[Exclusive] Insider Interview with Celebrity Personal Trainer Kim June Bae


As K-Pop fans, we watch our favorite celebrities with their perfect bodies and think, “Gee, I wish I had a body like that.” We are constantly bombarded with photos and videos of their various assets, including V-lines, S-lines, chocolate abs, honey thighs, 11-legs, and other interestingly named features that most mortals definitely do not have. It’s difficult not to be envious — but even more difficult to do something about it.

With the start of this new year, many people have made resolutions to lose weight, get into shape, and live a healthier lifestyle. Now that it’s a few weeks into 2013, some of us have already neglected our goals a bit, or maybe even given up entirely. There is no way we could ever look like a K-Pop idol, so why bother trying? There’s a reason why they’re stars, while we’re sitting in front of our computers. It’s impossible!

… Or is it?

I had the privilege and pleasure of interviewing Kim June Bae, a personal trainer to Korean celebrities. Kim is a personal trainer at one of Korea’s most famous gyms, Madfit. Madfit has worked with many Korean celebrities and is most famous for training Mnet Superstar K’s contestants. Who better to ask questions about getting that healthy and sexy celebrity body that we want for ourselves? Kim was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to sit down with me to answer my questions, debunk some myths, and offer advice on looking good and being healthy!

The Madfit gym

Pikapika: Can you introduce yourself and Madfit, your gym?

Kim June Bae: My name is Kim June Bae and I’m the general manager at Madfit. To put simply, Madfit is a team of personal trainers. We started in 2008 and we are now developing into a company. All the personal trainers graduated from Korea National Sports University. Madfit has a club at KNS University called Madness. The members of Madness must take a test and be selected to become a member of the Madfit team.

For our team, personal training is not the only thing we do. We work with the media, record, and train celebrities. At Madfit we believe that a healthy body results in a healthy mind, and a healthy mind results in a healthy body. We work with our clients to achieve both and we do a lot with them. We have worked with many celebrities at our gym.

P: Do many celebrities have personal trainers?

KJB: Yes, many do. Since a big part of their job is to be seen by the public, they need to exercise. They also need to care about their physical health.

P: How often do they work out? Where do they find the time?

KJB: It depends on the type of celebrity. For actors, they are only busy during filming. When they’re not filming, they have a lot of free time, and during that time they work out a lot. For singers, they have more free time when they are recording or preparing for an album. During that time, they can come three to five times a week. When they start their promotions, they only have time to come to the gym once or twice a week. Before they start their promotions, we try to build their body up because during promotions they lose a lot.

P: What are some popular exercise routines with celebrities these days?

KJB: At Madfit, we do mostly weight training and CrossFit. CrossFit is actually not a new program but something bodybuilders used to do back in the day. It makes the body look good, but it’s something like changing clothes to look better. It’s good for the outside appearance, but doesn’t do much for the inside. So we also do a lot of free weights that can really benefit the body.

P: Which celebrities have you worked with?

KJB: We’ve worked with so many celebrity clients. Lately, audition programs are very popular in Korea. We have worked with the contestants from Mnet’s Superstar K seasons two to four. So we have worked with Huh Gak, John Park, Oohlala Session, Roy Kim, and Jung Joon Young. They all trained with us, and some of them still work with us. Currently we are training actors like Yeon Jung Hoon (also known as Han Ga In’s husband), Bong Tae Gyu, Hong Ji Min, Heo Young Ran, and Choi Chang Min. In the past, we’ve worked with Jo In Sung and After School.

P: What are some tips you have for people looking to get into shape?

KJB: It’s important to know that there is no quick fix. The best way is to improve little by little. We have something called Triplex or Three Time. You need these three to have a healthy body: exercise, food, and rest. If you have a balance of the three, you will have a healthy body and mind. If you only focus on one, it can actually hurt your body. If you only exercise and not rest or eat, you are just giving your body stress. There is a time to exercise, a time to rest, and a time to eat. Do everything in a healthy manner.

P: What are some mistakes people make when working out?

KJB: There are so many. For women they fear that if they work out too much they’ll just get bulkier. This is a common misconception women have. Because women have estrogen and other female hormones it’s not easy for them to gain a lot of muscle. So when they exercise they won’t get bigger, but instead become slimmer and their muscles will become toned. For men, they never think about balance. They only focus on one area, usually the arms or chest. This can cause problems for their waist or knees later. It is very important to have balance when working out.

P: Are there any fun exercises people can do at home?

KJB: The first thing I ask my clients is what sort of sports do they enjoy? All you need is something you enjoy doing like, whether it be soccer, basketball, ping-pong, or swimming. There are so many things you can do at home but I want to stress the importance of walking. If the distance is not far, instead of taking the car, walk. Walk an extra thirty minutes a day. Walking is extremely great for your health. I always recommend more walking in people’s lives.

P: What is the difference between working with a personal trainer compared to exercising alone?

KJB: When you work out by yourself, you don’t have a lot of control. It’s hard to find the balance because you can’t see yourself. Another thing that is difficult when working out alone is setting goals and achieving them. A personal trainer can help you control and adjust your routine accordingly. They can also prevent you from hurting yourself. Working with a personal trainer is also not boring and we can encourage you to maintain a rhythm in your exercise.

The Madfit trainers on Super Star K4

P: What are the basic benefits of having a personal trainer then?

KJB: You will get healthier. Not only will you look better, your stamina will improve. You will have energy to do other things. When you come home from work feeling tired, exercising can actually give you more energy which you can put into your work or other things. With that energy you can work more passionately in other areas in your life.

P: I have friends who say that when they come home from work, they’re just too tired to work out or they don’t have enough time. What do you have to say to them?

KJB: No one at our gym is here to exercise because they have a lot of time on their hands. When you first start your body will feel tired, but your energy will rise so when you don’t exercise you feel worse. It’s because you lost the rhythm your body is used to. If you say you have no time to exercise, you need to make time.

P: How do female celebrities eat so little but have the energy for their performances? Do I have to cut down on how much food I eat too?

KJB: Lately fast and instant foods have also become very popular in Korea. For women, they love dessert so much. I think all women love sweets.

P: [laughs] Ah, I’m guilty of that.

KJB: The problem is desserts have more calories than regular meals. So women wonder why they are gaining weight when they are skipping meals; it’s often because they’re eating sweets instead. Keeping track of calories is very important. The best thing you can do is to cut down on desserts, and make sure to eat three meals a day. When you’re hungry, you want to eat sweets and fatty food more. Eat healthy foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and be aware of the calories.

P: So do a lot of female celebrities go on diets? Are there any who don’t? 

KJB: There has to be a standard for dieting. Not eating is not a diet. To have a successful diet, you have to find balance and know your goals. There are so many different types of bodies that react differently. Some people lose weight easily, other people gain weight quickly. You have to match your exercise and food to your body’s needs.

There are celebrities who don’t eat very much. Those people are not healthy and don’t have much muscle. They get sick and hurt easily. They also gain weight easily if they eat only a little more. They may look skinny but underneath their clothes, they may have a stomach that sticks out. We have a term called “skinny-fat”. They look skinny but they have a lot of fat on their bodies. That is not a good thing. On the flip side, people who are considered fat can really benefit from eating well and exercising. Either way, skinny or fat, you need to exercise.

Madfit trainer working with a celebrity client

P: So just because a celebrity looks skinny on TV, does not mean that they are healthy?

KJB: Exactly. Last August I did an interview with Time magazine and the reporter was Korean American. She told me that Americans are concerned about how slim Korean celebrities look. They wonder if all Koreans look like that.

So there are foreigners who like K-Pop and try to look like a Korean celebrity. What they don’t know is that people who are slim may look prettier, but they have a higher chance of not being healthy. Out of those slim-looking girl group members, there are a lot who are unhealthy and not treating their body well. The goal should not be to be too slim. A woman naturally has to have some fat on her body, but again, you need balance. You have to find what you think is healthy and suitable for your body.

P: One of the Girls’ Generation members is known for having a big appetite. Can we believe her? They’re so skinny!

KJB: You can believe her. I don’t know the exact day-to-day schedule for Girls’ Generation, but I can tell they burn a lot of calories. They have long practice hours and they perform often. So even if they eat a lot, they’re burning a lot. Just remember, it’s not just about the calories, you have to eat the right kinds of foods too.

P: Out of the Korean celebrities who do you think have the ideal body?

KJB: I always get this question but I find it very vague. It’s a difficult question.

P: No one off the top of your head? I’ve been told you like Jeon Ji Hyun.

KJB: [laughs] I’ve never seen her in person though.

P: So when you see her on TV, do you think she has a great body?

KJB: Yes, on TV, but as a trainer I know I have to see a person in real life to make a judgment. I’m just her fan. I really want to get this across about ideal body types, though. It’s not difficult to pick an ideal. However, people’s heights and bodies are different, so you have to choose accordingly. You may look at Girls’ Generation and want that kind of body, but if you don’t have the same body type as them, it is impossible, unless you’re born again in a different body. You have to find an ideal that is close to your body type. You can’t just pick a celebrity and say you want to look like him or her. You have to pick someone who matches your body type and set a goal. This is important.

P: What do you have to say for people who think they could never have a body like a celebrity?

KJB: Even between celebrities there are different types of body types, but overall it is very possible. Anyone can build their body and be healthy.

P: So, what do you listen to when you work out?

KJB: Music? I like hip-hop and R&B.

P: American? Korean?

KJB: I listen to a mix. I like Big Bang, especially GD&TOP and Taeyang. Out of Americans, I’m a big fan of Jay-Z and Nelly. There are a lot of new hip-hop artists these days, but I like the originals.

P: Any last message for Soompiers?

KJB: Soompiers, it’s good to like K-Pop and other types of music. As a trainer, I must add this: Without a healthy body, it means nothing. Even if you look pretty or handsome, if you’re not healthy, it’s game over. The first thing you should do is make being healthy your first priority. Next, find something that suits you. Don’t just diet or starve yourself to look like a certain celebrity. Develop an exercise rhythm. Find a good program that fits yours needs. Also, please remember a celebrity’s job is to be seen. So they put more effort into their bodies and appearances than other people. There are a lot of things that they don’t show to the public. They practice a lot, exercise a lot, and watch what they eat. They also have professionals around them, trainers, mangers, and coordinators. Because they have the professionals around them, they can be slim even with their busy schedules. Please be aware that there’s a lot that goes behind the scenes.

P: Thanks, Kim June Bae!

You can check out Kim June Bae’s Youtube Channel, follow him on Twitter, or go on Madfit’s website.

Photos courtesy of Madfit