Meet Emi, my personal trainer

March 21, 2019

I met Emi a couple of years ago when I’d just started as a photographer and she was one of the first people who trusted me without knowing me. She had a lovely three-month-old baby and a spectacular dog and wanted pictures of the whole family (including the baby with the dog). My experience with the canine world is very limited, so I went to the session with a little apprehension. It turned out that I had nothing to worry about because the session was so relaxed! I met a lovely family, including the dog, with a photogenic and light-filled apartment and, on top of that, I got help during the session from Emi’s mom, who comes from a family of photographers and was moving objects around for me while I was shooting.

After that first session, Emi contacted me because she was about to start her business as a personal trainer and needed photos for her website. That’s how I got to know her professional side and it occurred to me that, instead of paying me, she could train me in exchange for the photos. I love the idea that we help each other in our projects and the truth is that I did not regret it. I did ten sessions with her during which I suffered a lot, that’s true, but also had fun and, above all, after which I saw the results in my body right away.
I was so happy with the experience that I still train with her (and now Philippe has joined us!) and I asked her for an interview, so that we can learn a little bit about her habits and she can motivate us to take care of ourselves and work out (especially after having children).

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Emi, can you introduce yourself?

I’m Japanese British, married with one little boy, and have been living in Geneva for 4 years. Prior to living here, I lived in London for 20 years, and before that I spent my life living in different countries across Europe as well as Japan due to my father’s work. I really love the International vibe of Geneva as a result, I feel right at home!

I’m an extrovert for sure, I really love spending time with friends and getting to know new people. I’m curious by nature and enjoy new experiences, I think though, that if you ask my husband my most prominent personality trait is that I’m persistent!

Since graduating university I always worked in corporate sales across a number of sectors, and decided to retrain as a Personal Trainer in 2016.

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How did you get into personal training?

I got into sports as an adult myself, and realised how it really helped me to be more disciplined, focused, and confident, once it gave me the realisation that I can achieve what I set out to achieve! After moving here, my department where I had a corporate job with a global consultancy was closed down, and I took that opportunity to finally make the jump into Personal Training to help others realise the power of sports. Beyond anything else, this still remains my first driver and objective in Personal Training; to help others realise that they are capable of more than they think.

Can you tell us a little bit more about what personal training is?

Historically Personal Training was probably considered as something that only the rich and famous had time and money for. But today, we all know someone who has a Personal Trainer. There are always good reasons to hire a professional to help with your fitness regime, whether you are already sporty, or a complete novice. I think the number one reason people would hire a Personal Trainer is to make sure they actually make that session, the second reason being to push themselves! We all can benefit from a bit of outside pressure 🙂

A Personal Trainer will help a client through a fitness programme in line with their objectives. They will help you carry out exercises with correct technique to prevent you from injuring yourself. If you have a specific goal in mind, like an obstacle race, they will help train you in the relevant muscle groups and movements to prepare you. In reality I think that Personal Training is much more holistic and the best Personal Trainers recognise this and help their clients achieve their objectives not just through physical strengthening, but also better nutrition, focus and perspective, and most importantly positive mental attitude! The road is not always linear, and a training session may not purely consist of pushing heavy weights or driving yourself into the ground, but where needed they may focus on stretching, relaxation, breathing, that helps people decompress from their busy and often stressful lives.

I consider a session successful if a client is oozing positivity, smiling and happy when they leave.

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You’re specialized in post-natal training and you give a huge importance to core and pelvic floor. Can you explain a little bit more what this is about and why it’s so important?

After becoming a mum to my son Kai, I couldn’t believe how my body had changed. Having been someone who competed regularly in endurance sports, it was quite an experience to literally start again from scratch after giving birth. I had lost so much muscle tone and my pelvic floor was so weak that it took me over a year to be able to run a half marathon distance and keep my bladder control! No one tells you how important it is to do your pelvic floor exercises regularly, and work on getting your abdominal muscles (your core) back. It’s almost as if it’s assumed that your body will just naturally go back to how it was before in a matter of weeks or months, or that women should just accept their bodies will never be the same again and I completely disagree with both of those things!

I quickly got my level 3 certification in working with ante and postnatal clients after this, because I think there is a huge lack of awareness and availability for women to exercise in an appropriate way for their postnatal bodies. In Switzerland, I think it’s great that women have access to a physio to help with their pelvic floor rehabilitation but there’s nothing beyond that. The only choices are to go back to the gym and try to do your own workouts, or attend a group class, which I find to be wholly inappropriate for postnatal women. Otherwise women have apps they can download and follow, or get a Personal Trainer with relevant certifications to coach them back to pre-pregnancy fitness. The problem with all of these options are that either there’s a complete lack of appropriate exercises, lack of supervision, or higher investment (Personal Trainer).

I wanted to offer group classes to make it accessible to mums to get a workout that’s specifically designed for them, where babies are welcome too! It is also really nice to see mums chatting and exchanging experiences and recommendations for all things baby related.

How many times do you think a normal person needs to train to stay fit and see some changes in his or her body?

Research suggests that muscle wastage occurs after 5 days of non-use. This would mean in order to see change or improve, you would need to work out at least every 5 days in order to see your muscles grow and get stronger. However, it’s certainly the case that some people who are already quite active can work out 3 times a week and not see much change, and someone else may work out once a week and see a difference. Every person is different so there’s no hard answer to this. In general, I recommend my clients to keep active and do some sort of exercise at least 3 times a week (including yoga, hiking, jogging, and gardening as an example) with at least one strength and conditioning session per week. So far, I have not met someone who didn’t see positive results staying with this kind of programme.

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 %Site Name-%Image NameHow many times per week did you used to train before sports became your work? What sports do you practice?

I started my sporting life as a runner. I enjoyed the training and being able to measure my performance in any given distance. It was also my main source of stress relief, when I worked in London doing long hours. However, my major passion is triathlon, which is a multi-sport event involving a swim, bike and run. As a result, I had multiple sports to practice! My training has seen some peaks and troughs over the years. There were times when I took it all pretty seriously, and trained 6 days a week without fail, of which 3 or 4 of those days squeezing in two training sessions in a day. I started my day at 5:30am to get my big swim or run sessions in before work and would train with my running club after work, or hit the gym for a spin class/strength work. I also cycled to and from work every day, 40 minutes each way. It was all pretty hectic back then! Ironically, now that I do sports as a job, I am much more balanced and relaxed about it all!

We all know that training isn’t effective if it’s not accompanied by a healthy lifestyle. And we all know the theory about what we need to eat or drink. But it’s always more interesting to know what healthy people like you actually do! Could you tell us a little bit more about what a standard breakfast, lunch and dinner is for you?

It’s funny, I don’t consider myself a particularly “healthy” person. As in, I don’t eat a very specific diet, or avoid certain foods, but it’s also very true that our eating habits are pretty ingrained and can be attributed a lot from what you ate as a child growing up. Research shows that almost all of our choices around foods are in fact just habits. We tend to eat what we are most familiar with and seek comfort in.

Being Japanese of origin, it meant that I grew up eating a lot of fish, fruits, vegetables and very little sweet foods. I generally don’t eat sweet things, though when I do, I enjoy them very much.

Breakfast for me can be anything from porridge, toast with marmite, granola with yogurt, rice and eggs, anything I feel like that day! Lunch tends to be pretty carb-heavy as I need the energy for the day, so rice and vegetables, or pasta with vegetables. When I fancy a snack, I like fresh fruits or pickled vegetables (random, I know), I’ve also been known to eat tofu with grated ginger and soya sauce! Dinner I try to keep light, so a fresh salad and fish, or soup. My motto is to eat some fresh fruit or vegetables every day, multiple times a day. I am also trying to cut down on my red meat consumption. I probably eat red meat twice a week.

A good trick that scientists have found to be effective in managing your eating habits is to manage your environment, rather than your cravings. This means you buy fresh fruits and nuts, healthy snacks and avoid buying chocolates, biscuits and crisps. Because when you’re peckish, you will reach for what you seek comfort in, but if you are actually hungry, you WILL eat that apple, or nectarine, or almonds, just because that’s the only thing available to you at that time! I do this as a principle, and I do find myself not eating until I’m actually hungry, then when I do, I will actually find an apple quite satiating.

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What’s a typical day for you?

My day generally has a similar rhythm which goes something like; wake up, have breakfast with my baby. Within an hour or so of waking up, take baby and dog out so the dog can get his morning walk in. If it’s a day I have the nanny, I’ll leave the baby with her, so she can have a good play with him and tire him out! For our morning walks we would be out for an hour or an hour and a half.

Then when I get back in around 10.30/11am, generally I have a lunch time class or sessions, so I’ll prep my sessions and pack my bag with the equipment I need and get on my bike to the class/client. Once I’m done with my classes/client sessions, I’ll get back, sometimes via the supermarket to make sure we have food for the evening/next day. Then it’s back out to take the dog out for his second walk. That’s another hour or 1.5 hours! This is how I manage to get an average of 20,000 steps in a day!

Then I get back, if I have an evening class I get back on my bike and off I go. All this has meant my husband generally does the cooking for dinner, thankfully he’s a very good cook! If I have any admin to do, I do them after dinner once the baby has gone to sleep.

All of this rushing around means I’m constantly hungry, so I eat every time before I go out, otherwise I don’t last through the day. I’ve become quite skilled at batch making several meals so I have a few different meals to reheat and eat at any time. I really try to avoid putting myself in a situation where I reach for quick fast food type snacks.

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How do you see yourself as a mum?

That’s a hard question to answer! Well, the baby seems always to be happy to see me when I come home or pick him up from creche, so I like to think that he likes me as his mum.

Being a mum is seriously hard work! It’s emotionally and physically exhausting being entirely responsible for another human being. I do my best to be present as much as possible with my son, to cherish the moments that we’ll never have again because he is growing and changing so much. He’s 22 months old now, and it’s unbelievable how much he’s changed even though he can still only say about 20 words!

I know about endurance from the competitions I’ve done, but having a baby really makes you realise you have more reserves than you thought. Being a parent for those reasons is the hardest but most rewarding and heart-warming thing.

I hope that the discipline I have learnt over the years through work and sports will help me to be a good mum who is kind, patient and a strong moral guide.

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How do you spend time with your family?

Given that we have an active toddler and a high energy dog, you will generally find us hiking or adventuring in some way in the nature. We like our family walks in the country because there’s something for everyone! Plus, everyone comes home tired and gets a good night’s sleep. I call that a win-win! Chamonix and the Swiss Jura are some of our favourite stomping grounds all year round.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m currently working with a friend of mine, Lu who is also a mum and a Personal Trainer in launching a co-business of fitness and other relevant activities for active mums in Geneva. We recently started a Friday lunch time workout in Parc de Vermont near Nations for working mums, because those are the mums that least have the time to get a work out in. We also have plans to do other fun things like a home retreat or a get-away retreat in the future.

All this is happening in parallel with preparing to become a mum of two, we are expecting our second child next month, so we better get ourselves prepared for even more chaos!

Check her website:

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