‘Champions in Fitness’ they say, and not a single person who has met them will argue the fact. Singapore’s bodybuilding champions Joan Liew and Augustine Lee walk the talk and look the part, fit beyond belief and definitely on top of their game.
Discipline the mind first and the body will follow, we’ve been told, and if you think this is another bit of banal platitude, a meeting with Joan and Augustine will quickly sort out fact from cliché. They offer larger-than-life proof of the scrupulous diligence and mental toughness required for a mean, lean and ripped look; the mind-over-body emphasis that translates into an easy grace of bearing and outlook.
I call them (affectionately, and in my mind) the Gentle Giant and Cat. Augustine stops you in your tracks, he is the picture of musculature envisioned by God and perfected by man. At 56, he is probably Singapore’s fittest man (for his age), and one of Singapore’s fittest men regardless. This gentlest of men is thoughtful and paced, he charms with his smile and softly nuanced, modulated speech. Joan is a feline nonpareil, light-footed, contained, every movement fluid and completely controlled, gracious and graceful, all muscle, all together.
Together, these partners in fitness and co-owners in business run Fitness Factory, a boutique gym offering a range of personalized, customized services, advice and training, always one on one.
You couldn’t get a better deal : these are the pro’s.
Consider their credentials, their accomplishments.
He was her trainer when she took up the sport at 17. She won her first Gold seven years later at the Asian Women’s Bodybuilding Championships, and then went on to win another three. He took up the sport at 30 (an unlikely age to turn to bodybuilding) and has won a raft of medals including his first Gold at age 32 in the South East Asian Championships held in the Philippines and another Gold in the Heavyweight category of the Singapore-hosted Asian Championships in 1993. Augustine is Singapore’s oldest competitive body builder.
In September 2011, Joan and Augustine, the only Asian contenders, took the Silver and Gold respectively at the National Physique Committee’s Tournament of Champions (held by the largest amateur bodybuilding organization in the United States) in Culver City, California.
Ask Augustine where he finds his motivation and energy, and he smiles. He talks of staying positive to stay the course, being prepared mentally and physically, discipline, a work ethic, raising the personal bar, focus. Every day is a new day, he remarks, and if you are open to learning and strive to improve, you will enjoy discovering yourself.
It’s a commitment, not an option
There can be no ambivalence about fitness, as I have painfully discovered. You either do it or you don’t.
While some are inherently motivated and can’t live without their epinephrine highs, many (like me) need inspiration, motivation and reason to want to make this permanent accommodation into their week.
That is where Joan and Augustine slot right in. She is good humoured (often, training sessions are punctuated by her head-thrown-back laugh), quietly determined and unrelentingly focused. Her discipline and professionalism has to be met in kind and you make that decision yourself. Shape up or ship out you tell yourself, and find yourself returning week after week.
You know Augustine cares and you trust him. Which is the best way to begin your fitness regime; you put yourself in his more than capable hands and find support in his gentle, patient explanation and encouragement. Augustine notices, and he always offers a smile, a comment or a word of praise even if he is busy with his own client.
Fitness Factory Celebrations
November 11, 2011 was a fifth anniversary celebration – a fit, fab, fun, fantabulous five – which kicked off at exactly 5.55 p.m. Revelry, entertainment, food, drink and celebration of life aside, there was business in the fun – the launch of the new signature, holistic Restorative Stretch Therapy (RST) Programme designed to improve flexibility, promote good posture and enhance relaxation. RST combines a series of passive, active-assistive and dynamic stretches aimed at restoring overall body function and if Erick (one of the Fitness Factory trainers) has anything to do with it, trust me, it will be more than good.
Joan and Augustine haven’t stopped; exercise and competition is in their blood, mental exactitude is the leitmotif of their life and work.
The adrenaline of challenge and control, the exhilaration of pushing the boundaries and the sweet bonus of achievement and award permeate the very air in Fitness Factory – a rare combination of good humour and focus which, I have found, is absolutely the best antidote for pain.
Photographs from Fitness Factory’s FB pages.