If you've ever taken a stroll through the back alley of Telok Ayer, you may have come across people working out smack in the middle of the street. It's a curious sight, but one that warrants admiration, because let's be real, you'd have to be extremely dedicated to getting fit to work out in a back alley, susceptible to gawkers, instead of the relative air-conditioned comfort of a gym. But those sweating it out in an alley do so because that's the kind of culture Urban Fitness, commonly known as UFIT, ingrains in you — that getting fit is consistently about breaking personal barriers and comfort zones.
Helmed by James Forrester, an ex-international rugby player for England, UFIT's following has burgeoned since its inception five years ago. Best known for their boot camps and training courses, UFIT is a gym that has fostered a community dedicated to fit living, and has since expanded across the region to much acclaim.
We spoke to James, the man and muscle behind the gym about fitness in Singapore, and the trials that come with keeping fit.
LFA: What inspired you to start running boot camps in Singapore?
JF: I didn't start the boot camp activities, but I opened this gym in 2011 because of my passion for the fitness industry. I was a professional rugby player for 10 years, so training was a huge part of my life. When I stopped playing rugby professionally, I wanted to keep the exercise levels up, so starting a gym seemed the most natural way to share my passion. The opportunity arose when I realised that there wasn't a level of quality coaching in Singapore, or at least to my standards, and the combination of these factors led to me opening UFIT.
LFA: You mentioned that Singapore lacked a certain level of coaching. How does your gym supplicate that?
JF: We've got a few services now, but it began as a personal training business. A lot of the people we hire are ex-sportsmen and women, they've got degrees and Masters in the health and fitness industries, which are qualifications not commonly offered in Singapore universities, which elevates the kind of quality coaching that I could bring to the industry that wasn't particularly common in Singapore back when we started.
LFA: You must get asked a ton of fitness-related questions as a gym owner. What are some of the more common ones, and what are your answers to them?
JF: We get so many questions. Many people going to the gym aren't going to improve their sporting performance, they're going with the goal of looking good in their swimming trunks, or lose a bit of weight. That's one of the main questions we get — "what's the optimum method to losing weight?" Almost everyone, at some point in their lives will look to lose weight. At UFIT, our answer is that it has everything to do with consistency. We're not trying to sell quick fixes. We believe that if you want to be fit all your life, you'll have to train all your life, and that might entail going to the gym three, four, even five times a week. Eating well and training well are imperative. Also, avoiding injuries, because that'll put a damper on your efforts, so good training techniques is something we place a great importance on.
LFA: What would you say to people who are just starting to get fit, and may lack motivation or find it hard to hit the gym consistently?
JF: Just get started. Don't put things off. As personal trainers, a part of our job is to motivate people, but I often say to people who come in here that we can only do so much motivation. We're just with you that many hours of the week, and you're on your own the rest of it. It takes some level of self-motivation to achieve your goals. You can't rely on your trainer to constantly be there and to make your results happen for you. We can help with training and a certain level of expertise, but we can't be there at 9 at night when you're tempted by a doughnut.
UFIT is located at 87-88 Amoy Street, tel: 6225 5059.
- July 31, 2016
- Beatrice Bowers