at all.”

What is your most memorable championship?

“Back in 2014, in my first-ever Mimma championship I fought against the [defending] champion ... I was 18 at that time, and he was 27.

“The entire experience was gruesome. I had to lose 7kg in 12 hours for the fight, because I was called by the organiser [at the] very last minute, and he wanted me to fly to Kuala Lumpur for the tournament the next day.

“[I] started running in sauna suits, constantly training, and later took a hot bath in Epsom salts for one hour to lose the last 3kg.

“I looked like a complete zombie, my eyes were bulging, I had cramps all over my body – it was truly unforgettable. Words cannot describe how I felt.

“After meeting the judges in KL, I was rushed to the hospital for an IV drip, and slept afterwards to get ready for the fight at night.

“I didn’t think I was going to win [given] the state I was in. People were wishing me: ‘Good luck, enjoy the fight and recover well but [don’t] push it’, because [they] could tell I didn’t stand a chance at winning.

“I managed to knock him out during the last 10 seconds and won the fight.

“I’m still shocked [by it] today. That night really changed my life.”

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