March 31, 2012
From Corporate Chic to CrossFit & Cakes: Pauline Yong
By Jennifer Tan

The box is not only my new office, it's my second home."

With a plethora of sporting achievements to her name, Pauline Yong is no stranger when it comes to pushing her limits. The dragon boater has more than 30 medals under her belt, and the number continues to rise for the ex-banker. For Yong, testing boundaries and thresholds are a part of everyday life, be that in the water or on dry land.

During her corporate days, Yong would meet up with her best friend Scott to unwind over coffee and cookies or a few beers. When he suddenly gave up alcohol and junk food, she was puzzled as to why – he was, after all, a beer distributor. He told her about this new training method he was into called “CrossFit,” and curiosity led her to attend the fundamentals classes at CrossFit Singapore. Though she found the introductory sessions enjoyable, dragon boating remained her top priority.

Shortly after this, Yong’s competitive streak led her to approach one of the national Canadian team paddlers during a tournament. She asked him what they were doing for their supplementary training, which was clearly giving them a winning edge over other teams. 

This time, when she heard the mention of CrossFit, she took it a little more seriously and started to attend the group classes led by coach Kevin Lim. By chance, within her first week of training, Yong came face to face with a couple of girls who went by the names of Annie and Karen. She needed no more convincing – this was what she had been looking for, the perfect complement to her training.

Eight months into CrossFit and two months away from her Level 1 Seminar, Yong fractured her right foot. The incident also happened to coincide with her leaving her job, which she had not felt at one with for quite some time. 

Being strapped into an air cast and put on crutches was no issue for Yong who continued to do upper body based workouts and specialized rehabilitation exercises to prevent atrophy as much as possible, as well as scout for new employment. 

There were no limits to Lim’s creativity in the conditioning department, and battle chains and seated wall balls became Yong’s specialty. Her raw talent as an athlete and sheer determination shined through at the Level 1 Seminar, and HQ took her on as an intern.

As her foot healed, Yong went to various job interviews and even trialed a couple of new positions in the corporate world, but nothing she took on felt “right.” She had spent so much time at the box that going back to a nine to five, Monday to Friday role took its toll on her. After much contemplation and talks with friends and Lim, who is not just a coach but also a confidant for many athletes, Yong decided to see what the fitness industry had to offer.

She took on a personal trainer’s role at a globo gym and set to work.  It was better than anything she had done in recent weeks, though there was still something missing.  Perhaps it was the smell of chalk and rubber, the sound of bumper plates to floor, or the cries of “no count” that the Globo lacked – either way, she knew what she had to do.  Yong began coaching group classes and training clients on a one-to-one basis at the box.  Suddenly everything made sense.

During the recovery process of her foot, Yong picked up a new hobby – gluten free baking. She would tweak recipes that she came across either online or in books to make them more “paleo-friendly,” and tested the results out on fellow CrossFitters. 

Soon enough people started to ask her to bake for them – with the majority of athletes at CrossFit Singapore following primal ways of eating, it was not difficult to gain a following for baked treats that did not induce a guilty conscious.

In no time at all she was receiving regular orders from friends and before she knew it, Lim had once again “planted a seed” in her head. Why not combine the two things she loved – CrossFit and baking?

Now Yong splits her time between training or coaching and baking at home, which she finds therapeutic after long stints at the box, which often match or exceed her nine-hour days back in the corporate world.

Her current aspirations for the future are divided between her own training (which has taken precedence over dragon boating in recent months), furthering herself as a coach and intern (she already holds CrossFit Olympic Lifting and Gymnastics certificates) and turning her latest hobby into a tangible business venture. 

Having swapped her high heels for Inov-8s, her desk for the squat rack and her suits for gym gear and an apron, Yong could not be happier. “The box is not just my new office, it’s my second home.”

​After placing 22nd in the Open in Asia, Yong will advance to Regionals.