Roger Ko: Founder of Bacon!
Q: On 3rd November 2016, BACON had its first wellness week. Since then, the community has expanded. How do you feel about having helped nurture a culture of health and fitness within Yale-NUS (YNC)?
I feel like we still have got ways to go! The whole point is that BACON is both fun and inclusive. I think that there are still some people out there who would very much like to get into fitness but are too intimidated to approach us.
Q: What first inspired you to set up BACON with your friends?
The inspiration first came when Fred (Class of 2019) had me do the Pilates squat challenge during our freshman year and I “died” doing it. We have since built up a fun and welcoming community of people doing Pilates. I thought that it would be great if we had such communities for other areas of fitness as well– kind of like “Fiverr” for fitness. Turns out that others were thinking the same way, and so I found an awesome team to start BACON ground up.
Q: BACON is well known for having established a healthy lifestyle culture in Yale-NUS. What does BACON do that makes it stand out from other fitness clubs?
I think the issue is that there are no other fitness related clubs in Yale NUS. There are plenty of fitness options, but none that try to unite the different options into a common platform.
I think most fitness clubs (in other colleges I have seen) are too exclusive. Health and fitness are too narrowly defined into the “Bodybuilding lifestyle”, and that by default turns a lot of people away. We have made the concerted effort to reach out to beginners, and to be inclusive of all genders. I am really glad to have Fred, Izzy and Sarah on board. They help us think about how we can be more accessible to the girls in YNC.
Q: What difficulties did you face in establishing BACON?
Articulating why we were important to the school was one of our difficulties. We ourselves knew why, but putting it into words was hard. We also wanted to be different from other clubs by keeping an element of mystery and intrigue about the club. We had to get creative with how we advertised.
Q: Do you and your friends plan to expand BACON in the future? If yes, how?
Yes! We want to have a stronger presence in school, and a better reputation for being an inclusive place to do fitness and talk about fitness related problems. We also want to pay attention to our high performing athletes. In time, we hope to sponsor a team of athletes (Working Name: BaconX) to take part in different competitions. For example, Power-lifting and Cross-fit.
Also, I think BACON could be a very powerful fitness brand. A brand that embodies a specific set of ideas about fitness. In my opinion, these are pretty good and marketable ideas, and BACON should not be confined to just YNC. Exactly what kind of business proposition I am making here I am still not sure, but I see potential.
Q: What is your training program like, physically and mentally?
Fitness-wise I think it is important to do what you enjoy. That is how you end up doing it every day. The one who is consistent will make gains. I feel it is important to make distinctions between training and exercise. Exercise is all about feeling good, which is important. You can do the same thing every day and that is fine. However, training is goal-specific and results-oriented. It is usually more intelligent, and the programme must be well-thought through. I believe that the latter is much more meaningful, rewarding and fun in the long run, but I hope BACON can support people who want something different.
Mentally it is important to pace yourself and be clear about your motivations. There is a kind of neuroticism and obsessive compulsion that characterises the fitness world. It is helpful but you need to realize when you get in too deep. This can be hard, which is why having a support group is important.
Q: If you could only do one exercise ( Eg. Deadlift, Squat ) for the next 1 year, what would it be?
There is so much dogma in the fitness industry with people believing that you HAVE to do things one way to get results, that I almost don’t want to answer the question. I will answer, but the caveat is that this works FOR ME. Overhead press and weighted pull ups are incredible. Both are a very good test of your upper-body strength.
Q: What advice would you give to Singaporeans who want to lead a healthy lifestyle?
We did not name our club BACON just to be scandalous. It is deliberate — we want people to know that they do not have to give up seemingly “decadent” foods to be fit and healthy. I think everything in moderation is key.
Q: What advice would you give to other people who want to establish health and fitness clubs like you?
Think about how you can add value to people’s lives and improve things. The whole point of a fitness club, in my opinion, is forming a community. That usually means thinking about helping others. I remember the old me who stepped into the gym 6 years ago. No guidance, just an intimidating room of big guys lifting heavy weight. I wish that it can be different for others starting out. Even if the point is finding only elite or competitive people, you have to add value by finding some kind of niche and make people come back.
Q: How important do you think a community is in keeping fit or maintaining a fitness lifestyle?
There are very little things we can control in this world but we can control our body to a large extent, through fitness. To me, that is pretty empowering.
Q: What are some sports or activities other that you would recommend for people starting out in sports?
I started bouldering in Yale NUS and have not looked back since. The wonderful thing about bouldering is the community. There is no oneupmanship or overbearing competition. Everybody just wants to help and is really friendly. Also, it teaches you how to move with finesse, and better problem-solving. Best of all, it is pure fun, and very social.