MANILA, Philippines – The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the day-to-day lives of people in all walks of life, with terms like “self-isolation” and “social distancing” heard on a regular basis – not to mention the reminder on frequent handwashing.
However, this is not the case when it comes to Dr Jen Yalung, a 51-year-old who’s into CrossFit – a fitness regimen that aims to build strength and conditioning through varied workouts.
Yalung continues to prepare for the Masters League 2020 in in Melbourne, Australia even if the competition has been pushed to a later date.
An orthodontist by profession for 20 years, Yalung started competing in CrossFit nearly 4 years ago when the country staged the 2016 CrossFit Games.
“I’ve read about it. I’ve watched videos of foreign athletes compete in it. I just knew that it was something different,” she said.
“It is everything rolled into one. From boxing to a 50-kilometer marathon to yoga, I’ve done a lot of things. CrossFit is totally incomparable to other sports because of its variety.”
‘Adventurous love affair'
CrossFit began as a fitness regimen developed by Greg Glassman in 1996 to improve endurance, strength, flexibility, speed, coordination, and balance.
As both a physical exercise philosophy and a competitive fitness sport, it encompasses elements from high-intensity interval training, Olympic weightlifting, plyometrics, powerlifting, gymnastics, and calisthenics.
Now, CrossFit is practiced by members of over 13,000 affiliated gyms across the globe and by individuals who complete workouts of the day – otherwise known as "WODs."
“It was a challenge. It’s always a challenge. I was just confident to get better at it,” Yalung shared.
“ I can say it wasn’t love at first sight, but it was something you will fall in love with, and it ultimately became an adventurous love affair.”
She might have fallen short in her first try as a competitor, but Yalung knew right off the bat that she was destined to do it. Since then, she never looked back, participating in various tourneys throughout the country.
“I was scared and intimidated. There were literally butterflies in my stomach,” she admitted. “But you know I’d tell myself, if the younger ones can do it, why can’t I?”
‘Strength is built’
By 2017, the dentist-turned-fitness enthusiast ranked No. 1 in the masters division in the Philippines.
After a slew of runner-up finishes in competitions such as the Manila Throwdown 2018 and the Affiliate Alliance 2018, Yalung had her career-defining moment when she landed on the top podium in the Masters Women Scaled 45+ category of the Affiliate Alliance 2019.
The latest accolade that Yalung added to her résumé was when she aced the Masters League 2020 qualifiers held in Quezon City this past February with flying colors to punch her ticket to the athletic showcase in Melbourne.
While she has every reason on the planet to celebrate her feat, Yalung cherishes more on the fact that even at the age of 51, she is still able to defy physical boundaries and perform at the highest level.
“Nobody was ever born strong. Strength is built. Strength begins by being weak,” she said.
“With the right amount of discipline, determination, desire, and a lot of prayers, anything is possible. Nothing will ever be too late. Believe me, I totally forget that I’m 51.”
As she gears up for her maiden overseas event as a CrossFitter, Yalung was compelled to put everything on hold when the Philippine government placed the entire Luzon under a month-long enhanced community quarantine due to the global health crisis.
Meanwhile, most of Australia is effectively in lockdown until June, with a number of states having introduced new regulations to keep people at home as COVID-19 cases continue to soar.
While numerous sports leagues have essentially ceased operations in light of the harrowing outbreak, facilitators of the Masters League 2020 opted to postpone and move it from May 2 to a yet-to-be-determined date in August.
According to Yalung, the rescheduling of the tournament sides to her favor as she has to rely on her head trainer Joshua Nieva through online instructions and workout programs while in isolation.
In addition, she occasionally visits a local boxing gym near her home in Mandaluyong City to keep her peak in check.
“I keep myself focused and motivated by knowing that all these shall come to pass. When you’re in isolation, it’s important to learn new workout patterns that are both enjoyable and challenging,” Yalung explained.
“We were prepared to go and prepared to compete, but this is a situation that no one can control. If this pushes through whether in May or in August, I would still go and represent my country. I am praying that this worldwide lockdown ends soon,” she added.
Despite the chaos that is transpiring around the world, Yalung believes it will never hinder her from exhibiting her full potential in order to hoist the Philippine flag aloft in Melbourne.
“It is a matter of attitude and will power,” she said. “The only thing that would limit me to perform at my best in this upcoming competition is if I get sick, which is the very reason why I am very, very careful. I can always maintain my ability to compete.” – Rappler.com