City Weekend

Why it isn’t easy to be a female personal trainer in Hong Kong

Bodybuilding champ reflects on tough professional journey in city

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 September, 2017, 4:32pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 September, 2017, 2:59pm

Two roll-up banners showing a man’s fitness transformation are placed at the reception of a Hong Kong gym studio, where most clients and personal trainers are men. But Happy Ma Sin-yi, one of a small handful of female personal trainers there, has been trying her best to push her limits.

“It’s not easy to be a personal trainer, especially when you are a woman. You literally have to be in the fight mode all the time,” said Ma, who has been a personal trainer for five years.

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Three years ago when Ma was flexing her muscles on stage in high heels, she was not aiming to winat an annual fitnesscompetition, but just hoping to show her colleagues and clients that she was up for the job.

As the judges named her the champion of Women’s Model Physique 2014, held by Hong Kong China Bodybuilding and Fitness Association, the now 29-year-old said it was like living her dream back then. “It was very surreal,” she recalled.

You literally have to be in the fight mode all the time
Happy Ma Sin-yi, personal trainer

Ma won more than eight championships in different bodybuilding contests. Despite the achievements, she said she still felt that sometimes people still labelled her as the weaker sex in the male-dominated industry.

“My first two years as a personal trainer was tough. Some clients rejected me because they did think I was strong enough to train them,” she said.

“Even now, some clients would still reject me because I’m a female.”

Data from the Asian Academy for Sports and Fitness Professionals showed the percentage of female personal trainers in Hong Kong has doubled since last year, from 10 per cent to 20 per cent. But that was still lower than the US (54 per cent).

Both Ma and Lona Shiu Ying-tung, another female trainer, said they did not encounter any gender pay gap.

“Regardless of gender, a dedicated trainer who guides a client to what he or she sets out to achieve will naturally land a higher pay,” Shiu said.