Published 28 August 2020
He's the epitome of age ain't nothing but a number. RJ never fails to amaze the #UnionFam - from his love towards his family, his passion for fitness to his empathy for people. In this post, we get close up with RJ to learn more about his journey in fitness and life.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a certified professional trainer, an executive coach and a certified CrossFit Level One Trainer.

I studied Finance at the University of Iowa and have an MBA in Finance from the University of Hull. I started my career in 1985 as a merchant banker and investment manager and have gathered almost 20 years of experience around this exciting but volatile industry. For the following five years, I ventured into the role as a financial consultant and advisor for corporate institutions and to a selected high profile individual.

In 2011, I added a professional certification as “Professional (corporate) Trainer”, and at this time I regularly offer my services to institutions and their teams to improve their performance with insightful perspectives of tapping the elements of high performance in the corporate world. Today, while being semi-retired from the regular 9-5 set up after 35 years, I’m still active with this role from regular engagements.

I’ll be 58 in September – a husband, a father to three kids and a grandfather to three boys (five, three and two years old).

Have you been exercising your whole life?

Growing up as a teenager back in the mid-70s, I have always been inspired by professional athletes (of most sports) and their fitness accomplishments. That drew my interest in sports and I was into several sporting activities while in school. Among a few of my achievements include - being a state-level swimmer, a school hockey player, a rugby player and a member of the University of Iowa (USA) soccer team as a goalkeeper. I absolutely love the environment of being active and competitive. Like any teenager growing up - dreaming of representing the nation in a sporting event always played in my mind.

Unfortunately, chasing a career and trying to make a decent and comfortable living soon after I got married (32 years ago) didn’t give me much time to slot fitness regimes regularly. So I took the common path of any struggling career man and had put on so much weight and lost muscle mass that I can only describe now as nightmarish.

At worst, my weight was 85-86kg. I was a sluggish and lazy blob of a husband and dad for most of those years. Although I tried occasionally to be the fitness warrior on the weekends, that didn’t do much to elevate my fitness and health to the level I had wished for. There was a point in my life that I gave up the idea of regaining my middle age fitness.

What motivated you to kick start your fitness journey again?

My dad had already blood pressure issues to manage at an early age of just 35 and was on medication most of his life. In December 2012, he had a massive stroke, and he blew his last breath after 19 days in a coma. It was devastating to see him suffered that way. A few years after, my eldest sister suffered a heart attack which caused her to lose control of one side of her body. Not too long after that, my younger brother had his episode with mild stroke, and he too lost mobility and control of his body. Thank god that they have now recovered from this nasty episode although a little bit impacted by it for the rest of their remaining life now.

These hit very close to my plans and got me re-thinking and re-assessing my fitness plans. In 2014, I married off my daughter to a wonderful guy. December that year, we were excited to receive the news that she was pregnant and it meant that I would be a grandfather in 2015. But, with my family’s poor medical history and the fact that I had not given much attention to my own, I was actually jeopardizing my future with my grandchild who was coming.

"...the fact that I had not given much attention to my own, I was actually jeopardizing my future with my grandchild..."

These fed into the motivation I needed badly to regain my fitness. I started visualizing a healthy and fit grandfather playing with his grandkids. I didn’t want my family to endure the horrors and pain that my sister and brother experienced. I felt the responsibility to take care of myself so that my grandkids can experience enjoying active memories with their grandfather.

In February 2015, I started to achieve what I visualized. My doctor warned me about my condition and put much emphasis on me to commence some fitness plan. I started with a change in eating habit and got re-introduced to structured and purposeful exercising. I lost 5kgs within five months and it gave me a great feeling of achievement. I received my first grandson in the condition I had envisioned – fit and healthy after given a clean bill of health by my doctor.

What has your journey taught you about yourself?

It opened a new perspective for me on how I look at ageing. It was becoming very, very important that the role of grandparents to this new member of the family is to continue to provide them – (not like how I had provided for his mother) – but offer a personality of inspiration and a role model of positivities. And that required for me to stay healthy and fit while being – present and available in their growing years.

What's been the biggest achievements in your fitness journey?

Over the next two years, I continued this pursuit for healthy living into my golden years. I turned 55 in 2017 and was facing the sunset of a fulfilling career in the corporate world. It was time to step up the quest and I had been following CrossFit events for a while already.

When CrossFit Online became available, I signed up right away (rather naively, I must admit) not knowing what’s in store. That year, I was one of the few handfuls that registered for my age group and division of competition in Malaysia. And it was exciting to know there are others - another gentleman of my age was competing too!

In this competition, I completed the all five weeks WODs (workout of the day) and finished sharing top position with my friend/fellow competitor of my division and age group for Malaysia - but I was humbled by its requirements and the intensity of the movements. Nevertheless, it was also the most enjoyable online event I have ever experienced. It left an impact enough for me to learn more about CrossFit so much that I signed up for foundation course at CrossFit Pahlawan in April that same year.

In October of the same year, I was invited by the event organizers to represent Malaysia at the Master League Games in Gold Coast, Australia. For my age group 55-60, I was the only Malaysian (and also sole ASIAN representative) at the event. This spurred me further into this sport and I locked in a serious commitment to venture further into it.

In September 2018, I secured the certificate as CrossFit Level One Trainer, which made me the oldest in Malaysia with such qualification. I continue to represent Malaysia in Master League Games in 2018 and 2019. As a matter of fact, I was the Captain for Team Asia that competed at the Games in 2019. Athletes representing the contingent of Asian masters came from 12 different nationals that year and we had one of our athletes that finished top of the group.

I continue to carry the flag of MASTERS (above 50) and actively encourage others of my age group to revisit their fitness and health. It is an important aspect to ensure quality living and maintain economic relevance within the community.

One of my biggest project in the works right now is developing a community that appreciate the value of staying healthy – at any age, especially the more maturing group. I envision this platform to encourage and reward those who stay active and healthy as they age, a platform that will make it meaningful to take the quest for quality living.

"Forget about trying to stay young...just work on STAYING ACTIVE!"

RJ Rahman Mansor
Union Strength Member