Ahead of the upcoming SEA Games, we speak to decorated national athlete Kimbeley Yap of Daily Muscle on her tumultuous journey – from being Malaysia’s gold medallist, to her much-publicised brush with death, and finally, her mission to help people succeed in their fitness goals. 
 
 
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You’re a decorated SEA Games Athlete. How did you get into being so active and participating in so many sports? What’s the catalyst behind this?

My first step into what has become a remarkable journey started when I was seven. My mother, who was a loving woman and armed with a very practical maternal instinct. sent me for swimming lessons because I was getting a little chubby. Growing up in Miri, there wasn’t really much to do after school except homework, so I wasn’t really getting any sort of exercise. So, the weekend swimming lessons helped me to regulate my weight.

Looking back, my mother’s encouragement sparked a fire within me.
I really started to enjoy swimming, although in the beginning, it was a lot of joking around the pool with friends, but slowly my swimming instructor saw a little something in me and I would wake my mother up at 4am in the morning to send me training.

 

In 2014, you were in an accident that effectively meant that you couldn’t compete in the SEA Games you were training for. It took you a while to recover. How much did it impact on the level of activity you’re used to, and how did you train yourself to be at a fitness level you’re happy with again?

I woke up in a strange room and I had no idea what happened. I was so heavily drugged and didn’t understand why I was on a bed, surrounded by foreign items, machines and in surroundings I didn’t quite comprehend. I was disorientated and wanted to just get up and walk out of there, just like I always do. But before I could even take a step out of the bed, everything within my body gave way. My strong, able body gave way, caving from under me and I was confused. I was in pain and l couldn’t walk.

I didn’t know I was:
In a serious accident.
I was lying bleeding on a highway.
I was hit by a car.
I was in an induced coma. For 8 days
I had sustained injuries to my brain, legs and face.
I almost lost my life

Learning to walk and write again were two of the hardest moments – I suffered severe concussion. I remembered one therapy session, I passed out while walking and that was very scary. All in all I spent a month in the hospital, once I was out contacted my physiotherapist and started rehab right away. A friend of my husband, Steven Khoo, owned a pilates studio called Pilatique and he sponsored me sessions until I get on my feet and that took 6 months. I did most of the rehab and the reformer because I could not stand and that worked so effectively.

 

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You said you were depressed about the accident for a while, but you snapped out of it when you learned that you could have been paralysed. Could you share more about the things you did, or the things your loved ones did, to help get you out of depression?

The hardest thing for me to understand was – “Why Me?” I cried myself to sleep every night. I was scared, and on some nights, it really got very difficult. I could cry only at night because I didn’t have to put on a brave face for anyone anymore. I put on a brave face for everyone – family, friends and even Noel (husband). Inside, I was still confused and still couldn’t fathom what was actually going on.

I had tubes in my body that scared me, and I looked down at my legs and the wounds were scabbing and it was beginning to become very black. I couldn’t bend my knees, walking was very difficult and the pain was intense, everyday the nurses would poke new needle holes. And on top of that, my memory was sketchy. I also had to depend on people for everything. It was undignified.

I was Kimbeley Yap, I could do this! But I could not. 

A week after I was discharged from the hospital I did an MRI and I brought the results back to my physiotherapist in Majlis Sukan Negara, the late Ronald Fauvel and he told me that I’m lucky to be alive. My vertebra at C4 was so close to hitting my central nervous system and if it wasn’t for the doctor who was driving on the opposite side of the road that turned back and held my neck before the ambulance came I would be paralysed neck down. And from that moment on I was determined to recover properly and no more self pity.

 

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You’re now known as a fitness coach. What drove you go into this field rather than going back into competitive sports?

When I took a break before deciding to make a come back before the accident, I took up a job as a Personal Trainer. Sports and movement have always been my passion. 

In 2009, I had to undergo a spinal surgery caused by accumulation of crashes on the bicycle. After I recovered I was assigned to a personal trainer at MSN, Behrad Honar, we worked so well together and he got me back on the bike stronger than I was before the surgery. And in this journey he has inspired me to be a trainer. 

Today, as a as a professional trainer and movement specialist at DailyMuscle I have the privilege to work with individuals and groups helping them to achieve something they never thought they could do and it’s such an amazing feeling.

 

Modern life can be very hectic and fast-paced. Do you have a message for those who can’t seem to find time to get active?

Staying active is a lifestyle and we do not need to put aside 2 hours to workout at a gym. If you have 10 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening that equals to 40 minutes of being active. It can be accumulative. Taking the stairs instead of the lifts can add on, and shopping too! Hooray!

 

What is it like working with your husband? Is it a challenge (sometimes)? 🙂

Not many people get the privilege to have a common passion and work together with their spouse. To be honest there are ups and downs but I always remind myself to look back at how we pulled through the accident. Plus I get to spend more time with him!

 

All photos courtesy of Kimbeley Yap-Chelliah.

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See also: Chic Fit with Fitness Bunny Linora Low

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Check out another fitness inspiration, Linora Low here!