Gym-on-wheels: Meet James Long, the personal trainer who takes his gym to his clients

SINGAPORE — When Mr James Long agreed to be featured by fitness website Aktiv Intel on its TikTok page, he was not expecting the 36-second clip to go viral.

“I met someone from Active Intel last November when he was running at East Coast Park, and he asked if he could do a TikTok about me at the end of March,” said the 41-year-old.

Mr Long is a part-time fitness trainer who goes around Singapore in his van, taking his gym to his clients for their morning workout.

“More than 30 people have already inquired about my services. Usually, I get clients by word of mouth, so I’ve never got this many enquiries,” he told TODAY on Friday (April 4).

The TikTok video, published on April 3, had 16,800 views when TODAY spoke to him. It has amassed more than 372,000 views by Sunday (April 10).

The black van, which he has equipped with gym equipment such as weights and a bench press, has enough space for one person to exercise in it with Mr Long overseeing.

If it isn’t raining, Mr Long sets up the equipment outside the van, allowing his clients to exercise with fresh air.

“I drive to about half of my clients’ homes in landed properties or condos,” he said.

Aside from residential locations, the roving gym is also used by clients at an open air car park in East Coast Park and at another open air car park near Marina Bay Sands.

Describing himself as an outdoor and active person, Mr Long quit his job in the advertising industry to become a full-time fitness trainer in 2019.

“I wanted to leave the corporate scene, focus on my passions and do what I love… I also wanted to have more time with my children and wife,” he said. His children turn 11 and nine this year.

As a gym trainer and having conducted various classes, Mr Long said that there are days when people need the extra push to head to the gym.

“I thought, why not bring fitness to people’s homes? So there’s no excuse, you’re at home with a gym and a trainer,” he said.

PEOPLE CAN WORK OUT RAIN OR SHINE

He first started out by transporting equipment in his car, driving around to his client’s homes. But his car’s limited space meant he could carry only a limited amount of equipment.

So in August 2020, Mr Long bought a typical delivery van, modified it with hooks and fitness equipment, and started driving to his clients’ homes.

And as his services started picking up, he decided a year later to invest in a bigger van, which allows one person to exercise in it.

“If we trained at the park, we might have to cancel if the weather’s bad because the van was too small. With the (bigger van), people can exercise and work out rain or shine,” he said.

For Ms Emilie Annweiler, 39, services lead at ING Innovation Labs, Mr Long’s roving gym is the perfect motivation for her husband to wake up for a morning workout.

Having met Mr Long while he was a trainer at gym F45, Ms Annweiler said that he gave her the confidence to start doing heavier weights.

“In May 2021, there was another round of restrictions which closed gyms. James offered his personal trainer services and I took it up,” she said.

Mr Long comes by his house thrice a week, where she exercises under his supervision from 7am to 8am, and her husband does his workouts from 8am to 9am.

“(My husband) needed the motivation to stay active, and having James come by was the perfect motivation,” she said.

While Mr Long has been flooded with inquiries since the TikTok video went viral, he said he is unlikely to open new slots as he is a full-time real estate agent, only committing weekday mornings for the gym.

“I love my clients, a majority of them I see at least twice a week, sometimes up to four times a week. So I want to focus on them, and then see if people that enquired fit into my schedule,” he said.

“Of course I hope to expand (the roving gym) business, but it’s hard finding like-minded trainers who are willing to go to clients, without the big gym equipment and airconditioning, and sometimes without a nearby toilet.

“I just want to help people.”

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