Women in Fitness - Agnes Liew
In celebration of International Women's Day, KYDRA has partnered with AWARE to put the spotlight on some of the women in fitness.
Today, we speak to Agnes Liew, Founder and CEO of Oompf! Fitness, a boutique fitness club offering tailored personal training programs as well as Spin group classes.
Agnes Liew is a former banker, having spent 35 years with Citigroup in Hong Kong before retiring in 2017. After coming back to Singapore, she took up the challenge of entrepreneurship and started Oompf! Fitness. Agnes founded Oompf! Fitness to share her vision of becoming fit and fitter no matter your age or stage in life, and especially to empower women to age healthily and gracefully.
We spoke to Agnes about her personal journey in fitness and what fitness means to her.
The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Tell us about yourself!
I am the Founder and CEO of Oompf! Fitness, a boutique fitness club.
I oversee the club's management, build relationships with our clients and partners with whom we collaborate, and undertake overall business development for the club.
How did you start your journey into the fitness industry?
I was getting overweight and tired from a jet setting banker lifestyle and felt I had to do something different to rejuvenate my body and soul.
I was approaching 60 years old then and discovered my bone density was declining, to the point that I was going to get osteoporotic if I didn't act. So I did!
Why did you choose to do this full time?
I started working out doing strength training and discovered it helped me. I also began to enjoy challenging myself physically and mentally to break thresholds. I wanted a private bespoke space to workout in, so I retired from banking after 35 years and started my own private fitness club, Oompf! Fitness. It then grew to become a business, attracting many like-minded middle-aged and older clients who want to be fit for life.
When I started, I knew nothing about fitness. I just wanted to get stronger and maybe lose some weight. I actually started doing Pilates years ago when I was living in HK - maybe 3 years or so before I hit the gym. I enjoyed Pilates but it did not challenge my endurance or strength like resistance training.
Strength training challenges me to lift, to move in ways I had never experienced. I enjoy training hard as it gives me strength and energy not just physically but mentally as well.
I feel good and rejuvenated; I feel much more energetic. I don't think I can live a lifestyle absent working out! It has changed my outlook physically, mentally and emotionally as well! I feel not just younger but more zest in everything I do.
There are many workout types associated with being 'female-friendly'. Why did you choose to specialize in HIIT/resistance training, especially with fitness being such a male-dominated industry?
It is also a medical fact that resistance training can help build bone density or at least slow or stop its decline - that is very critically important for me.
In fact after 3 years or so of strength training, my bone density readings actually improved significantly and now I am working even harder to try and reverse my osteopenia completely! My training these days is a combination of strength and endurance training, as well as cardio and metabolic training. I also try and squeeze in a spin class or two if I can, weekly.
Training routines should be varied to be effective and fun!
What was the biggest criticisms you've ever received after deciding to pursue fitness full-time. How did you overcome that hurdle?
I wouldn't call it criticism; more like cynicism. People sometimes doubt I can sustain this on a personal and business level.
Well, Oompf! is turning 4 years old in a few months' time; we survived Circuit Breaker(!); in fact many of our clients were only too glad to get back to the gym! I am unfazed by cynicism because at the end of the day, we are not pushing fashion or trend.
We are educating people, especially the more mature ladies and gentlemen, the value of health and fitness for life (not a fad like losing weight). Many come to join us here at Oompf! because they read or heard about my personal journey and found it relatable to their own situation.
Over the years in the industry, what were the most fulfilling moments of your job?
When I see my clients, especially those who are middle-aged or older and de-conditioned when they first started, make progress in their fitness journey! They find themselves in a better shape, both physically and mentally, they then become self motivated!
Their success, renewed enthusiasm for life and zest inspire me to spread the message even more.
What advice would you give to other women looking to follow in your footsteps?
Fitness is a lifetime gift to oneself, it's never too late to start. Age is truly just a number. I started my own journey when I was past 58 years old! Before that, I had never stepped foot in any gym!
Don't be afraid to follow your heart and passion, just do it, for yourself. Fight for what you believe in, fight for what you want!