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Coach Spotlight: Valerie Chia

by | Oct 28, 2023 | Trainers

We got a big influx of new friends recently, so we’ll be introducing them to you one by one over the coming months! Some of them have been here for quite a while and you’ve probably seen them around or even trained with them in class. They’ve all brought a fresh new feel to what we do at Level, and we’re very thankful for them.

This month, we talk to Val, one of the three heads of our Spartan Training Program, and find out what made her make the switch from prison officer to personal trainer.

Hello! You’ve been here for a half season now, but perhaps there are some who haven’t met you yet. Tell us about yourself, and maybe what has changed over your time at Level.

I’m Val and I’ve been a coach at Level since May 2023. Before this, I was a prison officer for 8 years.

Since my career switch, I’ve had to get used to a different daily cycle as this job involves early mornings and late nights, and the day is much more stretched out compared to regular working hours. I used to think I was a morning person but I doubt i can say this anymore! On the plus side, my work attire is now super casual, and I’ve also made friends with a diverse range of people from all backgrounds and cultures in just these few short months.

How has your previous career and the experience as a coach thus far led you to believe in what you do about fitness today?

Previously, my training was geared towards doing well in the yearly physical tests that all uniformed prison officers have to take. The tests are pretty specific and I focused a lot more on running and did not do much strength training. Currently, my role as a coach requires me to have a good grasp of different exercises as well as how to explain them and to point out which muscles they work. I wouldn’t prescribe any exercise for my client that I’ve not tried myself, so I’ve done more research and practice to educate and equip myself. Ultimately, I believe fitness should help us move better and feel stronger so we can carry out our daily activites pain-free and with confidence. If there are specific goals we have, then our training should be geared towards enabling us to achieve those targets.

What do you like to do outside the gym?

SLEEP! As boring as it sounds, there is nothing better than a good nap that you can’t surface from.

How would you like to chart your journey in the next 3-5 years? What are things you are aiming to do and are striving toward?

I hope to help more clients improve their health and strength, as well as reach their goals whatever they may be. I’ve been training a number of female clients and it’s been very rewarding watching them go from strength to strength in the various lifts, and also hearing how strength training as helped improve their ability to do better in their hobbies or feel more energetic in general. I find it especially rewarding when ladies overcome their fear of looking bulky and push themselves to lift heavier, as strength training has so many benefits that will carry on into a person’s life, especially as we age.

On a personal front, I’m aiming to improve my PRs in the main lifts and and do an unassisted muscle-up in the near future.

What do you think are three big ways that people are misinformed or miseducated about fitness?

Firstly, there’s that fear which ladies have about strength training and how it will make them look too muscular and manly. This topic has been discussed many times and ladies should know that it takes a heck of a lot of work (diet, regular training, progressive overload) to get to the level of jacked that they’re envisioning in their minds. A normal gym goer would not be able to achieve that sort of physique without an intense training regime and diet. So ladies: Don’t worry, grab that barbell and let’s get started!

Secondly, many people are chasing numbers and while there’s nothing wrong with that since it’s a tangible way to measure improvement, it might lead to ego-lifting which I’m sure everyone has seen in the gym at some point or another. Worse, it could lead to some nasty injuries that could derail your fitness journey for a long time. It is important to ensure good form and full range of motion when lifting, and to reduce the weights or rest as needed when your form starts to break down. There’s nothing weak or shameful about this; progress is not always linear.

Finally, a fit body comes in different shapes and forms. We’ve been conditioned to think that being fit means looking a certain way and this has led to many unhealthy eating or training habits that have wrecked the physical and mental health of many people. A balanced diet and a consistent training regime that you can sustain will yield more benefits in the long run as you’ll be able to stick with it, versus fad diets or intense training to look a certain way if you can’t sustain it after a while. I personally think strength and mobility are more attractive than physical ‘perfection’ as signalled by the mainstream media.

What are three things people don’t know about you?

I enjoy sinful food and desserts as much as anyone but I’ve had to reel that in a bit more after doing fitness full-time so I fuel my body better to withstand the long hours and also so I don’t feel like a fraud when giving my clients diet advice. That said, I won’t say no to bubble tea. It’s (maybe) fortunate that my preferred bubble tea stalls aren’t located near the gym so I can’t get them easily.

I’m left-handed. Life is not kind to left-handers, what with spiral notebooks, smudgy ink pens, certain scissors that will NOT cut when used by a leftie, and those foldable desks in lecture halls. Be kind to lefties, we have enough problems as it is!

I don’t dare to watch horror movies or even thrillers. I had to watch Silence of the Lambs and The Shining for a school module many years ago and some scenes are still lodged in my mind. Please share happy fluffy movie/show recommendations with me if you have any!

Val is available for Personal Training Sessions, and teaches classes at Robinson and Telok Ayer. Send us an email at trial@level.com.sg to find out more and get involved!

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