By Daryl Yang | Image by Yasunari Watanabe
On 3 November 2016, students, staff and faculty were busily doing squats around the College for the inaugural Yale-NUS Mass Squat Challenge. This was organised by a new student organisation called ‘BACON’ as part of the first Wellness Week.
BACON loosely stands for ‘Building A Culture of Nutrition (& Fitness)’ and is an umbrella student organisation that aims to create a welcoming, non-judgemental and non-exclusive culture of health and fitness in Yale-NUS College. Co-founded by a group of fitness enthusiasts including Roger Ko (Class of 2019) and Jessica Fred Chang (Class of 2019), the group runs open classes and specialised training sessions geared for all levels of experience.
Roger shared that the idea for the group began came when Jessica taught him Pilates for fun.
“It all started out in the Saga Common Lounge. In a bid to procrastinate from our work, she introduced me to Pilates,” he said. “From then on, a small group of us started doing it and then the group just got bigger and bigger.”
“We then came up with the idea of making similar groups like this for more kinds of fitness activities because we found it to be really helpful since we keep each other motivated and mutually accountable,” Roger explained. “Personally, I love health and fitness and really wanted to introduce this culture to others too.”
When the group first began, it offered circuit, strength and conditioning training and Pilates classes. Since then, the group has also worked with other students to offer Yoga and Zumba classes. Roger described the main goal of BACON as creating an inclusive fitness community.
“We welcome people of all levels and I think it’s even more important we highlight this to people who want to start going to the gym or do High-Intensive Interval Trainings (HIIT) but feel intimidated,” he said. “I understand this feeling as I was in a similar position six years ago when I first stepped into the gym. I want to make it different for those who want to try this out.”
For another founding member, Lionel Kwek (Class of 2019), this was an integral reason for him to join BACON. Having stopped competing professionally in powerlifting recently, he found it difficult to keep a healthy lifestyle ‘without the support of a strong community’.
“When I heard about BACON from Roger, I was drawn to the fact that it was about creating the type of fitness community that I wanted,” said Lionel, who co-leads the strength training programme.
However, Lionel does not think of himself as a trainer but a peer to those he helped to train. “I think many people look at the team and see us as ‘trainers’ who know more than them and take our advice to do everything we teach. To be honest, we too are constantly learning new things. There is no better way than to have an enthusiastic group of individuals who help each other discover new things that they can share with one another.”
The students response has been so overwhelming that the team has had to turn away many who were interested in their programmes to ensure all participants were given “a fair amount of attention”. Nonetheless, the group tries to help them on an ad-hoc basis..
“This ties in with our vision for BACON, which is to create a large fitness community where everyone can rely on anyone for help and support,” explained Lionel.
Betty Pu (Class of 2020), a participant in the strength training programme, has found it very helpful to stay committed to getting fit.
“What I enjoy most about the initiative is that it forces me to work out three times a week! Unless I have a very good reason to skip a session, I try not to as I’m in a small group and everyone knows each other well!” She added, “It is the bond within this group that has helped me build discipline go to the gym regularly. Prior to college, I stepped into a gym maybe at most, three times a year!”
Her most memorable experience so far was on the first day of the programme, when Roger established the ground rules with his three trainees and took the time to ask them about their expectations from the programme.
“I really appreciated that we all said that we were throwing our egos out the door and wanted to train in a supportive environment,” said Betty. “I instantly felt comfortable with my fellow trainees and Roger. They made the sessions a lot more enjoyable.”
On the group’s future plans, Lionel shared that they aim to encourage sustaining a healthy lifestyle and create more conversations on fitness and nutrition.
“Over time, we would like to implement certain measures around school, like group training sessions and dedicating a section in the dining halls to healthy food choices, in order to aid everyone in their fitness and nutrition endeavours,” he added.
Currently, BACON is led by Kristian Marc-James Paul (Class of 2019), who is serving as the President of the student organisation. In his term, Kristian has led the BACON team to organise more activities and has plans to develop new programmes to promote fitness and health on campus.
Looking back on their first semester of activities, Roger thinks he has noticed a visible change within the span of one semester.
He said: “Perhaps it’s just me but I’m seeing a lot of people in the gym more regularly this semester and I’m loving it!”