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Health and wellness

How to get back in shape after the holidays – tips from top trainers in Hong Kong

It’s the new year and, after several weeks of indulgence, many people vow to get fit and lose weight. However, trying to do too much can be overwhelming and cause injury. Here are four tips to get your fitness back safely

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 January, 2018, 6:45pm
UPDATED : Monday, 15 January, 2018, 7:11pm

The start of a new year invariably comes with the best of intentions for positive change. For so many people, January is the time to reset the clock – and their priorities, particularly in regards to health and fitness.

“Never fails,” says local fitness trainer David Menhennett. “It’s the classic New Year’s resolution scenario. I have a lot of former clients who come back to me this month. Between now and Lunar New Year it really picks up in the health and fitness industry.”

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A 15-year resident of Hong Kong, Menhennett is a freelance trainer who spends much of his time at Optimum Performance Studio in Central. He trains a diverse clientele that is roughly half local and half expat, and has extensive experience working for a couple of the larger fitness clubs in Hong Kong.

“A large chunk of the success for the biggest health clubs in town,” he says, “is from people coming in at this time of year and taking out a membership and then never coming back.” It’s also a slightly disorienting time in Hong Kong as the gyms get more crowded and the bars a little more deserted.

Everybody seems, at least temporarily, obsessed with paying for their holiday sins.

“Many people start indulging around Thanksgiving in late November,” says Joyce Kempis-Marot, a lifestyle coach who also has years of personal training experience and now primarily focuses on holistic health and healing arts, and spends much of her time working out of the Aerial Arts Academy in Causeway Bay.

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“The parties and drinking get ramped up, particularly in a place like Hong Kong where there are endless social and work events through the Christmas holidays. The rationalisation is that come the beginning of January, they can get going again in the health and wellness department.”

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, hundreds of thousands of Americans are admitted annually to emergency rooms for injuries related to exercise equipment. Here in Hong Kong, the data is less definitive, but cautionary tales still abound.

“If you are unlucky enough to get bad supervision from a personal trainer, then injuries can and do happen, particularly when more people rush in,” says Menhennett. “We also see people getting injured in exercise classes when they get too competitive.”

Any programme you incorporate that is related to exercise and diet has to be an honest reflection of what your lifestyle allows, otherwise it is bound to fail
Joyce Kempis-Marot

It’s more than a little ironic that wanting to feel good can make you feel so bad. The haphazard rush to fitness seems to be a familiar theme and pattern that could be eradicated by exercising a little common sense.

“If you take small steps in the beginning, it will lead to bigger steps later,” says Menhennett. “People often fall down when they try and take on too much too soon, and are overwhelmed when they implement massive changes in their diet and exercise. The part of the brain that is associated with risk and reward says, there is just too much risk here. Better to go back to where we were.”

Here are four relevant tips from health professionals that could ensure your hoped-for lifestyle changes are sustainable.

Nutrition trumps training

“It doesn’t matter how rigorous your training regimen is,” says Marot. “If you are not eating properly, most of your exercise will be for naught. What you eat will dictate about 90 per cent of the results you are going to get.”

Be honest with yourself

“Any programme you incorporate that is related to exercise and diet has to be an honest reflection of what your lifestyle allows, otherwise it is bound to fail,” says Marot. Pick a time to exercise that works for you and stick with it.

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Be a discriminating consumer

“These days there is no excuse for not doing a bit of research on local clubs,” says Menhennett. “You walk into a gym and you can usually get a week’s membership for free as well as a few free sessions with a trainer … Explore a bit more before impulsively signing up.”

Keep it simple, at first

“You cannot go wrong with compound exercises,” says Marot, referring to exercises that involve more than one muscle group through the range of exercise. “It’s fast, efficient and effective. But if you have never used free weights, you need guidance. A couple of sessions with a trainer will work wonders and help you get your form right.

“When you are doing resistance exercises, form is crucial not only in helping to tone and grow the muscle, but in helping to prevent injury, as well.”