DURING the Asian financial crisis 10 years ago, Mr Elvi Kee lost his restaurant manager job.

The sports enthusiast decided to use the time to get certified to conduct personal training - something he had enjoyed since he was 19, when he got into the "iron game" to gain some strength for national service.

After getting his basic qualifications in personal training with the Singapore Sports Council, he joined a major fitness chain, California Fitness.

Studying part-time, he went on to obtain the Certified Personal Trainer certification from California Fitness Center School of Excellence.

He also acquired certifications in performance nutrition and in training people with special needs, such as those with medical conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

He worked his way up to become assistant manager of the personal training department, where he was in charge of training other trainers.

In 2003, he decided to leave and set up a personal training business with a group of fellow professionals.

Currently, they train clients either at the group's rented gyms in Gallery Hotel and Orchard Hotel, or make house calls to the clients' gyms.

"Less work for more pay" is how Mr Kee describes his work as a private trainer.

But there is no avoiding the toil in the initial years, says the 41-year-old.

"I've seen many private trainers come and go, and it's not because they're no good. If you become a private trainer immediately, nobody knows you and you have no recommendations.

"But in a big commercial gym, there's always a supply of new members and clients," he says, adding that he has five clients who have been with him since 1999.

"Sometimes, personal training is not only about training. After a while, clients can become friends. If they see results, they have someone to talk to, then they'll definitely stay with you."

Different needs

While many clients just want to look good, more are coming to him now with the goal of improving their health, such as dealing with medical conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

"You don't have to look good to be healthy, although it's possible to have both," he says.

When he meets new clients, he finds out their medical history and physical capabilities and determines what their training goals are.

"Training yourself is different from training someone else," he explains.

"For example, just because you're a bodybuilder doesn't mean you should train your clients with bodybuilding methods.

"You must cater the programme to what they need. And when changes occur to their bodies, you must change the programme."

Don't be fooled

Mr Kee believes that today's fitness enthusiast cannot just rely on lifestyle magazines and online training articles to work out correctly.

This is because the exercises depicted in these articles usually do not show the full range of motion, so the reader may get the start and end positions correct but everything in the middle wrong, he says.

There are also many "so-called" trainers around, says Mr Kee, who wishes for a regulatory body for the industry.

To protect yourself from dodgy trainers, you should check the trainer's certifications and references and get referrals from other clients, he advises.

Lastly, look at the trainer.

"If you just don't like how the trainer looks, then there's no point!" he adds cheekily.