Looking at John Fong’s rippling, toned physique now, it’s impossible to imagine that the 26-year-old fitness trainer used to be an average guy who cannot manage to perform a pull-up. “I only started going to the gym to improve my pull-ups because I didn’t want to go in two months earlier for NS,” John quipped.
John took his first step into the world of fitness as a polytechnic student, at the young age of 18. What started as an innocuous personal training to ‘escape’ early admission for conscription turned into motivation. Zero pull-ups became two, then three, and it gradually increased exponentially. His interest in fitness also grew stronger when the fruits of labour were palpable – all he had to do was to look at the mirror.
Encouraged by the impact that fitness has been made on his life, John turned what was initially a mindless habit into a full-fledged career. Previously a trainer with Certis Cisco in 2016, the 26-year-old is currently a personal fitness trainer at Aileron Wellness in Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa. He also seeks to self-improve to be well-equipped to share the right knowledge in his clients, having clinched the Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification, Animal Flow Levels 1 & 2, being CPR AED Certified on top of the fundamental ACE Certified Personal Trainer.
Fitness trainers are usually known to be results-driven and aggressive, but John’s training style is much more gentle and collaborative. Drawing experiences from his pageant days, he said: “When I competed for Manhunt, I was rushing for time and I needed to show results in three months, so the diet and training was hardcore. But if you’re talking about long-term results, you really need to find a sustainable way to keep yourself healthy and do what you have developed as a habit.”
Giving credits to his nutrition course, John was inspired in instilling the importance of developing long-term habits instead of achieving short-term, unsustainable goals to his clients. “You just do what you’re comfortable with, and my approach is to tweak it slowly instead of doing dramatic changes (to your routine). It takes some time, but the learning curve is not steep,” he said.
Citing himself as an example, he shared, “People always think that I’m a god, that I don’t eat fried foods, pastries, and desserts. I do, but I eat them in moderation. It’s really about how you manage (your boundaries).”
Admittedly, success stories are not always guaranteed, and the 26-year-old believes that there are rooms for improvement as a personal fitness trainer. John said, “We play various roles: not only are we fitness trainers, sometimes we need to become counsellers, dieticians, mentors, and at the same time, we also have to do our own marketing and personal branding. If the motivation in the client is lacking, it only means that the trainer must find more ways to motivate them.”
That, and it takes two hands to clap too. John continued, “If you feel that there is a communication barrier between you and the trainer, or that you are too shy to approach the trainer whenever you face difficulties in terms of diet, stress at work, problems faced during training, you will naturally lose motivation after a while.”
“It’s like going to school and you think your teacher has neglected you, but sometimes it’s not that the teacher wants to neglect you, it’s that they don’t know what you don’t know.”
Adding to that, he shares that he always urges his clients to ‘Whatsapp’ him whenever they face issues during training, or if they are about to embark on a stressful work project, letting him know in advance would help him to prepare a training regime to help his clients manage their stress level for that period of time.
As a fitness trainer, John has found his calling in educating his clients on the importance of developing good fitness habits to achieve their body transformation goals. He shared that he has witnessed his clients losing the motivation to move because they are afraid of injury risks.
“You may be disheartened if you cannot execute a squat properly, but from a trainer’s perspective, I have so many other exercises that facilitate leg training to recommend. Eventually, you will still be able to do a squat, but that will take some time to unlearn the incorrect body cues that you were used to,” he said encouragingly.
“Don’t be afraid to move, just take your first step. If you just sit there and do nothing, you will just stay the same as who you are today.”
Photos by Brandon Neo of the DANAMIC team.