Fitness Health & Fitness

Personal training review: Raw in Central, Hong Kong

By: Dave Farrer

Paleo, CrossFit, TRX, Engine 2, P90X, HIT, 5:2 Fasting – Dave Farrer has tried most of these in an effort to stay fit and healthy, and to keep up with his young boys. As a seasoned professional when it comes to trialling all manner of physical improvement methods, he recently went along to Real Athletic Workouts (RAW) to find out what they could do.

23/F Winsome House
73 Wyndham Street, Central


A burden on your shoulders?


From personal experience, any health and fitness regime is great – up to a point. I would generally end up feeling slightly stronger, more energised and more satisfied with my accomplishments, but at the end of the day I was no closer to looking like celebrity trainer Tony Horton, no matter how I adjusted the lighting.

This brings me to the two key ingredients that are often missing from the glossy ads, the “before and after” shots, and the “get fit quick” methods promoted by gyms.

First: commitment. That might sound obvious, but there’s commitment and there’s Commitment. For example, I have a commitment to attend a work colleague’s farewell drinks on Sunday evening across town (provided I have nothing better to do), and I have a mortgage. Do you get my point? I’ve learnt that a Tony Horton body is only possible with the capital-C type of Commitment.

Second: personalisation. In my mind, my phone is about to ring and the board of the Australian Rugby Union is going to rectify an oversight and have me replace Israel Folau as Wallabies fullback. If I’m honest with myself, though, things are looking a little more dire as I approach 40. I sit down for a living, after all, and I carry some war wounds from my younger years. Let’s face it, we all have niggles that can stand in the way of getting reasonable results from hard work at the gym.

Getting started
First impressions count a lot. I want to be trained by someone who looks like they have Commitment of the capital-C variety. The team at RAW fits that bill; in fact, I quickly learn that it’s a different kind of gym – more like a holistic personal training venue. As a client, you are personally assessed and your progress is tracked in detail to make sure that you see real results.

Jeremy, one of my trainers for the day, quizzes me about what I want to get out of my training. After I mumble something intelligent-sounding about getting leaner and improving fitness levels, Jeremy says simply, “So you want to get more ripped.” (I should have just said “I want to look like Tony Horton” and saved us both time.)

As it turns out, the RAW trainers can provide personal programmes for just about everything, from weight loss for a wedding day to post-pregnancy training, to pre-competition programmes for elite athletes. And they achieve some remarkable results, particularly with respect to dropping unwanted kilos in short periods of time.

Feeling the pinch
I’ve had a pinch test before, but the results I received were only rudimentary. After taking the test at RAW, however, I receive a detailed assessment of where my body is making fat deposits, which, I learn, is directly linked to hormone balance, diet and general wellbeing.

The mobility test is next; did I mention that I sit down for a living? Let’s just say that the nods and smiles coming from the gallery say it all. Still, 4.5 out of 10 isn’t that bad a score – is it?

Overall, my weight and body fat readings aren’t too bad, but my sweet tooth seems to have given me some insulin hormone issues. Also, my boyhood injuries have left me a little lopsided, and my current job has made me stiffer than a four-by-two post.

Clearly the focus for me will be a mild rehabilitation aimed at increasing mobility, before I try to “power clean” 150 pounds. As Jeremy explains, for real and long lasting results, you need to condition the body first. There’s no point turning up to the gym and trying to lift heavy weights or run 5km on a treadmill if you don’t have the correct movement and balance in the first place. If you do, you’ll get injured – and that’s obviously going to set you back. RAW has access to a range of sports and medical professionals to really home in on your individual needs to give you a solid starting point, regardless of your fitness level.


Stretching before the intense workout
Stretching before the intense workout


You are what you eat
Here comes one of the hardest aspects of the Commitment imperative: diet. This is where so many people, myself included, struggle. I’m guilty of finishing my kids’ dinners; and if there’s chocolate on offer, I’m there. RAW’s personal trainers are on hand daily to help with diet and nutrition – even providing recipes and literature. They don’t adhere to any fad diets; it’s about an individual dietary programme that will work for you. Furthermore, you’re made accountable by means of a food diary; and, as I learn, you can’t keep things from Jeremy!

Still, this isn’t a military-style boot camp. If you know you’re going to have a few wines with dinner or if Friday night is pizza night, fine. It’s more about awareness of what you’re consuming and when you’re consuming it, and how it affects your overall health.

Stretch it out
Before my first session ends, I meet with Jared, RAW’s in-house Fascial Stretch Therapist. I’d heard of FST before, but never experienced it. FST works on the fascial tissue, which is the body’s connective tissue under the skin, and aims to increase blood flow, improve movement and stimulate the neural connections throughout the body.

Jared has me lie down on a massage table and then he goes to work on loosening up my hips and legs. The process itself is like having a personal stretching trainer. Jared can work out exactly where to focus his attention just by watching my earlier mobility assessment and by judging my reactions during the stretching process. After an hour on the table, my legs and posture feel 20 years younger. I only wish we could have spent the next hour on my shoulders!

Making the commitment
Up until now, my attempts at physical improvement have been one-dimensional. I’ve tended to choose one aspect – diet, exercise or rehab – and neglect the others for a while. RAW has hit upon the core of physical wellbeing by incorporating all aspects of health management. The detailed personal approach really helps to motivate you to be committed (or, Committed) to whatever goals you’re trying to achieve. It’s not cheap, but this isn’t just a membership; it’s a personal training and wellbeing programme that feels more like joining a family than a gym.