The lead up to a new year is when most of us take a long, hard look in the mirror. It’s when our inner fitness enthusiast (toned, snacking on carrots, and slightly vain) starts to wake up, groggy this year from lockdown eating and home workouts skipped — in time to wake-up fresh for 2021.
Wellness, along with personal aspects like mental health and productivity, has been emphasised this year. The importance of healthy eating and exercising is a no-brainer. But let’s fast forward to 2021 and zoom out to a big picture: you feel and look, personally your best.
Sure, that’s a poetic and easy picture to paint, so why do we — despite our best intentions and, to borrow a cliche here — fall off the wagon? Benjamin Price, CEO and founder of fit-tech app Joompa answers:
“Imagine you’re running a business. Your goal for 2021 might be “make more money” – but your plan has to be a little more detailed than that. You’re likely to have small, incremental quarterly targets, based on making realistic improvements against the previous year’s performance. If it’s a new business, you focus on the basics you need before betting on the profit you’ll make. You can’t do the second without the first.”
Think of your fitness goals in the same way, he says. “Look at what you need to be doing on a weekly basis to a better version of yourself than you were last year. Maybe it’s walking 20 minutes every day, or preparing a healthy packed lunch four days a week. If you manage to achieve that through January, then step up another (achievable) gear up in February. The key is keeping it manageable but effective; consistency over intensity.”
Price — aka ‘Coach Benny’ — is a mechanical engineer turned certified personal trainer and martial arts coach. His app, Joompa, connects clients to coaches at any time and anywhere. The app was launched in 2017 during the recent few years of a growingly popular fitness scene in Kuala Lumpur (yoga, boxing, spin cycle — the works) which Price says has been amazing to see, although not without some concerns.
He explains: “I realised that the country’s most famous fitness personalities weren’t necessarily the most qualified or knowledgeable coaches, but had just mastered marketing themselves as the ones to turn to for information, advice and consulting.”
According to Price, a ‘scary number’ of coaches practiced with minimal expertise underestimating the science involved in proper coaching and training.
“Coaches in commercial gyms work back-to-back with different clients for eight to 10 hours a day, so they don’t get to check in regularly on other key contributing aspects of their client’s lives,” he shares. “Our coaches command a strong hourly rate and keep most of their fee, which means most only need to be in the gym five to six hours a day and can spend the rest of their time re-assessing their client’s programs and checking in on their sleep and nutrition.”
Joompa offers all sports of specialised personal training; including post-natal coaches, professionals who work with performance athletes, and medical conditions that require proper guidance.
“You won’t find topless ‘before and after’ photos on our social media. It doesn’t tell the story of a client’s progress, and places emphasis on the wrong thing. You can’t see how happy someone is, what their relationship with food is like, whether they’re living with painful injuries or what balance they have in their life with work, training and relationships from a before and after photo. You just see their body, and that’s barely half of the equation to us.”
Price adds, “For the most part, people are looking to be stronger and healthier, which involves resistance training and nutrition protocols.”
Joompa has launched the 10/10 challenge, a 10-week program of personalised coaching and nutrition programmes — all tailored to the individual.
“Different people want to look a different way, their confidence is inspired by different things, and different diets are beneficial for different individuals. 10/10 looks and feels different to everyone, but our goal is the same: to get them looking and feeling better than ever before.”
We could write a book with all he’s got to share, but let’s start with an interview:
To me, it’s not a fitness journey – I grew up living a very active life where sports played a big role, and just continued that into adulthood, where most people prioritise other things. I’ve been interested in training and coaching since I was quite young; I started karate at age 7, and was a black belt by 11. In martial arts the more senior kids in the class are always encouraged to help out the less experienced, which I enjoyed doing. I was often teaching teenagers five years older than me how to master technical movements or what their examination sequences were.
As I moved into kickboxing, I would correct and coach the technique of whoever I was holding the pads for – I just couldn’t help it! As I got into competitive kickboxing and moving between weight categories, I started taking weight training seriously.
Even today, when I think of the gym, I don’t see a place to lose weight (which isn’t what they’re designed for anyway) – I see a place to improve performance, whether in sports or my social life (such as helping a friend move house!).
Essentially, coaches just want happy clients: clients who are confident in their own skin, who have energy to go about their day with productive habits. If you look in the mirror and are content, if you walk into a room and are confident, if you go for a medical check-up and your doctor is happy, and if you wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy – what else can we ask for?
Firstly, it comes down to what clients define as ‘visible’. If you’ve tracked their performance in detail and used a decent body composition measurement, then visible can be the noticeable improvement in statistics for strength or body fat ratio. Or maybe they feel a noticeable change in their everyday lives – maybe going up that certain set of stairs doesn’t tire them out like it used to. We prefer focusing on the results that hold real meaning to clients, rather than just being able to count an extra ab muscle in the mirror.
To a coach, body composition measurements are just one of the many metrics we use as a data point. It’s an important factor for tracking progress, but doesn’t determine how we train our clients – and definitely isn’t something we judge. Everything we do is a constant assessment process, whether that’s tracking someone’s performance numbers on paper or their quality of movement more visually. We use this data to provide educated advice. Our coaches carry JOOMPA logbooks with the slogan “That which isn’t measured cannot be improved upon” because we really believe it. In fact, you should be wary of a coach who isn’t keeping detailed tabs on your progress and adjusting your program accordingly.
That said, we are much more in favour of using performance-based metrics to build goals and track progress. That’s the mindset we want our clients to achieve – focusing on improving performance is healthier than obsessing over looking a certain way. However, new trainees are usually focused on aesthetics, so we often need to use measurements that appeal to those basic desires (at first). Body fat measurements are a much less toxic form of tracking than stepping on the scales; they at least measure how much of your weight is fat vs. muscle, so a useful measure of progress. Is it something worth obsessing over? No.
Honestly? I don’t. And I don’t mean that I’m not stimulated, energised or inspired to be in the gym – in fact, my job depends on me doing so, so that’s incentive enough. I mean that motivation ebbs and flows – it’s a fleeting emotion that shouldn’t be the foundation for long-term training and fitness. It’s about finding your purpose and maintaining discipline – your “why” – and not needing to get fired up every single day to keep it going.
Everyone has a different “why”. For many it’s being fit and strong and capable of playing with their grandkids in 20-30 years’ time. For some it’s just feeling better on a daily basis (and I guarantee, with good coaching, you will). How I feel when I’m fit and strong is the main factor for me, but I also need to walk the walk and look the part to be a role model for my clients, and training myself is a crucial part of studying and problem solving in the gym. Other people simply like the respect they get for being in ‘good shape’ and the carry-over effect that has on other aspects of their lives.
Find your “why”, find an exercise programme that supports it – and that you enjoy, and make it mentally a non-negotiable part of your week. You’ll never need to look at a motivational quote again.
Find and book a personal trainer in Kuala Lumpur on Joompa.