Confessions Of A Singapore Personal Trainer

January 15, 2011

Image of a male personal trainer's torsoEver wanted to know what goes on inside the mind and behind the scenes of a Singapore Personal Fitness Trainer? Well, you finally got the chance to do that today.

Our team here at Singapore Fitness Professionals Network has managed to track down and convince one of our country’s longest-serving “elite-class” personal trainer and got him to spill the beans on his profession and the industry.

For confidentiality reasons, we will only refer to our interviewee as M.

All we can say is that M is a local male Singaporean in his mid-thirties, and who has been serving in the fitness industry for over 10 years as a Personal Trainer and Private Fitness Instructor. He is also one of the higher-earning fitness freelancers around with an average monthly income in the 5-figure bracket.

Below herewith is a transcript of our phone interview with him.


Parts of the conversation may have been paraphrased, truncated or edited to suit the print context.

– The views represented here are purely those of the interviewee, and do not represent the views of Singapore Fitness Professionals Network (SFPN).

– Reader discretion is advised

Interview With M- Singapore’s Elite Personal Trainer 

SFPN: Hi, Glad to get in touch with you, and firstly a word of thanks – for agreeing to this interview.

M: No problem. My pleasure.

SFPN: OK. Let’s get to the point. How long have you been in the Singapore Fitness Industry.

M: Coming to 11 years.

SFPN: That’s quite a long time. Please tell us how it all started.

M: I have always been interested in fitness and sports since young. So when I left NS (National Service), I decided to sign-up for a fitness instructor course with the Singapore Sports Council….. and one thing led to another ….. and that’s where I’m now.

SFPN: Is the sports council certification the only one you got?

M: Oh, No. No. I actually got a few more certs over the years as well.

SFPN: Can you tell us what are some of these certs for?

M: I got a cert for advanced personal trainer, one for special populations, and another for rehab training.

SFPN: Are these certs local, by the way?

M: Nope, some are from Australia and others from the States (USA).

SFPN: Great. Let’s move on. We understand that you are currently an independent freelance trainer. Has it always been this arrangement?

M: No…not really …. I actually started out as a gym instructor in ******** (one of the big gyms in Singapore). I left after about a year-and-a-half there, and been on my own ever since.

SFPN: Can you tell us the reason why you left?

M: Ha, HaI was hoping you wouldn’t ask! But anyway, it’s been such a long time ago. Let’s just say that the (commercial) gym culture didn’t suit me, and I just can’t see any future (in) staying on….

SFPN: If given a chance today, would you want to go back to a commercial gym to work again?

M: No way, man. Are you joking? I will never want to go back  there. Guys, to be honest, working as a gym instructor sucks. It is a s**t life. Low pay. Long hours. Plenty of politics. Lousy management……yeah…

SFPN: So are you saying that you’re much better off now?

M: Oh, yes. Definitely. Look – I’m earning much, much more now. I’ve got respect. I’m in demand.  And I’m free to do my own thing.

SFPN: Is it OK to tell us how much you earn?

M: I make about $10 000 to $12 000 per month …. hold on, before you say anything else, let me say this: I work REALLY hard to earn that amount of money, and all of it is legally earned, OK!

SFPN: Whoah… That’s quite a lot of money. Definitely much more than what a gym employee makes in a fitness center.

M: That’s what I mean. Why get stuck in a gym and earn s**t when the big fish is out there.

SFPN: But don’t you agree it’s not all about money…

M: Yeah. Sure. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not just  money, OK? I enjoy my job – that’s why I”m still in it after all these years. C’mon, but in Singapore, we have to be realistic, man. Money talks. And if I can do something I like and still earn big bucks, why not???

SFPN: Right, makes sense……

SFPN: OK, moving on…… anything interesting you would like to share with us…. about your experiences… about the industry?

M: Like what?? Can you be more specific.

SFPN: OK, let’s say….how about your clients. Who are there, and have you had any unpleasant encounters? Things like indecent proposals etc ?

M: Man, are you serious? Ha! OK…… my  clients are all what you call the “UPPER” class people – the executives, the CEOs, the V-Ps, the directors ……and well, most of them are nice people  – polite, respectful, eager to learn ….  maybe just one or two b*****ds who like to throw their weight now and then …. other than that, OK, no problem!

SFPN: Any Tais-Tais …. any indecent proposals ? Just an assurance – you know your identity is confidential here, right?

M: Ha ha ha…..c’mon man, I have a good reputation, OK!……Yes, I do have some Tais-Tais, but they’re OK….. nice but filthy rich. No hanky-panky stuff with them …..The closest to an “indecent” proposal I have was a long time ago ….maybe 5, 6 years ago …..when this client of mine – I’m no longer training her now by the way – hinted that I could stay overnight at her home – a semi-D…. that’s all. I said “NO” and we never brought up the matter again.

SFPN: So you have been strictly professional with all your clients?

M: Of course, what do you think? Frankly, a lot of these rumours of personal trainers sleeping around are made up. This is Singapore, OK? Not America. Not the West. Most of us don’t do such things….. maybe just one or two black sheep, that’s all.

SFPN: So do you know any of these “black sheep” yourself?

M: Yeah…sure…I know of this PT ( personal trainer) who is gay, …. and seems like many people have seen him mixing around with some middle-aged Caucasian men in the area…… expats I think, and his clients also …..  but they’re all gay and like to fool around …..

SFPN: What do you think of trainers like him?

M: What I think? Ha, I think they are fools, man! Why ruin your professional reputation doing stupid things????

SFPN: OK, back to an earlier point….. You mentioned that you train mostly “upper” class people, correct? Is that by choice or by accident?

M: Well …. let me put it this way: whoever can pay my rates I will train them. As simple as that.

SFPN: And what are you rates?

M: $120 per hour … onwards.

SFPN: That’s on the high side , isn’t it? At those rates, only the so-called “upper” class can afford it.

M: If that’s the case, then too bad. I don’t believe in lowering my rates to attract clients.

SFPN: What do you think of those trainers who charge something like $50-$60 per hour ?

M: I think it’s a joke, man! At those rates I can’t even pay my rent! Let me tell you: these trainers who charge these rates are what I call the “low-end” trainers… you know…. the part-timers who freelance for fun … teaching at public gyms and training only HDB ‘uncles’ and ‘aunties’……( ps. for foreign readers not in the know, HDB stands for Housing Development Board: Singapore’s public housing arm that supplies affordable flats for the general masses to live in)

SFPN: So you think they are not as good as you?

M:  Of course, they’re not real professionals, man. Just some youngsters out to make a quick buck. Let’s be honest …..we are different (class) ……they attract the neighbourhood-type of clients you know… the local housewives, NS ( National Service) boys, old aunties and uncles…. but I work with expats, CEOs, managing directors, TV artistes… know what I mean?…..

SFPN: So in other words, you price yourself out of the range of the average local Singaporean, right?

M:  Well, … if you want to look at it that way, then so be it. But frankly, all the better and more experienced trainers charge somewhere near my range….and I think clients also know that: if they want a better trainer, they must be prepared to pay for it.

SFPN: OK, fair enough, …. now back to something you mentioned earlier …. you said something about paying rent, right? So where are you putting up now?

M:  I’m renting a private apartment just outside town…….

SFPN: Well, that must be quite costly, isn’t it?

M:  It’s OK. Can’t be helped. I need to be close to my clients. And I can still afford it with my income.

SFPN: So most of your clients live around town area?

M:  Yup.

SFPN: So you go to their homes to train them?

M:  Yup. I do house visits. Condos, apartments, bungalows… I do them all…

SFPN: So you’re basically a mobile home trainer – going round the island training people?

M:  Ya….but not round the island… just around town area. I like it this way.

SFPN: OK, I think we are running a bit out of time. So last 2 questions. What do you think of our website:

M:  I think it’s a good idea. It’s time Singapore has a fitness directory like yours… (a website) that can connect trainers to clients is great……, I think if it can help more freelance trainers find jobs and clients – something which they (otherwise) won’t be able to do so (on their own) easily, it’ll be great.

SFPN: Thanks for your support! One last question: what career advice would you want to give to all the new fitness instructors and personal trainers out here in Singapore!

M:  Just be cool… follow your passion, gain experience and be professional in everything you do!

SFPN: Sorry, one final question: would you encourage them to follow your path?

M:  Sure, why not? Go freelance, be your own boss…..because that’s the best deal!!

SFPN: Thank you very much, M…. and all the best to you.

End Of Interview