The New Paper
Saturday, Apr 25, 2015
Where else could they have met but at the gym?
Mr Hadi Sim was a fitness trainer and Mrs Filza Dorah Sim was a member when they first crossed paths in the old California Fitness outlet at Orchard Building in 2008. They got married a year later and both are freelance fitness trainers now.
The couple bagged top honours in their respective categories in the National Bodybuilding Championship 2015 earlier this month.
Mr Sim, 39, told The New Paper: "Sometimes, we still talk about how we really never expected to marry each other and even have kids together. Leading up to the competition, I remember (telling my wife), 'I never thought you'd ever be dieting with me.'"
Mr Sim started bodybuilding in 2007 and competed in regional competitions such as the 2008 Asia Bodybuilding Championship, organised by the Asian Bodybuilding Federation.
At the National Bodybuilding Championship, held on April 12 and organised by the Singapore Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Federation, more than 110 competitors competed in 21 categories at Geylang West Community Club.
Mr Sim won the Men's Bodybuilding below 75kg category, beating five competitors in the finals, while his wife won the Women's Athletic Physique Open category in her first competition.
While one might assume that the formidable pair would have no problems training together, it has not always been easy for them. In their first year of marriage, Mrs Sim, 35, tried training under her husband, but it did not work out.
She said: "Our training styles clashed, so it was very hard to agree. We had different techniques and preferences that worked for each of us, so we decided to agree to disagree."
But after a few years of marriage, things changed.
"I trained under someone else and he (Mr Sim) trained on his own for quite a long time. But after being married for a few years, we came to a compromise and trained together for this competition," Mrs Sim said.
The couple have three children, aged four, seven, and nine, and they were affected when their parents dieted for the contest.
Mrs Sim said: "We just pity the kids because they didn't get to go out over the weekends to eat out, so their lives got a bit boring for a while."
The family helper looked after their children while they were training.
To prepare for the contest, Mr and Mrs Sim spent six days a week training in the gym for two to three hours per session. They also had to follow strict diets for 14 weeks. Their diets varied in terms of the amount of carbohydrates and protein they took, but they avoided anything with too much sugar or fat.
"We started dieting on Jan 3 together. It's definitely easier to follow a diet when you have someone to do it with," Mr Sim said.
The couple agreed that bodybuilding, despite being an individual sport, is best tackled as a team.
Mrs Sim said: "We have the same interests and passion so it makes it easier when we have everything the same. It was really good to train together because we've learnt to learn from each other."
Mrs Sim also believes that sharing a common interest helps their relationship.
"We can cut out the hassle of trying to make each other understand our passions," she said. "Instead, we do it together and it works out perfectly."
As a female physique competitor, Mrs Sim also overhears rude comments about her body.
"I just don't bother because this is what I want to look like. (My physique) gives me confidence because the more I work on my body, the more I look the way I like and it gives me a sense of achievement," she said.
Mr Dennis Tew, the president of the Singapore Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Federation, said that those who did well in this competition, like Mr and Mrs Sim, will form part of an elite team to represent Singapore internationally.
He said: "We have selected an elite team from the competition that we will send overseas for international competitions."
Age is just a number to him
At 59, Mr Dollah Jaafar was the oldest participant in the recent National Bodybuilding Championship 2015. Nonetheless, he came in third in the Men's Master Bodybuilding Open Category, which was for participants aged 40 and above.
The creative director with Singapore Press Holdings picked up the sport late - at the age of 53 - after encouragement from a fitness trainer.
Mr Dollah recounted: "I was always the skinny guy in the gym who dared not touch any equipment. In my late 40s when I was already a regular gym goer, I saw these buff guys and wondered: 'Can I ever be like them?' That was when a fitness trainer challenged me and said: 'You can'."
Since then, he has won several competitions, most notably at the 2014 Musclemania Asia.
Mr Dollah, who has two children aged 17 and 21, said of his attitude towards bodybuilding: "I don't give up. I think that's my driving factor. I push myself to the limit and always set goals. That helps me focus and maintain my discipline."
Preparation for the contest took four months. For two months, he had to adhere to a diet high in carbohydrate and protein. And in the 1½ months leading up to the competition, he had to reduce his intake of carbs.
In addition to the strict diet, Mr Dollah visited the gym daily despite having a full-time job. He plans to continue in competitive bodybuilding for as long as his body will allow him.
He said: "The beautiful thing about bodybuilding is that age is not an issue. I push myself to the limit and always set goals. That helps me focus and maintain my discipline.
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