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Exclusive Interview

Exclusive Interview: An Honest Mistake – Darren Teh’s Fitness Journey


By night, Darren Teh is known as An Honest Mistake’s founder, guitarist, and vocalist – jumping about on stage with his guitar singing his heart out. By day, he’s an English lecturer at Lim Kok Wing University. Besides that, he also constantly actively participates and organizes various events within the music scene ; both locally and within South East Asia. An avid and enthusiastic bootcamper, he can usually be found working out with Chief’s Original Bootcamp in Cyberjaya most evenings.


With so many things on his plate, one may find it bemusing. How does he manage to invest the time and energy to maintain an active physical fitness regime? Why does he even bother?

ToughAsia unravels the mystery behind the man.


Tell us a little about your fitness background. Were you active in primary / high school? What sports did you play?

When I was in primary school, I played football. I didn’t play for the school team or anything formal. It was just the kick around but I could play. I cycled a lot as well. I did Taekwondo for 3 years but I dropped it when I got into high school. When I got to high school, basketball was the only thing on my mind. I trained hard, I got into the school team. I then played briefly for a club which was a championship winning club. It was pretty intense!

When did you start taking an active interest in being physically fit?
Ever since I was a child. I was always active and I knew that being physically fit is really important. My dad played football for Penang when he was young so I guess that’s where the idea of being fit came from. My dad was the positive source.

What were your interests & hobbies in college & university?
When I got to university, I was interested in 2 things; doing well in my studies and getting to know as many people as I could. I did that through basketball. I played on campus but there was never a club and there wasn’t a coach to formally train the entire team. I was also involved heavily with the bands that I played in. 3 bands to be exact. Therefore, I couldn’t focus much on the team.

Was there any one particular incident that made you realize the importance of doing so?
Not really. I just knew that I didn’t want to be unhealthy and by keeping fit, that’s how I could be healthy so I don’t have to suffer complications when I get older.

What did you start out with?
For as long as I recall, when I was younger I enjoyed cycling, football, basketball and Taekwondo. Jogging was really boring and so was going to the gym. I’m not a fan of working out in an air-conditioned environment.

Has your fitness experience been consistent, or a start – stop thing?
I’ve always considered myself to be relatively active – that is, until I started working 5 years ago. While I was in university, from 2006 to 2009, I was still actively playing basketball almost every day. When work started, I just got so drained and I had less and less time for basketball. The only time I actually got any physical activity in was jumping about on stage.


What was it that motivated you to make an active commitment to being fit?

Well, it’s not easy to be on stage singing 30-40 minute sets and our sets are usually high energy! Last year, I decided that I needed to get fitter.  Growing up, my routine way of getting exercise was always through team sports like basketball and football. However, the downside is that you can’t play on your own.

I turned to something that was more focused and efficient – I joined a bootcamp. You get the camaraderie and encouragement that comes with working out in a team, yet you’re able to work out at your own pace and according to your ability.


What’s it like working out at bootcamp?

I work out with a lot of people outdoor. It’s a team, but not exactly. I don’t have to depend on others. If they’re not around, I can still do it on my own as long as the captain (trainer) is around. If friends are around, then there’s the whole social side to it where we motivate each other to work harder.

Describe your last workout.

Warm-up (10 minutes)

40 minute workout consisting of:

  • 10 minutes – as many sets as possible – 20 jump squats, 20 pike squats, 20 switch squats, 20 switch lunges
  • 10 minutes – as many sets as possible – 20 bicep curls, 20 overhead press, 20 upright row, 20 bent over row
  • 10 minutes – as many sets as possible – 20 low profile sit-ups, 20 flutter kicks, 20 jack-knives, 20 dorsal raises
  • 10 minutes –as many sets as possible – 20 jumping jacks, 20 grunts, 20 cross country, 20 mountain climbers

Cool-down (10 minutes)

What’s your favourite and least favourite exercise?

My favourite would be any arm or mid-section exercises are fine. My least would be squats.

What do you enjoy about bootcamp?

I like the fact that I don’t have to think of the exercises. I just need to follow orders. It helps because there’s someone keeping count. Besides that, working out with others who are equally focused and dedicated makes it more fun and enjoyable.

Describe your ultimate healthy / cheat meal.

Salad and chicken breast with yogurt. Anything else would be a cheat meal!

What sacrifices / changes did you have to make in your life in your journey to healthy? How has it been worth it?

The change was gradual. You ease into it and now it has become normal. The sacrifices would be on food that’s heavily carb based but it has definitely been worth it. Though I spend a bit more on eating healthy and paying for bootcamp, I’m fitter, I look better and I feel better.

In the industry you’re in, the following not uncommon – late nights, multiple rounds of drinks, smoking, etc. What’s your approach to such matters?

I try to go back as early as I can and I don’t drink that much. I don’t smoke so I guess these things don’t really matter as much. The only thing would just be the late nights but I’ve been staying in.

Do you have any fitness-related 2015 New Year Resolutions?

I honestly just want to look good and feel good. My secret to self-motivation is this, my motto – if you feel fat, you are fat. It’s just a way of keeping myself on track. However, I’d want to try an obstacle course race like the Viper Challenge. I love obstacle courses but not when it’s 21km long. So, yes, I’d definitely want to do that. It’s not monotonous like running a marathon. You actually need to do something else apart from running.