How Hong Kong fitness trainer Rhiann Sherriff stays motivated

Growing up in an active military family in the New Territories set Sherriff up for a life of fitness. She shares her tips for working out and winding down

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 February, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2017, 1:52pm

Don’t be fooled by the dazzling blue eyes and killer smile: Rhiann Sherriff lifts more than twice her bodyweight and can command the laziest office worker to knock out 10 push-ups with a single look.

The 28-year-old personal trainer at Real Athletic Workouts in Central attributes her keen interest in health to her father’s service in the Royal Air Force and growing up in Hong Kong’s wilderness in the New Territories.

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Aged 18, she joined the British Army Officer Training Corps and spent days trekking through thick mud, sleeping in the wet and freezing cold.

“I had to carry everything on my back and keep my rifle on me at all times – my little legs kept sinking into the mud,” she says. The training was transformative and ignited her curiosity about how mental strength dictates physical ability.

How did growing up in Hong Kong spark your passion for fitness?

I had a very active childhood: my family spent the weekends cycling, hiking or camping. I had to have a good base level of fitness just to keep up. I absolutely loved growing up in Hong Kong and wouldn’t change it for the world.

Do you have a demanding fitness routine?

I tend to do at least four training sessions a week. I have done CrossFit for the last few years. It’s a great all-round fitness programme, with an amazing community, but currently I am following a personalised programme written for me by the Canadian strength and conditioning coach, Andre Benoit. It’s weights-based, focusing on structural balance – and a great way to increase strength and mobility while maximising fat loss. I have also enrolled in the GymnasticBodies online programme; a high level form of body weight strength training which provides a lot of the stretching and mobility work complementing my routine.

How do you find the power to stick with it when all you want to do is stop?

Whenever things get tough, I says to myself, “if I can get through this, there isn’t much I can’t get through”. I developed this mindset during officer training exercises. Sometimes I had slight panic attacks before them; it was a big test of my mental power, especially when it was two degrees Celsius outside and I was knee-deep in mud. But I learned that if I just stuck with it, I’d make it through.

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What are your fitness goals for 2017?

I want to be more regular with my training. As a personal trainer, I have to be very diligent about what weight loads I use, how many reps I do, and be sure to progressively increase my weights to ensure I’m still developing, because bodies naturally resist change.

How do you keep yourself on track, and what tips do you have for the rest of us?

I’m all about accountability: take photos and measurements (or have a pair of jeans you want to fit into), then give yourself a sensible deadline for completion, work back from there and stick to it. Get friends or family involved too: make a competition out of it for added fun.

If going to the gym isn’t your thing, what alternatives are there in Hong Kong?

You can create a workout wherever you are. Pinterest is a great resource for exercise ideas. If you are looking to improve your fitness, pick one or two workouts, get familiar with them and repeat: it makes for a more fluid workout. Don’t try to take on too much. Use benches for push-ups, dips and step-ups and sprint up staircases.

What are the best foods to eat before and after a workout?

We are all unique and what works for one person may not have the same effect on another, but a basic guideline would be to eat healthy fats, such as nuts, before a workout and consume protein and carbs post workout – maybe a grilled chicken breast with wild rice and veg.

Alex de Fina’s chocolate “crack bar” is delicious – I can’t get enough of it – and it’s perfect for eating on the go. Of course, sometimes I cheat: my go-to treat is chocolate. Over time I’ve increased the cacao percentage to reduce the sugar content. It’s all about the healthy tweaks.

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Winding down after a long day isn’t always easy. Do you have a fail-safe night-time routine?

Yes: no white light in the bedroom. No phones, no iPads, no laptops. Yellow sidelights go on in our flat as soon as the sun is down. I sometimes use guided sleep meditations when I’m having a hard time winding down. I also avoid any stimulants (such as caffeine) within six hours of bedtime. The more consistent your bedtime routine is the better your sleep will be. Some say a glass of wine helps them fall asleep quickly, but it will also reduce the quality of your sleep.