Adeline Ross has been living in Fukuoka for almost two and a half years, and has transformed her passion for fitness into her professional career. She runs Fit in Fukuoka, a group dedicated to getting us slobs up and moving, through classes such as Yoga, Heyrobics or outdoor hikes to beautiful mountains. We caught up with her in mid-February, as she was just about to sign the lease for her new yoga studio in Yakuin. Read on to find out more about Adeline’s journey in Fukuoka.
In Japan: 2 and a half years
Identity: Teacher of many things – Yoga, Aerobics, English
What brought you to Japan?
I had been working in China for three years and that’s where I started doing yoga and that’s where I became certified in Heyrobics. I began teaching Heyrobics at the weekends while working an office job during the week. Eventually the company I was working for decided to transfer me to Fukuoka. So I came here and fell in love with the city.
Where were you working in China?
I was working in Beijing for the editing company Edanz, doing their global marketing, working with the local Japanese and Chinese marketers. But I only worked for them for six months after coming to Fukuoka.
What did you do when you left that job?
I spent a lot of time on my bike exploring Fukuoka, and trying to figure out what I was going to do with myself. I taught a bit of English, and I started to teach a weekly Heyrobics class in Ohori Park. And it just developed from there, I now run regular classes through my group, Fit in Fukuoka.
Tell us more about that, how did it develop from weekly classes to you running regular sessions and establishing Fit in Fukuoka?
I got a load of support from my friends and colleagues, they’d keep coming back to me asking whether I was running a class that week and pushing me to lead different fitness sessions. I also got help from local businesses, who I try and collaborate with as much as possible. One example is the yoga brunch I run on Sundays at IMS in Tenjin. That idea started with a guy I knew who ran a cafe in Yakuin. I went in there one day and asked whether we could do yoga there and if he’d cook us food afterwards. That attracted about 10 people so we crammed into this tiny space and he made us these amazing salads afterwards and then it just became a regular thing held in the IMS building.
What type of fitness classes do you run? You’ve already mentioned Heyrobics.
Yeah Heyrobics is similar to zumba, a little bit sillier, more pushups, more sit ups and louder music. I’ve had to change the style slightly from how I learnt it in Beijing though. There we had these massive studios, here they’re all tiny, so there’s a little less room to jump around. I also run regular yoga classes, in various studios across the city, which means I get to meet more and more people.
How often do you run classes with Fit in Fukuoka?
Regular classes run three days a week now, with special events on Saturdays or Sundays. Last weekend, we did glowstick yoga at a bar in Daimyo: an hour of power yoga, loud music, no lights and then a tonne of food and drinks afterwards. Then next weekend I’m leading a hike out in Nijo, Itoshima. We’ll hike up to the top, have sandwiches from Son of a Sandwich and then head to an onsen afterwards.
It sounds like you put a lot of effort into giving your events a unique spin?
Well yeah, it’s really nice working with a load of different people and leading workshops in different places. I like to combine new and old to make an event that all people can enjoy. We did a yoga and wine session in Hirao the other day, that was very popular.
And are people fairly receptive to you when you ask to do stuff like glowstick yoga in their bars?
It’s fity-fifty, I’ve never had someone say an outright no, I normally just get an ‘I’ll think about it’ or ‘sure! let’s talk it over’.
Word on the street is you have plans to open your own yoga studio.
Yeah! I’m actually going in tomorrow to inkan the official documents to make an application for a space in Yakuin-odori. I’ll open it up as my teaching space primarily to start with but then I hope to get other instructors in teaching a variety of activities, putting on events and using it as a space for people to collaborate.
Have you always been into fitness?
Yeah definitely, it comes from my mum, she’s super active. She tells this story of when I was three or four years old and she took me on this hike up a mountain. About halfway up I’d had enough so she put me on her back and carried me all the way to the top. With her I did a lot of hiking, cycling, cross-country skiing and I also did all the usual school sports: ice hockey, soccer, track and field.
Do you have any tips for people who travel a lot on how to keep up their exercise?
Just bring a pair of running shoes wherever you go, you can normally find somewhere great to run and it’s always a great way to explore a new city. Sorting out a workout routine for a hotel room is useful, situps, pushups; I use these stretchy bands that are super portable and great to train with.
Do you have a philosophy for fitness?
I like doing it for three different reasons. The first is to feel confident in my body. I’m never going to be the strongest or the thinnest but I’m really comfortable in my own skin, I know I’m fit and how my body works. The second is that I love bringing that to other people. Seeing other people at my class getting stronger and more confident in themselves is incredibly rewarding. Lastly, when I’m on long bike rides or long runs I don’t listen to music, so it’s a great place for thinking. It’s kind of a moving meditation, I guess.
What tips do you have for people struggling to keep motivated?
Find out what goals really suit you, whether it’s developing a six pack, or wanting your partner to think you’re really fit, or whatever. Just focus on that and use it to propel yourself. Group classes are also great, they have a certain energy that isn’t present when you’re working out alone.
What was the transformation from fitness enthusiast to instructor?
Well it started with the Heyrobics. I’d been going for about two years as a participant and they had a call for new instructors. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do it, but it was really fun. Very stressful too though, I’d have these stress dreams every night, imaging every possible scenario where things could go wrong.
Yoga, again I wasn’t sure I wanted to be an instructor, but I knew I wanted to learn about body alignment, a topic important to me and my students. I did the training for that here in Fukuoka, a 200-hour intensive course through a company called Yoga Plus, who are based in Tokyo. Part way through it, I knew I wanted to teach yoga. It was taught by a yoga instructor from the US, so the course was all in English, but they had a Japanese interpreter alongside to help with translation for the Japanese participants.
How does someone get involved in Fit in Fukuoka
We have our website, we’re on meetups, it’s generally an open and friendly group. It’s a cool way to meet locals, expats and do something out of the city.
And who are your normal attendees?
Mostly 20~30 somethings, half expats, half Japanese mixed Japanese and English levels. All levels of fitness are welcome, and I just ask people to do what they can do.
Where’s the craziest place you’ve run.
When I was leaving Beijing I signed myself up for the Great Wall half marathon – a lot of stairs.
What’s your favorite fitness gadget?
Just my stretchy bands. They’re great.
What’s your favorite music for fitness?
Right now, ‘Yoga’ by Jidena.
Where’s your favorite place to exercise in Fukuoka?
It’s really cliche, but Ohori Park. Even if you’re in a really crap mood, the energy of everyone else exercising there always picks you up.
Where’s your favorite place to eat in Fukuoka?
Son of a Sandwich have great smoothies and sandwiches.
What’s your favorite Japanese word or expression?
Ochitsuku – it means relaxed or comfortable but it’s just so fun to say.
Do you have any advice to newly arrived foreigners in Fukuoka?
Wander around the smaller neighbourhoods, the shops, the cafes, you’ll meet so many people.
When’s your favorite time of the year in Fukuoka?
The late summer, after the rainy season. Beach BBQs in Itoshima and hanging out.
You can find out more about Adeline by visiting the Fit in Fukuoka website.
It’s our pleasure to introduce the many interesting non-Japanese living in and around Fukuoka. If you know of someone whose activities might be of interest to other readers, please let us know.
Interview by Oscar Boyd. Interview on Feb. 16, 2017.