Nike Master Trainer Utah Lee on her fitness journey, diet habits and post-pregnancy confidence
She's all that
There are fitness nazis who were born to live out their lives in the gym, and then there are others who gradually find their sweet spot in physical training, as the course of life would allow it. Master trainer of Nike, Utah Lee falls in the latter category. The Hong Kong-born fitness instructor and mum of two is known for her illustrious grid of fitness activations, fashionable poses and effervescent captions. There never seems to be a dull day, in the life of Lee. Ahead of her exciting training session at FitnessFest 2019 by AIA this April, she shares more below — on her journey, post-pregnancy confidence and guilty pleasures.
How did you get started in doing what you're doing?
I was actually a fashion designer previously. But it was too much for me to travel to China once or twice a week to follow up on samples so I quit. A friend was looking for people to work in a gym and I started to do everything there from customer service, cleaning machines, group fitness programming and pay-roll. Until one day, the manager asked if I can teach anything. I came from a dance background when I was a kid, so I started to teach dance. Members were enjoying the classes then I started to take on personal training and all kinds of group fitness courses.
Tell us about your journey and how you became a Nike Master Trainer?
Nike Hong Kong was sponsoring the very first gym I was working at in 1999. I guess they were happy with the stuff I did and out of the blue, they called and offered me a contract. I was the first and only Nike Trainer in Hong Kong for about seven years. The bottom line is, you have to work hard, know what you are doing, be kind, humble and different.
Were you always active as a kid? Or was it something that only came about in your adult years?
I was always active, thanks to my parents. They lived busy lives but always made sure they take us hiking, swimming, playing and running around in playgrounds as much as they could.
Walk us through your regular fitness routine.
My fitness routine is that I train with my clients for real. Because I'm the kind of trainer who likes to move and push my clients during training. It's perfect for me as well as them.
Being a mom yourself, are there any tips you can offer new moms on reclaiming their confidence post-pregnancy? What are some simple workouts that they can do at home?
My doctor told me: "Your belly took nine months to grow and it only makes sense to take at least nine months to go away." The fact is my belly is not the same, my thighs are bigger, boobs are smaller and there are stretch marks and pigmentation on the skin...the list can go on forever. To be honest, I went into a dark hole after having the first baby (who's now 11 years old). The fitness industry can be very shallow but because I stayed true to myself and I accepted the fact that I am a mom now; I overcame my fear and ignored what people thought or might say. So I went back to teaching, training and doing what I love.
My advice is take the baby with you, do more walking, jogging, weight lifting outdoors. Get out there to meet other mums or dads to share and learn from each other. If you can find someone to look after the baby that would be even better — making time for yourself is important as well.
What's your diet like?
My diet is everything in moderation. I actually never ask people to go on a diet. We need to enjoy life, just make smart choices for your food and find a balance between food and being active. I have a routine called 'Junkfood Fridays'...maybe a bit of ice cream, a bit of heavy rich foods, and a bit of deep-fried things.
I love your Instagram, and how it is also very fashion and beauty-led. Tell us about your personal style.
My personal style is showcasing who I am. A little of active elements, a little bit of glam and a little bit of confusion [laughs]. Fashion is my passion — I actually still do styling jobs commercially when the opportunity comes. Beauty is a fun interest that I share with my daughter. Sometimes when we feel like it, we would just play with cosmetics for a good hour, and take turns to put makeup on for each other.
A word of advice for people who are new to the fitness game, but want to start taking care of their bodies. What workouts would you recommend?
I recommend them to try as many types of workouts as possible. To find out their ability to move and what motivates them to move.