4 November, 2014
Health & Fitness

A gym with a heart – we check out International Fitness studio in Central, Hong Kong

4 November, 2014
During my three and half years in Hong Kong, I have encountered some questionable personal trainers. There was the guy who weighed me and declared I was obese (I am 56kg for the record), the lady who told me I had ‘a lot of fat on my hip muscle’ and the gentleman who warned me not to eat too many salads as they contain carbs – ‘You need to eat like a lion, not like a hippo.’ Fairly uninspiring, all in all.

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Upon visiting International Fitness (IF) Personal Training Studio on Wellington Street my expectations were not exactly high, but thankfully my experience with founder and trainer Richard Crow was worlds apart from my past experiences. The IF gym inhabits a clean, white space with a large open floor area lined with various pieces of equipment – from the more familiar, like dumbbells and yoga balls, to kettle weights and a free form (more about that later). With a maximum of three trainers and their clients allowed at one time, the space provides appropriate privacy and comfort without feeling overrun as well as a chance for cross discipline collaboration.

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With intros over and Manu Chau blasting from the speakers (Richard thought it appropriate as I am learning Spanish), it was time for my training to commence. After a simple warm up, stretches and a few games to focus my attention, we quickly moved onto some rigourous strength training which included squats atop a bosu ball, followed by kettle weight lifts. I had always seen these weights at the gym but was too intimidated to try, however Richard quickly had me swinging them all over the place. Upper body suitably warm, it was time to engage the core with some plank and oblique training using a free form which Richard’s clients have affectionately coined the ‘devil’s tamborine’ – they were not wrong!

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With a background in martial arts, it was no surprise Richard introduced some capoeira and boxing circuits, which also tapped into my love of dance and zumba. Next, I was strapped into a harness for agility training with a clever use of resistant bands. The drills were pretty tough but hilarious at the same time especially when the elastic boomerangs you back to the start. For the grand finale, we performed a series of gruelling abdominal drills together and more upper body weight lifts, which Richard observed was my weak point. As a cardio lover, I often overlook strength training but it was great to learn more about the benefits which include adding definition to your figure, burning more calories around the clock and reducing the risk of injury to other areas such as the back. If you’re worried about bulking up, Richard assured me that it takes a LOT of training before this is even possible, especially as body building is mostly down to testosterone (read more about that here). Phew!

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Aside from the standard private showers, changing facilities and towels-for-rent, one unique feature of the studio is the video recording facility. Quite often mirrors do not do justice to correcting posture or are inaccessible when concentrating on a pose or stretch. By recording and projecting short videos onto the wall, IF clients can see for themselves just where they are going right or wrong. Pretty cool, although I would definitely prefer fully private use of the gym if my squatting was projected for all to see!

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What I loved about IF aside from the space, was Richard’s approach to working out. It is his belief that fitness is essential to one’s overall well being which extends beyond exercise to both mental health and social behaviour. It’s a very refreshing approach that I have not experienced before… Don’t think that means you’re in for an easy ride (the ‘devil’s tamborine’ alone can vouch for that!) but this down-to-earth, non superficial, body and mind approach is one that I fully empathised with. This philosophy is also echoed in the gym’s name, inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem ‘If’ which emphasises the need for inner strength and perseverance when trying to achieve one’s goals.

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In its essence, IF is a gym with heart. This is not a place to be seen in; it is not luxurious and flashy, the decor is simple and the focus is on you, your body and health, which I’m sure many would agree is far more important. Training sessions with Richard either individual or in small groups start from $1,000 per hour, whilst studio rental begins at $250 per hour. It is Richard’s hope that IF will become a place for collaboration and inspiration between trainers of different specialities and their clients, so for those looking for a studio with soul, you’ve come to the right place.

International Fitness Studio, 8/F Yu Wing Building, 66 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2522 2237 or 9739 0004, www.internationalfitnessstudio.com.hk. Email [email protected] for enquiries!

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