How three Hongkongers were transformed by 12-week intensive fitness progamme

More energy, better focus, more confidence: Hong Kong trio reveal the results of our #TopfitMorning Challenge - 12 weeks of vigorous exercise under the guidance of personal trainers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 May, 2016, 12:45pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2017, 2:41pm

Three months ago, we took three out-of-shape Hongkongers and challenged them to a 12-week personalised fitness and diet regimen guided by personal trainers from local boutique gym Topfit. Officially the #TopfitMorning Challenge involved three personal training sessions a week, but every challenger stepped up with additional workouts on their own.

Seven exercises to give you a sexy butt and stronger core, by a Hong Kong personal trainer

Three months on, they have all made dramatic transformations not only physically, but also to their entire lifestyles. It’s been motivating and inspiring to watch their journey.

Fitness challenge trio – how did their first month go?

If you’re still making excuses about your health and fitness, here are three great reasons to finally do something about it.

Challenger: Elizabeth Wu, 28, account manager and digital consultant at PR company Buzz Agency

Trained by Heanney McCollum

Before and after

Weight: 57.4 to 49.6kg

Body fat: 36.8 to 29.6 per cent

Background: Entered the challenge having done no exercise since physical education class in high school. Had a weakness for food – especially carbs, alcohol and midnight snacking. Shunned tight clothing and preferred to cover up to hide her figure.

Outcome: The biggest loser with 7.8kg weight loss (or 14 per cent body weight). Greatly reduced her body fat percentage, in particular visceral fat (stored around the organs; the most harmful kind of fat), which decreased by more than half. Shaved off about 55cm in total from the circumferences of her chest, waist, hips, thighs, calves and arms.

Physically she’s a lot fitter and stronger. From barely being able to lift a small barbell, she now deadlifts 15kg. She can now hold a plank for 90 seconds versus 32 seconds at the start.

No longer lazy and tempted by food, she’s now mindful of her diet and has gained self-motivation and desire to exercise. Her “clean” eating has even rubbed off on her family. And she’s a lot more confident about her body and figure now.

On her results: “I am so happy with the transformation and I still can’t believe the difference not only in my body but in my confidence as well. I feel much stronger than before both physically and mentally. I found that as I progressed in the regimen I would reach for more difficult goals. For example, at first I just hoped to last a session without completely dying at the end of it. Then I wanted to be able to do more cardio to improve my stamina. Now, I am aiming to do pull-ups and push-ups. It’s so amazing the sense of accomplishment you feel when you tick these goals off your list.”

Highs: “Completing a session that would have killed me before, to be able to do movements easily that once were so hard, to be able to fit into old university clothes that haven’t fit in years, looking at the photos of myself before and after – and the list goes on. The most recent high was being able to last an entire high-intensity interval training class without stopping, and being approached after the class by a girl who asked, ‘How do you make this look so easy?’”

Lows: “Art Basel week – that was when work was busiest. It was very difficult to find time to work out and have the energy to last the entire hour.”

On what surprised her: “I envisioned it would be so much more painful than it was and that I would have no social life because I wouldn’t be able to eat properly at restaurants. But Heanney incorporated a balanced diet and exercise programme with cheat meals, and she encouraged me to have social activities. It was a nice surprise knowing that a transformation programme doesn’t have to be that extreme.”

On her future plans: “I can confidently say that fitness is now a part of my daily life and I actually look forward to continuing my workout regimen and healthy habits with Heanney.”

End of challenge reward: “A big bowl of Indomie instant noodles with a runny egg on top – my all-time favourite snack!”

McCollum’s comments: “I couldn’t be more proud of Elizabeth. The changes I’ve seen in her have just been incredible, from watching her slowly becoming comfortable with a gym to owning each exercise she does. No matter how exhausted she is from work, she always came to our sessions with the brightest smile and a ready-to-kick-ass attitude. I know how nervous she was coming into this and she’s finished it with a huge transformation, both inside and out. We went shopping together for gym gear and she grabbed every piece in sizes she used to fit into. I had to remind her she’s no longer carrying that extra weight.”



A video posted by SCMPlife (@scmp_lifestyle) on

Challenger: Lee Tsui, 33, product designer and business developer

Trained by Louis Doctrove

Before and after

Weight: 88.1 to 80.7kg

Body fat: 24 to 17 per cent

Background: A former model, kick-boxer and gym junkie, Tsui let his healthy lifestyle slide in the past two years due to work and stress. Along with a weakness for food (Italian and chocolate especially) and late-night snacking, this had resulted in an 11kg weight gain.

Outcome: Lost 7.4kg in total, a little more than half his targeted 13kg weight loss. Cut down body fat by almost a third, shed 10cm from the waist and gained lean muscle mass. Overcame general dislike for running and cardio workouts and now does a regular loop from his home in Mid-Levels, up and around the Peak, and back down.

Overall, he’s overcome past obstacles and returned to a healthier and fitter routine – and is now determined to keep up the lifestyle and vows never to slip up again. He’s not only got his shape back, but also his confidence, spirit and most importantly, health.

On his results: “I definitely feel like I’ve got back to the old me, even though these days I’m running three very busy companies, juggling two children and running a household. I’ve managed to reintroduce exercise into this new way of living. I’ve found that I feel angry and miserable when I skip a workout session, and I feel disappointed and annoyed at myself when eating bad food. I intend to keep this renewed determination to try and balance work with diet and exercise.

I couldn’t have done this without Louis keeping me constantly together and pushing my limits. I didn’t realise how huge a difference a personal trainer can make to your overall dedication to looking after yourself.”

Highs: “Watching my strength and agility come back after almost three years of not making any significant effort. It’s also been amazing to see that if you indeed watch what you eat and exercise consistently, your body does indeed lose weight and your metabolism kick-starts.”

Lows: “The days when I had no choice but to work and no patience left to exercise – the same habit that got me to where I was three months ago.”

On what surprised him: “I started this challenge really hardcore, dieting strictly and jumping into classes five times a week. But realistically with family visiting and lots of work I couldn’t keep it up. I slipped for a few weeks, but maybe due to guilt or determination I still managed to find time to exercise and to offset any damage I did to my diet.”

On his future plans: “My new goals are to keep losing more weight, to beat my lap times running to the Peak and to find a way to keep working out at the gym consistently.”

End of challenge reward: “I want to get back down to 75kg, so I have very little interest in rewarding myself. I am more inclined to just raise the bar and dedicate [myself] harder to reaching even better goals.”

Doctrove’s comments: “Lee did great overall, but his hectic job and newborn definitely hampered his ability to get his diet planned out. However, every time he ate something he shouldn’t have, he took it upon himself that day to rectify the situation by running the Peak loop, which usually takes at least 50 minutes. He did this on several occasions and soon realised it was easier to just maintain a strict diet. All the puzzle pieces for Lee are slowly falling into place. Once Lee can sort out his daily diet, he’ll be on track to looking better than he did than in his 20s – the next stop will be fitness modelling!”



A video posted by SCMPlife (@scmp_lifestyle) on

Challenger: Janice Lee, 33, lawyer

Trained by Arnold Wong

Before and after

Weight: 56.3 to 53.1kg

Body fat: 23 to 16 per cent

Background: A competitive runner and triathlete, Lee had good cardiovascular endurance but lacked strength. Her goal was to focus on the parts of her body that had been neglected, with a view to achieving better performance in her sporting exploits.

Outcome: While she’s only lost 3.2kg, Lee is visibly significantly leaner after dropping a third of her body fat. Introduced to weight training through the challenge, Lee is now no longer intimidated by weights, dumb-bells and muscles in the gym.

Her strength gains were apparent in a few running and aquathon (swim-run) races she competed in during the challenge, with improved times and even podium finishes. The self-professed food lover has also overhauled her diet, eating “clean”, and has cut out weekday boozing.

On her results: “In my pursuit of relocating my misplaced six pack, I learnt that a healthy body is not just about physical exercise. It is about what you eat, what you do and how you live your life. Clean living also provides clarity to the mind, which people often forget in a world full of execution and decision-making on a daily basis.”

Highs: “The fact that I could physically see and feel how much stronger I got, especially when that translates into my athletic performance."

Lows: “Chaperoning my friends to a bar after dinner then hailing a cab home was hard. We live in a city of FOMO [fear of missing out] and not being able to be part of the ‘She did what?’ conversation the next day definitely gave me an acute case of FOMO. The flip side of that is I was able to get plenty of rest, which you don’t realise how much your body lacks living a fast-paced life.”

On what surprised her: “The discipline, willpower and perseverance I had to see through the entire 12 weeks. Not just the training, but transforming my lifestyle and living habits, too. When my weight didn’t budge for the first three weeks, I thought of just ditching the diet. But I went through with it and am now still losing weight.”

On her future plans: “I intend to keep every aspect of it, the clean eating and the strength training. I am going to enter a few races this summer (aquathons, triathlons, adventure races) to have things to work towards and to see if I’ve improved. I will however let weekends be weekends – you only live once!”

End of challenge reward: “A salted caramel ice cream, a massive night out with all the challengers and trainers, and maybe some new clothes and bikinis, too.”

Wong’s comments: “Her unrelenting work ethic was amazing. We did 34 sessions at 7.30am and she would show up and not only be ready to work, but she would also give hints that she wanted more. I think as long as Janice continues making good eating choices and has a consistent diet, she’ll be able to stay lean. In addition, I would advise her to continue lifting heavy weights periodically to keep her lean muscle mass and strength up.”



A video posted by SCMPlife (@scmp_lifestyle) on