Not all personal trainers are the same: 5 reasons that makes the difference

Not all personal trainers are the same: 5 reasons that makes the difference

Here are the top reasons why training with the right personal trainer can give you results beyond your expectations.

Reboot your lifestyle with the Clean & Lean Challenge


"If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you."

We recently spoke to Lee-Ann Sullivan and Leonard Leong, the female and male winners of the recent 28-day Clean & Lean Challenge on their amazing efforts and how it has transformed their lives.

Lee-Ann is a mother of 2, and has lived with type 1 diabetes for over 30 years. Through the challenge, she discovered the objectives of diabetic management and the Clean & Lean Challenge were in sync – a clean and lean lifestyle means a better control of her diabetic condition, and less insulin required as a result. A win-win for her! She lost 6kg (9.45%) of body fat in the challenge.

Leonard Leong is a Clean & Lean alumni, having participated in 3 previous editions of the challenge. After 2 years, he wanted a refresher to recalibrate his lifestyle and eating habits, to feel better and learn how to listen to his body. Leonard lost 3.8kg (4.78%) of body fat in the challenge.

 Lee-Ann and Leonard feeling great inside and out after completing the challenge!

Lee-Ann and Leonard feeling great inside and out after completing the challenge!

What was your motivation to join the Clean & Lean Challenge?

Lee-Ann: My motivation was to lose stubborn body fat that I just couldn’t seem to lose, even with regular weekly physical training sessions. I knew my diet was not what it should be, causing my type 1 diabetes to be challenging to control, and not allowing me to achieve a healthy consistent lifestyle.

Leonard: For me it was to get back to good health by reducing my body fat. Since participating in the last Clean & Lean Challenge 2 years ago, bad eating habits had formed due to work stress. Despite keeping a moderately healthy lifestyle, my body fat had still gone up. Knowing that the challenge has previously worked for me, I decided to commit 4 weeks to re-learn and reset my body.

Lee-Ann, was having diabetes a concern for you going into the challenge?

Lee-Ann: I have had diabetes for over 30 years.  Personally I was not concerned about embarking on the challenge as such, although I was very much aware of the danger areas to be mindful of when making substantial changes to my eating habits. My insulin doses did reduce dramatically. Ensuring that my blood glucose levels were being continually tested and closely monitored, and that my medication was being adjusted accordingly, meant that the risk of hyperglycaemic episodes (when my blood glucose levels are too low) were reduced.

 Female winner Lee-Ann and her very supportive kids.

Female winner Lee-Ann and her very supportive kids.

What was the hardest part of the challenge for you?

Lee-Ann: The hardest part for me was the low energy levels. During the initial 2 weeks, I was unaware that I was severely iron-deficient. The program offered complementary iron panel test, which prompted me to have my levels checked out. Luckily an iron infusion solved that issue immediately. My energy levels returned, but I did still have to consider how much physical training I was doing, and when to reintroduce some complex carbohydrates into my diet. Head nutritionist Wendy and her team were very helpful and provided ongoing guidance and attention to my needs throughout the challenge.

Leonard: Finding Clean and Lean compliant food during my business travels was my biggest challenge. I spent almost half of the 4-week challenge travelling to 2 separate countries for work. Both countries I have never been to, and hence find compliant food was a mammoth task to say the least!

And what is the best part of the challenge?

Lee-Ann: I really enjoyed hearing about other participants’ journey through the Clean & Lean app. It provided all the weekly information you need, such as nutrition advice, healthy recipes, and daily food challenges. The weekly information sessions were great, covering topics that I found very relevant, such as cardio versus strength training, the type 3 diabetes warning, and the importance of getting enough sleep. The recipes provided are simple, tasty, and easy to follow.

This program is different to other nutrition programs I’ve tried. It gives you all the tools to succeed, and also gets you to rethink about your lifestyle, listen to you body, and learn how to make positive changes to your eating and exercise habits. So you can continue this clean and lean lifestyle even when the challenge ends.

Leonard: Head Nutritionist of the Clean & Lean Challenge Wendy Riddell! She's keeps things going through the 4 weeks with good humour, and her big heart in encouraging everyone to stick to the program, especially in the first 2 weeks when it was the toughest.

How do you feel now? Has taking this challenge change your perception about nutrition and wellness?

Lee-Ann: I have more energy now and feel much healthier. My diabetes is easier to manage and well-controlled with very little if any insulin required for meals, and a 20% decrease in my basal insulin requirements.

I also have a much more positive relationship with food. Previously it was a love-hate relationship...loved chocolate, but hated how it made me feel. Now I don’t have cravings for foods high in sugar or simple carbohydrates anymore.  If anything, my body craves healthy foods, lots of greens, seeds, protein, some complex carbohydrates, and of course Clean & Lean bread! I also listen to my body more when it comes to what I am eating. I think part of Clean & Lean is a discovery, or experiment, to find out more about your body and what works best for you. For example, I've discovered that cow's milk in my coffee makes me feel unwell!

Leonard: I feel healthier and more aware of the food choices I'm making. The challenge has definitely got me re-acquainted with my kitchen. Cooking healthy food doesn’t mean boring, tasteless, and cold. It can be as delicious as you want it to be! All you need is the knowledge to read nutrition labels. I've also learnt to regulate my carbohydrates intake in accordance to my workout schedule. 

It is all about the 80/20 rule. Eating clean 80% of the time, with 20% set aside for cheat meals (especially in social gatherings). Plan a week ahead to identify the time I eat clean, and when it is about having fun - wine included of course.

 Leonard has done 3 Clean & Lean Challenges prior, but needed a lifestyle reboot after 2 years.

Leonard has done 3 Clean & Lean Challenges prior, but needed a lifestyle reboot after 2 years.

 Head Nutritionist Wendy Riddell was a big source of motivation for Leonard and the community.

Head Nutritionist Wendy Riddell was a big source of motivation for Leonard and the community.

What advice do you have for newbies who are thinking about taking up the challenge, but is concerned about the difficulties to stick to it?

Lee-Ann: I would suggest using the Clean & lean app to its full benefit. The discussions, advice, and information provided are valuable when things get hard, and actually makes the whole experience more enjoyable. You soon realise that everyone is feeling the same way as you do, and the tips and tricks shared to get through the difficult times are great. Preparation is key. have all your “approved” snacks ready so when times get tough, you’re prepared. Listen to your body, and talk to the Clean & Lean nutritionists for guidance, they’re a great support. And have fun exploring new ways of cooking, and discovering food that are on the “approved list”, you might amaze yourself with what you can come up with!

Leonard: Planning is crucial. Think ahead about what you are having for your meals. For example, if you are ending your day at the gym, know what are the options available around the vicinity. When you are low in energy levels, you want to take out the guess work and frustrations that come with it. Learn how to break your goals up into small achievable steps. Instead of thinking that you have X days to the end line, try to focus on just the day ahead. Having a friend to join you on the program also helps!

Should you exercise when you are pregnant?


The experience of having a baby is an emotional roller coaster ride. From the excitement when you first found out that you are expecting a baby, to the creeping thoughts of what will happen to your body during and after the pregnancy, it is a journey filled with intense trepidation.

For us women, it is understandable that we are concerned about how our body would inevitably be changed by the pregnancy. Some of the most common questions that gets asked are, “Can I still work out?”, “Is it bad for the baby?”, and “Will my body ever be the same after pregnancy?”

My answer is, if you want your muscles to recover quickly after pregnancy, you’ll have to use them and strengthen them (wisely of course!) throughout your pregnancy. The benefits are manifold: you can avoid stretch marks, cellulite, loose skin, improve your posture, and reduce body aches just by following a sensible exercise program.



If you keep active during your pregnancy, muscle memory will help you to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight quicker. If you’re not physically active before you got pregnant, you should talk to your doctor before you start. If you always have been active, continue to stay active!

Exercise elevates your endorphin levels, which will make you feel better and happier as your body adjusts to new changes. You will have more energy, and less pregnancy-related symptoms such as swelling, back pain, constipation, urinary incontinence, and varicose veins.

Your postpartum recovery will be quicker, and getting back to regular exercise will be easier. However, you should note that there is no one-fits-all exercise plan for pregnant women. Training with a professional who is certified in pre and post-natal exercise programing is essential.

tsevty pregnant-exercise.jpg

Pregnancy exercise tips:

  • Have an exercise routine and try to stick to it, it will be better for you and your baby.
  • At every trimester, the way your body reacts to exercise will change, so it is important to adapt to those changes by modifying the intensity and the exercises.
  • After your second trimester, avoid staying too long on your back when exercising.
  • Drink 1 cup of water every 15 minutes of exercise to keep you from overheating and dehydrating.
  • Remember to exhale on the efforts of each exercise to keep the oxygen flow to your baby.
  • Avoid all contact sports completely!

After pregnancy, the uterus shrinks approximately one centimetre every day. In 5 to 6 weeks, it should go back to pre-pregnancy size. At this time, it is important for the new mom to start strengthening the inner core muscles. Getting rid of that mommy’s pooch, unless you do deep inner-core concentrated exercises, will be a tough challenge.

Getting back to regular exercises should be done slowly and only after the doctor’s permission. You should start with basic core strengthening exercises, working the pelvic floor, and focusing on your posture, balance, and stretching.

 The author Tsvety (left) is a mother of a toddler, and a strength training coach at UFIT.

The author Tsvety (left) is a mother of a toddler, and a strength training coach at UFIT.


Abdominal Separation

For many women who has just given birth, abdominal separation (Diastasis Recti) is a common concern. Avoid crunches and twisting moves. Your post-natal trained fitness coach will be able to prescribe a series of exercises to effectively activate your core muscles correctly, to help bring your abdominal muscles back to normal.

Urinary Incontinence

60% to 80% of women injure their nerve endings when giving birth, which damages the pelvic floor muscles and affects the ability to control the bladder. Pelvic floor exercises such as pelvic tilts can help to alleviate the condition, as well as helping to relieve back pains. You should also consider Pilates practice as a highly effective form of exercise to strengthen the deep core and pelvic muscles to to reduce the risk of post-pregnancy issues.

Post-partum Depression

Exercising after birth can also decrease the incidence of post-partum depression. Getting fitness into your daily routine is one of the the best mood stabilizers for new mums. Finding a little bit of me-time in your busy day is important. You can’t take good care of your family if you don’t take good care of yourself first.

*To learn more about pregnancy related health and wellness issues, check out UFIT Clinic's 4-week Pre-Natal Program where our team of women's health experts including physiotherapists, massage therapists, pilates instructors, and personal trainers teach expectant mums how to stay happy and healthy during pregnancy.



Tsvetelina Ivanova is a Personal Trainer at UFIT, and a mum of a 2-year-old toddler. Specializing in strength training, plyometrics and metabolic conditioning, Tsvety has a keen interest in improving mobility, functional training, and Olympic lifting.

Tsvety can assist anyone who is looking to improve their strength, body composition, and overall fitness level. She is known for her patience and encouragement with clients new to strength training, and her tough and motivating approach with clients who are looking to take their fitness to a higher level. Also known as the "wedding trainer", Tsvety has helped many brides look their best on their wedding day by creating an effective personalised training plan for each client to achieve their goals before their big day.

5 daily stretches to stay pain-free


You are likely to be sitting at your desk right now while reading this. If that’s the case, then you may very well be aware, or have personally experienced some of the negative effects associated with sitting for long periods in the day. Due to the nature of our work, sitting may a necessary evil – the “desk-bound problem” has been labeled by the media as the “new smoking”. A bit dramatic maybe, but a point certainly worth taking note. If you are at your desk for 8 to 10 hours a day, you are likely to have experienced the following discomfort:

  • Headaches
  • Neck pain 
  • Shoulder pain 
  • Lower back pain or discomfort 
  • Wrist and elbow pain 
  • Weight gain

And bear in mind, that this may be compounded by another 2 to 3 hours of sitting when you get home in the evening!

We may not be able to change our jobs, or drastically overhaul our lifestyles, but we can certainly be smarter about it and try to at least limit the above issues with some simple changes. Aside from getting in 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 times weekly, a good start point is to make sure that you sit correctly at your desk (link to clinic article), with your screen, mouse, and keyboard set in the correct positions.

You should also get up from your chair to do some light stretching exercises every hour or so. Here are some helpful stretches you can do at your desk to keep body aches and stiffness at bay:


1. Hip and Spine Opener

One of the main causes of lower back pain is a lack of hip mobility, pelvic position, and T-Spine mobility. A great way to improve these areas is the modified couch stretch with overhead reach. Now granted that you may need a little more space to perform this stretch, or get a few weird stares from your co-workers, but who cares!



  1. Place one foot on the chair and a knee on the floor (use a towel or pad for your knee if doing this on a hard floor).
  2. Maintain a neutral spine position, squeeze your butt and move your hip forward as this will release the hip flexor and rectus femurs.
  3. Take a deep breath and reach overhead. Be mindful not to arch your lower back as you do this, and hold the stretch for 90 to 120 seconds. Switch your legs and repeat.

Perform this 2 to 3 times throughout the day. Observing and being mindful of your breathing as you perform this stretch also helps to moderate your stress levels.


2. Upper Trapezius Stretch

Our upper traps carry a lot of stress. Tension and tightness in that area is often the cause of headaches and shoulder pains. There are many reasons for this such as head position, stress, weak lower traps and breathing (Yes if we breath only using our chest, we are literally performing thousands of upper trap raises every single day!) 



  1. In a seated position, tilt your head to 45 degrees and gently pull your head forward and chin down until you feel the stretch.
  2. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds on each side.


3. Banded Pull-Aparts

A lot of the pain and discomfort we feel in our body comes from muscular imbalance or poor postures throughout the day. This causes certain muscles to weaken from inactivity, and create tension in other muscles. As mentioned above, our upper traps is an area of high tension (it doesn’t mean they are strong, they are just under constant tension), so we need to work on the opposite muscles to strengthen and balance out the tension (this is known as reciprocal inhibition).

Banded pull-aparts are a great way of strengthening the mid/lower traps. It depresses the shoulder blades and help to strengthen the rhomboid muscles that retract the shoulder blades, which improves your posture and shoulder position.



  1. Position your hands with your palms facing up, which naturally turn your shoulder back and down.
  2. Stretch the band with both hands and imagine you are pulling it through your chest, maintaining the tension on the band throughout the stretch. 
  3. Aim for 20 to 30 repetitions and you should feel the burning sensation (be mindful not to let the upper traps come into play) and repeat this for 2 to 3 sets.


4. Banded Dislocations

This a great exercise to improve shoulder mobility and take you away from the typical hunched-over-the-keyboard seated position. However, if you have a pre-existing shoulder pain or injury, you should be careful with this exercise.


  1. Bring your arms up and move the band overhead, and bring it down behind your shoulders with a slight below bend. Bring the band back to the front of your body. The stretch band allows you to increase or decrease the mobility needed at the shoulders.
  2. Aim for 15 to 20 repetitions of 2 to 3 sets.


5. Banded Behind Neck Press

This stretch starts in the finishing position of the band dislocations. It is a great way to reclaim shoulder position and also engage mid lower traps.



  1. Extend your arms and press the band overhead, and squeeze your shoulder blades as you bring the band back down.
  2. Aim for 15 to 20 repetitions of 2 to 3 sets.

Now you have 5 simple exercises that you can perform daily to relieve muscle tensions. But if you are seated for 10 to 12 hours a day, this is merely scratching the surface. Incorporating these stretches into your daily routine is a great place to start in terms of improving your posture, and reducing muscle pain and discomfort. The next step to develop a strong and healthy body is to work on building muscle strength and mobility – come speak to us at UFIT and we can help you with that!


Leigh Withers is a Personal Training Manager at UFIT. Since making a career change from financial accounting 11 years ago, Leigh has lived his passion for the fitness industry in the UK, Middle East, Asia and Europe. He’s worked with some of UK’s leading fitness educators, such as Discovery Learning, Fitness Wales, Train Fitness, along with Cardiff Met University.

During his time in the Middle East,  Leigh was part of a ground-breaking project to deliver industry-accredited training qualifications to leading gyms in the UAE.  He played a key role with the Bahrain Military Defence Hospital to provide training and education to their physiotherapists who were leading the country's first Centre of Excellence Obesity Project. He also worked with Bapco and the country’s leading dietician to front Bahrain’s ‘Biggest Loser’ campaign, and presented to hundreds of employees.

Leigh has spent time training with some of the leading figures in the industry, and has recently completed his Certified Physical Preparation Specialist Certification (CPPS) with Joe De Franco and Jim Smith at the Onnit Academy in Austin, Texas.

4 simple tips to maintain your 6-pack abs on holiday


You train intensively at home. When on holiday, do you still feel the need to stick to your regular workout program for fear of losing your hard-earned fitness?

To paraphrase a brilliant American strength coach Marty Gallacher – if you are working out 5 to 6 days a week and eating well when at home, then a holiday should be exactly that, a HOLIDAY. With the appropriate rest, recovery, stress reduction, and a ‘few’ additional calories, a well deserved break from your daily routine will have a profound impact on your energy levels and result in improved energy and focus when you return to training after your break.

More often than not, your body would benefit more from a period of rest and recovery, not another weekend of intensive training. This is based on observations from my own experience of training my clients, who often train intensively week after week without a break. For these individuals I would advise 2 to 3 days of recovery without any strenuous physical workouts when you are on a holiday.

Obviously moderation is the key. Giving yourself a treat versus going on a massive binge and ruin weeks of hard work are two different things. For most of us, we can still benefit from some light training and stay active as much as we can while on a holiday. Here are some tips on how to keep in shape on the road.

1. Pack the essentials for basic home/outdoor training

Unless you know where you are going, never assume there will be good training facilities or good weather conditions to get some quality training done. Pack your luggage with these basic indoor/outdoor equipment that’s designed for easy traveling:

  • Skipping Rope Lightweight, and requires only a small space for a great cardio workout. Also can be used for shoulder mobility and stretching. Absolutely essential.
  • Resistance Band Lightweight, space-saving and can add resistance to your bodyweight workouts such as squats and overhead press, working the muscles on your back and lower body.
  • TRX I think the TRX is massively underrated as a ‘travel-training’ tool. It’s lightweight and compact which makes it great for packing, easy to set up, and offers a huge variety of full body exercise options anywhere on the road.
  • Massage Ball A great tool before the start of every training session, the ball is great for myofascial release, loosing the knots on your feet, calves, glutes and rotator cuffs.
  • Foam Roller Another great tool for myofascial release of the larger muscle groups. Although I would consider this to be essential in sessions at the gym, its size usually does not make it practical for travelling. (Although, there are some travel versions now available which are smaller and easier to pack).

2. Explore your local surroundings on foot

Have a look what natural locations you have around you for training. If you are heading to a holiday destination which is close to mountains, hills or beaches, these locations offer great variations to your training and are also free. With the basic training kit mentioned above, and access to an awesome natural view, it is the best place to train, and is completely free!

*Trainer Tip: I am always reminding clients and friends about a training option available to almost everyone whether you are travelling or at home - STAIRS. Every hotel or apartment block has them ranging from 4 to 44 floors! In my experience, 10 floors is a decent challenge before you start to really feel it in your legs. Doing laps on the stairs is a great option to end every session. You can start with 2 flights of stairs, and progress by adding 1 or 2 floors every round. Return to the first floor in the lift, or run down the stairs for some serious legs DOMS (delayed onset muscle fatigue) the next day!


3. Look for local food options that are not too different from what you eat at home

Search online, ask your local friends, or walk around and explore to find restaurants that serve food that are similar to what you would normally eat at home. It is always advisable not to stray ‘too far’ from your normal eating habits while away. Of course, holiday time is the best time to relax about eating and do as you feel. No need to stress out about nutritional choices and decisions, eat what you fancy. But there are good and bad choices to be had at every meal and drink, and there needs to be an element of self-control to avoid unnecessary excesses. Whether you’re training or not training while on holiday, eat real, whole, natural foods is a good rule of thumb, and generally avoid the things you would normally avoid, without being over restrictive.

4. Search for a local fitness outfit that offers drop-in sessions or short term offers


If training alone and outdoors doesn’t suit you, the next option is to find local training operators that can cater to your training goals. In many holiday destinations, you should be able to find local yoga studios, fitness gyms, CrossFit boxes, or outdoor bootcamp sessions. Aside from getting a good workout in with new trainers and training buddies, it is also a great way to make new friends and get expert local tips!

About the author


Nathan Williams is a Personal Trainer at UFIT Orchard. Originally from Wales, Nathan spent the last 12 years as a fitness coach in Cyprus, New York, Dubai, Bahrain, and Singapore, working with elite athletes and regular folks to transform their lives through fitness.  Nathan specialises in Strength, Bodyweight and Kettlebell training. Having worked exclusively with older clients and golfers in the Middle East prior to coming to Asia, he has a keen interest in corrective strategies and mobility work for everyday workers, ex-athletes and anyone looking to continue their physical training whilst staying pain-free for the rest of their lives. Nathan is one of UFIT's most experienced personal training and bootcamp coach.