Shape up with these fitness influencers

Try their home workout apps, follow them on their video channels or join their classes

Tyen Rasif’s No Sweat app

With her sculpted physique and workout videos that show her lifting as much as 120kg at the gym, personal trainer Tyen Rasif exemplifies #strongnotskinny - a popular hashtag that refers to women striving to be fit, rather than slim.

But it was not always the case for Ms Rasif, who fronts a fitness video series for online video channel Clicknetwork called No Sweat and last month launched a personal training app of the same name.

As a teenager, she would weigh herself every day and "freak out" if she gained even 100g. At 13, before she found the words for anorexia and bulimia, she was already starving herself and purging the little food she ate.

Now 24, she attributes it to a lack of self-acceptance that began when her father, rogue lawyer David Rasif, absconded with $11.3 million of his clients' money and walked out on the family when she was 11.

"In school, I always felt like a black sheep and had anxiety about people leaving me. I thought that if I was skinny, I would look better and be more accepted," says Ms Rasif, whose 25-year-old sister Jade Rasif is a well-known DJ and YouTube personality.

At 1.61m and weighing 38kg in her late teens, Ms Rasif was at least 10kg lighter than what was considered healthy and so frail that she experienced constant seizures. For two years, she relied on antidepressant Prozac to keep depression and anxiety at bay.

"It suppressed all my moods, even my happy moods, so I constantly felt dull. I didn't want to rely on medication forever," she says.

Her turning point came at 18, when she tried home workouts and enjoyed the endorphin rush of exercising. Then she found her way to the gym, picked up weightlifting, and got hooked on the sense of accomplishment that came with lifting heavier weights.

As she got fitter, Ms Rasif sought more challenges. She completed a personal training certification in 2014 and, two years later, began training for her first bodybuilding competition.

To keep boredom at bay while training alone at the gym, she began documenting her training and nutrition journey on her YouTube channel, which now has 45,000 subscribers.

When she began hosting video series No Sweat in October last year, the then-undergraduate at the Singapore Management University received a slew of new requests for physical training.

But she was already juggling school work with part-time singing gigs, video shoots and training about 15 to 20 clients a year, and did not have time to take on more sessions.

 

"I got so many heartfelt messages from people who wanted to lose weight. There were women with eating disorders and mums who wanted to get fit. One woman said her boyfriend called her fat. They had so many issues that I could relate to and I wanted to help everyone," says Ms Rasif, who is single and graduated last month with a degree in business management.

The No Sweat app, which she co-founded with Clicknetwork, lets her reach a wider audience at a more affordable price.

A monthly subscription starts at $9.92, while personal training sessions with Ms Rasif cost $120 to $150 an hour.

On the app, users receive new video workouts every week that are tailored to their fitness goals, such as losing weight or building lean muscle.

They can take part in fortnightly live workout sessions or livestream chats with Ms Rasif and discuss fitness and nutrition with other app users in a Facebook group.

For one user, Mr Leslie Haw, 38, the app has been a source of motivation as he kickstarts a fitness regime after not exercising for about two years. The teacher and father of two signed up for the app about a month ago and has been working out religiously since.

He says: "The exercises look simple but they really give me a good workout every time. Having a programme to follow and a community to exercise with keeps me motivated."

Price: A one-week trial is free. Monthly subscriptions start at $9.92

Info: nosweatfitnessapp.com


Roxanne Gan’s yoga classes

Ms Roxanne Gan's Instagram feed is the stuff of envy.

The 30-year-old helms new studio Zoi Yoga in Joo Chiat, travels to South Korea and China for video shoots, performs pretzel-like yoga poses and indulges in dessert and fried food while always looking bikini-ready.

But as any online personality will tell you, effortlessness is a myth.

A decade ago, when she took her first yoga teacher training course, even a fitness career seemed like a pipe dream. Yoga occupied a small corner of Singapore's nascent fitness industry, which was dominated by big box gyms at that time.

Then an economics and finance undergraduate at SIM-UOL, Ms Gan was "bad at math", ambivalent about banking and knew the finance industry was not her calling.

While studying, she took up more fitness certifications, covering spin and body balance classes at the now-defunct gym chain California Fitness.

After graduation, her schoolmates started working in banks and investment firms, while Ms Gan flew to Uttarkashi in India for a second yoga teacher training course.

Her photographer father was supportive, but her mother, a secretary in an auditing firm, grudgingly gave her one year to launch a fitness career.

This spurred Ms Gan to work even harder, teaching spin classes at big box gyms and yoga at various studios including home-grown Hom Yoga, which has branches in Singapore and Australia, as well as international chains Pure Yoga and Virgin Active.

In between, she started her Instagram account (@roxannegan_), posting photos of her yoga practice and promoting local athleisure brands such as Burd Activewear and Lowen Active.

But it was only when she started creating yoga tutorials that her personal brand took off, gaining her a few thousand new followers a month.

The tutorials comprised step-by-step guides on how to get into intermediate poses such as handstands and arm balances, as well as sequences to build strength and flexibility. Each post took one to two hours to conceptualise, shoot and edit. At her peak, Ms Gan would post one new tutorial every three days.

"It was fun to watch my followers grow and I was motivated when I saw those numbers, but I was also constantly thinking of new content to churn out. I let that grid rule my life," says Ms Gan, who is married. Her husband is an escape room designer and her social media manager.

Online popularity became a double-edged sword.

"When I posted fewer tutorials, my followers dropped because I no longer put out as much free content," says Ms Gan, who has 121,000 followers today.

Her body was the subject of constant scrutiny and people were quick to point out when she gained weight.

But after so long in the industry, these comments no longer faze her. Ms Gan, who also lifts weights and does high-intensity interval training, has no qualms gaining muscle mass.

She eats whatever she wants on holiday but in Singapore, balances it out with healthy and delicious food, such as salads and protein bowls from Kipos Gourmet.

Ms Gan's yoga student-turned-business partner owns the health food chain and opened its third outlet in collaboration with Zoi Yoga. The two companies share a shop front in Joo Chiat.

Kipos Gourmet features healthier versions of local dishes such as nasi lemak made with quinoa, grilled chicken and baked ikan bilis.

Ms Gan says: "I want to show people, especially women, that good health is about eating healthy and working out to gain confidence rather than looking a certain way."

Price: Classes start from $18.33

Info: zoiyoga.com


Liv Lo’s HIIT yoga videos

Those who think yoga is easy should try a FitSphere workout, which combines the fluidity of yoga with high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

To kick things up a notch, the workout is done with spheres or weighted balls.

Television host and fitness instructor Liv Lo launched the online workout videos in January last year and introduced the weighted spheres in October this year.

Ms Lo, 34, has been practising yoga for over a decade and has taught at studios such as home-grown chain Yoga Movement.

"While training for (obstacle race) Spartan World Championships in 2016, I realised that practising yoga my whole life had given me imbalances in my body from focusing on flexibility and not muscle building," says the Taiwanese-Italian, a Reebok brand ambassador who has about 211,000 followers on her Instagram account (@livlogolding).

She is married to Malaysian-English actor Henry Golding, star of last year's hit romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians.

She introduced HIIT to her workouts after reaching a plateau in her yoga practice and realised the two pair well as certain postures are similar. For instance, what is known as a chair pose in yoga is essentially a narrow squat.

When she wove HIIT routines into her yoga classes, it was a hit with students and that inspired her to create FitSphere.

But fitness has not always been her priority.

Weak, thin and bulimic while modelling during her early 20s, Ms Lo picked up yoga to feel good about herself, only to be told her body was too muscular.

She turned instead to hosting, and today regularly covers international movie premieres for the Fox Movies channel, including blockbusters such as Black Panther (2018) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018).

Short, intense workouts lend themselves to her jet-setting lifestyle and the FitSphere videos are no different. Most videos range from 10 to 25 minutes and target specific areas such as the shoulders, core or legs.

Spheres, which weigh 2 pounds (907g) each, add an extra challenge. For instance, you can hold them as weights while doing crunches or cardiovascular moves. Or squeeze them between your calf and the back of your thigh while making small lifting motions called pulses, to tone up your gluteal muscles for a perky butt.

They also double as myofascial release balls, used for trigger point release during a cool-down. Rolling them on tense spots such as the shoulders or outer hip helps release muscle tension, like a deep tissue massage would.

Ms Lo says: "The workouts are fun and challenging and teach students what they can achieve with their mind, body and breath."

Price: A FitSphere Workout series starts from US$20 (S$27) a year. A pair of weighted spheres costs US$40.

Info: fit-sphere.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 29, 2019, with the headline 'Shape up with these fitness influencers'. Print Edition | Subscribe