By: Susannah Jaffer; photography by Michael Bernabe
Ozfit, the outdoor exercise company owned by Australian Lisa Clayton, has been inspiring both women and men in Singapore to achieve their fitness goals since 2011. What started off as “hobby” fitness sessions for friends and family has since grown to a fully-fledged business offering over 50 sessions a week in 11 different locations. We caught up with the mum of three on the beach to find out how she got started.
Tell us the story behind Ozfit.
The idea came about when I started working as a personal trainer. I loved working with people, and being outside. I began collaborating with another PT friend on classes. We named ourselves Ozfit – it’s quite an odd name really, as what we do appeals to many nationalities, not just Aussies! In the beginning, though, we didn’t envision the company becoming so big.
Our original idea was to keep our schedule to three to four classes a week, which is how things ran for one and a half years. Both having small babies at home at the time, this was a great job that was flexible enough to allow us to have plenty of time with them.
After a while, my friend moved back to Australia, but I wanted to continue the business, as I loved the direction it was taking and found it a pure joy. I kept on going with just a few classes, and initially I had no desire to expand; but the demand grew so much that it became inevitable. What’s more, personal recommendations meant we suddenly had lots more people wanting to join us, but it wasn’t until a couple of months later that we saw we could start it as a business venture. The company has grown organically from there.
So you managed to expand almost purely through word of mouth?
Yes, and that’s when you know you’ve started a much-needed and original service. I was never into marketing – in fact, we didn’t have a Facebook page until approximately two years ago. We didn’t want to “sell” ourselves; we just wanted to build a loyal community of people who enjoyed coming to exercise outdoors with us. In fact, many people have said that our classes are one of the main things they’ll miss when they leave Singapore!
It’s great that Ozfit has built up such a community.
There are really genuine people in our fitness group – people who’ve grown together through laughter, sweat and tears. We’ve all bonded over the years, and I can see that the company has created opportunities for some great friendships and confidence transformations; it has also helped newcomers to settle in here. It’s been a truly amazing experience, and I feel so blessed and grateful for everyone who has been a part of the journey so far.
The bigger our pool of trainers has become over the years, the more I’ve grown too, not just as a person and a business owner, but also as a trainer. It’s been incredible, and I have the team to thank for that. Expanding into new territories was also an invaluable decision, and has allowed us to bring our boot camp passion to more people. In fact, last year we partnered with Ufit so that we could offer even more classes and options; we now offer 200 classes a month in 12 locations, under the Ozfit-Ufit Bootcamps banner.
Why do you advocate training in the great outdoors?
It’s a completely different ballgame! For one thing, it’s hot and humid, and the tropical weather can be unpredictable. Also, it’s so motivating to be surrounded by like-minded people engaged in the same fitness routine, who are also having fun with it. No one leaves our classes without having got to know someone better – after a while, the group begins to feel like extended family.
So you’d recommend outside workouts over gym sessions?
I’ve always found that in gyms, the atmosphere tends to be a little less personal, and you’re treated like a member rather than an individual with your own exercise needs. However, there is certainly a place for gyms, and they have lots of benefits, too.
We create exciting and varied workouts using the equipment we have around us – stairs, steps, hillsides and more – which is what I feel makes our classes so special. We change up our structure and share new knowledge with one another. Getting to know our clients really well and understanding what they like means that we as trainers can give them the best experience possible.
There will always be those who prefer to work out indoors with air-con, but I truly feel there is nothing that takes you out of your comfort zone like exercising outside. For many, this time spent outdoors is the highlight of their day.
What would your advice be to those who are looking to kick-start their fitness regimes and take control of their health?
If you want to change, you need to make a change. It’s a simple saying, but it’s the honest truth. The biggest problem for most is their fear of starting, but I say, if you don’t try, where will you be a few months down the line? Most likely a lot further away from your goals than you are now.
Many people may have had experiences where exercise feels like a chore. They remember it being tough, so they are scared to give it another go; however, I think the feeling you have once you get going is worth it, and the more you do, the easier and more enjoyable it gets. With outdoor classes, you can surround yourself with people who make fitness fun, who push you, challenge you and support you.
We also offer what we call our SheFit programme. Exercising in a female-only environment, with trainers who are also mums and are qualified in both prenatal and postnatal training, allows women to feel a bit more comfortable.
Also, we believe that fitness and nutrition should go hand in hand, as you can’t focus effectively on just one and not the other. That’s why we work with nutritionists who can offer advice and support to individuals, too.
Juggling a busy career with family must have its challenges. How do you manage, and is there any advice you can share?
Many people say I make it look easy – but it’s not, and I don’t want to create the illusion that everything is perfect. My days are very long. I’m on the keyboard until 11pm most nights, and up every day at 5.30am. I can’t even begin to describe the pace of the day, but every morning I wake up to a job that I look forward to doing – that’s why I can’t say no to anything!
The rewards for personal training are instant. I feel our classes make people happy, and that their time spent exercising with us becomes an essential and enjoyable part of their day.
As for mother’s guilt, that’s never going to go away – I feel it every day, and some days I feel quite torn if the balance is off and I’m away working too much. There is no such thing as a perfect balance, but I believe you have to do what brings out the best in you. I do get to decide when I need to be with my family, and that is a wonderful thing.
How would you describe your personal style?
Definitely beachy and sporty. I prefer wearing minimal gold jewellery, and I almost never do my hair!
Where are your favourite places to shop?
In Australia, I’m a bit of a one-stop-shop girl, so I think you can’t go wrong with David Jones. A personal favourite at the moment is my friend’s brand Bec and Bridge. In Singapore, I pretty much stick to Zara and Willow & Huxley – my time for shopping these days is limited.
Are there any beauty products you can’t live without?
I try a bit of everything. I’m not loyal to any brand in particular; however, I can’t go without my Cetaphil cleanser – it’s affordable and always works best for my skin. As for routines, I brush my teeth literally as soon as I wake up – it’s the first thing I do every day.
Tell us your go-to spots in Singapore? Dining? Days out?
There are so many to choose from, but I’d have to say that Da Luca or Super Loco, Meatballs and Soi 60 are my nighttime favourites, and the family loves heading to Sentosa on Sundays.
This story first appeared in LIV’s May 2015 issue.