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Cindy Reid — vertical marathoner, banker and gym owner — on invisible health challenges for ambitious women athletes

Cindy Reid — vertical marathoner, banker and gym owner — on invisible health challenges for ambitious women athletes

In April 2017 we had interviewed vertical marathon racer, banker and gym owner, Cindy Reid on goal setting in discipline. Having just concluded her race season, we caught up with Cindy. For the previous interview, you can access it here. In this interview, Cindy candidly shares about postponing starting a family and what the concept of a “Female Athlete Triad” is, and what plans she has for the future. 

Cindy will also be volunteer-coaching at our upcoming Moms and Daughters sports day on 10 March 2018 from 9 – 11am. We will have event details coming soon. Stay tuned!

Congrats on winning the 2017 SHKP Vertical Run at the ICC in Hong Kong for the fourth time, and placing 9th globally in the elite category on the vertical world circuit.  Diving straight into 2018, you raced twice over your birthday weekend in China, and once again became the overall female champion at the Oxfam Macau Tower Run-Up for the third consecutive year. These are phenomenal results. Can you share with us what your race season has been like?

Thank you for your kind words! My enthusiasm for fitness and motivation to achieve is as compelling as it is undeniable. When I tallied up my season last year, I surprised myself that I managed 20 competitions in 12 months unscathed, 12 of which were skyscrapers, the balance in road races and two plank challenges which were run by my sponsor 2XU. I know some people who compete more than that – but it’s as much as I can manage with a demanding full-time corporate job and an equally taxing side-gig as a gym-owner and trainer! I am just someone who is driven, is addicted to setting goals and achieving them.

Because I am a strong believer in cross-training multiple disciplines from cardiovascular to strength, running roads and stairs, teaching spinning and plyometrics, bodyweight exercises and core-training, I was blessed to be injury and illness-free. In all honesty, it was actually a tremendously tough year emotionally and physically as I had undergone multiple medical treatments whilst competing, against the doctor’s advice, and the side effects were blatant – severe bloating, weight gain and mood swings, so it invariably slowed me down.

How does it feel to overcome your own expectations and what do you think you did that was able to help you exceed?

Growing up as fat kid who loved cakes, a teenager who worked at MacDonald’s, and a young graduate indulging in Friday morning-teas at work, I want readers to know that I came into competitive sports late but it didn’t stop me from flourishing as a sponsored athlete.

During those years, I never expected myself to be a decent runner as I couldn’t run 200 meters for the bus without huffing, puffing and cursing! But training for my first 10k race changed that in 2008 – I totally exceeded my own expectations in winning a podium place with a time of sub-49 minutes.

Physical training is both neural science and a psychological test – exercising to specific goals stimulates the release of neurotransmitters and produces hormones such as dopamine, noradrenaline, serotonin, endorphins and norepinephrine (by the way, I am unsure how to pronounce that word… but it is a neurotransmitter that builds the brain’s resilience to stress) hence through competitions I feel I am able to cope under pressure in other areas of my life.

In overcoming adversity and genetic limitations (I stand only 4’11 tall), I rely on my 3 D’s and my 3 C’s:

  • Discipline, determination and drive;
  • Commitment, consistency and caffeine!

While moderating our panel discussion “Can sports help women break the glass ceiling,” you bravely shared that you postponed starting a family so you can fit in a banking career, athletic career and being a business owner. This is a situation faced by many women with thriving careers, and the trend now — especially in urban areas — is also for women to marry later and start a family later in life. Why is this topic so near and dear to you?

Often considered personal and somewhat taboo, I had a hard time researching case studies relevant to my situation. World Number 1 stair champion Suzy had told me after the Tower Running World Championship in China on January 13 – a day after my birthday, to google “Female Athlete Triad” and how I may be suffering from it.

I thought ‘Triad’ refers to ‘a hard-core gang of A-type competitors’. I was wrong. It is a health condition predisposed for extremely active women who are driven to excel in sports. It involves a distinct interrelationship of three dysfunctions: eating disorders, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis.

At that point, the penny dropped. I realized that I have been competing, pushing boundaries and investigating my limits for over 10 years. 5 out of 6 years of my marriage was pre-occupied with building and running The HIT Room. From the outside, I am a perfectly healthy, capable and willing competitor. But I needed to start looking at the imbalance lying beneath. There is not much awareness on this topic as it affects only a small contingent of ultra-determined females in our population. When you dedicate every day working towards different goals, you may deprive yourself of the basic enjoyment of life. It may be time to re-assess and make some changes.

You are a few months away from the 5th year anniversary of your gym, The HIT Room. Congratulations! And you hit so many achievements and milestones in 2017. As we are already well into 2018, what are some of your reflections on your year and journey?

On lessons learned: If you want to win, you have to have a pretty damn good plan. Being committed to something, staying disciplined, being consistent, compartmentalize to be organized, and spending the time on honing your skills will get you there – at least partially. Winning isn’t always the only way to succeed. At the end of the day, people may not remember you for your individual achievements, but they remember you for your kindness and your reputation.

On overcoming challenges: Coming to terms with my age and taking charge of my (female) health.

Lastly, do you set New Year’s Resolutions? If so, what are some on your list for 2018? We also sometimes hear people ditch their New Year’s Resolutions after a few weeks, so what advice do you have for our readers on sticking with them? 

I don’t believe in New Year Resolutions because they exactly conjure up images of ‘Let’s hit it hard in January and ditch it all by February’. I would recommend goal-setting all year round instead.

Personally, 2018 will be a year of change. Change can be difficult, but it is also the birthplace of opportunity. Embracing the unexpected – and learning the art of letting go – is tough for someone as goal-oriented as myself. Sometimes, goals don’t have to be tangible such as collecting a certain number of trophies; it could be as simple as spending more time with your loved ones, reading a book and being present ‘in the moment’. The modern age is stressful – whether it is want or need, we strive for more almost continuously, searching for instant gratification. Counter-intuitively, comparing yourself with others is not always conducive to personal growth.

I want to create a massive shift for more ‘me time’ and ‘us time’. Personal growth and knowledge development is always high on my priorities. It almost hurts and certainly frightens me when I say I may be taking a break from the competitions, so I know I need another distraction. I am going to devote my time performing more community and philanthropic work; upskilling through studying the CFP qualification and it may finally be time to start planning on a family! My primary goal this year is to restore more balance but I will no doubt be back competing when I have accomplished the next set of milestones I have planned out, so watch this space. 🙂

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