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Published: 10:04, March 24, 2023 | Updated: 10:04, March 24, 2023
Part-time trainers enjoy best of both worlds
By Yang Feiyue
Published:10:04, March 24, 2023 Updated:10:04, March 24, 2023 By Yang Feiyue

Skills passed on to students, additional income earned

Wang Zixiang (front row, second right) poses with his trainees after a fitness class in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Han Lu, who has just turned 40, danced enthusiastically to music at a gym in Jinan, Shandong province, while shouting instructions to a roomful of her followers.

Wearing a loose white jacket and green cargo pants, and with her hair cut short, she appeared to have boundless energy as she offered words of encouragement during an intense training session last month.

My work at the equity company involved a lot of socializing, and I put on a lot of weight, but this served to rekindle my passion for a healthy lifestyle.

Wang Zixiang, Hilefit class trainer from Shenzhen, Guangdong province

Han is just one of many people regularly attending gyms in China whose passion for exercise has led to them becoming part-time fitness trainers.

"It feels good to keep active when night falls. It's also exciting to have people working out with me as we have fun together," she said.

During the day, Han works as a professor at Shandong University of Finance and Economics, specializing in sustainable urban development.

"My teaching job is much more traditional than my work in the evening," she said, adding that both roles complement each other well, and she enjoys her lifestyle.

Han started going to the gym and working with a private trainer in 2013 as a way of "letting off steam" after work.

Taking her first group training session three years later, she was immediately drawn to the vibrant atmosphere.

"The pumping music and synchronous moves of those taking part in the session inspired me," she said.

Han first started exercising with sessions of Body Combat, a high-energy workout inspired by martial arts, but as her experience grew, she became a group trainer.

Han Lu wins the Body Jam championship at The One competition last year. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

In 2020, she took part in The One, an online competition hosted by Les Mills, one of the world's leading developers of group workouts, but her relatively low score meant she failed to finish in the top five. Han won a prize in every contest she entered before The One Competition.

"This is an important competition, with hundreds of trainers nationwide competing for the top five places," she said. "But I was frustrated with my performance, which triggered self-doubts over my age and physical condition."

"Before becoming a trainer, I always believed that as long as I gave 100 percent, there was nothing I couldn't achieve," she said.

"I decided to switch my focus to the Body Jam and Body Pump categories in The One competition to increase my chances of getting a better result."

In 2021, Han made the short list for both categories, and last year she triumphed in the Body Jam section.

"It was proof that practice makes perfect, despite the fact that I made a clumsy start to the competition," she said.

Being a trainer not only offers her a healthy lifestyle, it has also resulted in positive feedback from her followers.

She was touched when some of her students approached her as the gym class resumed after lockdowns imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"They told me they had been following me online to exercise at home, and wanted to take a photo with me. I was especially thrilled when I heard this," she said.

Sports technology companies such as Hilefit, Keep and Supermonkey are seeking more part-time trainers working flexible hours as people become increasingly aware of the need to protect their health by exercising.

Xia Dong, cofounder of Hilefit, said the interest in home exercise triggered by singer Liu Genghong, also known as Will Liu, who launched online fitness sessions on the Douyin short-video platform last year, is proof of the public's strong desire to be more active. Liu's Douyin account has attracted 70 million followers and 170 million "likes".

The increased demand for exercise has opened the door for more people who have a full-time job to tap their sports potential and become influencers in fitness groups.

Xia said, "Our trainers come from all walks of life, ranging from product managers, advertising planners and those from State-owned companies. Being a trainer brings them additional income and helps them discover a different side to themselves."

Wang Zixiang instructs trainees during a Body Combat session. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Program launched

In 2017, Hilefit launched a program aimed at those wanting to take exercise a step further. The program covers sports theories and practical skills, and participants can lead a class if they meet certain standards.

For example, Wang Zixiang, 30, from Shenzhen, Guangdong province, passed the Fat Burner class test in May to become a Hilefit class trainer.

He was attracted to a group training class in 2021 after discovering that a friend with a weight problem had got back in shape.

"I hadn't seen him for a while, and was surprised to learn he had been taking a group training class at Hilefit," Wang said.

Wasting no time, Wang signed up for a session, and was immediately impressed by the trainer's energy on stage.

Wang even quit his job at a private equity company to find less stressful work at a coffee shop so he could better concentrate on losing weight and improving his health.

"My work at the equity company involved a lot of socializing, and I put on a lot of weight, but this served to rekindle my passion for a healthy lifestyle," he added.

At school, Wang loved playing soccer, and he has also tried his hand at diving and boxing. However, he felt hampered by his sedentary lifestyle.

"I had difficulty keeping up with the training class at first, even when lifting the lightest barbell, and my body ached afterward," he said, adding that this encouraged him to keep going.

After a month, he no longer ached, and Wang said his trainer's words of encouragement motivated him.

"It was clear that my stamina and cardiopulmonary strength had improved," he said.

After 18 months of exercise, Wang decided to become a trainer. "I consider myself a person who likes to commit fully to whatever I get involved in," he said.

Wang took 10 private classes, during which he realized that a trainer needs to control the pace and atmosphere of a session.

"You have to ensure that everyone is up to speed and avoids injury. You also need to be positive, no matter whether your stocks have just plummeted, or you have gone through a tough romantic breakup," he said.

Chen Danqin complete moves during The One competition last year in Shanghai. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Now taking two group classes a day at Hilefit stores about 50 kilometers from each other, Wang said he greatly enjoys his new routine.

"I need to set an example for my students, so I have to be self-disciplined in terms of diet and exercise," he said.

He arrives an hour before his class to exercise on his own, and to date, Wang has lost more than 20 kilograms. His students, who have given him positive feedback, follow his instructions carefully.

Wang's experience as a trainer has also inspired him to keep challenging himself. "I'll try to enter more competitions to hone my skills and work my way up to take bigger classes," he said.

Wang is one of many who have joined professional training sessions offered by tech-powered gyms.

Xia, the Hilefit cofounder, said the company conducted more than 2,000 training sessions in 2021, which attracted 30,000 participants.

Since being founded in 2015, Hilefit has produced more than 300 trainers. These trainers have helped coach prospective part-time fitness instructors who have gone on to open their own gyms, Xia added.

Supermonkey and Keep have also introduced career development options for their part-time trainers.

Last year, Chen Danqin, who comes from Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, attracted online attention when she won the Body Combat category in The One competition. Chen, who trained at Hilefit, said, "Being a trainer has enabled me to continue my self-development, tap my potential, and try something I never dreamed of."

She attributes her progress to the encouragement received from her fellow trainers and followers.

Xia, who believes the rise of part-time trainers is good news for the fitness industry, said, "It means more professionals are joining this field."

As many part-time trainers have advanced educational backgrounds, they have brought more possibilities to the sector.

Han Lu complete moves during The One competition last year in Shanghai. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Additional skills

Yao Ning, co-founder of 3HFIT, an education, certification and career planning agency for trainers, said its new training intake includes a livestreaming host, a nutritionist, social group operator and a sales representative.

When a trainer has additional skills to offer, the number of his or her followers rises and stronger bonds are formed, Yao added.

Han, from Jinan, recently took a trip to New Zealand, where she was inspired by the enthusiasm for exercise, which convinced her to continue as a part-time trainer. During her visit, she saw trainers in their 50s exercising vigorously.

"I think training is an inclusive and diverse field, and everyone involved in it should identify themselves as One plus X," Han said.

"One represents your real job, or who you really are, while X refers to factors such as personality, sideline occupations, or roles."

Han, who considers her roles as a professor and trainer to be a perfect combination, said she sometimes confuses the two jobs "because they are not that much different".

"One of these occupations helps people tone their bodies, while the other forms character and cultivates a life trajectory," she said.

Han believes a good trainer can also serve as a role model — not just during classes, but in daily life.


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