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  • Writer's pictureJulian Molteno

9-9-6 vs 9-5

Recently I picked up a new client, or to be more accurate, she picked me — as she wrote in one of our first text exchanges: “Yep I picked you among all your colleagues after going through each one of your profiles!” Actually, I felt quite pleased by that. DW Fitness First has a sales policy where all new members are offered 2 complimentary sessions with a Personal Trainer. Supposedly this is a win-win-win scenario — boosting FF sales, giving the new member the opportunity to experience some one-to-one training, and introducing a possible long-term client to the PT. For the PT, however, the reality is that, as the sessions are free, they are often not valued by the recipient, and the cancellation (or no-show) rate is really high. Also, and fair enough too, many people take advantage of the free sessions, but without any intention of signing up for further personal training. So I do not take part in this scheme, unless someone specifically asks for me, as Ms Leilei did, and I am “picked among all your colleagues”. Over the years I have had many clients, some of whom are fairly average people (this is not a criticism), and some who are not your run-of-the-mill types at all! And Leilei is one of these. She is a 41-year-old Chinese woman who has spent most of her adult life in the West, but is still very much a product of her formative years in China. Her mum is a university professor, and Leilei has inherited her intelligence and spirit. After graduating in Health Information Management at the University of Sydney, she came to the UK to get a masters in Health Informatics. After a two-year stint for the WHO, she lives in London working for the NHS as a health professional. She is a hard-working person who is still surprised and slightly disapproving of the UK workforce’s attitude to actual work! 

Leilei and her Mum.  I suspect that Leilei’s idea of a standard week would closely resemble the 9-9-6 ideal endorsed by Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire and co-founder of the Alibaba Group. Ma has praised the 9-9-6 culture of working 12 hours a day (9-9) 6 days a week saying, “I personally think that 9-9-6 is a huge blessing . . . how do you achieve the success you want without paying extra effort and time?” Ma has, deservedly, faced a severe backlash for his comments because expecting people to work those sorts of hours is not acceptable — but, I kinda agree with him, after all, my work day at the gym regularly starts at 6am and finishes at 9pm. As long as you are happy to, being able to work hard and provide is a blessing.  

Anyhow, here we are with Leilei — an intelligent, hard-working woman — but utterly clueless about diet and exercise! I have a few clients who are can be rather obtuse in this regard. Below are a flavour of the type of texts she sends me: “My goal is weight loss without having to control what I can eat 🙄🙄” “Also I never do any weights training in my life! Body pump is soooo boring.” “Except food. Never be able to control my appetite.” “I just had my two stir fry dishes and noodle in Chinatown.” “I always go to a cake shop next door.” “Could you recommend something alternative without compromising the good taste of that Chinese cake please 😒” “I want something sweet.” “I only just want ONE cake 😒” I get this sort of stuff from Leilei virtually every day, and actually, I don’t mind at all. I have long since discovered that the clients that give me the most pleasure to help are not the men and women who are already motivated and dedicated, and want me to squeeze them as hard as possible, getting that last drop out of them — no, it is the clueless ones — the ones that are lost and mystified by the endless choices and routines and fads that abound in the fitness world. Helping these people make sense of this new Fitness World, and achieve a level of success, is very rewarding.  

Ms Leilei with ice lolly at the ready! So I gave Leilei all my answers to her questions and problems, quite often replying to her while doing something else at the same time, as that’s how life is these days. Then she asked me if I have any cravings, and I quickly, without giving it too much thought, replied, “I do have cravings. But I have taught myself to be strong. To acknowledge that my body deserves good, wholesome, natural food. You need to show your body some respect, or it will betray you when you are older.” It was only a day or two later, when I was re-reading our texts, that I was struck by (in my humble opinion) how profound my words were! For those of you who are skipping through this post waiting (in vain) for an interesting bit — this is it! So here it is again — “I do have cravings. But I have taught myself to be strong. To acknowledge that my body deserves good, wholesome, natural food. You need to show your body some respect, or it will betray you when you are older.” In many ways those few sentences sum up my whole feeling about the fitness life — we are weak and have cravings; we must resist temptation and be strong; give our bodies the good nutrition and hard exercise they deserve; and then we have the opportunity to live a long and healthy life.  

I mentioned Jack Ma and the 9-9-6 work philosophy earlier in this post, and acknowledge that it is extreme, and takes a driven person to not only follow such an onerous schedule, but to actually enjoy it, which he clearly does. The thrill of doing the deal and being wealthy is obviously a huge motivator for him. Many people want to be wealthy, and that is a perfectly legitimate goal to pursue — but ultimately, our most important objective must be to be fit and healthy! After all, without our health, all the money in the world is of no use.  

Mr Ma. A driven man, who loves what he does.  If all you can give to your working life is 9-5, that is fine, you will be financially comfortable, but you will never be rich. And as with your fitness life, if 9-5 is all you have to offer, that is fine too, you may end up relatively fit and healthy, but no more than that. If, however, you have the desire, the grit and the determination to give your fitness endeavours a 9-9-6 effort, then you will know the rewards and the joy that Mr Ma is talking of. The back-breaking weightlifting sessions, the sick-making high-intensity cardio, the not-drinking-beer-and-eating-cake-while-everyone-around-you-is — this “hardship” becomes a pleasure! It becomes easy and joyful and totally positive! It becomes, in Ma’s words — “A huge blessing.” To finish, here are a few more texts from Leilei that I enjoyed . . . and a funny screenshot. “Btw I like your positive energy. Wanted to tell you ages ago.” “You are a harsh trainer. I know I picked you for a reason.” “Of course. As you will never let me get away with sub standards!” 

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