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Signing up
The following fitness clubs have personal trainers who speak English.


Jeff's Fitness
Shin-Ei Forest Bldg, 4-29-6 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5786-1068. Email: Web:


Gold's Gym
Oomori: 6 & 7F Oomori Eki Mae Bldg, 2-4-1 Sanno, Oota-ku. Tel: 03-5718-3939.

Harajuku: Berokkusu Bldg, B2 & 3F, 6-31-17 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5766-3131.

Nakano: 3F Tokyu Store, 4-3-1 Nakano, Nakano-ku. Tel: 03-5318-7351.


Konami Sports Club Shibuya
18-11 Shinsencho, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5489-3621.


The Tokyo Capital Club
2-8-2 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3401-3691. Email:


Tipness Shibuya
16-4 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3770-3531.



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The personal touch

Madonna and Matsui aren't the only ones who need help staying fit. Hanna Kite pumps it up with the top personal trainers in Tokyo.

Trainers at Jeff's fitness in Yoyogi lead clients through cardio, weight and other personalized workouts

Whether it's losing that holiday bulge or training for a marathon, keeping up an exercise regimen can be rather difficult. With bills to pay and people to see, work has an uncanny way of taking precedence over any workout. To kick the "I'll go to the gym tomorrow" habit and finally stick to those new year's resolutions, an increasing number of non-celebrities and non-athletes are turning to personal trainers.

The fitness boom means that more and more Japanese gyms are offering personal trainers, including foreign and English-speaking Japanese experts, as part of their services. In addition to staying on top of exercise trends both here and overseas, these fitness and lifestyle gurus can help incorporate healthy habits into everyday life.

The flip side to the fitness boom is that there are more trainers who are just trying to earn an easy man. Certification for personal trainers can be done in a couple of hours online or through companies advertising in the back of fitness magazines. The best trainers, however, have been schooled in anatomy, kinesiology, physiology and nutrition, and are certified with reputable organizations such as the American Council on Exercise or the American College of Sports Medicine.

Certification in Japan can vary widely, so a good way to judge a trainer is how they treat their clients. Most gyms will also screen their applicants and make sure their trainers have the proper credentials. "What really distinguishes a good personal trainer from someone with just a piece of paper is someone who cares about their client," says Darren Shane, a Canadian trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise and the National Fitness Leaders Advisory Council and who now works at Gold's Gym. Shane often calls to check on clients who he knows can't afford the time or money to train with him more than a few times a week. "I want to teach them as much as possible," he says. "I still want them to be able to go to the gym by themselves."


Lifestyle lessons
In Tokyo, the average cost to hire a personal trainer is about ¥5,000 per hour in addition to gym membership dues. Depending on the gym and the trainer, prices range from ¥3,000 to more than ¥10,000 per hour. "Once you hit the ¥13,000 mark, that's usually at the level of an elite athlete," notes Shane.

Built into these fees is often a lot more than basic weights and cardio. Yasuhisa Tayama, the most popular trainer at Tokyo Capital Club and a certified athletic instructor with the Health and Welfare Ministry, asks clients about their eating habits and whether they are taking dietary supplements. He always reads up on new fitness techniques and health news. Julie Suga, also a US-certified trainer with Gold's Gym, echoes the sentiment, saying, "Fitness is 20 percent exercise and 80 percent everything else."

Because expert personal trainers are educated in kinesiology, physiology and anatomy, they can help their clients achieve superior results from their exercise programs. "There are about 650 muscles moving 206 bones through seven primal movement patterns and their accessories. And they all function as an entity," says Jeff Libengood, owner of Jeff's Fitness in Yoyogi. Libengood, who holds multiple certifications from the C.H.E.K. (Corrective High-Performance Exercise Kinesiology) Institute and coaching education firm King Sports International, emphasizes a thorough physical evaluation so that his clients correct any muscular imbalances before training.

Jeff Libengood and other trainers use the Swiss ball to train several muscle groups at once

Top trainers will ask their clients about all aspects of their health and be able to tailor an exercise program to suit specific needs. At Jeff's Fitness, Takeshi Ninami, CEO of Lawson Inc., has been working on his golf swing and trying to lose weight with Libengood. After evaluating the weaknesses in Ninami's swing, Libengood designed a special exercise program to help him improve his flexibility and strength in his core muscles as well as in his shoulder and hip girdle. "All my other coaches told me to use my left shoulder (for my swing), now I use my back and hips to lead. I have confidence now that I will keep improving at golf," says Ninami.


The ball and chain
Since trainers keep up with latest exercise techniques they are an excellent source of alternatives to the standard Nautilis set and checklist. Libengood, whose clients include Bob Sapp and pop star Hitomi, uses a Swiss ball as one of the elements in his fitness programs. Exercises with the Swiss ball can be used for a variety of purposes, but are especially helpful in rehabilitation and in removing muscular imbalances in the body. They also provide a more efficient workout because they train more than one muscle group at a time.

Libengood is also incorporating rubber bands and chains from Russian body-building techniques into his weight lifting programs, believing they will be increasingly popular in years to come. The bands and chains help increase the amount of weight that is lifted at the muscle's strongest angles. For instance, if two rubber bands with 20 pounds of tension are attached to weights during a squat exercise, the rubber band increases the amount of weight being lifted when the body is fully extended. The trainee will be lifting 90 pounds at the bottom and 130 pounds at the top, thus increasing the efficiency of their workout.

As with a medical doctor or psychiatrist, choosing a personal trainer should be a combination of finding someone with the right training who also recognizes the non-physical aspects of getting fit. "There is no point in having a personal trainer if you can't communicate," emphasizes Tayama. "You should be comfortable enough with your trainer to be able to tell them when something hurts or is hard to do."

Tayama says that he never orders his clients to eat better or to strain themselves. "Training has a reputation for being difficult. It's my responsibility to keep it fun. I never give orders." Julie Suga points out that trainers should vary their programs to keep the client interested and challenged. In the end, all the trainers agree that finding one who is enthusiastic and committed to your fitness program is the key. As Jeff Libengood concludes, "Your goal is as important to me as it is to you."

Photo credit: Martin Hladik

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