Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Gena Phua

Cheryl Tay
·5-min read
Gena Phua is a personal fitness trainer.
Gena Phua is a personal fitness trainer. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Life goes beyond the digits on the scale and your body is capable of so much more. Yahoo’s #Fitspo of the Week series is dedicated to inspirational men and women in Singapore leading healthy and active lifestyles. Have someone to recommend? Hit Cheryl up on Instagram or Facebook.

Name: Gena Phua (@genaphua)

Age: 28

Height: 1.55m

Weight: 56kg

Occupation: Personal Trainer

Status: Attached

Diet: I eat five meals a day. For my current off-season diet, I follow an 80/20 rule. I still prepare majority of my meals and have planned occasional eat-outs. I make sure I still meet my protein macros and do not go overboard with my calorie intake for the day.

Training: I train six times a week, focusing on specific body parts for each session. I wake up at 3 to 4am in the morning to train at the gym before heading to work.

Gena returned to an active fitness regime after taking part in the Spartan Race events in 2015 and 2016.
Gena returned to an active fitness regime after taking part in the Spartan Race events in 2015 and 2016. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Q: You did a lot of sports in school.

A: During secondary school days, I would take part in inter-class sports competitions – badminton, tchoukball, baseball, netball, cross-country. And then in junior college (JC), I joined my school’s badminton team.

How did you get back to an active regime in your adult years?

My friend introduced me to the Spartan Race and I did the Sprint in 2015 and the Super in 2016. After doing Spartan, I became more daring. At the first Spartan Sprint, I realised how strong I was physically and mentally. Despite my fear of heights, I trained and conquered the rope climb obstacle. After that, I picked up long distance running because I wanted to go for the Spartan Super race. I got addicted with pushing myself to clocking more and more mileage each run.

You said you used to be plump.

I remember my dad saying that I had thunder thighs, thus I became more image-conscious as I grew older. To lose weight, I started running – from 5km to 10km to 15km to 21km to 30km, for two to three times a week. My goal was to complete the full marathon – which I did in 2018 – then I stopped running and switched my focus to bodybuilding.

Gena completed a full marathon in 2018, and is now focused on bodybuilding.
Gena completed a full marathon in 2018, and is now focused on bodybuilding. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

What led you to take part in your first sports model competition?

My first personal trainer encouraged me give to it a shot because I was leaning out and my abs started showing after I started running outdoors. I love challenges so it became a goal of mine to take part in the competition, which happens annually, and work towards a better physique each year.

From there you went on to get your International Federation of Bodybuilding & Fitness (IFBB) Pro card. What is it about bodybuilding and physique competitions that you like so much?

People may find bodybuilding an extreme sport but it actually gave me a more balanced lifestyle than running. For example, I used to run 100km a week even though I was still lifting weights and I actually picked up weight training back in JC days even before I started running. But I am eating more now than I was compared to my running days.

I used to have weekly cheat meals during my running days and would run the next day to get rid of those excess calories. It became a vicious circle and I was feeling burnt out. Muscles burn more calories so I don’t really put on as much as before and after picking up bodybuilding I know more about macros, calories in and out, so I feel less guilty after a cheat meal. 

Even when my diet is stricter when closer to competition, my meals aren’t so boring and still tasty because I know how to manage my macros and come up with my own recipes.

You were working as an auditor. What made you decide to go back to university and take a second degree in sports science?

I am very into fitness and I discovered I didn’t like a desk-bound job. I wanted to spread my love and enthusiasm for fitness. I wanted to have an in-depth knowledge so I can better educate and help my clients. Thus instead of just a certification, I wanted to get a degree.

Gena returned to university to take up a second degree in sports science.
Gena returned to university to take up a second degree in sports science. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

What prompted this career switch to become a personal trainer?

I wanted a job that was more fulfilling and so far I have been really happy with my job. I am learning new things every day from male senior coaches at my company. I am happy with the switch because it’s so heartwarming having my clients tell me how much they enjoy and look forward to my sessions and how much of an impact I have made in their lives.

When did you feel the least confident about yourself?

When I had to be in front of strangers. But I overcame it after I entered university because we had to do class participation for every module and it counted towards our grades. I remember I had to force myself and I would break out in cold sweat but after a while I got used to it.

Are you satisfied with your body now?

Yes, it took me many years of hard work to achieve the body I have now.

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Gena Phua.
Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Gena Phua. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)