Aside from their chiseled abs and strong physique, you would never have guessed that Naz (@nazhariaschifra) and Stu (@stuartdiplock) were crowned the 'fittest couple in Singapore'. From their humble attitudes to the carefree vibes they exude, it is hard to dislike this couple.
In this interview, we talk to the cross-cultural couple about their journey from London to Jakarta to Singapore; what it is like being competitive CrossFit athletes; and the importance of having strong social support systems.
How did you meet?
Naz ("N"): I was going to a box in London where Stu was the coach. We actually never talked for the longest time I was there - it was only at a social event that we started talking… And the rest is history!
Stu ("S"): Naz was the cute “Asian” chick that came to the box I went to in London (CrossFit Ivy).
How did you end up in Singapore?
N & S: It is actually a story that starts all the way back in 2016 when we took part in the CrossFit Asian Champs. It was our first competition we took part in as a couple. At that point, Stu had just moved to Jakarta to join me from London - so it was a great opportunity and eye opening experience to see the community in Asia. During that competition, we both got to know so many great people - and some were from CrossFit Tanjong Pagar ("CFTP").
Over the next few months, we would always visit CFTP when in Singapore because we loved the vibe and the people. During the one year anniversary of CFTP, we met James (the founder of UFIT) and we started to get to know each another. One random day, I just decided to write an email to James to ask about the potential of working here in Singapore. This also coincided with Naz feeling like she needed a change in work environment. We sent over our resumes that same week, did our interviews, and now look where we are!
What are you both busy with now?
N: I am a coach at CFTP and currently on my off-season. This means I don't have any upcoming competitions I am training for or that's coming up this year. My current training is focused mainly on strength and I’m loving it. I love weightlifting, so being able to do just that every day is so much fun! I also do some conditioning here and there :)
S: I am a personal trainer at UFIT Orchard, which is currently keeping me very busy. I am actually just starting to rehab a back injury so my training is focused on getting myself healthy again and also using this time to drop some weight so I can move down a weight category. Apart from that, I’m also working on a few potential opportunities at work so my continued learning in these areas are a priority right now.
Tell us how you got into CrossFit ("CF")?
N: I have been active since a very young age. I took part in a variety of sports ranging from basketball to soccer. My dad was also a keen martial arts practitioner, so I was raised in a household where sports and fitness was something “normal”. As I got older, this interest in the realm of fitness continued.
My journey into CrossFit actually (ironically) started during my 12 week transformation for my bikini show - I attended a fundamental class and promised myself that once I stepped off the stage, I would come back to focus on weightlifting. It frustrated me that people called “bikini competitions” a sport because there was nowhere near the athletic or competitive aspect that I knew was evident in sports such as basketball or football that I had taken part in.
S: I've loved physical fitness from a very young age - like Naz, I took part in lots of sports such as rugby. This interest led me to take up a Degree in Sports and Conditioning in college - I was mainly involved in weightlifting though.
At some point, I was introduced to CrossFit by some guys at the gym I went to. They would do the workouts and would invite me to try some of them.
How did CrossFit differ from the other sports you took part in?
N: CF really reminds me of PE ("physical education") class. When I was younger, I recall wanting to excel at every sport they threw at me during PE class. As a competitive individual, I’ve always wanted to win and be #1 in all of the (especially sports related) tests. So... I like how CF reminds me of that whole part of me growing up and my childhood days.
S: Coming from a team sport background (such as rugby) where training is always done as a team at scheduled times, it was strange to move into an individual sport like weightlifting, which is very isolated and training is purely self-motivated. CrossFit was a kind of halfway point between the two; allowing me to get the ‘team’ feeling, but still controlling my own performance outcomes.
What are the benefits of training in the same sphere?
N & S: Obviously, training in the same sphere helps us better understand what the other is going through - not just physically but also emotionally. For example, someone who doesn’t train to the degree that we do may not understand if their partner has to clock in certain hours or may demand more of their partners' time.
For us though, it's second nature - because we both have to go through it. While many say that “opposites attract”, we believe that to be the case… but only in the short term.
What are the downsides of training in the same sphere?
N: Both of us are competitive by nature - which makes training together extremely challenging at times. I used to refuse to do workouts together because I was not able to do as well as Stu for some of them.
S: Given our competitive nature, it is also difficult when team competitions come round or when we take part in competitions together. There’s always the stress of not knowing how each of us will do and if we’ll get selected to be on the teams.
For example, during our first Asian Champs, I got into the final round whilst Naz didn’t - and that did not sit well with her. It was hard for me because I was happy for myself but also sad for Naz and couldn’t celebrate with the person I am used to celebrating with.
Thankfully, things took a quick turn when she got the wildcard for that particular competition. This year, thankfully, it has been good because we were both selected for the regionals team and made it to the finals of the Asian Champs.
What are some of the unseen challenges of being top class CrossFit competitors?
N: One unseen challenge is definitely the mental aspect. I love competition season because your teammates have the same kind of fire as you do, so you really push each other during team training sessions… but there are also days when we have different schedules. This just means having to get your shit together, going through pain caves alone, lifting heavy shit alone...and it gets tough100%.
It is definitely a love hate relationship. On one hand, it's a challenge for me, but I also love the feeling after surviving a solo session alone; after hitting a PR without no one encouraging you; after finishing painful lactic work and actually sticking to your times; doing tough aerobic tests like a 10 min max cal on the bike, etc.
As cliche as it sounds, at the end of the day, it's really just you against yourself.
While nutrition may be a challenge for some, it has always been on my priority list and it comes very naturally during competition season i.e if you don't eat well = you won't perform well, you won’t recover, you won’t make every training session great. Nutrition really is the foundation of everything because it fuels both performance and recovery. Thankfully, I’ve been consistently learning how to fuel myself through a series of trial and error. Also, comp season allows me to eat a MASSIVE amount of carbohydrates, so that's a plus!
S: The biggest unseen challenge for me was the time commitment it took to compete at a high level. Multiple hours of training were put in daily and it meant having to make choices about priorities in life. During competition season, CrossFit took priority over a lot of things. In other words, work suffered as i couldn't commit to as many hours in the gym I work at. Luckily, my bosses were very understanding and supportive.
How do you deal with the stress associated with challenges in regard to CrossFit?
N: Well, I think it’s all about learning to manage your time. I make sure to take 1 day to fully recover and not step in the gym… but choose to relax instead. If something doesn’t go my way during training, I just remind myself that tomorrow’s a new day.
It helps that I have Stu as we are both on the same boat, so coming home to see Stu after a long day at work and training always make me happy. Food and all the cuddles!!
S: The mental stress does not tend to get to me as much as I’ve always been a fairly non-stressed person… but the fatigue did make me grumpy at times! As Naz said, it's fortunate that we are both in the same boat and we understand what the other is going through or feeling like!
Who are your support systems?
N & S: Although we both do CrossFit, we aren’t always training together or in the same place at the same time. We have the same group of friends - and those are support systems for both of us as we’re really community driven individuals. We’re really lucky to be surrounded by such like minded individuals. Also, both our families are now big supporters of what we do!
How have your parents supported you?
N: To be honest, my parents were not initially supportive of my decision to be a full time coach. Although my father was a sports enthusiast, he was and is still a businessman at heart.
Growing up in Jakarta and having family there also means that the “Asian Mindset” is dominant in terms of job discussions and future plans. It actually took a lot of time and energy (and even a “business proposal”) to get to where it is today - where my parents are strongly supportive of my decision and “job” as a full time athlete (of course, there’s still comments every now and then about when I will get a “proper” job).
S: I’ve been lucky that from a young age, my mum has always told me to do what I love. She had made the mistake of doing what her parents made her feel she should do - and didn't want to make the same mistake or have me go through the same thing. That has always been my stance in life - I can’t do things I’m not passionate about (ranging from following a precise nutrition plan to adhering to a fitness regime I don’t enjoy).
How do you encourage/motivate each other?
N: I love Stuie to bits, and I will always 100% support his decisions no matter what. Despite me getting annoyed when he cheers me on during workouts, I still love him. I am the biggest cheerleader when he’s on the floor and almost all the time, i lose my voice after competing.
S: Just spending my time around someone as motivated to improve herself - Naz makes me more productive and motivated. She is always looking to improve herself in both her job and her personal life so it keeps me doing the same. I can't explain how great it is to have a driven and motivated partner.
What challenges do you face as a cross-cultural couple?
N: From my end, I guess it's not much of a challenge. I’ve always understood that Western and Asian cultures have their differences and similarities. Stu might face more challenges than I do, though.
S: A few cultural differences have taken me some time to get used to. Thankfully, Naz’s family has been amazingly welcoming to me in Asia. I couldn't have asked for more.
What do you do in your “me” time?
N: I love sport psychology books. When I do have some spare time to just lay by the pool, I just love reading them. Some athletes love to meditate, but for me, just reading sport psych books IS meditation. I stop after a few paragraphs and just visualise things… or I stop and day dream when what I read connects to an old memory. It’s a really nice feeling.
Sometimes, I also go back to my old musical roots and play the guitar and sing (especially when Stu isn’t home)…hahahahahahhahahaha.
S: Me time… Big fan of reading and expanding my knowledge. So i read and listen to podcasts (normally with a coffee in hand). I also love just sitting doing nothing - watching films that require 0 brain power haha.
What do you do together as a couple when you aren’t training?
N & S: Usually, Sundays are the days that we rest and that usually means watching movies, chilling at the beach and eating. Lots of eating. We also do things that are “fitness” oriented (but not in the gym) like rock climbing, wakeboarding, and paddleboarding.
What advice do you have for other couples looking to get fit together?
S: Never coach your partner (this is especially for the guys out there). Kidding. Some couples can do it, but i guess that's down to each relationship's dynamics. My advice would be to support each other's goals. You don't have to have the same goals in life or fitness, but if you want to have a successful relationship, you need to respect your partner's goals and support them towards achieving them.
N: I would definitely say compromising is a big thing. If one of you enjoy a sport that the other one doesn’t, you don’t need to force yourself to love the sport… but simply be open to the concept that it’s not as bad as you think. Look at it as doing it out of the love for the other person (at least initially).
At the same time, don’t force your partner to do something if they really have no desire to do it. Forcing gets nowhere - and doesn’t help the relationship in the grand scheme of things.
What plans do you have for the future?
N: I actually wouldn’t mind going back to school at some point. I love being a fitness coach, but I’ve also always been interested in nutrition so that might be something I eventually go into. Who knows? Maybe I’ll study physiotherapy as well :p
S: I graduated from college with a Degree in Strength and Conditioning Science, which is basically about becoming a physical preparation coach / personal trainer - but for competitive athletes. I have a keen interest in the human body and the process of rehabilitation from injury back to sports performance. To work in that area means going back to school. So in short, my plans for the future are to study my M.S.c in Physiotherapy to qualify me to work more in that field. And then blend the two areas together.
Meet this amazing duo at FUEL as they share their approach to nutrition for performance and on their overall lifestyle. Join in a community-based sweat session after!
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