Hitting the gym? Here’s what to look for in a personal trainer

Written by Cheryl Tay on . Posted in Cheryl Tay Blog | Blog Post of Cheryl Tay

Passionate about cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a familiar face in prominent local, regional as well as international automotive titles. More of her at www.cheryl-tay.com. She also happens to be a recent gym and fitness convert. Here she advises what to look for in a personal trainer.

It is a superficial world out there and there’s no denying that if something looks good, it will catch our attention.

So it is with the world of personal fitness trainers – when we see someone with a ripped, toned physique, somehow you know this guy will be able to whip you into shape.

However, not everything that looks good will taste good. In a similar way, it may not necessarily take a Calvin Klein underwear model type of body to get you into shape.


Would you be more inspired to work out if your trainer looks like this?

In 2013, I jumped onto the gym rat bandwagon and hired a personal trainer to aid me in my quest to get fit. Nowadays, the trend is not about slimming down and fitting into small sizes, but also about being able to lift weights and squat right. I spend a considerable amount of time in different gyms and have seen my fair share of trainers. They are usually quite buff, and they don’t catch my attention unless they happen to be cute, but there was one occasion that left me mystified.

The trainer was – may I dare use the word – fat and more alarmingly, his client was fitter than him with chiselled arms and toned legs. Initially, I thought it was the reverse and the client was the trainer! While that would have made for a great photo opportunity, I lacked the courage to do it, out of respect for the trainer too — maybe he was nursing an injury or had a limiting medical condition.

Nonetheless, that incident left me intrigued and curious to find out if there is any pressure on trainers to look good and maintain their physique.

Where my opinions are concerned, I do not need someone with a six-pack. While that may lend me some bragging rights – like “Oh, I have a hot trainer” – I think his (or her) knowledge and competence is more important. He (or she) needs to be able to explain what they have planned for me and also, have great rapport with me so I can trust them.

My trainer Joey Tan of Troika Fit may not be cover model worthy but that’s not of utmost importance to me.

Setting an example

Adrian Tan, two-time Mr Singapore and a five-time Singapore bodybuilding champion, has been training others for 15 years and first competed in 1995. While he is not competing as actively as before, maintaining that bodybuilder vein-popping physique has become a lifetime commitment.

Adrian Tan

Adrian Tan, 2-time Mr Singapore and 5-time bodybuilding champion, makes an effort to maintain his physique to motivate

As a trainer, Adrian believes that it is important to practice what you preach. He said, “How am I to inspire and motivate my paying clients if I look like a lazy fat slob who doesn’t work out? I’ve seen it a lot! This is a lifestyle and if you don’t condone it, you’re in the wrong profession.”

He also shared that his clients go to him for his experience and interestingly, a lot of them say they do not want to look like him! It is not an easy job to look like Adrian because it requires a high level of discipline in training and nutrition, which he says he thrives on.

For example, Adrian packs his own food every day and counts his macros.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love my food and junk food but I leave that for special occasions. You must understand that I’ve been living this lifestyle since my school days where I would pack my foods to school and I’m still doing it until today. It’s like brushing my teeth, it’s a habit. If I’m training hard, I want to fuel my body with the right nutrients. Likewise, if you have a Ferrari, you would only want the best fuel for it wouldn’t you?” he added.

Inspiring others

Jason Chee, who finished fourth runner up in Manhunt International 2012 (the highest finish for Singapore ever), similarly strongly believes in “walking the talk”.

The 25-year-old fitness model and trainer, as well as owner of Bodies gym by Abvolution, said, “I think it is very important for a trainer to set a good example by having a healthy physique at least. No one says a trainer must have a Greek god kind of body, but at least it has to be healthy looking. Many trainers nowadays are too skinny or too fat. After all first impression counts and I think it’s a basic requirement.”

Fitness model and Manhunt winner Jason Chee inspires people using himself as an example

Fitness model and Manhunt winner Jason Chee inspires people using himself as an example

While there is no pressure on Jason to look good since working out is his passion and he sees himself doing it for as long as he can, he feels that it does matter to clients that the trainer should look good.

“My aim is to inspire people by using myself as an example, and like I said, first impression counts. The first impact you can have is by showing a picture and through my website and Facebook (which has 27,000 likes and counting), people come to me to ask for personal training and tips,” he added.

It certainly worked, as Victor Ho, 23, navigational officer, approached Jason for training after seeing his photos. He said, “I definitely believe it is important that the personal trainer has a good physique as that would give me more confidence to train under him. When I see Jason and his physique, it motivates me to do my best because I want to be like him. It means a lot to have that visual motivation throughout the workout.”

While Adrian and Jason have reason to keep their bodies in tip-top shape, there are others who possess a ripped physique although they do not compete.

First impression counts

Working out almost every day, Ang Wen Siong has never competed but admits that it’s his vanity which keeps him motivated. The 29-year-old trainer at Energia Fitness Club feels that looking good is critical in helping create that first impression.

“There isn’t any pressure to keep working out for this body because I am vain enough, ” said the 1.83-metre hunk.

“I know that I need to look good for that first impression to get new clients, especially in this line. If I don’t look like that anymore, a certain amount of my clients might leave, like those who are aesthetically inclined.”

However, Wen Siong added that looking good is only half the deal.

“Ultimately, the personality of the trainer, rapport with the clients and the sincerity to help clients is what will make the trainer succeed. Some trainers who look good get clients easily, but find it hard to retain them. It is actually more tiring to get new clients and keep telling them what to do. Looks are only important in the beginning, retention is key.”


Looking good is important for attracting new clients, says Ang Wen Siong.

One of Wen Siong’s clients, Denyse Ng, 26, said, “If they look good, it shows that they are doing something right. For the trainers, their best advertisement is themselves. If he can make the effort to look good, I can trust him to make me look good too. It gives me better confidence and more inclined to trust him with my body. Also, a trainer who looks good has an advantage over the others — it gives me bragging rights that I have a hot trainer!”

Beyond the aesthetics

He may not be the tallest or the buffest trainer around, but Kelvin Teo believes a lot in functionality. Rather than seeing it as pressure of being in the industry, Kelvin sees keeping fit as a lifestyle choice.

“I believe you actually have to have a passion for being active and have a reasonable level of fitness before you can inspire others to do the same. It goes beyond the aesthetics of having a six-pack because functionality is just as, if not more important. As trainers, the physical and mental demands of the job require a reasonable level of endurance,” the 30-year-old trainer of Fitness Two and Lebert Fitness distributor, explained.

Being tall with a ripped body may create a powerful non-verbal initial physical presence as potential clients assess trainers, but Kelvin believes it goes beyond that.

“A fitness trainer should have the knowledge, ability and zest to guide and motivate clients in achieving their fitness goals safely and efficiently. I believe that it is very important that trainers have the passion to help people succeed. That passion comes through during the sessions and the vibe is something that clients can feel.”

He may not be the tallest or the buffest trainer around, but Kelvin Teo believes in functionality

He may not be the tallest or the buffest trainer around, but Kelvin Teo believes in functionality

Kumeresh, 30, operations manager, has been struggling to get in shape, hence he made the first move and approached Kelvin for help. “I don’t think he needs to look like a bodybuilder but he has to be fit. Someone who has a good physique need not necessarily be fit. What is most important to me is consistency and realistic targets being set. Every time I think that this is my limit, I realise after the session that I could push myself further. Kelvin is consistent and he gives me to confidence that the targets he has set for me are achievable over time.”

Looking the part

There is a reason why bankers, lawyers and other professionals dress well – it instils confidence in their clients. Likewise, if a trainer looks the part, it would be a lot easier to convince clients and make them feel that what they have to offer is effective.

Not every single trainer out there is in shape, yet it doesn’t stop them from having a good client base. These are exceptions to the rule and being mentally fit with the right knowledge can at times override a less-than-fit figure.

*This was first published on Yahoo! Sports

Cheryl Tay

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Singapore’s only female full-time motoring and motorsports photojournalist. Independent automotive consultant and prominent local motorsports personality Cheryl Tay is uniquely passionate about all things cars and motorsports. She also has a strong passion to share her interest and knowledge, hence having a dream to become the ‘Oprah Winfrey of cars and motorsports’ and create a multimedia platform for her sharing. - A female in a male-dominated world, Cheryl Tay is Singapore’s only female full-time motoring journalist and motorsports blogger and she regularly writes for prominent titles in Singapore, Asia and internationally. (See full list of titles that Cheryl Tay writes for here.)

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