Work it out

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 January, 2009, 12:00am

You can pay hundreds of dollars or more every month and get locked into a two-year programme with a personal trainer at any one of a dozen fitness centres around town.

Or, you can pay nothing and go hiking in the hills or running in the park, listening to birdsong instead of a Cindy Lauper remix.

If the great outdoors sounds more appealing, then remember that you also forgo showers, lockers and services such as a juice bar, newspapers, televisions and a snack shop - all the perks that make indoor exercise more appealing for the time challenged.

Then there's the heat and pollution you have to deal with.

So, which one should you go for?

David Weyburne, director of Iso Fit Hong Kong - a Pilates and Gyrotronics studio - says the most important thing is being able to stick with whichever approach you choose.

'It's very subjective. Some people like to exercise outside and some people don't,' Weyburne says.

'The thing with exercise is that you should create consistency, especially for those new to exercise and trying to create a regimen.'

Holistic lifestyle coach Ross Eathorne is trying to create more fun by using the freedom of the outdoors.

'I want to move away from the label of outdoor exercise classes being about yelling at people,' Eathorne says. 'I think what's missing is more fun and making it more experiential.'

MYoga instructor Icy Lee, Boot Camp's Nathan Solia, Eathorne - also Mr Fitness in 2000 - and Weyburne weigh up the pros and cons of indoor versus outdoor exercise.

The benefits of outdoor exercise:

'I saw a client in Happy Valley last week [at the running track around the race course] and I loved it,' says Eathorne, whose client is an actor who wants to get fit to do a chase scene in a movie.

'I'm 90 per cent indoors [in the day time]. What I did with the client was use the running track, the [gymnastics] parallel bars and stretching apparatus,' he says.

'Then on the Friday, I found a beach in Stanley and what we have there is different terrain, so you can have fun with your client other than a structured programme in the gym. You're only limited by your imagination.'

For Eathorne, the benefits of being outdoors - enjoying the sea and sand and the wind in the trees - also include getting a dose of vitamin D, especially important at this time of year.

'I don't think people make the most of the outdoors here,' he says. 'There are lots of parks and plenty of hiking trails.'

Weyburne says he enjoys both outdoor and indoor exercise, but outdoor exercise is more convenient because he can do it early in the morning before work.

'It's nice to be outdoors and it works for me time-wise,' Weyburne says. 'I still think the benefits of exercising outdoors outweigh the concerns about pollution.'

Fitness trainer Solia, who takes groups and individuals on guided runs and walks through Hong Kong's parks and hills, agrees that getting out is ideal.

'You can pretty much do any exercise outdoors,' says the founder of training programme Boot Camp.

'Whenever I go running, I find so many nooks and crannies and parks where you can exercise. You don't need any equipment.'

Solia says money seems to the determining factor at the moment.

'I am seeing a lot of people who don't want to pay gym memberships,' he says. 'The pollution is a problem, but the air inside is not much better to be honest.'

Much of the appeal of the outdoors, says Solia, is that people are often cooped up in their flats and offices all day.

'I had a guy who was doing kick-boxing and he started working with me outdoors because he said he was in this small box of a room all the time and he couldn't stand it.'

The benefits of indoor exercise:

Weyburne says indoor classes or gyms offer a temperature-controlled environment - a blessing for many who can't handle the heat or humidity. Gym staff can give their clients closer guidance on exercises and there is added motivation and group energy.

'A class environment can push you on a bit and there's a discipline involved. If it's a scheduled session, you feel that you should go ... other people may ask why you haven't been,' he says. 'There are no real disadvantages to going to a class or a session other than it costs money.'

Eathorne says some people will always prefer the culture of a gym or class.

He says that in July and August, it's too hot for many to enjoy exercising outdoors.

'October to April is great for outdoor [exercise],' he says.

'The only problem with being outdoors is the pollution level, so you need to find an [indoor] option.'

Eathorne runs an indoor circuit class on Monday nights 'for the convenience', especially for those living and working in Central who can't get to the beach in the morning or hike after hours in the dark.

Lee, a yoga instructor, says if you can fit a hike in on Sunday, you can focus on indoor classes during the week. 'From what our clients tell us, it's easy for them as they save time, [and] there are showers and lockers. They can keep their [yoga and dance] clothes in their office and they are not taking hours to hike up a mountain,' she says.

There is also the group dynamic that suits some people who prefer the membership element of a club.

'In the club, we create a community and clients can make new friends,' says Lee. 'If you are going hiking, you go with your own friends, so you're not meeting new people.'

There's also the creative element, she says. Dance classes can mean people dress up and create an identity.

'It's a good thing to take their mind and body away from day-to-day life,' she says.

As for the cost of membership, Lee says people are always willing to pay for a high quality service.

Maintaining a balance between the two options is probably the best way to go. And if you don't have the money to pay for a trainer or class at the moment, start walking to work now before the humidity returns.

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