How to get that BENCH/ Body: We get to know some of Manila’s top fitness instructors

Photography by JL Javier
Words and styling by Neal Corpus

We ask the question on everyone’s minds.

Getting fit and signing up for a gym is usually a topic that comes up at the start of the year. But this time, since we’re right around the corner from the hottest underwear show of the year, we’re bringing it up anyway. Ogling at all that skin and muscle on the runway is all fun and games until you ask yourself, “Damn, how did they get those bodies?”

One thing’s for sure: it ain’t easy. Transforming your body, cutting fat, and building muscle is a process that takes a lot of time, sometimes even years. And looking good for an underwear show? Don’t even get us started. We rounded up a couple of Manila’s top fitness instructors and get to know them, what they do, and why they do it, in the hope that it inspires us to all be a little bit more fit. Trust me, after you read about their workout routines, you will.

Monica Dizon, 24, @monicapdizon

Instructor at Flyweight and Saddle Row

What does your typical day look like?

Well usually it depends on what my schedule has in store. But I’ll start my day at around 5am, and I usually have two morning classes. And then I’ll to to squeeze in a workout after that. And then after that, because I do marketing and sales for Saddle Row, I usually head off to meetings, usually with clients that we’re working with or with management. And then I teach another class at night.

How is it balancing your two jobs?

It’s completely separate, and I’m lucky enough that my hours for everything are really flexible. I take it week per week so it’s not really a set schedule.

What’s your workout routine like?

I try to squeeze in as much classes in Flyweight and Saddle Row, just because I feel like taking other classes makes me a better instructor, you know, you pull things from other instructors. On my own, outside of teaching, I do a lot of pilates. I like to box, but like sparring, actually hitting something or someone. And I do a lot of gym work too, so I lift a little bit, I try to do a little cardio.

What’s your favorite thing about teaching at Flyweight?

There’s this misconception that when you come into boxing, it’s a male-dominated sport. So a lot of the time I love teaching here and proving people wrong. It’s ‘cause I have so many guys come in and they’re like, “Oh, a chick is teaching us.” And then you kind of break that stereotype. I guess I’m kind of a tomboy in the sense that I’m not really a girly girl; I don’t really like to dress up, I like feeling strong, I like knowing that I’m kicking ass. I guess like feeling badass and knowing that I can be better than the guys. It’s more like a female empowerment type of thing. That’s my favorite thing about it.

What’s your ultimate workout song?

Anything by Kanye. Everyone laughs that it’s like angry rap music, but there’s just something about it that really gets me going. Or Beyoncé.

Any advice for someone just getting into fitness?

Number one, don’t compare yourself to other people. I think people fall into the trap of like, “Oh my god, I can’t workout there because I don’t have a six-pack,” or like, “I can’t work in fitness because I don’t look a certain way.” Don’t think about that. Think about your own growth, think about becoming stronger and becoming more comfortable in your own skin.

Evan Spargo, 28, @evanspargo

Personal trainer and a member of the Philippine Volcanoes National Rugby Squad

What does a typical day look like for you?

I get up in the morning, and I usually have a client early morning. And then I come home, workout, have lunch, and then I might do some reading. And then I’ll just run errands and whatever admin stuff, and then in the afternoon until the nighttime I will have clients.

Apart from personal training, what keeps you busy?

I play rugby, for the Philippine Volcanoes. I’m also an emcee, so I host events every now and then. I’m also an auctioneer, so if there’s an auction I’ll help out with that.

What’s your favorite workout?

Circuit training.

What got your into fitness?

Fitness was a catalyst of a big transformation in my life. I used to be really shy, a bit overweight, and fitness really helped me overcome my shyness and become the person that I am today. I owe fitness to the transformation from a shy kid to a mature young adult.

Was that what got you into personal training as well?

Yes exactly. The transformation I was able to have, I want everyone else who wants change to experience what I was able to experience. It’s my way of helping others experience it.

What’s one workout you’ve been wanting to try?

The American Ninja Warrior, that’s one workout I’ve always wanted to try. So that’s something I’m gonna aim for one day.

What does your workout playlist look like?

I use trance, because it’s so upbeat and fast-paced. And it kind of gets you pumped up and gives you high energy.

What’s your favorite thing about personal training?

Connecting with different types of people, and not only helping them, but also learning from them. I think personal training is a give and take kind of profession; you’re not only helping others with their fitness lifestyle, but you’re also learning from them, and I get a massive reward for helping people and seeing them progress and grow.

What advice would you give to someone who’s just getting into fitness?

Do something that you enjoy. It doesn’t matter if it’s walking or playing a sport, or anything physically active that you enjoy. Start doing that. ‘Cause when you enjoy exercising, when you enjoy being physically active, that’s when you start to build momentum and it becomes a lifestyle habit. Once it becomes a habit, you’ll find that it’s easier and easier to sustain that, and ultimately get to the body that you want.

Anold Aninon, 34, @arnoldaninion

Celebrity Trainer

What does your typical day look like?

It starts at usually six in the morning. I get up, do my own fasted cardio routine, and then I usually start with the first customer of the day. I train Anne Curtis first thing in the morning, so I head over to Anne’s house, we share a cup of coffee, have a chat. Then there’s the rest of the It Girls, Belle, Georgina. After them I get my most serious client right now, which is Mond [Gutierrez]. I get Mond for a couple of hours. He does a very stringent routine, and we’re been training I’d say for about a year now since his big transformation. I get my lunch break, and then after that it would be Denise Laurel or Erwan Heussaff. And then after them it’s pretty much a wrap for the day.

I workout pretty late, but before that I try and spend time with my family. Then I come back to the gym, back to work mode. I have a very stringent for myself. Some coaches live by that motto, “Do not what I do, but do what I say,” whereas I’m the guy that’s “What I say is what I do,” so I try to live by my mantra, lead by example. I try to stay as fit as I can. In fact, I make it a habit to be fitter than all my students. ‘Cause you never know when they’re gonna call you out. When they ask you do it, and then you have to do it. They always challenge me.

What’s your personal workout routine like?

I probably have one of the most grueling personal workout routines. I always try to walk out of the gym with a lot of reps. I believe that it’s like a car: when you’re tuning a car, you have tune up the engine, but you also have to put in the mileage. The car must travel a certain distance, and you must put in that mileage in order to have a familiarity with how the car behaves on the road. So in terms of my performance, when I go and do a chest routine, I always walk out with mileage. If regular people are on the benchpress, and for example they’ll do three sets of 12, my normal routine would be five sets of 20. And these are very controlled reps, very controlled sets. I’m there and and I’m stretching and squeezing the muscle groups. And I’m always aiming to achieve something. Like right now I’m trying to grow. So when I go to the gym, I’m lifting heavy and I’m lifting a lot.

What’s your favorite part to workout?

I love all of them. I enjoy working out everything. But right now I’m trying to grow my chest and my front delts, so I’m really growing my upper chest and delts, but also I’m a big fan of Calisthenics. I love bar work routines, I love abs. I enjoy doing those isometric workouts where you’re hanging on a bar and you’re raising your legs. And when you’re a heavier person, or even a tall guy, it’s nice doing those movements because they’re hard to control.

What’s your favorite thing about personal training?

I think it’s being able to be a part of their life. First of all, it’s a very revealing process. Because you’re revealing to your training everything: your medical conditions, all your inhibitions physically and mentally. You’re sharing with them all your weaknesses. So I think it’s that privilege of being part of their life, being shared that information, and that they’re doing it with trust, and you have to go guard that, protect that. I find that to be a complete privilege. And then when they do get a result, being part of that journey is such a rewarding feeling. And you get to really see people change their lives.

How does one start and get a BENCH/ Body?

Start. The real problem with getting into fitness is that people are afraid to start. The biggest fear is walking in there and going, “I have no idea.” Just be fearless in your approach. Don’t be afraid to walk up to the trainer and ask questions. And then just start your journey. The other part of the gym that most people don’t realize that’s a big aspect is the community. The gym is one big community of people, future friendships, knowledge, and most of importantly, the shared passion to be fit.

Leo Trinidad, 33, @leo_supersaiyajin

Personal trainer and instructor at Pure Pilates

Tell us what a typical day looks like for you.

I wake up in the morning, make my breakfast, which is a protein shake with some chia seeds. After that I go online and do my part-time online job with Gymnastic Bodies. I do the forum and tech support. After that I drink coffee and head to the studio, and then start with my client.

What kind of training do you do? Is it one-on-one, or do you teach classes?

I do private [sessions] and group classes. I have class on Saturdays and Sundays, I have hands-on class at 3:30-4:30pm, and then Sundays we have core class at 10-11am, and then mobility class at 11-12.

What’s your workout routine like?

Right now I haven’t really figured out my workout routine like before, because I just came back from training with Miguel in Bali. Mostly hand balancing, and then some from my routine before, doing core work and mobility. Now I don’t really have a focus, so I’m just working on my weaknesses, and sometimes because of my schedule — right now I have a visitor, and we’re training for three hours, four times a week — it’s hard for me to really train. I just do whatever I can do, and hopefully I get back on track and do my foundations work.

Do you listen to a lot of music when you workout?

Yes. I listen to a lot of music. It’s a mixture of classical, some rock, some anime songs.

What’s your ultimate workout song?

Ultimate workout song… Right now I just listen to the theme of Dragon Ball Super, when San Goku and Jiren were fighting. That’s it.

What’s your favorite thing about teaching here at Pure Pilates?

I have freedom. I have the freedom to teach my own thing, nobody tells me what to do. If I see that a student needs to work on the basics, I don’t go and jump into whatever. Let’s say the student wants to go into a ring muscle-up. We address all the weaknesses first, we don’t want the clients to get injured, even if they want to get the skill right away. It takes time and patience. And you gotta build your soft tissues before doing the advanced skills. And everybody’s friendly, we have different classes: dance, TRX, workshops with dance groups.

What advice would you give for someone just getting into fitness?

First, you need to follow your routine. If you have a program, you follow it first before judging it and saying that it doesn’t work. If you follow it to the tee, and then give it time — let’s say the program is three months — and finish it, that’s the time you can say if it works or not. Because every program takes time before you see results. Some even take years. There’s no right or wrong program as long as you follow it.

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