Header image courtesy of Pure Fitness Hong Kong
Hongkongers are known to work hard and play even harder, but with health and wellness becoming increasingly important in our everyday lives, the thing we do the hardest is working out. There’s an abundance of gyms and fitness centres to get physical in, but what’s truly daunting is being surrounded by people while you struggle to get in shape... and truly, there are some weird people working on their fitness alongside you. From super ripped seniors to wannabe fitness influencers, we can’t weight for you to see if you recognise any of these eight people that you’ll meet in Hong Kong gyms.
There is nothing in the world that will get in between a CrossFitter and their WOD. The passionate CrossFitter that leaves their beloved ‘box’ (CrossFit lingo for gym) to get ‘AMRAP’ (as many reps as possible) done at your regular gym will monopolise that piece of equipment you’re trying to use and take up heaps of precious floor space, which is especially valuable during peak hours. Another concern is the, uh, vigour of how they perform their couplets. Yes, we know kipping pull-ups are a thing, but we’d like to not get hit by flying limbs, please and thank you.
Did you know you can go to the gym without taking selfies? It’s one thing to snap a few progress pics and record videos to check your form or keep track of your weightlifting prowess, but the KOL practices bicep curls by lifting their new iPhones up and down to take a million photos of themselves (and sometimes their whole squad).
Different from the actual athletes, personal trainers, and fitness enthusiasts who put hard work into their routines in addition to their social media presence, the KOL does not actually work out after getting the content they need—they’ll leave just as quickly as they arrived, without ever breaking a sweat. The KOL that does stick around will take over the leg press as a lounge chair while going through and editing their next Instagram story. Don’t forget to tag #fitspo, #fitfam, #health, #instafit, and #gymmotivation.
We’re all taught to respect our elders, and when we come across these fearsome fitness uncles and aunties, the reason becomes painfully clear. You’re bound to run into one of these intimidating seniors literally anywhere in town, whether they’re giving you a run for your money at a game of pick-up football and basketball, making heavy deliveries down busy streets, or just doing stretches and aerobics in the park.
Looks are deceiving, and it’s astonishing how healthy and in-shape some of these old folks are, but they have absolutely no chill. You’re warming up before a run along the harbourfront? That old man wearing his ratty tank top (that’s rolled up to his chest) and cargo shorts is staring you down doing chest thumps a la Matthew McConaughey from The Wolf of Wall Street, as well as intense hip thrusts and squats that’ll put any gym buff’s leg day to shame.
Speaking of tank tops, one last question: Why are they always in varying states of undress? If you’re lucky enough to encounter them in the locker rooms of Hong Kong gyms, they are almost always strutting about completely naked and chatting to one another. We can only aspire to reach this level of confidence someday.
Most of us have headphones on and our workout playlist blasting while getting sweaty. However, there’s one type of person who is somehow able to transcend sound barriers—the “Hong Kong Mum.” You may—understandably—mistake that these ladies are taping the Hong Kong edition of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills when you overhear the intricacies of their mundane drama during your spin, yoga, or Pilates class. What’s a good recovery drink after a particularly hard workout? Tea—and these yummy mummies are here to spill it.
If you catch one of these Hong Kong Mums in the wild, they are most likely taking their time on the treadmill or elliptical and plotting their cheeky afternoon glass of Prosecco or rosé at the nearest Oolaa before the little ones come home from school. For the Hong Kong Mum, there’s never a bad time to put on a sheet mask and start gossiping, as evidenced by their much-needed #selfcare in action in the changing rooms and lounge areas.
We hope the power struggle in the PTA at their child’s international school and their neighbour’s messy divorce never ends because—as much as we hate to admit it—the Hong Kong Mum is the perfect primetime entertainment whilst we get our gains at Hong Kong gyms.
The Future Bodybuilding Champion comes from all walks of life, but with the amount of time they dedicate towards working out, they’re usually personal trainers, fitness class instructors, or simply have very flexible working hours. They’re on a first-name basis with the receptionists, the trainers, the cleaners, and everyone there is to know at the gym and beyond.
You’ll often find the male gym buff in a muscle tank top that barely covers his chest, and the female gym buff in a head-to-toe variety of branded gym attire (Nike, GymShark, Lululemon, and UnderArmour immediately come to mind). All of them will be carrying their protein powder and shaker bottles, as well as a Fitbit on their wrist.These gym buffs are more often than not dating one another, so if you’re feeling a bit lonely, work on yourself first and you might find love along the way.
Subcategories of the gym buff include the Wannabe Personal Trainer: they don’t work at the gym, they’re not certified, but they think that their fundamental right to freedom of expression means that they can give you their unsolicited advice on your routine, form, and physique, anytime and every time. There’s also always a “Mirror Guy,” constantly taking up space on the floor or hogging that machine you’re trying to use to stand in front of the mirror and check themselves out.
Jokes aside, these swole bros and gals may take working out very seriously, but they’re always friendly, welcoming, and willing to help out a fellow gymgoer, newbie or not. You might find a new friend in a Future Bodybuilding Champion.
On the flip side, you may find someone who’s decked out in gear and has heaps of fitness knowledge (or not at all), but when they get onto the floor, they reveal themselves to be a total Newbie. Hey, it’s okay if they’ve got all the gear and no idea, we all start somewhere right? The Newbie can most commonly be found in January when the resolve to get a headstart on your New Year’s resolution is still alive.
The Newbies are easy pickings for the predatorial personal trainers you might encounter at Hong Kong gyms, but it’s not a bad idea for Newbies to get some pointers the first few times they navigate the busy gym floor. Otherwise, they may evolve into what is known as an “Improviser”—someone who is doing an exercise or using a machine very confidently in the wrongest way possible.
While you can work out wearing virtually anything, the general consensus is that you’ll want to wear something that won’t get in the way of whatever you’re doing. Stretchy, fitted (or loose, depending on the exercise) activewear items made from airy, sweat-wicking materials are usually the go-to. Supportive trainers or running shoes are a must. However, there’s always a Fashionista to be found in Hong Kong gyms, the one who is either clueless or doesn’t have a care in the world, and is guaranteed to be uncomfortable in their designer clothes.
A master at working out with a full face of make-up and getting their reps in while wearing tight jeans (or even more outrageously, flip-flops), the Fashionista will show up dressed for the runway or the streets. Their collector’s edition sneakers don’t have the right arch support to protect their feet while they try to reach a new personal best, and they are not doing their t-shirt with the big brand logo any favours by drenching it in sweat.
In spite of this, athleisure is all the rage these days, and it’s perfectly fine to dress in activewear even if you’ve never touched a barbell or gone for a run in your life. So who are we to criticise your choice of clothing when you’re in the gym trying to get swole like the rest of us, right?
Last, but not least, we have the Workaholic. According to a study done by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, one in five Hong Kong employees works an average of 55 hours per week—that’s 11 hours a day if we assume it’s a five-day workweek. That’s an unbelievable commitment, but it’s not stopped the Workaholic from focusing on their fitness as well as their jobs. Those of us who go to the gym in the Central Business District will encounter the Workaholics in the wild most frequently—or you may be one yourself.
The Workaholic can be found pumping away in the early hours of the morning, getting a quick sesh in during their precious lunch hour, or immediately after work at the gym closest to their office building. They always have earbuds in, listening in on a conference call or trying to close a sales pitch, and can never seem to put their phone(s) away during spin class.
They usually opt for short and intense workouts, maximising benefits while minimising time spent. If they’ve not rented a locker at their chosen gym, you’ll usually spot them with a lumpy bag filled with fresh clothes for the office and protein-dense snacks to keep their intake up. Caffeine in any form is the workaholic’s best friend, whether it’s the old faithful of pre-workout powder, coffee, or energy drinks. We applaud the dedication to the gains.