Michael Liu: How a Pair of Apple AirPods Turned a Chinese Office Worker With Unhealthy Habits Into a Spartan Race Athlete.

Michael Liu at Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China (Photo Credit: Charles Qin)

Michael Liu at Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China (Photo Credit: Charles Qin)

Early in the cold morning of January 22nd 2017, Michael was getting ready to exercise by the tracks of Jiao Tong University in Shanghai when he caught sight of a group of people warming up together at approximately 6:05 a.m. One of the group members noticed him curiously observe from afar, approached him with a welcoming smile and said: “Hey there, do you want to join us?”

This was the first day Michael joined FitFam.

Meeting Michael for the first time is a meeting to remember. As a regular and super active member of their community, he is known to many as a fearless and very inspiring athlete who seems to never break a sweat and is constantly looking to push himself to his own toughest limits. He is also known as the proud owner of the “Beast” – speakers that blast music across campus and help keep everyone motivated for an hour. He is the perfect example of what FitFam is about: he is humble, ambitious and always ready to assist others.

This is his story.

Michael Liu (Photo Credit: Charles Qin)


From Engineer to Businessman.

Michael was born and raised in the city of Changchun in the Northeastern province of Jilin surrounded by his brother and loving parents. Determination surely runs in the family: his father designed the house his family grew up in!

He went on to study Industrial Design at the Northeastern University in Shenyang from which he graduated in 2005 and began working for Japanese conglomerate Toshiba in Changzhou shortly after. Seven years working as an Engineer went by until Michael decided to enroll at the Antai School of Economics and Management of Jiao Tong University in Shanghai. Longing for a role on the business side of things, he signed up for the full-time CLGO (China Leaders for Global Operations) MBA program – China’s first and only transdisciplinary dual-degree scheme that combines Engineering and Management at a graduate level. After receiving his MBA, Michael joined commercial and consumer products giant Honeywell in 2015. He has been at the same company since then.


He really just needed better earplugs.

Due to frequent travel plans required for work last year, Michael began to develop unhealthy habits with irregular meals. Junk food and soda were often on the menu, which unfortunately was not left unnoticed. He had gained quite a bit of weight and his colleagues were quick to call him out on it: “Hi Michael, your belly is a bit… big”they told him. Determined to take better care of himself and lose the extra kilos, Michael made a bet with one of his co-workers: to lose 4kgs and build a six-pack within 45 days. The date was December 28th, 2016 and marked the beginning of a very challenging journey.

To add more motivation to the deal, they set the new wireless Apple AirPods as the prize to be collected in the end. They legitimized the bet by typing it out and stamping it. They don’t joke around at Honeywell.

The Bet (Photo courtesy of Michael Liu)

The Bet (Photo courtesy of Michael Liu)

Michael began by eating nothing but vegetables, instant oats and nuts. He cut many different types of food out of his diet including meat, sugar, oil, salt, soup and rice which was surely not easy (I constantly tell myself I will quit carbs for a month and end up stuffing my face with pesto pasta barely two days in…). By sticking to his strict new diet and without exercising he was able to lose the four kilos in the first two weeks, thereby giving him another month to check his next goal off the list: building a six-pack.

Michael at Jiao Tong University in Shanghai (Photo courtesy of Michael Liu)

Michael at Jiao Tong University in Shanghai (Photo courtesy of Michael Liu)

To maximize his chances of getting ripped and winning the bet, Michael quickly developed a routine that combined morning FitFam workouts with ab exercises in the evening using an app called Keep. His toughest challenge, however, was not on the field...

I went back to my hometown in Changchun for two weeks during the Chinese Spring Festival in February. During this festival people eat and drink so much, I was afraid to gain weight. I called my parents and told them about my bet, asked for their support and sent my nuts and some healthy food to my hometown. I only ate 5 dumplings and didn’t have a sip of alcohol.
— Michael Liu

Never losing sight of the end goal, Michael used his tenacity and burning desire to prove his colleagues – as well as himself – that he had what it takes to win. The bet officially ended on February 15th, 2017. The following pictures were taken at this year's Spartan Race in Shanghai and should give you an idea of who came out victorious.


A role model for FitFam and at home.

Being quite competitive myself, Michael and I have grown closer both as workout partners and friends over the past few weeks. I feel inspired by his drive and willingness to assists others on and off the field.  Exercising alongside Michael has been an honor and privilege. Luckily, the feeling is mutual.

I really appreciate the leaders of FitFam for your efforts and all the work you do to prepare our workouts. I am so proud of you and I respect you. I know you guys have to spend a lot of time managing WeChat groups, answering questions, designing and planning parties, T-shirts, etc. So much work! You guys have inspired me so I come as much as possible. After every FitFam workout I feel so happy and I am more focused at work.
— Michael Liu

When he isn’t busy regurgitating beastly sounds from 6-7am at Jiao Tong or in the office planning out product road maps, marketing strategies and managing sales, Michael enjoys spending quality time with his 9-year-old daughter Sarah and 5-year-old son George whose brains remain challenged similarly to how Michael challenges every one of us on the field. His latest pride: teaching them the first 50 decimals of Pi… in one hour.

Keep up the energy Michael! From all of us at FitFam, we thank you for your commitment and support.