Monday, September 13, 2010

Swimming and cycling keep MM fit

Sep 13, 2010

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew was interviewed by Seth Mydans of The New York Times on Sept 1. We carry today edited excerpts of the interview

You did make a reference in an interview with Time magazine to something that goes beyond reason, as you put it. You referred to a book by Pierre D'Harcourt, who talked about people surviving the Nazi concentration camps, saying it's better when they have something to believe in.

Yes, of course.

And you said that the communists and the deeply religious fought on and survived. That there are some things in the human spirit that are beyond reason.

I believe that to be true. Look, I saw my friend and cabinet colleague, Hon Sui Sen, who was a deeply religious Catholic. He was finance minister, a fine man.

In 1983, he had a heart attack. He was in hospital, in ICU. He improved and was taken out of ICU.

Then he had a second heart attack and I knew it was bad. I went to see him and the priest was giving him the last rites as a Catholic.

Absolutely fearless, he showed no distress, no fear. The family was around him, his wife and daughters.

With priest delivering the last rites, he knew he was reaching the end. But his mind was clear and absolutely calm.

Well, I am more like you. We don't have something to cling to.

That's our problem.

But people see you as the supremely reasonable person; reason is the ultimate.

Well, that's the way I've been working.

Well, you did mention to (US journalist) Tom Plate, they think they know me but they only know the public me?

Yeah, the private view is you have emotions for close members of your family. We are a close family; not just my sons and daughter and my wife and my parents, but also my brothers and my sister.

You have been fit. You have a stent, you had a heart problem late last year. But besides that, do you have ailments?

Well, aches and pains of a geriatric person, but all non-terminal. I go in for physiotherapy, maintenance, once a week. They give me a rub over because when I cycle, my thighs get sore, knees get a little painful, also the hips.

But if you stop exercising, you make it worse. That's what my doctors tell me - just carry on.
When you have these aches and pains, we'll give you physiotherapy. I've learnt to use heat pads at home.

So after the physiotherapy, once a week, if I feel my thighs are sore, I just have a heat pad. You put it in the microwave oven and you tie it around your thighs or your ankles or your calves. It relieves the pain.

So you continue to cycle.

Oh yes.


No, I don't do the treadmill. I walk but not always. When I've cycled enough I don't walk.

That's your primary exercise? Swimming?

Yes, I swim every day, it's relaxing.

What other secrets? I see you drink hot water?


Tell me about it.

Well, I used to drink tea. But tea is a diuretic, and I didn't know that. I used to drink litres of it.
In the 1980s, I was having a conference with Zhou Ziyang, who was then secretary-general of the Chinese Communist Party, in the Great Hall of the People. The Chinese came in and poured more tea and hot water. I was scoffing it down because it kept my throat moistened; my BP was up because more liquid was in me. Halfway through, I said please stop.

I'm dashing off. I had to relieve myself. Then my doctors said, don't you know that tea is a diuretic?

I don't like coffee; it gives me a sour stomach. So okay, let's switch to water.

Cold water - this was from my ENT man - if you drink cold water, you reduce the temperature of your nasal passages and throat and reduce your resistance to coughs and colds.

So I take warm water, body temperature. My daughter puts blocks of ice into her coffee and drinks it up. She's all right; she's only 50-plus.

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