A physique competitor’s training can be gruelling. We sat down with physique model Vin Lam to talk about his fitness modelling journey and how he minimises sports injury and maximises sports performance with the help of chiropractic adjustments.
What motivated you to compete in fitness modelling?
I started working out when I was 14, progressing from curling a school bag full of books and pushing up secretly in my room to lifting in the gym when I was in my late teens. I made some gains, but I looked like a sausage: there’s no shape, no definition, like a slab of meat.
So I got more serious about working out, and because puberty was still in effect, the gains were apparent. Seeing the change in myself made me feel good about myself. The fitter I got, the more I want to get fitter. It’s a positive feedback. It’s a good feeling I don’t want to lose.
But looking around me, I still felt something was missing. I wondered why my friends’ lives were so much different compared to mine: they were outspoken, confident and were well-connected. I realised that those were what I was missing. So I decided to join Manhunt when I was 21, but it was more like a pageant than a physique competition. Nonetheless, it was a good head-start. I became more confident and got a lot more opportunities. I only started competing when I was 37 because before that there were only bodybuilding competitions – there wasn’t any physique competition.
Have you suffered any physical setbacks?
Believe it or not, I’ve not suffered any major injuries! But something strange did happen though.
After Senior Manhunt and Physique War, I kept up my heavy lifting. It wasn’t due to the heavy weights that I sprained my back; it was a pair of 5kg dumbbells! I don’t even use them for warm-ups! Despite the light weight, the sprain was quite bad; I couldn’t lift heavy for a few weeks. It couldn’t get off my bed; I couldn’t sleep. Whenever I woke up, I have to hit my back like an old man just so that I can stand straight.
I guess it was the accumulation of neglect when I was younger, dismissing any form of injuries as minor. The stiffness in the spine just adds up.
Was that how you started looking for a chiropractor?
I met Dr Jeff and Dr Jenny through Nutriman a few weeks before I suffered the back injury. I guess it’s fate! But I didn’t approach them immediately. I thought it would go away eventually, but it was getting in the way of training and my daily life, so I decided that I needed to get my back fixed.
I’ve always heard about chiropractic but wasn’t sure what it is about, so I decided to give it a try and went to Dr Jeff. The recovery happened relatively quickly. After the first session, I could stand straight with little effort, and I gained back my mobility. By the second session, I was back to doing deadlifts. I kept the workout light, of course. After a few more sessions, I was back to heavy lifting again. I’ve stuck to him since.
Have you tried other forms of treatments? How did they work for you?
I’ve tried massages and tui na. They do relief some pain, but it doesn’t help. They were more of temporary measures. After a few training sessions, my problems came back.
How has chiropractic helped you so far?
I feel a lot more flexible. When you regularly release the tension in the neck and spine, it does not only impact your training – it impacts your daily life. The improvement in mobility helps with physical activities.
When you don’t have back pain, you don’t realise how much the pain gets in the way of your daily life. It’s distracting. I do creative work, but sometimes my mind gets sidetracked by the pain that I lose my train of thoughts. Without the pain, I have one less distraction, one less mood-destroyer.
What do you like about Dr Jeff and Dr Jenny?
They don’t hard-sell! Every patient is a friend to them. They are dedicated and focused on helping you with your issues.
Both of them are into fitness too! The thing about not being treated by people who are not into fitness themselves is that they don’t understand the importance of continuity, so they’d rather advise you to stop. But Dr Jeff and Dr Jenny are physique athletes too, so they’ll be able to give better advice, like how to modify your workout so as not to aggravate your condition, and only ask you to stop as a last resort. They dish out more than chiropractic advice.
Chiropractic is not a massage! Don’t come in expecting to be lying down with someone working on you. They can help you with your wrists and shoulders too.
Any advice you’d like to give young physique athletes?
Train your muscles, not your ego! A lot of you want to prove yourself at the gym by lifting more than what you can with poor form. Get proper advice from experienced lifters or better, get a proper trainer.
Watch your back, especially when you’re doing deadlifts and squats. It’s easy to ignore the importance of good form and little injuries here and there, but when you grow older, the problem will surface eventually.
Lastly, seek professional help for maintenance and injuries. It’s important for recovery and to prevent future, more major injuries. Chiropractic is important, especially if you are training hard with high intensity, which may put unnecessary stress and trauma to the spine. That can be the start of back problems. You don’t want to have any injuries, it’s no joke, and it messes up your progress. Regular adjustments can help you avoid injuries.
Do you lift heavy in the gym and compete like Vin? Avoid injuries and downtime.
Book an appointment with us for an insight into your posture and how it may affect your training and progress.
Dr. Jenny Li is the appointed chairman of Medical Committee for NABBA WFF Singapore.