Need help getting fit? Here are eight suggestions to help you get fit in Sai Kung
Clearwater Bay-based personal trainer Warren Warner, who runs small group-training sessions, predicts CrossFit will be big in Hong Kong this year. If you want to get fit in Sai Kung, here’s what you need to know. Already popular overseas, CrossFit comes under the umbrella of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) – short bursts of intense activity followed by an even shorter rest, usually performed in 20-40 minutes.
“CrossFit has been around for quite a while but has become very popular recently. There are CrossFit Games on ESPN, apps, online workouts of the day (WODs). It is just another way of training in terms of general fitness, but it has been seen to get you fit much quicker than anything else if done correctly,” he says.
“It has a lot of scientific backing. Basically, there are 10 elements to fitness – cardio-vascular endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy – all of which are incorporated into the CrossFit concept. You might be a great marathon runner but might not be very strong or flexible, for example. CrossFit aims to make someone as fit as they can be in all 10 aspects through full-on, high-intensity training. Variety is key to CrossFit; routine is the enemy.”
There are a few dedicated CrossFit “boxes” (aka gyms) on Hong Kong Island and Warner incorporates aspects into his sessions.
2. Group Fitness Training
Group fitness training – including bootcamps, Apefit, TRX and running clubs – is snowballing in popularity. Sai Kung-based personal trainer Tim Stevens runs three weekly Fitcamp sessions in the Lions Nature Education Centre in Che Keng Tuk as well as a weekly running club.
“The trend is for exercise in general,” he says. “More than 14,000 people ran the UNICEF races this year [at Hong Kong Disneyland] and the Standard Chartered Marathon 2014 was full after the first weekend of registration. A lot of people want the brutality of getting fit, they want to feel pain, but it’s not for everyone. Group fitness is the best way to start getting fit: it adds motivation and there is the social aspect of meeting and being with a group of like-minded people.”
His run club, which started with 16 participants, has doubled in a year. It operates on the premise of “completing not competing” and is all about personal goals. At the end of each eight- to 10-week programme, there is a challenge run (5km or 10km) and a light-hearted evening involving high spirits of the alcoholic kind.
“Running is for everybody. If your goal is to finish a certain distance no matter how long it takes or whether it is to run that distance in a particular time, it doesn’t matter,” Stevens says. “But it’s not just about the running. It’s about camaraderie and gaining a sense of belonging as well as personal achievement. And that’s the key to a successful club: to create a social bond.”
Fitness trends in Sai Kung and Clearwater Bay are different to the rest of Hong Kong, Stevens says, because there aren’t any fancy gyms with state-of-the-art equipment. Instead, fitness training in the great outdoors is particularly popular.
“There are lots of reasons why outdoor fitness training ticks all the boxes,” he says. “It keeps the cost per session down as trainers don’t have rent and staff to pay, plus it allows your body to move in a very functional way.”
Dayle Haigh-Smith runs circuit training and bootcamps in Sai Kung. When she started outdoor sessions two years ago, she struggled to get a group of four people together. Today, business is booming. She cites TRX suspension trainers as being a huge hit in the fitness industry with no sign of their popularity waning.
“TRX is all about using your own bodyweight and gravity to build strength, power and core stability,” she says. “It offers a very challenging workout but can be used at any level. And it can be used anywhere.”
4. Endurance and adventure races
Already a top trend in Hong Kong and Asia, endurance marathons and adventure races look set to attract even more of us in 2014, Warner says.
“People want a challenge and to achieve something significant,” he explains. “With endurance races, you have the fitness aspect and a goal plus you can give back by raising money for charity and go off on an adventure. Anyone can do it but you have to have a fitness plan and make medically sure that you are fine to go ahead with it.”
Since the yoga explosion in the late 1990s when the ancient practice threw off its hippy image and went mainstream, there have been endless variations including hip-hop yoga, acrobatic yoga, hot yoga and naked yoga (yes, really). Currently gaining momentum is aerial yoga in which practitioners hang from the ceiling in silk hammocks.
“It is the most talked about form of yoga at the moment,” says Clearwater Bay yoga teacher Julie Dixon, who teaches a more conventional style. “There are a few places on the Island that offer classes but you really need a dedicated studio with all the equipment properly hung. You can’t just throw one of the hammocks over any old bar like a TRX strap and do it.”
And it’s not only humans doing the downward-facing dog. Dixon says doga (yoga with dogs) is all the rage in London and New York. The dogs don’t get much of a workout, but their owners do. Practitioners strike poses with their dogs, adding weight by lifting them into the air while they do the sun salutation or by balancing a dog on one thigh in the warrior pose. Which is all well and good if you own a shih tzu, but not so relaxing for those with a German Shepherd.
6. Children’s fitness
Children’s fitness is on the rise too – and we’re not just talking about doing jumping jacks in a hall. Warner and Stevens recently started Junior Run Club for kids from the age of 10, involving proper athletics training and focusing on stamina and technique as much as speed.
“Pre-teens and teenagers need an exercise challenge,” Stevens says. “We motivate them to try their best but we don’t want to break them. It’s not about beating your friends – although the kids add in an element of competition themselves – and we’ve seen huge improvements in fitness that really helps them in the other sports they do. One of our main problems is curbing their enthusiasm so they don’t go too fast too soon.”
Triathlon clubs such as 26 Coaching and Tritons Triathlon Club coach fledgling Ironmen and women in the fine arts of competitive swimming, cycling and running. Watch this space for Warner and Stevens’ plans for holiday tri camps for kids in Sai Kung.
7. Standup Paddleboarding (SUP)
On the water, SUP is all the rage for adults and children. It is great for a cardio, strength and balance workout and popular locally thanks to the beaches on our doorsteps. SUP in Hong Kong has become so mainstream in the past two years it even has its own association, which aims to grow the sport further.
“It’s all about going back to nature and it’s such a joy to be outdoors on the water and getting fit,” Warner says. “When you’ve been stuck inside an office all day, why would you want to go to the gym – another indoor space – when you can exercise outside?”
If all this talk of exercise is giving you the jitters, take heart. The average man (five feet, 10 inches tall and 150lbs) burns 61 calories an hour sleeping, and if he lives to 74 years, spends about 194,800 hours asleep. Go figure the calories burned.
Instead of dicing with death by cycling on Hong Kong’s busy roads, try Torq. The latest incarnation of spinning is performed in a class on a stationary bike. It’s a complete cardio workout that engages your core and upper body while toning your muscles using light weights. Movements combine cycling, pilates, boxing, Muay Thai and yoga. Rides are synced to a mix of high-energy music chosen by the studio’s in-house DJ but it’s up to you to adjust your pace and pedal power and decide whether or not you go for the burn.
26/F, Li Dong Building, 9 Li Yuen Street East, Central, 2677 8623