Many fitness journeys begin with a single goal to lose weight, but Vinh Duong started out with one objective that turned into two goals. As Duong began to see results from his physical training, he wanted to share that sense of empowerment with others. But he soon realized that training others would require him to set a very different goal.
“This particular position in the fitness industry was more of a personal challenge for me to be a better communicator,” Duong explains. And just because he’s now a fitness manager at 24 Hour Fitness doesn’t mean Duong doesn’t continue the effort. “Every year I try to set a new goal. This year it’s to better project and better enunciate. … It’s very small steps, but consistency is usually what gives you the result.”
That’s the guidance Duong gives clients, coworkers and friends. “It’s never about the actual workout,” he says. “It’s about starting on a journey and being consistent with that journey, … [and] you can apply that philosophy to almost anything in life.”
Duong understands the pain and hard work involved, and he doesn’t take either for granted. He leaned on his own advice to get through a divorce: “I had to apply the same things I teach my clients,” he says, “the same amount of strength and the same amount of motivation … to myself, which I believe is much harder to do when you’re [accustomed to coaching] other people.
“I have a new level of respect for the things that I do, and a new level of love for the friends who gave me that same advice that I gave them.”
On a break during filming for the 24 Hour Fitness “Worth It” campaign, Duong told 24Life what inspires him, his top tip for battling the (weight) bulge and more.
24Life: How do people take what they learned from training with you and apply it elsewhere?
Vinh Duong: One individual comes to mind who runs her own business. She didn’t get a whole lot of sleep in the beginning of training. She started to realize [her priority] was more about getting work done as opposed to taking care of herself. I asked her to take a step back. [She was consistently] training two days a week with me and once on her own, but we were not seeing the results because it was putting too much stress on her body.
I said, “I need you to take some time off and recover and get back on that pattern of [regular] sleep.” And right when she started doing that, her business skyrocketed.
24Life: How do you advise your clients to measure their progress?
VD: I always try to teach people not to get on the scale. It’s never about the weight; it’s about whether or not you move up or down. The other part of it is that we want to measure how consistent we are. I like to measure their habit goals and consistency, because the next month they might work out four days a week and one of those day is on their own. That one alone is more important than the three that we do together; it’s more empowering. That’s typically how I like to stair-step goals, month by month.
24Life: What’s the top question people ask you, and what’s your answer?
VD: “What can I do about this belly fat?” You can’t just target your abs; you have to work on your body as a whole. So right from the very beginning I tell them, “Let’s work on making sure that you feel good when you leave, and then we’ll work also on a diet plan that works best for you.”
More often than not, people don’t eat enough. They restrict calories, and then they start to feel lethargic, and that adds a layer of stress so that when they next eat, the body starts to store that energy. Right from the very beginning the challenge is, “Can you eat more often?” After the first week or so, time and time again I see them start to feel better and then the weight starts to drop, the body fat percentage starts to go down and the lean muscle mass starts to go up. Mood improves, stress levels go down, and you’re actually getting physical results.
24Life: You motivate and inspire people to stick with the effort on a daily basis. Where do you find inspiration?
VD: I meet at least one person every day who blows my mind with what they’re going through. … Sometimes I like to go and do a Spartan Race. A lot of people like to think that Spartan races are more individual races, but on the contrary. You form really good bonds with people because we’re all there for the common purpose, we know we’re going to struggle and we know we’re going to need help.
At the last race I did, there was one individual who stood out to me because she had crutches. She wasn’t able to walk without any kind of assistance, and she’s there in the mud, in the thick of it with everybody else. The level of camaraderie from random people helping her get over a step or get over a wall was unreal. It restores your faith in humanity, because you see this person going through this struggle as a testament to themselves. It was a choice that they made to tell themselves, “I can do this, and I can do the next thing that’s going to come up.” I think that’s just really, really inspiring.
24Life: What would you say makes all the effort worth it?
VD: It’s never so much about the result. It’s just about the fact that you even invested in yourself. … We spend 15, sometimes 20 hours a day working for other people—family, friends, significant other, kids, your co-workers, your boss. When you walk through those doors and you dedicate yourself to 60 minutes of working out, that’s 60 minutes that you’re giving yourself … so that the next day you can do it again. Whether or not you’re getting the result you’re looking for right then and there, it doesn’t really matter, because at the end of the day, you’re giving you time to yourself. There’s nothing else more worth it than that.
Photo, video credit: Tom Casey, box24studio.com