Cover Learn how to become more flexible with Jessica Lee's tips and more. (Photo: Courtesy of Jessica Lee)

Wishing for a six-pack? Tired of bad posture? We spoke with Hong Kong’s best personal trainers to get tips on reaching your fitness goals for the new year

Whether you’re looking to get better posture, move more in your daily life or if you’re struggling to balance family and health, we spoke with the city’s leading personal trainers to learn more about what they do best and get advice on how to best achieve your 2021 fitness goals. 

See also: 10 Best Female Personal Trainers In Hong Kong To Get You In Shape

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Jessica Lee

Who: Jessica Lee, Yoga & Acroyoga teacher

How To: Become more flexible

What can you do to become more flexible?

Having a regular [yoga] practice and patience definitely helps. Flexibility is a journey so instead of focusing on an end goal like “I want to touch my toes”, it’s important to celebrate the small wins. Don’t be ashamed to use props to help you along the way. It’s more beneficial to modify the pose by, say bending your knees to keep the back flat, than to force yourself into a forward fold with your back rounded.

Do you have advice for someone who is looking to get into yoga but is afraid to?

Find a teacher and studio that you feel comfortable with, and listen to your body. When it comes to yoga, pain is not gain! Try not to compare yourself to the other people in class or to a photo that you’ve seen of the pose - being deeper in a pose doesn’t necessarily mean better.

As long as you feel the benefits of the pose and are strengthening/ lengthening in the right places, then you’re doing it right, even if you need to bend your knees or use blocks to get there.

See also: 6 Hot Yoga Studios To Get Your Sweat On

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Clare Lim

Who: Clare Lim, Yoga & Movement teacher

How To: Find more ways to move

What would you say to someone who is looking to add more movement in their daily life?

Find something that piques your interest, and explore your options before diving in. When movement becomes fun, as opposed to something to check off your to-do list, you are more likely to stick with it in the long run... And the long run is how you’ll get the best results!

Channel your inner minimalist––avoid being a fancy or fussy fitness person and needing many pieces of clothing or equipment to get going––a pair of black stretchy pants and you’re good to go.

Try out [online] classes - they’re not the same at in-person classes but it is always good to have options. I love Alo Moves and Sky Ting TV.

How can we find time to move if we work a 9-5 job and feel exhausted after?

I adore H-Kore––classes are 45 minutes long, and instructors will provide you with a strong dose of motivation to get through the class––great for anyone who needs a solid workout, but can’t seem to get it done alone.

There are ways to get moving beyond going to the gym or taking a fitness class––schedule in a short walk, weather/outfit permitting––get out of the train or bus one stop earlier if you can.

While it’s important to move, sleep is essential. Softer practices like Yin Yoga, promote rest and relaxation––get your practice in, and sleep better. I’m tooting my own horn here... You can find me at IKIGAI for a weekly Yin session.

See also: Swap Lunch For Sweat: 12 Best Fitness Classes Under One Hour

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Karen Yuen

Who: Karen Yuen, Senior coach at HIT Personal Training & IFBB Professional Athlete 

How To: Start lifting weights 

Do you have advice for people who want to get into weight lifting?

Understand that most of the time other people are just minding their own businesses in the gym and we all start somewhere! I've never laughed at a beginner. If anything, I would appreciate how brave they were making the first step. 

The most common thing I hear from ladies (95% of my clients are female) is that they don't want to get bulky. Short answer: no. you won't. Long answer: lifting weights won't make you bulky, because we ladies have a much lower level of testosterone than men. However, if you lift heavy weights and eat a lot (on a surplus), then you will likely bulk up, from the diet not from the lifting itself. 

How can they begin to add weight lifting into their daily lives if they’ve never done so before?

Don't be scared to ask questions. Ask your friends (who really know what they're talking about) or ask a professional. Don't try to copy what your favourite “fitspo” does on social media, what works for her might not work for you. 

In my opinion, good exercise selections and executions are the most important. For example, if you can't do a barbell back squat, don't choose this exercise. Regress to dumbbell split squat—you can get way more out of it by using great form and range of motion.

See also: Gym Bag Essentials: Everything You Need To Crush Your Next Workout

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Lindsay Jang

Who: Lindsay Jang, Founder of Yardbird & private yoga teacher

How To: Balance work, family and health

How do you juggle managing your businesses, family and also find time to exercise?

Find a form of exercise that you enjoy, or at least don't hate, and commit to doing it at a cadence that works with your schedule. 

I started working out at home about 18 months ago and it saves me so much time. I don't really do yoga anymore (although I always come back to it and it's the foundation of any workout I do) and I only teach for events, I'm working on a new fitness method that I hope to launch in Q1 2021!

If you have space, try working out at home. If your family members are up for it, workout with them! I truly believe that if you want to exercise, you can find time to do it and you will 100% feel better in all aspects of life if you make it a regular thing.

See also: A Million Reasons to Love Hong Kong: Lindsay Jang

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Janice Ng

Who: Janice Ng, Founder of AbsFocus & Instructor at TopFit

How To: Get abs

Any tips for getting abs?

Getting abs is about knowing how to use your breath to facilitate movements. If you want defined abs, you will need to learn how to release air out of your stomach to allow the core muscles to contract fully. When you blow the air out, you will notice that your core muscles naturally contract. That is why when you breathe out as you do an ab crunch, you will feel the depth of the core contraction. Exhaling completely basically tightens your core as if you’re wearing a corset.  

One good easy tip to activating the core is to squeeze the belly button. Pull your belly button to your spine, hold it for about 6 seconds, release for 10 seconds, feel the belly rising when you release, and then repeat up to 12 times. This can be done anytime, anywhere.

How can we adapt to exercising restrictions going forward while still working towards our goals?

With the unpredictable timings of forced closures on fitness studios due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I believe that focusing on the 10-minute daily workout rule will increase your chance of staying active. 

Instead of planning your workout goals around a specific studio, focus on achieving your 10-minute exercise. The pandemic is stressful enough for everyone, exercising should be a form of relief instead of added stress. Keep your workout options open, but stick to the amount of exercise time you've committed yourself to.

See also: Sweat In Style: 7 Boutique Gyms To Try In Hong Kong

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JC

Who: JC, Handstand coach

How To: Get your first handstand

Do you have advice for someone who is looking to get their first handstand? What exercises can one do to build up to a handstand?

Overcome the fear of being upside down and learn to enjoy the learning process. Fear can be very defeating and frustrating, but if you are able to have fun, the journey becomes very enjoyable. 

Don’t listen to everybody’s opinion. Everyone learns differently, you must find your own way—there is no cookie-cutter way when it comes to learning a handstand. Listening to too many people’s opinions would often be distracting.

The best way to build up to a handstand is to use a wall For those new to handstand, the wall can provide security. Build your confidence to go upside down and take it slow. There’s no rush.

See also: Monday Motivation: Handstand Progression Feat. Steven Hightower

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Ruth Andrews

Who: Ruth Andrews, Sports therapist & Mobility Teacher at Strength Culture

How To: Improve your posture

Do you have advice for people who are looking to get better posture?

[Gaining] awareness of your body and posture would be the place to start, and becoming more conscious of how you hold your body day to day, at work or in the training.

I would suggest building a strong base to be able to ensure you’re supporting your whole body, keeping in mind your stability comes from the midline, your limbs will then have a good foundation to move from, and biomechanically become more efficient and less likely to lead to any dysfunctions down the bodies chain.

How can we better posture if we’re stuck at a desk all day?

Moving posture is the best posture, so ensuring you take time to get up and move in the workday will make a healthy difference.

Trying to get your work station set up with good alignment for your body is key, I have had many hip and back complaints from clients who have had to adapt to home office, and some are sat on a low couch, don’t have a good height for their monitors or just simply don’t have a good supportive chair

Having small stretches you can do in the day at your work station can help keep you less 'stuck' in that typical, forward shoulders, flexed spine and forward head posture!

Exercises recommended: 

Deadbugs, Thoracic Extension + Chest Opener + Breath Work and Resistance Band Rotator Cuff

See also: Work From Home: Productivity Tips For Remote Working

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Angie Ng

Who: Angie Ng, Boxing instructor at Lights Out and Model

How To: Balance motherhood and fitness

Do you have advice for someone who is looking to balance motherhood while still staying active?

There is no right answer or perfect formula. What I do is I try to sneak in my workout when my son is taking his nap. Hence, I will be away from him as little as possible. I also do walks with him so we can be active together while he learns about the world. Tai Tam reservoir is one of my favourites to do our outdoor walks.

Do you have any fitness goals for this coming year? 

My goal now is to fully recover from my delivery as I had 4 fingers diastasis recti when I was pregnant. 

I also try and have measurable goals; my goals this year is to achieve 200 strength training sessions a year/ 50 yoga classes/ 50 cardio classes. Having measurable goals are a great way to really track your own progress which is highly satisfying when you complete it. It’s like a little competition with yourself.

See also: Why Exercise Is More Important Than Ever and How to Stay Safe Doing It