Since the first time I wrote about a brand new gym I tried at the start of the year, there have been some developments in terms of my fitness journey. I have gone on to publish a fairly comprehensive guide to spin studios in Singapore, tried another new gym that I really like as well as experienced a variety of boutique fitness gyms such as Grityard, AXIOM, Barry’s, Level, Fitness Bravo and The Garage as part of on-going research for my next upcoming guide to boutique fitness studios in Singapore.
The one thing I had yet to really sink my teeth into is personal training. Prior to 2021, I have only had very limited experiences with personal training due to its prohibitive costs, but even from that brief period when I had personal training I saw very dramatic results – my chest and cleavage expanded rapidly and I almost immediately changed clothing size by virtue of the changes to my upper body within a very short period. Since then, I have come across various personal training concepts such as Ultimate Performance Fitness, ATP, Core Collective and ONE Personal Training both physically and on social media but never had an opportunity to experience any of those concepts. (I suppose my current lifestyle makes it a bit challenging for me to attempt any programme involving radical dietary and lifestyle changes which are par for the course when you embark on a personal training journey.)
That changed recently. A new personal training concept, Meta Performance Singapore, recently launched in the Central Business District in mid-2021. Occupying the 2nd level of the newly-renovated 55 Market Street building, the gym offers personal training as well as private group classes in a sprawling 464sqm space. In September 2021, I tried 3 personal training sessions at the gym, and here are 5 things I learnt about fitness from my experience.
1. FITNESS GYMS CAN BE SLEEK AND SEXY.
Based on past experience and observation, I have always associated the concept of personal training gyms with green astro turf spaces cramped with worn out machines, grotty showers with flimsy shower curtains and bad drainage as well as the stale aroma of sweaty garang in the air. (I recall with some amusement a certain gym I used to visit whereby, when using the assisted pull-up machine, my head would actually crash through the false ceiling whenever it passes the bar.)
Meta Performance Singapore sure turned that perception on its head. The spanking new gym premises boasted a brutalist industrial aesthetic with edgy violet and neon pink hues; state-of-the-art gym machines from leading brands such as Atlantis Strength, Hammer Strength and Booty Builder; floor-to-ceiling glass windows on one end which welcomed energising streams of sunshine; as well as various photogenic spots ranging from a verdant wall and eye-catching neon signage near the glass windows to a striking infinity light tube wall.
The bathrooms were also sleek, spa-luxe affairs with futuristic sliding doors, cavernous shower rooms with luxurious Omno bathroom amenities, spacious lockers as well as Dyson hair dryers.
2. PERSONAL TRAINING ISN’T JUST ABOUT EXERCISE.
My impression of personal training has always been that it is a means to dramatic fat loss and body transformation. However, aside from those things, Meta Performance Singapore prides itself on its customised programming for those who seek muscle building, injury rehabilitation, strength training, as well as prenatal and postpartum training. No prizes for guessing what my goal is.
My trainer was the basketball-tall and now ironically-named Junior, who played like a serious and conservative send-up of John Cho. Prior to the workout proper, Junior conducted a weight taking and body measurement session – see the next section – before sharing his findings (summary: body fat isn’t great and things are pretty inflamed due to various toxins, stresses and lack of recovery) as well as some hard truths about how my lifestyle factored into all these (shocker: I should not be working out quite so much without rest days!) before letting in some rays of hopeful sunshine by making recommendations on what steps I can take to achieve positive and gradual changes. After the personal training session, he sent across a nutrition plan (pro tip: eat a lot of eggs for protein!) as well as an excel sheet for me to record my weight, steps and dietary habits daily for his continuous review and advice.
(He also DMed me on Instagram when I posted an Instagram Story of my “healthy” Yong Tau Foo meal with deep-fried elements, but presumably gave up after seeing my subsequent barrage of cocktail and food Instagram Stories.)
I am happy to report that as of my third personal training session, I had managed to lose 1kg and 3% body fat within a week after heeding some recommended lifestyle adjustments (although my stomach fat levels still indicate high levels of stress, likely due to the day job).
3. YOU BEHAVE WHEN YOUR BODY SHAMES ITSELF.
Weight monitoring and body measurements are part and parcel of any personal training programme, but the trainers at Meta Performance Singapore take it to another level. With the help of vernier calipers – those mechanical things with jaws that you used in secondary school to measure dimensions – your trainer will conduct regular body measuring sessions which involve the pinching and measurement of various body parts such as your cheek, chin, breasts, belly, waist, quads and calves, with the measurements to be fed into an excel sheet from which various data will be derived about your body, body fat, stress levels, testosterone levels etc.
“There is quite a bit of inflammation right now which may be why it was not easy to grip onto your flesh”, my trainer Junior shared after a few failed attempts to get a good firm kiap of my soft, sweaty boobs. I was mortified, and resolved immediately to cut down on alcohol and red meat, two things which I had copious amounts of during the weekend preceding the measurement session. (Maybe that was what Junior wanted to achieve all along.)
In addition, as with most other personal training gyms, photos of your torso would be snapped from multiple angles for comparison purposes as you progress on your fitness journey. I suspect if my dugong-esque “pre” photos ever got leaked, I would no longer be able to find anybody who would want to marry me.
I must admit that knowing I would be measured and have my naked torso photographed regularly truly did incentivise me to pay much more attention to my diet and lifestyle during the entirety of my trial period.
4. MACHINES ARE CAPABLE OF BRINGING NEW FORMS OF TORTURE.
My experiences with fitness studios this past year when it comes to strength training have primarily involved the use of dumbbell and barbells, and there has always been a tendency to play it safe when it comes to how heavy you lift in order to remain in your comfort zone and to avoid risking injury etc. However, the wide variety of snazzy equipment offered at the gym meant I was able to perform more advanced and interesting variations of common movements such as squats and bridges using much heavier weights than I would have wanted/dared to in a fitness class setting where I was largely left to my own devices.
One of the most memorable contraptions I tried was the Atlantis Pendulum Squat, which played like an amusement park Viking ride where you swing drop into the unknown and unseen as you sink into a deep squat, and you have to muster all energy in your being to push yourself into a standing position back to safety. Elsewhere, all that hip thrusting using the Booty Builder V8 machine introduced me to deep and secret parts of my derriere I never ever knew existed.
It goes without saying that the pain you may potentially feel post-workout after the use of these machines is of a different type and scale than the pain you may experience after a fitness class.
I did not have an opportunity to use it, but the Watsons Animal Chest Supported T-Bar Row was a pretty visual row machine featuring a frontal protruding rod where weight plates go that, when being used, resembled a Transformer or Terminator-esque creature wielding a massive…(that’s enough – Moral Standards and Decency Editor).
5. THERE’S A REASON WHY PERSONAL TRAINING COSTS WHAT IT DOES.
While fitness classes and personal training usually operate on a pre-paid package basis, the cost of a personal training session is significantly higher, with most gyms requiring an upfront lump-sum payment that ranges in the thousands for a twice a week, 12-week commitment. I recall the rude shock I got the first time I was presented with a price list for personal training packages all them years ago, and the inability to split your payment into instalments or use credit cards to pay without having to incur and absorb additional fees made the decision to purchase a package one that required considerable financial planning to make possible.
But as I contemplate whether I would like to continue with personal training to achieve my goals, I must say that my three sessions thus far have made me realise things about personal training and the value that a personal training session carries which makes the heavy financial commitment more justified.
If we analogise personal training sessions at the gym as swimming lessons, your fees do not merely pay for the swim coach’s time – you are also paying for access to the entire swimming complex with full facilities; a flotation device, life buoy and lifeguard so that you can swim longer and deeper while always feeling safe; a confidante with whom you share about your life beyond swimming and who objectively assesses what is good and bad about your choices so that you can make well-informed changes which make you a stronger and better swimmer; regular body checkups to monitor your physical progress; and your very own personal customer care hotline whenever you need any help or have any questions.
Basically, not just an on-demand buff bro with a stopwatch.