In a city with arguably the most literal approach to the ‘work hard, play hard’ ethic, finding the time to stay in shape can be a real challenge. To help you get on top of your game, we’ve gathered together a panel of Hong Kong fitness gurus to give you the low-down on fitness trends, common workout mistakes, and top tips on how to shake up your regime.
Clearing Hong Kong’s Hurdles | Pre-workout Tips | Workout Spaces
The Rise of Bootcamp | Budget Bootcamps | The Next Big Thing?
Favourite Workouts | Common Workout Mistakes | Post-workout Routines | Bespoke Fitness | Classes
Clearing Hong Kong’s Hurdles
Sedentary jobs dominate in Hong Kong, which not only reduces your daily calorie-burning count to practically nil, but also shortens your hamstrings and weakens the spine, explains Ian Wilson, head strength coach at Primal Strength. As a result, the temptation to go hard and fast with weight training, as opposed to gradually working your way up the weight scale, has the potential to do real damage.
Long hours are this city’s forte, as demonstrated by its chart-topping performance in the UBS annual Prices and Earnings 2015 study. Hong Kongers rack up over 50 hours in the workplace every week, on average, beating 70 other global cities measured in the report by a clear mile. Without using work as an excuse, we really do have less time to dedicate to working out. “The mentality behind the work ethic definitely hinders people’s enthusiasm to exercise,” explains Max Lai, founder of Urban Active. “However, for those starting out it can be as simple as 45 minutes, three to four times a week. Many people I know work out before work so it doesn’t impact on their work.” Set your alarm clocks guys.
Socialising is at the heart of the Hong Kong lifestyle. Though happy hours and after work drinks may be kind on the pocket, they’re definitely not kind on your health. Alcohol has a huge amount of calories in it and can actually hinder muscular repair – hey, we’re not telling you to go teetotal, just approach socialising and fitness as equally important pastimes.
Diet is just as much of a battle, with luxurious Hong Kong restaurants serving up uncontrolled portions, and small kitchens putting many off prepping meals at home. We hate to break it to you, but you can’t out train a bad diet. The key to healthy nutrition? Ditch the “diet”, and with it the potential to fail. Simply make conscious choices every day and soon enough it will become a way of life.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that without fuel in the tank, you’ll run out of steam. Our fitness gurus all agree that a light meal an hour or two before a workout is the way to go. Some like fruit, others suggest a small amount of carbohydrate – it’s a personal choice, but eating something before your workout is definitely the key.
Lacking motivation? Take the advice of Max, founder and trainer at Urban Active, and have a pre-workout drink to get you fired up. Check out the offerings of Streamline Sports – its citrus flavoured Energy Source Xtreme will have you raring to go in just 15 minutes.
Read more! Check out our Sports and Fitness Directory.
So, the gym doesn’t motivate you … don’t give up – get out! Hong Kong may be a concrete jungle, but it has plenty of outdoor workout spaces to get creative in. Plus, we have the privilege of friendly weather (raging humidity excepted) the year round, making al fresco workouts a realistic and money-saving option. To help you out, we asked our fitness friends to share their favourite, free workout spots around the city.
Dan Williams, head trainer, Precision Fitness: “I love basketball courts. You can get creative with the lines and add different stimulus – it’s a blank canvas to bring any equipment you want.”
Ian Wilson, head strength coach, Primal Strength: “I know it’s an old cliché, however one of the great pastimes in Hong Kong is hiking. A brisk walk on a cooler day when the humidity isn’t so punishing.”
Ruarai Farquhar, CEO, APNutrition: “Sai Kung Running Track – the view is incredible, the weather is pretty great all year round, and you can’t beat a sprint workout for burning fat.”
Max Lai, founder and trainer, Urban Active: “I believe you can get fit anytime and anywhere. You can do push-ups and sit-ups in your living room, or even your bedroom. Check out my YouTube channel for regular workout videos.”
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The Rise of Bootcamp
The global rise of bootcamp style workouts has been quite remarkable. Increasing numbers of people are shunning the monotony of the gym in favour of this high-intensity, varied programme of exercises. So what’s all the fuss about?
With emphasis on core stability, a proportional body shape, and workouts that will enhance your daily physical performance (as opposed to just looking good on camera), bootcamp workouts are fully geared towards achieving all round fitness. “People are making a change to functional fitness rather than just hitting the gym for bodybuilding style”, explains Ruarai of APNutrition. Top heavy forms are a thing of the past (hurrah), and nowadays it’s all about the whole package.
The competitive streak which flares up during group workouts is undoubtedly a factor contributing to the popularity of bootcamps. Perhaps even more so in a career-driven city like Hong Kong. Lord knows there’s competition pumping through the veins of this place.
If you’re bored with your workout regime, your motivation tends to drop, resulting in less productive sessions. The beauty of bootcamp workouts is in their variety and excitement, according to Max, founder and trainer at Urban Active, “Most people find pumping weights in the gym dull and boring so they turn to bootcamp as it’s more exciting and allows for a lot more interaction”.
Well, Hong Kongers are sociable beings after all. Not only does bootcamp open the door for new friendships, “The group mentality is really motivating for people who don’t enjoy exercising”, explains Ruarai of APNutrition, “Just make sure you have a good coach because CrossFit style workouts are famous for injuries.”
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Looking to spice up your exercise regime? Check out these urban workout sessions – checking in at around $100 a pop, they’re guaranteed to get you fired up about fitness without burning a hole in your pocket.
Classes: MAXHIIT, Relentless Muscle, and Morning Vinyasa
Location: Tamar Park, Causeway Bay Sports Ground, Victoria Park
How much: $20 per class plus $100 annual membership fee (free trial class too)
The November Project
Classes: Workout Wednesdays
Location: Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park (7am sharp!)
How much: Free!
Classes: Bootcamp, TRX, BoxFit, AquaFit
Location: Sai Kung
How much: $100 – $120 per class
Classes: Bootcamp, TRX, Boxing
How much: $100 – $120 per class
Although many fitness providers on our list here offer support in a community-driven sphere, the onus is very much on you to create your own scheduling, look after your own diet etc. And let’s be honest, a lifetime of bad habits can be a daunting thing to try and undo off your own back. So, if you’re the kind of person who wants to be proverbially broken down and built back up again by someone in the know, then Ultimate Performance is surely one of the best options in the city. Their 12 Week Muscle Building program is insane, with every detail catered to your needs – nutrition, sleep, when to breath, and, of course, lots of exercise. If you have the stomach to stick it out, then you’ll see some game-changing results.
With a unique setting that’s more reminiscent of a nightclub than a gym, Studio Fitness stands out from the crowd by creating a high energy, sociable atmosphere, offering “one of kind” group classes and 24/7 personal training. Personal from day one, you select your personal focus to achieve your individual goals. Keeping choices simple and workouts fun means that you aren’t overwhelmed with a myriad of classes. Studio Fitness has a structured system of purpose built workouts that are comparable to personal training at a fraction of the price. The four classes – Cut Fat, Get Ripped, Get Jacked, and Hardcore – are all tailored to your level and your goals – from spin bikes to 300kg deadlifts, it’s your choice!
The classes are so much fun that you don’t notice so much the overwhelming feeling that you want to lie down and die. Still not convinced? Well thankfully, Studio Fitness doesn’t make you commit right away. Give one of their complimentary trial classes a go and see what all the fuss is about.
Studio Fitness, World Wide Commercial Building, 34 Wyndham Street, Central, (+852) 9450 5600
If you’re after a one-of-a-kind group training that allows you to burn an average of 500+ total calories per 60-minute session, then Orangetheory Fitness is for you. Each workout incorporates endurance, strength, and power elements through a variety of equipment. Participants are given a heart-rate monitor, the new OTBeat Link or OTbeat chest strap, to monitor the five-zone interval training sessions called the Orange 60. During the course of a one-hour session, participants perform multiple intervals designed to produce at least 12 minutes of training at 84% or higher of their individual maximum heart rate. If none of that makes sense it’s okay, basically, this workout is designed to keep you in that oxygenated sweet-spot so that you basically end up burning calories long after the work out is done.
Orangetheory Fitness, 23/F, Soundwill Plaza II – Midtown, 1 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay, (+852) 5597 7296
With no two workouts ever being the same, CrossFit 852 is ideal if you’re finding yourself getting a bit bored or disillusioned with your regular routine. Workouts are generally short and performed at high intensity in small groups. It’s no walk in the park – with a typical programme combining weightlifting, gymnastics, and high intensity training – but after a few sessions you start feeling a real sense of camaraderie with the other participants and it’s amazing how far you can push yourself when you’re all in it together. If you’re maybe a little apprehensive about joining because you’re worried about your fitness levels, don’t sweat it! CrossFit’s trainers will alter the programme so you don’t end a wheezing mess on the floor.
CrossFit 852, Li Dong Building, 1&2F, Li Dong Building, 9 Li Yuen Street East, Central, (+852) 2205 0338
Fit Eat In
So many people find it difficult to fit a solid fitness regime into their daily lives in Hong Kong. Surely the biggest reason for this is work – the hours are long here and giving up your lunch hour to exercise often means you won’t get to eat. Well, Fit Eat In have the answer. Their service offers a 30-minute intensive lunchtime workout at Hong Kong Park hosted by professional trainers, followed by an organic and nutritious meal (provided by Supafood) to take back to the office. The programme is designed to fit into a one-hour time frame – busy workers can exercise, shower in the sport centres, pick up their previously ordered lunch, and return to their desk. Perfect!
Fit Eat In, (+852) 9507 7774
The Next Big Thing?
Will bootcamp reign supreme forever? The general consensus is that the variety and excitement of this workout style will continue to pull in crowds of all ages, backgrounds, and occupations. But what do our panel reckon the next fitness trend will be?
With a greater emphasis on gymnastic-style strength and positions, calisthenics is certainly coming up on the Hong Kong fitness radar. “Guys are loving to show what kind of strange positions they can get into on rings at the moment. It’s all I see when I walk into a gym”, says Dan of Precision Fitness. So what’s the attraction of this practice over traditional weight training? “No equipment is needed! Due to the price of gyms in Hong Kong, I could see this becoming an increasingly attractive alternative”, explains Max of Urban Active.
The mental challenge is at the heart of bootcamp’s success in Hong Kong, according to Ian of Primal Strength – hence why he predicts Strong Man-style workouts will come to the fore. It’s no wonder that people in highly competitive jobs find it difficult to leave that fiery attitude at the door. Ruarai of APNutrition agrees that this style of regime will be the next big thing, pointing to the newly opened, strongman-focused Ursus Fitness gym in Sai Ying Pun as a sign of this upcoming trend.
Regardless of trends, everyone has a favourite workout. Looking for some inspiration? Check out what our fitness panel has to say.
Ian, Primal Strength, head strength coach: “I enjoy Primal Circuits at HKIS Sports Field (next to the Primal Strength studio) using some modified strongman equipment such as Prowler, Weighted Sleds, battle ropes, and heavy tyres to develop the energy system.
Dan, Precision Fitness head trainer: “A deadlift, bench, or squat OMEM. Stick a heavy weight on the bar for low reps, pick a nice time like 10 or 15 minutes and get going.”
Max, Urban Active founder and trainer: “It has to be HIIT – 30 to 45 minutes of intense interval training. Come check out Urban Active!”
Ruarai, APNutrition CEO: “Anything that focuses on compound movements e.g. squats, bench press, and focusing on getting stronger over time.”
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Common Workout Mistakes
Rigorous fitness regimes have the potential to cause real harm if you don’t know what you’re doing. By making yourself aware of these five common mistakes, and correcting your technique in light of this knowledge, you’ll boost the efficiency of your workouts and show injury the door.
- Not doing a full range of motion – ditch the half-hearted approach and make every move count. Squat to a 90 degree angle, and bench press to touch your chest. Yes, every time.
- Ego-lifting – resist the temptation to lift heavy weights before your body is ready. Not only are you compromising your safety, you’re also training ineffectively. Strive for quality – rack up the reps at a manageable weight.
- Goal-orientated workouts – starting a session with a number of reps in mind makes it easy to stop before you’re reached your limit. “Don’t start counting until it hurts,” says Max, founder of Urban Active, “then count to 10, and if you can do more add an extra 5.”
- Unequal training – leg days and cardio sessions may not be as enjoyable in your opinion, but to achieve a proportional form training all parts of your body equally is essential.
- Ignoring structural imbalances – Ian, chief weight trainer at Primal Strength, points to this issue, which is particularly poignant in Hong Kong, due to the popularity of one-sided spots such as dragon boating. If one side of your body is weaker, don’t ignore it – focus and train accordingly.
The process doesn’t end when you finish your workout – a little extra focus and effort afterwards makes the world of difference. Don’t walk away from a fitness session with the attitude that it negates everything you put into your body afterwards.
Our fitness panel agree that protein is the best source of energy post-workout. Whether it’s a high-protein food, such as almonds, or a low calorie protein shake, protein is definitely the way to go.
How crucial is meal timing? Ideally you should eat within an hour or two of your workout, but really “meal timing is blown out of proportion”, explains Ruarai of APNutrition.”Nutrition is more of a daily totals thing. Make sure you’re taking in enough protein, carbs, fats, fibre, and micro-nutrients throughout the day and you’re golden.”
Go get ’em tiger!