Fit & Fab: globetrotting Pearly Chen takes her fitness routine with her

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 April, 2014, 10:25am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 April, 2014, 11:51am

Pearly Chen travels up to 200,000 kilometres a year in her role as the right-hand woman to HTC chairwoman and co-founder Cher Wang. But she doesn't let her globetrotting lifestyle get in the way of her daily dose of fitness - even if her methods are a trifle unusual.

"I always travel with my pink running shoes on," says Chen, who is Taiwanese. "I'm often running from one gate to another. Once, I needed a break after a meeting in San Francisco, so I literally went running around the terminal."

As Wang's chief of staff, Chen is charged with leading the businesswoman's international public engagements, including on the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) Business Advisory Council.

The position has seen Chen address world leaders, present to rooms full of business and political luminaries and ask difficult questions to those many years her senior.

"These kinds of opportunities don't come easily for someone my age; I go through a lot of self-doubt at times," says the 28-year-old. "Early on, some people questioned my credibility or authority… this is where I find being fit and empowered is essential in my life. It helps me to manage stress and keep a positive mindset."

Chen's husband introduced her to surfing and triathlon years ago. She joined the Hong Kong-based Tritons triathlon club, where she gained the confidence to take part in aquathons and open-water swimming races.

"In the beginning, I couldn't even swim 50 metres, or jog for more than a kilometre. I was so unfit. I was also scared of the open water. I built it all from nothing," she says.

Inspired by the positive impact of a healthy body and mind, Chen resolutely packs in exercise "whenever and wherever" by running in whichever city she lands and squeezing in a quick dip in a hotel pool. At the weekends, she enjoys cycling with her husband.

How important is it to be fit in business?

I'm sure there might be some successful businesspeople who don't like to take part in sport, or work on their fitness, but for me it's essential. It's the mentality that comes with being active that's most important: being strong, challenging yourself, the ability to centre yourself, being humbled and feeling comfortable outside of your comfort zone. Peter Chou, our HTC CEO, exercises twice a day whenever possible.

What have you learned since including sport in your lifestyle?

It's a metaphor for life: it's OK to struggle and it's worth pushing through. In 2012, I took part in a cycling training camp in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was scorching hot - 40 degrees Celsius - and incredibly painful. We were doing more than 2,000 metres in total of vertical climbs every day, and I was always the slowest.

I kept wondering, "What am I doing here? Why am I doing this?" But at the top, we were greeted with fresh fruit, great company and breathtaking views. Then I realised this is what life is about. Sometimes you struggle a little bit, but it's okay: the panoramic view at the top and the joy of cruising downhill is all worth it.

What's your most memorable sporting moment?

When I used to surf, we would wake up at 5.30am to get in a session before work - we called it the "dawn patrol". I remember being among all the surfers in the line-up at Big Wave Bay at sunrise, and appreciating just how blessed I was, being close to nature, just living a perfect lifestyle. Surfing and triathlon for me are not just sports, they are a lifestyle and a state of mind.

What's your sporting goal?

I signed up for a 250-kilometre, seven-day desert race in Madagascar, but I've had to postpone it until I can fit in some serious training. It's on the list, and I am determined to do it one day. Iceland is another adventure sporting destination that's on my mind.

What's the best advice you've ever had?

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. I live by that idea and I try to influence people to adopt it. Travelling all the time, and constantly dealing with new challenges, I'm reminded that the best moments in life are often on the other side of fear.

It's that mentality that keeps pushing me beyond my boundaries, and makes me comfortable saying impossible is really nothing.