A group of young Vietnamese men have been frequenting a public park in Ho Chi Minh City where they inspire one another to keep fit and stay in good shape, steering away from a sedentary lifestyle.
To park-goers, the group members are quite a pleasant sight.
Starting out with a single member, Chau Hoai Son, the six-packed boys’ club now has its 'headquarters' in Lang Hoa (Flower Village) Park on Cay Tram Street in the outlying district of Go Vap.
Its members say a strong 'no' to smartphone abuse and nightly partying, as they are determined to enhance their physical and mental health and strengthen their immunity.
Once chubby guys weighing more or less 100 kilograms on average, many of the keen club members have experienced a drastic body transformation, appealing to the eyes of passers-by, since joining the club.
Inspiring young men
In mid-2014, Son started doing push-ups and gymnastics in the comfort of his own home.
He soon got bored from the lack of companionship, and decided to choose Lang Hoa Park as his favorite place for workouts.
The YouTubers he followed said that the only tools needed for effective workouts are horizontal bars, which are publicly accessible at the park, Son said, referring to content creators on Google-owned video-sharing platform YouTube.
At first, the 1.75-meter man weighed a mere 52 kilograms, but his continued efforts soon added an average of one kilogram to his weight monthly.
“It just felt so awesome to reach 55 kilograms, then 57, 60, and 64 kilograms. It’s just wonderful,” he said.
“I was the only one working out that way, and soon other boys came asking around. I told them about the YouTube videos. Then we formed a club called Lang Hoa Workout.”
Now the team has a dozen muscular boys coming every morning.
Phan Ngoc Hong Duc has been a club member for the last three years and has barely missed any workout sessions that take place every morning from Monday through Saturday.
“I started off at 93 kilograms with loads of health problems. I couldn’t even squat due to my huge ‘beer belly,’” he recalled.
“It was basically a nightmare simply pulling my body up from a sitting posture.”
Duc’s hard work in the first 12 months paid off as his health improved noticeably. Yet his unhealthful eating habits kept his weight unchanged.
In the second year of his membership, he entered a challenge set out by the team.
Anyone who underwent the quickest muscular transformation in three months would win a photo trip to Nha Trang, a beach city in south-central Vietnam.
The result was beyond his imagination. He lost 16 kilograms over the course of three months and went on to claim the prize.
“During those three months, I was training like an army man. Son kept a tight check on my diet too. He made me send him photos of my every single snack and meal,” the winner commented.
“I am a refrigeration engineer so I can make time in the mornings. I believe that whatever job you do, you will find your time as long as you want to,” he added.
A 'side effect' of the challenge was his increased confidence and sociality.
“My relationships with others are much better now,” Duc said.
|A bodybuilding club at the Flower Village Park attracts young people who are keen to stay fit and keep in good shape. Photo: Me Thuan / Tuoi Tre|
Stepping into the light
Nguyen Thanh Tu was a classmate of Son, the club leader.
He had been following his old friend’s bodily transformation on social media and had hoped that one day he could do the same.
Yet, being whirled away into endless working hours and discouraged by his own innate laziness, Tu kept saying 'no' to his dream.
In August 2019, the 30-year-old 'no man' finally took his leap.
With a body weight of 84 kilograms and a modest height of 1.6 meters, he was determined to change the appearance that was making him a grumpy and unfriendly man.
“Can’t I have a better life?” he wondered.
Tu turned to his friend at the Flower Village Park, seeking help to meet his target.
His body ached excruciatingly for the first few days of workouts, but devotion kept him going.
It takes him 25 minutes to get to the club’s meeting place by motorbike, but Tu says he never minds the distance now that he is really blown away by the joy of working out.
Fourteen kilograms of his body fat was burned after four months of arduous training. He now enjoys a more healthy and sociable life with colleagues.
“I was the laughing stock for all the staff at my workplace because I was too fat. Though they didn’t mean it, I was still hurt. So I decided to keep a low profile,” he said.
“But now I’m on the outgoing side. It feels like I’ve stepped out into the light.”
Another member, Nguyen Hoai Nhon, said that working out has spared him a life of sickness.
“I used to be so prone to colds and minor diseases, but after joining the club and exercising regularly, now my body’s immunity is much better," Nhon said.
"I don’t come down with illnesses so often anymore.”
He loves jogging while listening to his favorite songs. Each day he jogs around seven kilometers and feels deeply regretful if for some reasons he cannot “take to the park.”