I have been toying with the idea of starting this blog for a while now. What was holding me back? The usual – self-doubt. I worried that the information I provide wouldn’t be new, or it would be wrong, or just a repetition of what many others with more experience and knowledge have already said in better ways. But then I thought, what would be wrong with that? If anything, what I’ve since come to realise from hours of reading articles, books and listening to Podcasts by the aforementioned fitness professionals is that the simplest movements and most basic principles take much more time and effort to master.
So I’ve reshuffled my expectations and come to think of this blog as a place for collecting the information I’ve learned since being properly thrown into the fitness industry, along with a dash of personal experience using that information with both my clients and my own training.
Along those lines, now would be a good spot to pause for a small introduction to my personal journey so far. Like most everyone in a big city, I was propelled into the gym by a mild obsessive admiration over certain celebrities’ impossibly toned body parts (fine, to be more specific, Cameron Diaz’s arms). Before that, I shied away at any hint of sports or outdoorsy activities, partly because I’d never been good at them and partly because the more internal worlds of books and movies seemed a lot more like fun to me. I associated the gym to sports – which isn’t quite the same thing, as proper athletes can attest to better than me – but was willing to give it a try if that would give me Cameron Diaz’s arms. So off I went to dip my toes into your typical TRX and Body Pump classes. I moved on to some Muay Thai, then ventured into the weights section armed with what I then thought was a complete arsenal of information from ’10 exercises you should be doing’ articles I ripped from women’s fitness and bodybuilding magazines. I stuck to a typical template of light weights, lots of cardio and jumping around and a pretty rigid diet (maybe a post on that to come later) and did end up trading that skinny fat look for a set of abs instead.
While I was pretty pleased with myself for a while, the thought of ‘what more can I do?’ began to creep in. My gym routine evolved from being a hobby while I toiled at my day job (which was, ironically, writing) into being something that I would spend all my free time researching, practising, talking or just generally thinking about. I began to realise that the aesthetic results and simple act of exercising was just the tip of a very large iceberg when it came to fitness.
I was still in an office job and was thinking I was pretty strong (with that conditional ‘for a girl’, since the thought of someone female holding a barbell was already slightly revolutionary, especially with Hong Kong’s taste for being as stick-thin as possible) and well-informed by then, but taking that leap into the fitness industry in 2015 has been humbling and eye-opening, in the truest and least hyperbolic sense of the word. I found out, firstly, that I was actually really not strong, no matter what relative angle I looked at it from. I found out that I, in fact, knew as much as the general population (which is to say, sadly, not a lot) about what my body could do, was supposed to do and was actually doing. I found out that I was just at the beginning of a long, long path which probably didn’t even have a top, and it was now or never when it came to deciding whether or not to step foot on that path.
At this point of time, my lifestyle in 2016 has evolved from the winding and somewhat misled path I started four or five years ago. In terms of training, I stick to a strength based program and work out 3-4 days a week, measuring progress by improving my form and strength. In terms of nutrition, I’ve found my happy place through moderation and can honestly say that I don’t miss the washboard abs at all. Ultimately, my priority is on improving my performance while at the same time keeping my body happy by not overstressing it, whether that’s from overtraining or underfeeding it like I’ve done sometimes in the past.
The point of this personal introduction is that having taken that leap into fitness, I’ve had the time and resources to learn so much more about movement, exercise and lifestyle habits (and half of that is learning what I need to learn), whether it’s from my colleagues where I work at Fitness Compass, from coaching clients (and I’m lucky enough to have quality clients who are interested themselves in learning more and giving me feedback along the way), or as I’ve mentioned from reading and listening to respected figures in the industry.1 I’ve always found it easier and more natural to express myself through writing, so to conclude this not-so-brief introduction, I’ve decided that this blog will be a space for me to note down the trail of questions that led me into being a personal trainer in the first place and collect the answers (if any) that I’ve found to those questions.
So if you, dear reader, are here to look for the fastest way to burn fat or the latest and greatest workout trends you should be following, then you’ve come to the wrong place. On the other hand, if you haven’t nodded off by now and are, like me, interested in learning about how to help our bodies function at their healthiest, then welcome to this little bit of my world. Please treat this as a two-way thing and give me any feedback that you think would be useful!
- A brief list of my ‘go-to’s.
- Bret Contreras, for comprehensive articles, especially about glute activation and the mechanical aspect of fundamental exercises
- Dan John, who is great at showing the importance of perfecting the basics
- Movement as Medicine, same as above, it was MBSC’s principles of having a solid foundation that really helped me at the start and is still something I go back to
- Zach Long, for mobility and a more physical therapy-based understanding of exercises
- Katy Bowman, who really helped enlighten me about the natural way that our bodies move versus the set ways that our culture has taught us to move
- Max Shank, who first got me into doing 5 minute flows every morning and is great at making strength and mobility simple and stress-free, without all the equipment and fancy routines that the fitness industry tries to load on people
- Precision Nutrition, for the researched-backed and real-world applicable advice they give on how to create lifestyle and nutritional habits that will last
- Sohee Lee, whose moderation-focused take on mindset, nutrition and lifestyle I personally agree with and follow
- The Fit Cast, one of my all-time favourites and what inspired me to get into the industry in the first place
- Super Strength Show
- Align Podcast
- Physique Science Radio
- Ben Coomber Radio
- Under the Bar
- Move Your DNA (Katy Bowman), again an in-depth but more importantly interesting and readable look at the ways we are meant to move as humans
- Can You Go? (Dan John), a concise summary of basic movement patterns that everyone should be able to do and simple, well-rounded programs
- Ignite the Fire (Jonathan Goodman), a great introduction to practical skills as a personal trainer that saved me from learning by trial and error, such as communication, body language, and motivational techniques
- Motivational Interviewing (William R. Miller), not only helpful as a personal trainer but for everyone in terms of how to have productive discussions with people and how to tap into their motivations and willingness to change