A wake up call to get in shape


What does surrender, fitness and new beginnings have in common? Introducing Karen Lee, a personal fitness trainer who went from obese to fitness model contender and dissatisfied corporate executive to freelance entrepreneur.

After 15 years working with multinational corporations like IBM and Hewlett-Packard, Karen took the plunge to become a full-time fitness trainer after a devastating set of events had changed her life.

A wake up call

Sometimes it takes extreme situations to make us see what’s important, or to push us towards what we’ve always wanted. For Karen, it was facing the deaths of three of her family members that gave her the clarity and conviction to follow her dreams. After years of hesitation, she’s embracing her sense of duty and passion for fitness to bring health to the masses and spread awareness of HIIT, the “high intensity interval training” program.

Experiencing the deaths of her cousin, aunt and grandma came as a shocking health scare, and confronted with the painful realisation that her cousin’s death could have been prevented with better health care, Karen decided to make the life changing career shift. “I thought everyone was healthy in my family, so it hit me hard. Nobody knew how unhealthy she was. She had diabetes and high blood pressure. I don’t want to see any more of my family members suffering, so I decided to do something about it.”

Karen’s passion for health and wellness stems back to childhood. After growing up in an environment where food was a form of comfort and way to show affection, Karen became obese as a child weighing 85KG by the time she was fifteen. “I used to live with my grandma when my parents were on the verge of divorcing. Her way of doting on us was through food, and that’s how obesity kicked in” she recalls.

Transforming from obesity

By the time she was seventeen she grew even bigger, as her move to Australia came paired with nightly hot dogs and shepherd pies. It was only when she came across a newspaper clipping advertising for “Adventure Seekers to Camp Counsellor USA” that she decided to take action. Enchanted with the series Baywatch, she fantasied becoming a lifeguard, envisioning herself running on the beach, and saving lives. She cut out the newspaper clipping and enrolled herself a three month membership program. “I hired a tall Amazonian woman named Trish and told her ‘Kick my arse! I need to lose 15KG by September!’” recounts Karen with enthusiasm.

Despite living an hour and a half from the gym, Karen worked out seven days a week meeting her goal of losing 15KG. Blending swimming, kickboxing, aqua aerobics, clean eating habits and a food log, Karen transformed her body and her health habits. She even fulfilled her childhood dream, becoming a lifeguard over the summer at a youth camp.

Since then Karen frequently entertained the idea of becoming a fitness trainer, but found herself wooed back into corporate life until her “wake up call.”

During the months of grieving, Karen was approached to try out health supplements. “After the deaths of my family members I wanted to improve my health so I tried supplements. I immediately saw results. My visceral fats went down my body fat and my weight. I felt energetic. I gained 21KG of muscle mass in 3 weeks just dragon boating on the weekends.”

But the real shift, she says, came early this year when she found out her father had dangerously high triglycerides, risking heart disease. She worked with her father to change his diet, follow a 30 day cleansing program and start exercising and taking the supplements. After the 30 days he reduced his triglycerides from 467 to 237. “The supplements in combination with diet, exercise and sleep improved his health; it was about supporting a lifestyle shift.”

Making the shift

Seeing the difference in her father and armed with the desire to make a wider difference, Karen became certified in Personal Training, Kickboxing and Precision Nutrition (a Canadian Leading Nutritional Academy) and launched her company, Karen Lee.Fitness LLP. Her biggest milestone to date was coming in the top 6 in the Singapore Fitness Model Search 2014. “I intend on competing again” she says. “I aspire to be a fitness athlete in Singapore. I want to inspire people and help them through their transformational journey in a holistic manner, overcoming limiting factors to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to spread the awareness of HIIT.”

High Intensity Interval training, she explains, is a 20-30 minutes workout (not including warm up and cool down) which expand the lungs, increases stamina and strength using body weight. It can be done anywhere, anytime. “It’s a combination of 60 seconds exercises to burn fat focusing on different muscle groups. Studies shows HIT burns 500-800 calories per session.”

Her specialty is HIT in Tabata style, which is 6 up-tempo exercises with music “good for any fitness level” she says reassuringly. “I don’t want to scare away the clients” she says, resolving to work with “where the client is at” and intuitively balancing challenge with fitness level.

“I develop and customise programs for individuals by assessing their fitness levels and their limitations.  I give a free consultation to find out what they want to achieve, their limiting factors, their fears and their goals.”

Helping others to do the same

Her calm, friendly demeanour seems to welcome even the unhealthiest of us. Somehow I even found myself signing up for one of her free workout sessions (Men and Women @ Body With Soul Health Network 44 Rochester Park January 13th 9:30AM and January 16th 12:30PM) Also @ Woolf Works @ 176 Joo Chiat Road #02-01 January 21st 4:30PM and January 28th at 4:30PM Women ONLY)

Perhaps, the most alluring is her latest service – providing and delivering home cooked Chinese meals as well as salads and wraps to control nutrition and give certainty in losing weight.

She has big plans, perhaps making up for lost time, admitting she’s never been so focused. “Surrender” she says simply, “give into what you believe in and follow the journey.”

Her ultimate dream? To open a “HIIT box” with a kitchen, preparing healthy meals for the clients, helping them reach overall health and wellbeing.


Article provided by Amanda Blum; a Writer, Storyteller and Humanist.

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