Coach Spotlight: Hannah Ko
She’s a new face around these parts, but Hannah’s an old hand when it comes to leading and guiding. The ex-Outward Bound Instructor (do you ever really leave that life though?) has traversed mountains, oceans and the 7am rush hour to do what she loves: helping people feel more alive. We caught up with Hannah through a screen to talk about life beyond it; her love for adventure, exploration and helping others feel the same way she feels while doing that.
Tell us about yourself!
My personal fitness journey started when I fell in love with the process and the science behind training. I have been highly active since a young age, playing multiple sports both leisurely and competitively. I also loved endurance sports, so I ran and cycled a lot.
Later on as I entered the Outdoor industry as an Outward Bound Instructor about 5 years ago, I got hooked onto the great outdoors, pursuing adventure sports such as rock climbing, hiking, mountaineering, long distance cycling and free diving.
As these outdoor adventure sports are highly demanding on the body, my current endurance training regime became inadequate as I had to acquire a high level of well-rounded fitness comprising of strength, endurance, agility and balance, and work on existing injuries/weaknesses to ensure that I emerge out of each long expedition unscathed and victorious!
When I first started out as a fitness coach, I conducted small group bootcamps and one-to-one personal training sessions at parks and condos near my home, and gained more clients and experience as I built a small community and word got around. With that experience, I went on to conduct group classes and personal training at other boutique gyms. As I got the opportunity to work with clients from all walks of life with diverse goals, I started to form a clearer picture of my core values, philosophy and areas of interest as a fitness coach, and I became more sure of where I wanted to be.
I joined Level in April this year. I made the choice to come here because I felt that Level’s philosophy of focusing on functional training, longevity, as well as their process-focused and client-focused approach really resonates with me. I also love how Level encourages each trainer to showcase our individuality by giving us the autonomy to create our own training programmes based on our unique skills and backgrounds. I feel that there is a lot to learn from the team at Level, and being at Level pushes me to challenge myself further in my journey as a fitness coach.
Tell us about your love for the outdoors.
I’ve always loved nature and the outdoors because as I was growing up, my parents brought the whole family out to big fields for kite flying, dirt tracks for mountain biking, beaches for sandcastle building, just to name a few. These fond memories left me with a great impression of the outdoors, and I always felt comfortable and at home in the midst of nature.
My love for the outdoors grew even more when I decided to embark on a 5-week hiking trip in South East Asia in 2016. After I completed my first mountain in Indonesia during that trip, I was hooked and went on to complete a total of 7 mountains during that trip. Since that trip, it became a bit of a ritual of sorts to climb at least 2 mountains a year.
As I started to bring people out for adventures, I found that I loved the outdoors not only for its beauty and challenge but also the values and learnings that it inculcated within me and the people around me. The outdoors is a great tool to build character, confidence and resilience – I have witnessed many heartwarming instances of people who grew so much just by being in the outdoors and out of their comfort zones for 5 days, and those learnings stick with them for life.
I also love how the outdoors provide a platform for people from all walks of life to connect with one another. Most importantly, I love that being in the outdoors cuts me off from the hustle and bustle of daily life, giving me that much needed respite and space to reconnect with myself. It is truly magical and unexplainable, but I guess that’s the magic of Nature.
What was your reaction to the latest gym closures?
I was pretty shocked to be honest, because I thought we’ve all been doing a great job in keeping the numbers low and preventing clusters in the fitness industry. While I have many doubts and questions and felt that the decision made was unfair as it put the fitness industry at a disadvantage, I didn’t spend much time dwelling upon it and just accepted the fact that outdoor classes are here to stay for a while.
Once I entered that state of acceptance, I actually got really excited to work my creativity and create training programs that are just as effective as those that are conducted indoors. And I was thrilled to be coaching outdoors again, away from the aircon and getting my daily dose of Vitamin D!
What would you say to convince someone who doesn’t like the outdoors to give it a shot?
I would show them the videos and pictures I’ve taken of my expeditions, share my stories, experiences and learnings, with the hope that it would pique their interests of going outdoors. I would also say that “if you want to experience something that you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done!”.
Tell us about your most memorable expedition.
My most memorable expedition is attempting Island Peak (6189m) in Nepal in December 2019. It was the toughest expedition to date largely because of the cold, wind chill and challenging icy terrain – it was one of the coldest and windiest winters that year, and snow fell earlier in the year than expected. I had trained up adequately for it months prior to this expedition and my training had definitely paid off. Things were going really well until altitude sickness hit me hard.
I lost my appetite, had a constant throbbing headache, felt weak and was shivering and aching all over. While waiting for a window for the summit push, I had to spend a miserable night tossing and turning in a tent wrapped up in my sleeping bag with a dying urge to pee (but it was impossible to go outside to pee and I had no energy to pee into a bottle) – it was negative 20 deg outside and the relentless winds were howling non-stop. Eventually the guide made the decision that summiting was not possible due to the treacherous weather conditions. It was a major disappointment because I was just 700m away from the summit!
It was a really humbling experience and it reinforced the fact that nature cannot be trifled with and you should never endanger yourself just to prove a point. In the guide’s wise words, “sometimes we are not ready for the mountain and sometimes the mountain is not ready for us”. In this case, it was a bit of both. I wondered if I could have summited given my physical state, even if there was a window of opportunity.
Although the expedition was not exactly a “success”, it was a big win for me and a super memorable expedition because I got to experience everything nature had to offer – the good, the bad, and the unpredictable. The entire process was breathtaking (figuratively and literally because the air was really really thin up there), and overall I am very thankful to be privileged enough to experience all of this.
What does the rest of the year look like for you?
In an ideal situation, the rest of the year would be spent working hard and training hard till my next adventure (part-time trainer full-time adventurer), but with the current situation, I’ll just stay put and concentrate on doing what I do best – empowering individuals through fitness and the outdoors.
Hannah is available for personal training at both our 14 Robinson Road as well as our 137 Telok Ayer outlets. She also teaches SKILL classes. We’ll let you climb mountains with her when we can travel to them.
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