We’ve met Stephen Yuan, creator and master of pain at VOMIT Bootcamp, a new group workout experience for Shanghai. Find out what Mr. Yuan has to say about the lovely name, while we play guinea pig for you and endure the pain of his bootcamp.
Tell us a bit more about yourself. What kind of person is Stephen Yuan, the Drill-Instructor-In-Chief? What’s your story, and how did you come to be in Shanghai?
There’s a pretty thorough description about me on my website.
As for how I came to Shanghai, I just graduated university in December, and wasn’t really going anywhere in Vancouver, so one day in mid-March I just woke up, said ‘fuck it,’ bought a ticket to Shanghai, and came here 2 weeks after. I guess you can say I’m an impulsive person.
Obviously you’ll get to hear this question all the time, but I’m asking it anyway: “VOMIT” is an, ahem, interesting choice of name, right?
It most definitely is! That’s why we chose it. Look: doesn’t matter if you love it, hate it, or think it’s stupid. It sticks. It grabs attention. It’ll get people interested and talking about us, which is what we want. It’s like Ghandi said, “bad press is better than no press” right?
The actual idea came from back in my days training for professional soccer, during off-season workouts. I used to push myself to the point of puking almost daily, especially during hump week. That’s when you know your body just physically can’t push anymore, which is our goal every class for every client.
It’s also a fun concept, because the first person who throws up every class gets a free class! So vomit away!
As far as gyms in the traditional sense are concerned, competition seems to be fierce in Shanghai, with about four big players and several smaller chains catering to all budgets and standards, fighting each other for members. Yet it seems that exercising to complement a long day at work still isn’t as common here for most people as it is in many other countries. That said, do you notice a difference in workout habits between expatriates and locals?
For sure I do! There is a reason we’re 98% expats, and that’s because a lot of Chinese people just don’t seem to have the willpower to do what we do.
We separate ourselves from the Will’s, Tera’s, California Fitness and Spartan clubs, because we have a different breed of workout. Chinese people treat working out the same way I treated 4th grade math homework; they go through the motions, with no knowledge, motivation, or goals. And quite frankly, it’s pathetic.
I have no tolerance for lazy people, and no tolerance for excuses. If you want something, go get it; if it’s a healthier lifestyle or a hotter body, put in the work. I feel that a lot of people here just haven’t been able to understand that connection yet.
Where does Vomit fit in and what is the workout all about?
Vomit is about 2 things. Pain and Fun. The workouts are grueling but challenging, and give a sense of accomplishment. But the part that gets people to keep coming back in hoards is the social aspect. You get to share this experience with strangers who, after a session, don’t seem so strange anymore. Getting an amazing workout? Cheap. Getting a new friend? Priceless.
The actual circuit varies from class to class. Some of the equipment used are battle ropes, kettle bells, BOSU balls, medicine balls, resistance bands, TRX systems. You cycle through these with a partner or in a group of 4, cycling through rest and rep. The most important part of the workout is that you’re never really resting. What I mean by that is when you are taking a break from the battle ropes, you’re doing planks. When you’re resting your legs you’re working out your core, etc. etc. This is designed so that your heart rate never really drops during the whole circuit, making it a constant cardio workout. Every muscle is used during our workouts, from your toes to your fingers, up to your neck. Everything. To round it up, I’ve developed games that we play during while we’re doing our workouts that stimulate and force oxygen into your brain, which helps recovery and allows blood to flow through your body more smoothly. These games, while difficult, are extremely fun.
For what kind of people is your workout intended? Let’s say I’m already hitting the gym a couple of times a week after work for a combination of weightlifting workouts and cardio training. Why should I still give VOMIT a try?
Vomit is for everyone. Most of our clientele are young 18-35 year olds in Shanghai who are looking for a healthier balance in their lifestyle and who don’t want to go to the gym by themselves.
Having said that, we have tons of people who are doing other stuff on top of Vomit, including gym, yoga, spinning, Thai boxing, and they all say that nothing compares to Vomit because of the social factor. Vomit shouldn’t’ be thought of a bootcamp first. It’s a social party where all the participants just happen to get a great workout as well.
Workout-wise it’s different. It’s a different sore, it’s a different pain, it’s a different high. That’s how we distinguish ourselves.
Do you believe that the dynamic of working-out in a group is essential to push yourself to your personal limits? And—I have to ask—has anybody ever pushed so far as to actually vomit?
Haha, of course! People get to the brink of vomiting every class, I think 3 out of 10 new people vomit their first time, and another 4/10 are about an inch away from vomiting before they have to slow down/stop themselves.
I think group workouts tap into a natural genetic human need for belonging and connecting. That’s what we provide here at Vomit. With your groups, you push each other. If I turn around and see a little Asian girl in my group kicking my ass on the kettle bell I’m naturally going to push myself more. It works.
What are your plans for the next few months? Do you think your training would be a suitable match for the bigger gym chains and their group classes as well?
Vomit will be the biggest thing to hit Shanghai since the French did a hundred years ago. At least that’s my goal.
I want to reach clients in the hundreds, we will grow out into 3 areas in Shanghai: Xujiahui, Jing’an and People’s square, up to 20 classes a week. Maybe even a location in Lujiazui.
I also want Vomit to be a corporate option for a team-building afternoon.
Vomit will be a nutritional giant as well; as we already have co-operation deals in place with Sproutworks to supply us with food for post workouts. We are also developing other nutritional benefits for our clients as well, but unfortunately I’m not allowed to disclose that information just yet.
Within the coming months I want every single person who likes a good workout in Shanghai to have at least tried our free class. Yes. I said every. We’re aiming high.
Location and Schedule:
TUES/THURS 7:45PM – 9:15PM
Wanping Hotel, 4th floor
315 Wanping Lu, near Zhaojiabang Lu
Closest subway: Xujiahui, Lines 1,9,11
MON/WED 6:45PM – 8:15PM
Shanghai Centre, East Office Building 6th floor – Wellnes Expert
1376 Weest Nanjing Lu, near Tongren lu
Closest subway: Jingan, Lines 2,7
Click here for more info and contact details!
By Lukas Steinberg