When I met up with Wenisa for a quick coffee catch up last year, never would I have imagined the impact of that meeting on my life. We had lost touch for several years prior to that. Long story short, I signed up for EMS and that was the beginning of my weightloss programme but more importantly, the recovery of my physical self. Having terminated my gym membership two years prior, I had been trying all sorts of methods to lose weight. And as all of us who are on this journey know, you lose some and you gain some and it never ends when it comes to dieting. But EMS, succeeded in helping me lose weight quickly and I continued on to TRX classes which I still love, but it would hurt after every class and sometimes days after. My back would hurt every morning irregardless, my knees were still rickety and my chronic neck ache…still chronic. And when I finally asked Wenisa what could I do about my pain…that was the beginning of my life again. That conversation after one back pain immediately after a TRX class led me to try out AIS and then BCST. The first session of AIS alleviated a back pain that had been there for almost twenty years. And from there, we discovered the true cause of my back pain. I have regained my life back, I can do so much more physical activities these days without the nagging, gruelling back pain. The neck ache is still there but it is not as aggravating like before. The knees well, no more pain. And since then, I went on a bit of a frenzy telling everyone who shared similar pains and aches stories with me; it was always, “you just got to try a session with Wenisa and see how it goes…’. The feedback has been good …
So, just for good measure, emmagem.com thought we will share her story here with you…
Please give us some background of yourself and your business Activ Studio. How you got
started and why? How big is your team?
I’ve always had a passion for fitness and a curiosity about medicine and wellness. My first job was as a group exercise instructor in a small aerobics studio back in Penang. After a few years, I decided to give the personal trainer role a try. That was when I decided to join a commercial gym chain to obtain the experience and training that I needed. I’ve never looked back since! After working in the gym chain for 8 years and experiencing different management roles, I wanted something different. All throughout my life I have always had an interest in helping people who are deconditioned or in need of help. That is when the calling came. I quit my great job and set up my own personal training studio specialising in special condition population and corrective exercises.
At the studio today, we have people with all kinds of stories coming in to seek our services. From, a simple back ache, frozen shoulder, knee pain all the way to something more serious like fibromyalgia, strokes and Parkinsons disease. Currently, I have a team of 11 fantastic trainers working with me all of whom share the same belief with me that everyone deserves the best chance to be as “well” as possible.
2) As one of the first gyms that fully specialise in Personal Training, how is it different?
Our clients are able to enjoy privacy that they won’t be able to experience in a commercial gym. We listen to what the client wants and also make recommendations to what they need. Person by person, case by case. We spend a considerable amount of time to assses the clients current condition in order to build the right plan for them to address their issues and achieve their goals.
A simple example, in the case of a male client whom has been trying to gain chest muscle and through poor form and unsupervised exercise had injured his shoulder in the pursuit of his goals, we will fully stabilize and strengthen his shoulder before working on the chest muscle. At the same time, we will use the opprtunity to educate the client that whilst vanity may drive certain actions in the gym, we must learn how to exercise in a balanced way so that we can obtain optimum fitness to feel as good as we desire to look.
3) What are some of the challenges when you first started and how did you overcome it?
As with any personal trainer who is venturing into the business world, the biggest concern is how to build a client base. My philosophy has always been to give my all to clients and generate advocates through their satisfaction. I have a group of loyal customers who have followed me and supported me since starting out. The biggest break that I have had was when a national newspaper interviewed me about my approach to client support. The article seemed to resonate with many people and the phone rang more than ever. I am happy to say that all who have contacted me are now leading an improved quality life because they are moving better, sleeping better, and generally feeling better all round.
4) Since being in the industry for the last 18 years, have things changed?
Things have changed tremendously, particularly in the last 8 years. People (and gyms ) have started moving away from muscle isolating machines towards other modalities which work more of the body, more of the time. Don’t be surprised if you walk into a gym you will see more empty space than pin loaded machines. This is because of the rise of functional training. Fitness professionals now are preaching about 3 dimensional movement in our daily activity hence we should replicate the same concepts in our training as well. Even sports shoe companies are coming out with shoes that offer more freedom of movement (tecnhnically less stability) so that our ankles will have a chance to be stronger and more flexible (flexible ankles mean fewer knee problems!). All the gym training is great if you are injury free and have some basics in exercise execution. If people are absolute beginners in exercise, I would recommend them to get professional help to start out in order to be set up with the knowledge to succeed long term. Eductation in exercise is everything and it’s never a case of “one exercise fits all”.
5) What other exercises do Activ Studio offer , why did you choose to integrate them into your studio? Do you also integrate them into Personal Training?
We acknowledge that personal training is not necessarily ‘cheap’ and sometimes it is a necessity for certain individuals who need our help to move better. Activ Studio also offers small group training ( e.g. suspension training and yoga) to our members who no longer requires our one on one attention and are able to move to a group environment. This allows them to empower themselves to trust their own body. It’s also a great social activity and of course more cost effective.
A very interesting training modality that we offer is EMS (electric muscle stimulation) training. EMS delivers a full body workout targeting all muscle groups, though with the ability to localize the intensity as needed. During EMS training, up to 90% of muscles are activated simultaneously and the muscle contractions are of higher quality and more intense than a voluntary exertion can do alone. Compared to conventional weight training, EMS training activates deeper muscle groups, which leads to better balance amongst the muscles in the body and increased core stability.
The training lasts for 20 minutes but is said to result in the equivalent of up to five hours of conventional exercises at the gym. It’s particularly great for people who are time poor or who just want to “get it over with”. We integrate EMS training as part of our personal training because it helps clients to achieve their fitness goals faster. EMS training is also used to repair and strengthen muscles and joints. It is very effective with those recovering from injury, because it places no strain on joints or tendons. It can also help improve brittle bones.
6) What is the business of health and fitness like in Malaysia? With big gyms like Fitness First and others, what makes your gym different?
The health and fitness industry in Malaysia is pretty competitive as there are about 40-50 personal trainers being certified every quarter excluding the trainers who are trained in house by the commercial gyms. What makes Activ Studio different is that we are set up specifically for special populations and corrective exercises, our clientele, mostly age between 35 – 70 years seek an expertise that is not offered in commercial gyms or most personal training studios. Our holistic approach to personal training isn’t just to increase how many miles you can run or how much weight you can lift. We acknowledge that health is best obtained when everything is considered (emotional health, physical health, nutrition, mental health), as opposed to just the symptoms of a particular issue. We also provide the ideal discreet environment away grom the commercial gym crowds for those who prefer some extra one on one care and attention.
7) You are also trained in Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (BCST) and others ( AIS – Active Isolated Stretch), why did you choose those modalities, how effective are they and how receptive have your clients been?
I suffered from migranes for about 8 years due to an accident which had my jaw dislocated and my C1 vertebra misaligned. As part of my treatment I had to visit a chiropractor twice a month to alleviate my pain. I saw four different chiropractors and they all gave me the same prognosis – that this will be my life from now on. This was something that I found difficult to accept. One day a friend of mine suggested BCST- a form of touch therapy. I could not believe that my pain for eight years was gone with just a simple session with hand contact.
My curiosiy led me to research BDSCT and that in turn led me to sign up for a two-year course. Though time consuming and very mentally taxing, I am grateful that I am now a qualified practitioner and able to help others with similar issue to the one I had. Perhaps the most satisfaction I have had to date was to provide permanent relief to a client who had also suffered chronic migrane for many, many years. This again has led to a mouth-to- mouth referral generated business.
AIS (Active Isolated Stretch) is one of the methods of stretching most used by today’s top athletes, massage therapists, personal / athletic trainers, and sports professionals. Active Isolated Stretching allows the body to repair itself and also to prepare for daily activity. This method of stretching is also known to work with the body’s natural physiological makeup to improve circulation and increase the elasticity of muscle joints and fascia.
With BCST and AIS as part of my tool kit, I can now help a wider range of clients who prrviously could not find relieve or help from mainstream medical treatments. I use BCST if a client is going through a stressful period or suffering from an emotional trauma. We have to be mindful that, we not only have muscle memory, we also have injury memory. Even with the most advance medical diagnostic equipment, trauma memory is difficult to find out. On the other hand, I would use AIS if a client presents a physical injury like an ankle sprain or frozen shoulder for example. This method has the highest success rate where clients may experience relief for more than 72 hours from a single session and we can see huge improvements in client’s mobility after a few sessions of AIS.
8) How effective is Personal Training, is it very expensive for the average person looking to keep fit? Why and when should one engage in a personal trainer versus joining a gym? Does diet matter?
No two people are the same and that is the very reason why I believe personal training is important for everyone especially those with medical condition and a beginner exerciser. A small upfront investment will benefit you in the long run as the knowledge that you pick up from your personal trainer will help in future injury prevention. At Activ Studio, we can help the deconditioned or an injured exerciser who has just completed their rehabilitation program to help them to get back to their previous fitness level and give them the confidence to trust their own body again.
A good personal trainer with a nutritional certification will be able to assist with diet coaching and nutrition advise too. For clients who may feel unwell, we always look in to the diet side of things. This is especially important for clients with a weight loss goal as nutrition is often 70% of the battle. Once again, education is key. An investment in a personal trainer does not have to be forever but it can be of huge benefit to set out on the right path with the best exercise prescription for optimal results.
9) How would you advise people who are looking to choose a personal trainer? What are some of the criterias to look for?
First of all think carefully about what it is that you want to achieve. Be ready to explain to a personal trainer what you are looking for. Ask them how they may be able to help and see how they respond. A great trainer will spend most of their time listening and asking good questions to learn more about you and your needs. They should then be able to play back to you a plan to help you get there and it needs to resonate with you. It’s a trainers duty to work with you to get the best results which means they have to understand your personality too. Qualifications are of course important and generally the international ones will deliver a better experience. It makes good sense to try one or two sessions before signing up for a package . Package prices are often attractively priced versus a one-off session but it’s important that you and the trainer know that you will get along so try before you buy! At
Activ Studio we will always let the client take their own time and proceed as they are comfortable. Trust is paramount between trainer and client.
10) What books do you have by your bedside?
Raw food controversies by Frederic Patenaude
The Gerson Therapy – a well regarded ‘bible’ on cancer management and prevention
The Enzyme Factor 2 – on reversing aging management by Hiromi Shinya, MD.
11) What is your motto for entrepreneurs out there…
Follow your passion. Life is too short to not be doing something for a living that your are passionate about. Do your homework, always be learning and work a little bit harder than the next guy.