If you follow local comedian Rishi Budhrani’s social media feeds, you will realise that he underwent a very impressive body transformation recently, going from a-few-beers-too-many to lean-mean-funny-machine.
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The person who helped Rishi achieve his fitness goals is EJ Phillip Joshua , trainer to the stars and Founder of Alpha Beast Fitness at Hongkong Street near Clarke Quay. EJ’s clientele list is an impressive one, including the likes of Rishi’s wife Sharul Channa, Joakim Gomez, Shrey Bhargava, Keagan Kang and Nicole Hunt (Miss Universe Singapore 2018).
For Rishi, EJ formed a 110-day plan, with a 6-days-a-week fitness regimen, and with close attention also paid to his diet. In that time, Rishi shredded 16kg, going from 90 to 74kg.
It was a long, arduous process (we’ll get into his process later in this article), but EJ’s approach helped Rishi trust that process. Rishi said, “I once told EJ that I was feeling a bit of soreness in one of my shoulders. I asked if we should proceed to train? Or should we take the day off. He said, ‘There are people in the world with no shoulders who still show up and train. So just shut up and come now.’”
What I love about the anecdote is that it shows the level of closeness and openness EJ is able to reach with his clients. He gets to a point where both he and his clients are able to talk as equals, and sometimes, as friends. It helps with the communication, and it helps when he needs to motivate his clients to do the right thing to achieve their desired body, or desired fitness levels.
This personable approach is one of the secrets to EJ’s success. His is not a one-size-fits-all gym. He takes the time to speak to his clients, learn about their hopes, their habits, their lifestyles. He then caters his workout and diet plans for them based on these initial discussions. It was this down-to-earth, bespoke approach that helped EJ become trainer to the stars and helped make his business a success. Expansion plans are afoot – on 1st April, EJ opened a women-only gym called Athena by Alphabeast in Eon Shenton.
Another one of his celebrity clients, actor and sustainability activist Paul Foster, told Augustman, “Training with EJ was more than just a PT-client relationship. Over time, EJ also became a close friend and confidant, and that helped me mentally. As hard as we trained together to reach my fitness goals, it became a lot more that we transcended into a bro-bro friendship, allowing me to work on myself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This isn’t something you get with anyone and everyone, so I am very grateful for both our professional and personal relationship.”
Speaking to EJ, you get the sense of someone who has a deeply storied life – he’s seen things, been there, done that, and this has moulded him into a very effective personal trainer, and a Manhunt 2018 contestant, as well as the 2nd runner-up in the Men’s Physique Masters 2019. Most recently, he’s a finalist at this year’s Mr. World Singapore. He’s a great fitness trainer, but he also lives by his teachings.
So if you haven’t been meeting your fitness goals for 2023, might we suggest dropping EJ a message?
We’ve seen on your social media your own body transformation. Tell us about your journey.
I used to be a fit guy when I was younger. I served as a commando during national service.
Then I entered the F&B industry in 2013, working in a bar. My eating and drinking habits were terrible in those years. Eventually, I had a health scare in 2019. I woke up not being able to breathe. When I went to the doctor, I found that all my markers – blood sugar, cholestrol, blood pressure, were all off, too high. My doctor told me, either I change my lifestyle or I will have to live with lifelong illness.
That’s when I started my own personal fitness journey. I tried all kinds of diets and exercise regimes to see what worked for me. At the same time, I worked on understanding my body’s relationship with food. Eventually, I began to understand the methods that worked for me and this helped me to customise an exercise and diet plan that worked for me.
Then you started Alpha Beast in 2020 – in the middle of the pandemic. How did that happen?
By then, I was working in a gym, but at that time, during lockdown, I didn’t have a job because the gyms were all closed. But around me, I could see a lot of people suffering. People were not able to manage their mental health well. People were not eating well. People were walking and running around – they didn’t have a purpose.
For me the word Alpha in Alpha Beast meant being in control of your own mindset, taking control of your own situation and back then, everybody was lost. Everybody didn’t know what to do. Everybody needed a direction. It used to be: wake up, go to work, come back. There was a schedule. Suddenly, that was all gone.
I thought if I can help someone understand their potential to take care of their own life, to be in charge of their own circumstances, to be in that Alpha mindset. I want them to be able to say, okay look, I’ll deal with my circumstance. I’m going to overcome it. I’m going to control it and do things better. It was with this in mind that I started Alpha Beast.
What is your fitness philosophy?
Anyone with any body type and health level can be transformed. What is most important is to be mentally dedicated and to have a clear ‘why’ – why do you want to become healthy. Ultimately, it is important to see fitness as a lifestyle, not a destination. That’s why it’s important to ask that to all our new clients – why? And then from there I can better help them. I can form plans that can help them meet their goals.
Yours is a more boutique and bespoke experience than the big gyms, and that obviously affects what you can offer to each client. What is your approach?
Being small means our service is much more personalised. In big gyms, it can sometimes feel intimidating because people are antisocial, they’re doing their own thing. Here, we want to make sure our clients feel included, that the atmosphere is inclusive. So we try to get our members to say hi to each other, introduce them to our team. And it’s important from an operations perspective because if one of my trainers are away on holiday, their clients will get passed to another one of my trainers, so we want to make sure we can easily pick up from where they left off.
How do you pick your trainers for Alpha Beast? How does that job interview go?
The most important thing for me is their level of passion for the job. If they are passionate that translates to their work with their clients. Skill and knowledge are secondary as this can be built and trained over time. I usually have a sit-down with the candidate first. Once he gives an in-principal approval, the candidate has to train with every single member of the team. The team then makes the final decision together since alignment with the team is important at Alpha Beast.
Who was your first celebrity client?
Keagan Kang. I first met him during my F&B days because he would come to the bar I worked at. We became friends, so when I started my fitness journey, I asked him if he would let me train him, to see if the methods I was developing would work on another person. From there, it was through word-of-mouth that my client base grew.
Is it different, training celebrities as compared to your other clients?
I think it’s important for me to see celebrities as people as well, with their own unique goals and challenges. The only difference is really that their schedule can be unpredictable, so that’s a bit of a challenge. And their work can get mentally and physically draining, especially after a long shoot. But they are also very focussed when they come here and work with me because they’re very goal oriented – they need to get into shape for a role or performance and they’re usually working on a tight timeline.
Alpha Beast Fitness is expanding with the recent opening of women-only gym Athena by Alpha Beast. What are your future plans?
I’m looking to open one or two more different concepts, so we tie up the brand nicely. So one more for crossfit, and maybe one more that focusses on classes. Athena focusses on yoga as well. That way, our clients can get the full experience in one brand. If they want to work on strength, then there’s crossfit. But if after awhile, they want to work on other aspects of their fitness, then they can visit another one of our gyms.