what compelled you to pursue a career in personal training?
Initially I had dreams of working in multimedia design after graduating from the San Francisco Art Institute. I logged in long hours at a corporate design job, hunched over a computer with very little human interaction. It hit me quickly...this was neither the job nor lifestyle I craved especially since fitness had always been an integral part of my life. I decided to make a career change, and worked as a trainer at a corporate gym even if it meant struggling to make ends meet. My parents – who are on the conservative side and wanted me to work a more corporate desk job – didn’t know about my career change for a while.
How has fitness played a role in your life?
When I was growing up, sports like basketball, tennis, soccer, and tae kwon do had a huge impact on me. As one of the only Asian American kids in the neighborhood, I was able to use sports to forge relationships and make friends. I also learned a lot about discipline, teamwork, and perseverance. To this day, they are still things I value in my personal life and work life.
Why did you choose to start j+k, and how did you get started?
Working at a corporate gym helped me understand what I wanted j+k to be - - it was going to be the antithesis of that. I didn’t want people to feel like they were being herded into the same workout regimen because at the end of the day, people aren’t the same. Their bodies aren’t the same. I wanted to offer training in a private and inspiring space that gave identities and bodies back to our clients. I also envisioned j+k offering a judgment-free environment, so that people could feel comfortable and confident working out.
As luck would have it, I came across an available space on 16th and Mission that needed major work (at the time the Mission wasn’t what it is today). After training clients from 6am-8pm at the corporate gym, I would head to the unfinished studio to do some handywork. I remember painting the walls until 5 am or so and going back to train at my day job… This lasted for 9 months. It was brutal but it was the sacrifice I had to make, no questions asked…We officially opened in the beginning of 2007 and when we first started, all we had were exercise balls and bands. That was all we could afford at that time. As the studio grew, we slowly accumulated more equipment. Eventually once the front space became available for lease, we decided to expand the studio a few years later.
DO YOU SEE ANY CONNECTIONS BETWEEN DESIGN AND PERSONAL TRAINING?
Both demand savvy problem-solving skills, the ability to find creative solutions, and an endless supply of passion. For an experienced designer it’s not just about making things look beautiful. He/she needs to assess clients’ tastes, preferences, and overall vision before producing results. The same goes for fitness training to a certain degree…you listen to a client and what his/her goals may be. You consider their background and with all this information come up with a solution you’ll execute over the course of time.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE AS A PERSONAL TRAINER?
The personal training, the human interaction, and connecting with people…that’s the easy part and things I truly love to do. Like all small business owners, it’s the paperwork that drives me up the wall.