Born in England Rona Morgan has made a great career in a banking. She had been managing large branches of HSBC in London, then for 13 years in Hong Kong, and more years in Melbourne, Australia. But now, instead of chilling during her retiring, Rona is a very happy woman with her new full-time job as a health-life coach, personal and small group exercise trainer in Singapore.
I have met Rona at a biggest fitness educational conference in Asia for fitness, health and wellness professionals in Bangkok (Asia Fitness Conference and Expo 2015). When I heard her life story and the way to fitness pro, I understood I have to share this motivational story with people. Rona knows well what does it mean to be busy, stressed and depressed with your business and job. She was not in a good shape or fitness person for all her life. But she has found a way to manage an active and healthy lifestyle regularly, has lost 20 kg, and used the time from banking retirement to study Personal Trainer and Health Coach certifications.
Me: Have you ever been in a bad shape?
Rona: I started my first diet at the age of 13 and had been on and off a weight-loss diet for most of my adult life. While I had always been active, there were periods of my life when I was very busy, stressed and sometimes travelling for work, which impacted my exercise regime and my health. I would say there were 3 occasions when I lost a significant amount of weight, each time vowing never to regain it!
On the last occasion, I was in Australia. I foolishly believed that moving to Australia would enable me to get fitter and healthier because of the outdoor lifestyle and fresh food, both of which are highly limited in Hong Kong. I was wrong, and gained even more weight due to a number of factors including hormonal changes, great food and great wine which is relatively inexpensive, and stress. Due to my job, I wasn’t as active as I should have been, although I did try.
I joined the gym in the same building as my office and came across a Step class and I loved it. I used to do Step a lot in Hong Kong and at one time, I used to do 5 classes a week. I went into the classes with a bit too much enthusiasm and at the beginning of my fourth class, I badly sprained my ankle. It was quite bad, and I didn’t work out for quite a while. I became depressed. I felt I was not in control of my weight and I would end up being obese.
Me: How did you find your motivation again?
Rona: Eventually, it was husband who took positive action. He came across a small PT studio near where we lived and signed us both up. They specialize in weight-loss among other things and friend of mine had also lost weight with them. It was a very non-threatening and friendly atmosphere and all the team knew our names and greeted us each time we went. In addition to PT, they ran a lot of group exercise classes, which were fun, and so we went almost every day!
Our weight-loss was slow and steady. In 10 months, I lost 20kg and John lost 30kg. In the process, we learned more about nutrition and healthy eating. I think doing it together was huge factor in our success, since we would shop and cook together and most importantly, did not lead each other astray, even on holidays. We have maintained the weight-loss now for more than 3 years.
Me: Why did you decide to be a PT and Health coach?
Rona: I have always been interested in health and fitness and it was more than 10 years earlier (when I had lost weight and got fit after an operation), that I first thought about trying to help others, particularly mature women, to lose weight and get fit. I saw a gap in the market at that time, as many older women find the gym environment intimidating. That idea was put on the back burner when my career took off but once I decided to “retire” from banking and having achieved my lasting transformation, it became a possibility. With not working for the first time in my adult life, I had the time and energy to study, so I took the ACE personal Trainer and ACE Health Coach certifications, as well as a nutrition qualification. I also achieve a Functional Ageing Specialist certification, as this is an area that particularly interests me and is not well served by our industry yet.
Me: Are you happy now? Why?
Rona: I am very happy now, as I feel I doing something very worthwhile and helping others to make changes in their lives. I was also very fortunate to be hired by a new concept club that’s looking at a holistic approach to wellness for senior executives, business people etc. This is a very good match for me, having worked in the corporate world for so many years. I understand their challenges. Every day, I use my previous corporate experience to help me to help others. The last 10 years of my banking career were in Risk Management and I see a lot of similarities in the world of wellness. I am passionate about disease prevention and exercise as medicine. The world is facing a health crisis of epidemic proportions (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease etc). I hope to change the world, one person at a time.
Me: What is your schedule now?
Rona: I am currently working full-time at the club I mentioned. My normal day is coaching a few clients, running a small group class and helping with health assessments. I am also continuing my studies in the next levels of nutrition and coaching.
I try to workout every day, except Sunday, when we usually take a long, evening walk. I think the general population believes that people in the fitness industry are super fit but I have seen a large number of fitness professionals who are not “walking the talk”. While I don’t think I am “super fit”, I try hard to maintain a very good level of fitness.
Me: How can you explain your working style in a fitness industry?
Rona: I design my own workout programmes or borrow from the many sources that I read. I love to try new things and always test before I use with clients. I like to use combination exercises, which challenge the mind as well as the body and my current favorite thing is to incorporate a short metabolic circuit into sessions, which my clients enjoy too. My approach is total body conditioning rather than to train isolated body parts, unless that’s what a client specifically requests.
My philosophy is to get people moving better and feeling better about themselves, at any age. For the future, I would like to further explore the market for mature adults and continue as a specialist weight-loss coach.
Me: How would you describe a good fitness & health coach?
Rona: Personal Training 101 starts with rapport, and that principle endures. A good coach is someone with great listening skills and empathy for their client. It is also someone who understands what their client is experiencing in their lives and someone who can identify and build on the client’s existing competancies and recognise their achievements.
Me: What is your main principle to keep happiness?
Rona: To stay happy, I count my blessings. I acknowledge how fortunate I am to be able to live the life I lead and to be fit and healthy.