Advice by Sport
Some people still equate fitness with bodybuilding, leading many women to avoid going to the gym because they don’t want to become too muscular. In a sport where there are so many misconceptions, it’s no surprise that Easy Fitness has become a platform for people who feel intimidated by images of bodybuilders to share their common experience. We went to visit Mandy to find out about the story behind her blog.
After quitting her full-time job, Mandy launched an Instagram account called Easy Fitness, which uses funny memes and simple stories to dispel common fitness myths and emphasise the importance of keeping fit.
I suppose it was curiosity! One summer when I was at university I decided to lose weight during the holidays, but when I got to the gym it felt like there was an invisible barrier separating the men from the women: the women would all stay on the cardio machines, while the men would spend all their time on the weight machines doing free weights. I concluded that there must be something appealing about weight training that makes those gym-goers turn up to train each day, so I decided to give it a go myself.
I was really weak to begin with, but I commended myself for having the courage to give it a go. After I’d been training for a while, I started to see some results and my friends would ask me whether I was going to the gym or losing weight. When you see the results for yourself, it becomes addictive and going to the gym becomes part of your life.
Why did you decide to launch easy fitness?
Because people in Hong Kong don’t do enough exercise – when you’re out and about you can see lots of people with a hunched back and rounded shoulders. 2 years ago I launched a fitness-oriented social media platform to encourage locals to become stronger – you might not be Superman, but you can at least protect yourself in an emergency. At the beginning of last year my company shut down due to the pandemic. Faced with a sudden loss of income and little prospect of finding a new job, I decided to take things into my own hands and become a freelance fitness trainer.
Do you do any other sports apart from going to the gym?
I have no talent for sports – I wasn’t doing any sports before I started going to the gym. Around a year after I started working out, I decided to try pole dancing. Given that I had been working out for so long, I didn’t think I’d have any problems, but pole dancing made me realise how important it is not to overestimate yourself, and that there’s much more to strength than mastering a pull-down. Weight training focuses on isolating a particular group of muscles, whereas pole dancing requires you to use and coordinate numerous back and core muscles simultaneously while performing lots of difficult moves in the air. I thought I’d already reached my peak, but pole dancing made me realise that there are so many different ways to challenge your body.
How has going to the gym changed your life?
The most obvious change has been my physique. As a young woman, I’d always wanted to lose weight, but I was never successful. After I started going to the gym, I made it a regular part of my routine and read online articles about nutrition. I succeeded in losing weight for the first time, and decided to continue with my fitness routine.
More importantly, keeping fit has changed my way of thinking. In the past, I was often lazy and couldn’t stick to a routine – I was always resigned to failure and found all sorts of excuses to avoid exercising. Going to the gym has taught me that you only get out what you put in. If you’re willing to make an effort, you will always see results – you might not become the world number one, but you’ll definitely be stronger than you used to be.
To be honest, I don’t know whether being strong-minded is a strength or a weakness. When my employer went out of business last year, I was suddenly left without a stable income and routine. However, this made me realise that the stability which people sought in the past isn’t necessarily what people want today – every generation has its own challenges and opportunities, and I was keen to think outside the box and do something new. I therefore started to prepare fitness classes, promote my new business and contact venues and students. Everything was new to me, but I was determined to make a success of it. It’s much easier talking about it retrospectively, but without my tough determination I would have given up ages ago.
Another one of my strengths is my refusal to follow stereotypes. In the face of stereotypes such as “Women who go to the gym are too muscular”, “It’s good to work for the government”, “It’s good to work for a big company”, I actually prefer to discover new opportunities by doing the exact opposite. Being courageous doesn’t mean that you have to change the world or become a hero – you can do small things such as going to the gym or questioning stereotypes.
What’s your ideal body type?
Just like my students, before I started working out I would see stereotypical images of thin women and think that I was too fat, even though I didn’t really know how thin I wanted to be. After becoming a trainer, I finally managed to get a set of well-defined abs – partly because the job requires it, and partly due to my own determination. However, having the “perfect” body hasn’t made me as happy as I thought it would. After all, having a 6-pack is all about compromises and sacrifices: you have to count the calories in every meal and resist temptations, which can be very stressful.
The most important thing is to eat healthily and find a balance between the “Ideal body type” and being able to enjoy nice food. You can’t have everything – it’s not possible to feel full after every meal and expect a six-pack with no effort, to set a new personal record every time you train, or to spot reduce belly fat.
A few months ago I started a #BellyChallenge on Instagram, and asked fitness trainers and followers to post a photo of themselves sitting down. Lots of people were really surprised – they didn’t expect to see fitness trainers have folds in their bellies. I hope that the #BellyChallenge will present a more realistic image of fitness trainers and show people that the “perfect bodies” on social media are not the full story.
What are your hopes for the future of easy fitness?
Easy Fitness aims to encourage men and women of all ages to keep fit. In particular, I want to teach women to feel comfortable about their bodies and stop measuring themselves against socially constructed notions of beauty. Regardless of your size, the most important thing is stay fit and healthy. We can’t change the world, but we can do something about our health – you can only care for others if you’re fit and healthy yourself.
I really like Decathlon’s resistance bands – they are good value for money and have a compact design. They’re a must-have item for doing home workouts during the pandemic – everyone should have one or two resistance bands at home. The long version is great for training the upper body without any additional weights. You can use them to do exercises such as the shoulder press and pull-down. A glute band is also another essential piece of workout gear, both in the gym and for home workouts, as it provides an easy way to add resistance to your lower body workouts.
The motto of Easy Fitness is “Lift, A Better Life”, as demonstrated by the unexpected opportunities that weight training has presented for its founder. Mandy’s commitment to her fitness routine means that she is willing to get up early and miss the Friday happy hour. She doesn’t see this as a burden, but rather as an opportunity to enrich her knowledge and set new goals. You don’t need to achieve amazing things – you just have to stay committed to each small goal. Even if you can’t change the world, you can learn how to build your confidence during these turbulent times.
Easy Fitness is all about weight training, but regardless of which sport people choose to pursue, Mandy hopes that sport will become more accessible.