Putting Fitness First

So it is the start of the new year and you are thinking of getting fit, but just what options are on offer in Donnguan? HERE! is running a three part series looking at some of the different exercise options in the city…


When you think about it, exercise is like sex. Really. Science backs up my claim. Exercise releases endorphins that give a feeling of pleasure. In a ‘runner’s high’, a seasoned runner experiences feelings of bliss and contentment caused by a release of endorphins, the same thing that happens during and after sex. Exercise can also be fun, intense, quick, slow, short, long, dull, boring, fulfilling, hot, sweaty, cold, unimaginative, or just plain dirty. Oh, and did I say fun? It all pretty depends on what you are doing and who you are doing it with.

What with it being a new year and people looking toward new beginnings, I decided to take a look into several new and not-so-new ways of exercising that are becoming increasingly popular around the city. Each month we will be taking a look at two different exercise regimes…

CrossFit is perhaps the most popular new fitness on the planet right now and to many it has a cultish appeal. CrossFit is designed for universal scalability meaning it can be applied to any committed individual regardless of experience. Elderly individuals with heart disease can use the same routine as cage fighters one month out from a televised bout. The load and intensity are scaled; and the programs do not change.
The idea is to get fit by becoming proficient in ten general physical skills: cardiovascular, endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, as well as coordination and accuracy. Each day the workout will test a different part of your functional strength or conditioning, not specializing in one particular thing, but rather with the goal of building a body that’s capable of practically anything and everything.

Constant coaching and support: whereas in a commercial gym you have no clue if you’re doing an exercise right or not.
Competition: it’s amazing how much further you’ll push yourself when surrounded by other people cheering you on and competing with them.
It introduces people to weight lifting: especially women who have maybe never attempted to get off the treadmill to strength train.
You get to find out what you’re made of: CrossFit can be miserable, but it can also teach you how to push through mental barriers, building mental toughness and more.
Hot bodies: While every woman says they want that “toned” look and try to get it with hours of cardio, those bodies are being built every day with CrossFit.
All round fitness: your body is prepared for pretty much any athletic situation after a few months of CrossFit

Not great for specialization: It is an exercise that very much makes you a jack of all trades and master of none.
Injuries: People often rush into CrossFit and sometime get hurt. So if you are new to exercising and it’s movements it is important to listen to your coach and learn to do them correctly, particularly before using heavy weights.
Workout programming is tricky: It is important to have a certified coach who understands correct workout programming, and build you up at the right pace.

That would be me. After decades of believing that weightlifting with a bit of cardio was the be-all and end-all of exercise, I was skeptical of CrossFit. However, at 36 years old, lacking mobility, and suffering pain in my back and knees from solely doing weights, I knew I had to change. After doing some research, I decided to dive in and do the CrossFit Level 1 Certification Course in Hong Kong in August.
Fast forward to January and I feel great. I no longer have joint pain, have lost some fat and feel fitter than I have in many years. I enjoy CrossFit workouts because they are different every time. Although I get a feeling of dread prior to doing a workout, the intense exhilaration that comes afterwards is awesome.

TRX or Total-body Resistance eXercise is a form of exercise that is performed using a pair of suspension straps. The first version of the TRX Suspension trainer was developed by Navy Seal Squad Commander, Randy Hetrick who used a jujitsu belt and parachute webbing to develop a system to stay in shape while on deployment. It has quickly evolved into a mass produced and widely available piece of exercise equipment. It weighs less than one kilogram and can be stored in a space the size of a lunchbox.

So how does it work? Well, you use the suspension of the two straps, gravity and your own body weight to perform total body workouts that center on your core. It helps improve strength, balance and flexibility.


It is portable: it can be set up anywhere be it home, hotel or even outside.
Develops core body strength, joint and muscular stability: thereby reducing the chance of injury.
It is scalable: it’s not just for athletes, but for people of all fitness levels.
Cheap: You can buy the TRX System online for around 200 USD.

It can be daunting for a newbie: the straps are unlike all the cardio and weight machines one sees at the gym, so it can be quite scary to try something completely different, especially without a guide.
You must be careful at the start: some sports scientists have expressed concern that weaker individuals may not have the core stability to use the system safely.
It is a supplement to your workout, not a replacement: you may find that to achieve your fitness goals you have to do more than just TRX.

Tim Wan is a personal trainer at Complete Fitness in Dongguan and has been an avid TRX practitioner for over five years. He also leads TRX group classes. “There are a lot more dimensions to TRX compared to traditional weightlifting, many movements do more than just help your muscles, but help your joints as well,” he says. TRX looks unusual and Tim is anxious that newbies do not feel too daunted at doing something completely alien to what they are used to, “It is interesting to see how to beginners the movements look very difficult, almost impossible, but in the end they end up making them,” he says. Aware that TRX is not for everyone, he adds “If you want the big muscles, then you should do weight training, TRX is more for functional strength … for a better life.”

Here’s our brief overview of what we think are some of the best gyms in Dongguan:

-Situated behind Dongcheng Carrefour
-4 floors, 8000sqm
-No Crossfit classes. Personal Trainers may use TRX with individual clients
-Has an outdoor swimming pool, and hot spa inside
-Basic (weights, cardio, dancing, spin classes) 2,700 RMB per year
-Basic + Yoga 3,300 RMB
-Basic + Yoga + Swimming Pool VIP 6,600 RMB (including free parking)
-Yoga + Sauna only 2,000 RMB

-Situated on Dongguan Avenue at First International, Nancheng
-6000 sqm
-No Crossfit classes. Personal Trainers may use TRX with individual clients
-March Promotion – sign up for 1 year and get 3 extra months for free
-3,000 RMB per year
-The manager speaks a little English

-More like a Fitness Studio than a commercial gym.
-In Dongcheng, behind One for the Road
-3,800 RMB per year, includes three months free attendance to specialized classes – TRX, Crossfit,
Aerial Yoga, etc.
-Daytime,student,over 55 rate of 2,400 RMB per year
-Has English speaking staff

-Hillview Building (across the road from Murray’s Irish Bar)
-Personal Trainers may use TRX with individual clients
-Excellent value at just 1,688 RMB per year

-Top floor of Dongcheng Carrefour
-Basketball court
-No TRX or CrossFit available
-Has a heated indoor swimming pool
-2,888 RMB per year, not including swimming pool
-3,888 RMB per year, including swimming pool