In this post, Coach Amirr opens up and talks about his struggles and frustrations with the fitness industry, and gives us his honest opinions on training with purpose and the importance of patience. Enjoy!
Our regulars know you as a really detailed and supportive coach but don’t know much about you – tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up at Ritual.
Hi! I started my career in the fitness industry in a big commercial gym, where I learned that as a personal trainer, it’s all about the sales quotas. It was not about the quality of your coaching or caring about your clients or helping clients get good results – it was about hard-selling and upselling.
Initially, I was drawn to Ritual because here coaches can focus on actively helping people instead of stressing out about how many packages and sessions we sell. My passion is helping people, and it’s easy to stay passionate about empowering people through fitness when I get to focus on helping clients everyday. I feel that the service we provide here is genuine, and that’s good for my spirit. I feel satisfaction from helping clients do better and understand their bodies better. Don’t get me wrong, the work is tiring – but it makes sense and is rewarding.
What have you learnt from your experience so far?
One of the biggest paradigm shifts I experienced was in terms of how I interact with clients. If I present information well, and adjust my approach according to the client I’m talking to, there aren’t ‘bad’ clients and ‘good’ clients – just different kinds of clients that you can build rapport with in different ways. This is powerful, because it makes a coach want to make a connection with every single client.
Another thing I learned to hone in on here is the importance of attention to detail, and how the little things can come together to help create a better and more motivating environment for our clients.
Sometimes clients mention that you’re quite strict on the floor. How do you feel about this?
When I’m on the floor, I’m sometimes strict because I am trying to encourage you to put in your 100%. I know from experience that better form will get you more activation, and in turn better results. Plus, it’s much safer to train with good form. I understand the feeling of just wanting to ‘get through it’ when you’re tired, but I also know from my own experience that it’s really worth it to put in the extra little bit of effort and focus. You’re already here training, you’re already working pretty hard…you might as well do it to the best of your ability! I’ve made some of these mistakes before and I want to help clients approach it better than I did when I was younger.
What do you think about the training that we do at Ritual?
I believe we are moving the industry in the right direction. The public needs to learn and acknowledge the vast difference between training for aesthetics and training for health. It’s not that you can’t look better by training the way we train, it’s just that you have to be realistic about why you’re training, what’s important to you, and if it’s actually worth the sacrifice to get that magazine cover body. Don’t get me wrong – you can get great results from training at Ritual, but getting a ‘perfect’ body is going to take huge amounts of commitment, patience, effort, and an overhaul of your lifestyle.
You may not be aware that I’m also a competitive bodybuilder in my own time. In 2015 I won the Singapore Fitness Ironman competition (over 75kg), and got 4th place in the 2015 Shawn Rhoden Classic (International stage, open class). Let me be the first to tell you that getting that perfect body is not healthy. There’s nothing wrong with it – I love it as a sport. But when I’m preparing for a competition, I’m stressing about the aesthetics of my body all day long. You have to eat perfectly with no cheat meals or drinks or social events for months, and it takes so much patience and hard work. It’s like growing a bonsai tree – it takes a really long time and you have to spend a lot of time slowly getting it perfect. It takes so much determination and restriction.
In contrast, in between competitions, I live without my ripped abs and super low body fat levels. I still train hard, but at a healthier pace and volume. I still eat pretty well with good portions of protein, fat and carbs every day, but allow myself a bit of freedom to eat things I enjoy. And I wake up everyday feeling hormonally balanced and healthy. I’m so much healthier and happier during these phases, even though when I’m in competition shape I look significantly better. Also, you might not be aware that for a competition or a magazine cover, you’re preparing for just one short moment. That isn’t what people look like all the time. It takes tremendous effort to peak perfectly for that short moment.
What’s your training like?
When I’m in the offseason and training for health, not aesthetics, I have a healthy mix of short heavy weight lifting sessions (because I need to keep my mass and strength), a couple of HIIT sessions (like Ritual sessions) with varying volume, and 1 hour of walking per day. I find walking really helps keep the body fat levels in check.
This is just what I do, and is not a prescription of what you should do. It took me a while to learn to listen to my body, and to train with patience. I feel better with a slightly higher body fat percentage, and I’ve learned to be happy about that.
What do you do on rest days?
On my rest days, I don’t think about exercise at all. Usually, I’ll simply spend time with my family and eat well. I find that I need that mental break from training to stay balanced. Sometimes I do absolutely nothing!
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
I really disagree with quick-fix programs. You see them everywhere: “8 weeks to perfect abs” or “6 weeks to massive arms” or “3-day detox” or “21 day quick fat loss”…
I feel the quick-fix false promises are irresponsible. They pollute the minds of individuals who are just trying to make positive change in their lives. These programs are not about health. There’s no exploration of purpose. What are you doing this for? What are you going to do after that quick-fix program? What do you actually want, long-term? It might sound ridiculous, but I wish people had 2-year fitness plans. You know, if you really want amazing results, it might actually take that long. And if that’s the truth, why not be open about it?
If you understand your body and why you want to train regularly, you will want to keep exercising for the rest of your life. I don’t think there’s one simple way to help people understand this…I feel as though everyone arrives at this realization on their own terms. What a good coach can do is help educate and inspire you so you can slowly inch towards it. It’s all about helping you build awareness. What’s interesting is once you have it, you still have to actively look for the perfect formula, because your lifestyle and training and system will change with time.
What’s one thing you’ve struggled with and overcame in the past in fitness or training that you think our readers can learn from?
I went through a phase of bench pressing every day! Until someone gave me a book on the topic, that was what I did. On a more serious note, I remember that when I started my own fitness journey, I had my insecurities. Everyone has them. I think people can benefit from learning about the power of their thoughts. Visualize where you want to go, commit to it, and believe in yourself. If you do it right, your thoughts can become actions, and these action can become very powerful. You can choose to gain strength from your thoughts and actions.
Once you believe in yourself, you’ll realize that people around you can’t drag you down. If you want to eat well, there will always be someone around you ready to crack a joke about it. But it doesn’t matter. They don’t need to understand why you live the way you live. Your decisions are for yourself…and you can be proud of them. From experience, I also know that once those same people see the results you get, they’ll come around and quietly ask you for advice on how to get in better shape.
It’s the start of the year and we’re getting a lot of new clients through the doors. If you could give our new members a piece of advice, what would it be?
Take it slow. Take the time to learn about your own body. Learn to listen to your body, and pay attention to how it reacts to different kinds of food and exercise. If you really want to tune in and build your awareness quickly, maybe you can think about keeping a logbook and literally write down when you trained and what you ate, and log how each activity made you feel. You can even write down brief notes on what’s going on in life. Over time, this awareness will help you understand that training is indispensable if you want to function optimally. You’ll learn that everything from family stress to insufficient sleep can affect your performance and fitness. You don’t have to keep a logbook if you don’t want to, but the important lesson here is to open up your mind and develop the awareness that everything you do has an effect on your health.
Alright, now for some rapid-fire questions!
How many amazeballs do you think you can eat in 5 minutes?
10! Actually, i really have no idea, I’ve never done it before. It seems I’m the only one who doesn’t like to eat them – I don’t like oats!
What was your favorite junk food when you were growing up?
Wow, I had a lot of favorites, I was a fat kid! If I had to choose one, probably roti prata with sugar!
What’s your favorite cheat food these days?
Definitely nasi briyani with double meat! My favorite place is at Golden Shoe Hawker Centre!
Who’s your favorite superhero or cartoon character?
When I was younger my favorite cartoon character was the Tasmanian Devil, but these days, any of the minions!
What’s your spirit animal?
I’m an eagle 🙂
Coach Amirr has been with Ritual since April 2013, and hopes you’ll reach out to the coaches if you’re struggling with balancing aesthetics and health. He’s also got great practical tips on how to eat healthy locally and inexpensively – just ask!