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That Papa: Douglas Pieterse

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We’re back with another That Papa feature and this time we’re talking to Douglas Pieterse, one of the awesome trainers over at R3 Personal Training.

As most HK expat stories goes, his is pretty familiar – he came on a short term contract and eight years later he’s one of the best names in the fitness business. Plus, he’s got two adorable sons who are more than happy to help with his fitness routine…


Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you ended up in Hong Kong.
I’m originally from South Africa and I’ve been in Hong Kong for 8 years now. I came over here on a short contract to teach kids gymnastics and a few other sports, but I ended up staying for a lot longer than I planned. Now I’m happily married with two sons and work in a fantastic industry. I get to do something I really enjoy; helping people get fitter, stronger, more confident and most importantly, helping people have fun.


How does teaching differ to being a papa?
Teaching differs in the sense that we only have a limited time with each person to try make a difference whereas we have a lot more time with our own kids. Both have the privilege of seeing growth and development.

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You started gymnastics at 11, how did your teacher encourage you at such a young age?
I think my coaches had a very different approach to encouragement as they were usually preparing us for a competition, which kept us engaged. No training meant no competing.


What techniques have you devised for working with such young children?
Children reflect what you show them so if you are full of energy and friendly, they will be the same. Building structure in a class allows the children to feel comfortable as they have a routine. One of the best ways to keep them engaged is to present tasks as games. That way it seems more fun and leaves them excited for the next lesson.


You work with autistic children. How do you see them develop throughout the program?
The progress is spread out over a longer period, so it usually takes me a while to get to know the child and learn what interests them. However, once I learn how to engage them, they develop really well and their sessions are a lot of fun and can be the most rewarding for me.


What are the major differences of training children and adults?
Children have very short attention spans so we change activity about every 3-4 minutes. Other than that it’s pretty much the same!


What are your favourite Tung Chung spots for eating and hanging out?
There’s not a huge variety of places to eat in Tung Chung but we often eat at the Thai restaurants. As for hanging out, we usually hang out at our gym here. Our members feel like extended family and we often just sit outside and have a BBQ. We also like to hang out at the swimming pool and go on family bike rides.


What’s the community like in Tung Chung? Do you see a big difference compared to your old life in Central?
The community is very family orientated and most activities tend to get planned around the kids. There is more outdoor space here which makes family life a little more convenient. Central is much busier but I still really enjoy being there.


Why do parents enroll their children in your class?
I guess it’s because the kids have a great time! They do a lot of exercise and learn skills that they can take away with them and build on for the rest of their lives. Confidence, discipline and back-flips are all a by-product!


Who kicks the most butt out of you and your wife Joey?
When I first met Joey, she mentioned she fought Muay Thai. My first thought was that women couldn’t fight but after a very brief sparring session, I concluded that I didn’t enjoy being beaten up by a girl. Joey is definitely the butt kicker in and out of the ring.


How old are your sons and are they interested in MMA?
Maddyx and Tayden, otherwise known as Captain America and the Hulk, are nearly 4 and 5. At the moment, their favorite sports include Brazilian Jui-Jitsu, Muay Thai Boxing and hide and seek! They are super active and usually do 3 hours of activity after school such as swimming, cycling, gymnastics and Anti-Gravity.


How did your parents influence where you are today?
My parents always gave me so much freedom to do whatever I wanted, which taught me independence and gave me an adventurous heart.


What’s your favourite healthy food spot in Hong Kong?
At the moment, I enjoy going to Classified as they have a great and convenient breakfast.


How do you separate the work/home balance with your business partner wife?
We don’t really separate our home and work lives. I have a lot of respect for what Joey does and her opinions and though it’s hard to admit, she is much sharper than I am most of the time.


Do you think your hobbies and work have blended seamlessly?
Of my hobbies, photography and videography would have to be at the top. Although we used to do a lot of family photography work, I would say videography has become the most enjoyable for me, mainly because I like looking at an idea come to life. It’s great having the ability to take photos for work if need be and shoot the images that I want.


How did having children affect your training?
The biggest affect is on time management. I try to plan workouts during working hours so I can go straight home when I’m done. The boys are getting to an age where we can do a fair amount of exercise with them too. My eldest son enjoys going for long bike rides which is much more appealing than cycling in the gym by myself.


These gorgeous images were shot by Holly Graham. 

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