#culture /wellness


Serious #Fitspo with Hong Kong's Calisthenics Master

Jul 24, 2017

John Chan

The biggest contribution John Chan has made to the fitness scene is to spice up calisthenics with positivity.

Have you always been athletic? 

I was the kind of kid who couldn’t sit still for more than 10 minutes at the dinner table. When I joined the school gymnastics team, at six, I had a coach who was serious about winning medals but I was more concerned about the fun-and-games aspect. Looking back at it, I am very lucky my parents put me through training at such a young age. I was sent to a traditional boarding school in Britain when I was 10 and all I did was sports: rugby, hockey, cricket, football, track. I was good at it and I continued with it throughout my schooling.

I’ve heard weightlifting isn’t your favourite style of training.

Fitness covers many different styles of training and weightlifting is one facet. I do like weight training and I have been doing it for many years. After a while it can get boring and repetitive. You can lift heavier weights, do more reps, take shorter rests to get your body stronger but you are still doing the same exercises over and over again, day in, day out. Some people love it and can do it for years, but it wasn’t exciting enough for me. I still do it from time to time, as it does have its benefits.

How did you get into calisthenics?

Calisthenics, also known as street workout training, has recently become popular, especially in Hong Kong. It is a training style based mostly on body weight exercises without the use of machines and fancy gym equipment. The idea is you can have a six-pack without going to the gym. I found it a fascinating idea and as more videos popped up online, I was impressed with what people were doing. It was relatable to gymnastics and I decided to try it. It wasn’t as popular a few years back and I got some funny looks for climbing and jumping about in a commercial gym, but I had my music on and didn’t care.

What is another workout that you love?

Swimming. I’m not a good swimmer but it’s fun and it’s a hell of a workout. Swimmers are super-fit and durable but swimming in Hong Kong is a bit of a luxury, for me at least, because it can be time-consuming. Another fun workout would be dancing. It’s fast, it’s tiring and it’s a challenge for the brain. I am the worst dancer in the world, mum might be better than me, but it’s an area I would like to explore.

What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

Something only my close friends would know is that I used to play the flute. I was also in the church choir. I was a soprano, too, but I am a horrible singer.


What’s the best part about being a personal trainer? What’s the toughest?

There are many things I like about my job. It’s a joy to be able to share my passion with others. I’m in the zone when I am coaching and it makes me happy when I see clients achieving goals that they didn’t think was possible. It makes me more excited than them, sometimes. But I guess the best part about my job is I get to be active, and to enjoy good food while maintaining a reasonable shape.

What has been your greatest achievement?

I have had some proud moments. The proudest so far must have been the night I invited my parents to the opening party of my fitness studio.

What’s your biggest fear?

Complex carbohydrates. Joke. I would love to claim that I do not have any but that would be far from the truth. I have the most unusual fear. I am unable to put on contact lenses. I am terrified of the idea of touching my eyes.

Tell me your favourite Instagram account to follow.

9GAG is by far my favourite. It cracks me up.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

I love anything sweet: ice-cream, cheesecake, all kinds of Japanese desserts, street food. I don’t feel that guilty, though. I pay my dues in the gym, as they might say.

Apart from working out, do you also eat clean?

I don’t like to diet unless I am preparing for a shoot or an occasion. It’s part of my job to know what foods to eat but I am never too harsh on myself. I’m not the guy that eats chicken breast and broccoli with coconut oil and no salt six times a day. Where is the fun in that?

What’s your favourite time of the day? 

Waking up in the morning. I love walking down the stairs to see my dog waiting patiently for me. Then I get to sit down and have breakfast, usually fruit and a coffee. My old man will sit across from me and we’ll talk about the news and world issues like a pair of politicians. It gets me out of bed every morning.

Tell us how you stay motivated.

I am a highly competitive individual in all aspects and I always try to work harder than the hardest-working person in the room. But, fortunately or unfortunately, I have partners and colleagues that work out like machines. They drive me to work harder. Social media is another place where I can find motivation. There’s a quote: “Don’t focus on others, focus on yourself”. But I don’t see it that way. I think if you see something great done by others, you can also feed off of that, but never be bitter or negative about it. That’s how I stay motivated.


Is your glass half-empty or half-full?

One hundred per cent half-full. Don’t get me wrong. I am not overjoyed all the time. I have my down moments. But I have little reason to be sad and too many things to be happy and grateful for, which means it is easy for me to see the glass as half-full. I understand it might not be as easy for others, especially in Hong Kong where everyone is stressing and fighting their own battles. I try to spread positivity with my job.

Who is your legend?

I have a few people I draw inspiration from. Muhammad Ali would be the first one that pops into mind. Not only was he a phenomenal boxer, the biggest name in sporting history, but he was also charismatic and fought for his beliefs. His story and his name will continue to inspire generations to come and that is what a legend is.

This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of #legend magazine.

In This Story: #culture /wellness

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Stephanie Ip