In my late teens, my friend and I took advantage of a free two-week trial at a local gym. Since it was free, I thought, “Why not give it a try, I have nothing to lose, but some belly fat, right?” During the two weeks, I became hooked, especially with group fitness classes. I was attracted to the step classes because it got my energy pumped and I just felt overall happier with myself. After a couple of weeks, I felt lighter and healthier. This was a defining moment in my life because that free trial was what ignited by love and passion for group fitness. A few years later, this path led me to become a certified group fitness instructor.
My parents immigrated to Calgary during the seventies from South Korea. A neat fact is that my dad was the first Korean to immigrate to “Stampede City”. Not a lot of people can say that; many in the Korean community would turn to him for advice on how to assimilate to living in Canada. Even though I was born and raised in Calgary, I grew up with the stereotypical Asian pressure to have excellent grades, play a musical instrument, and have a STEM career. In the beginning, when I started to pursue a career in fitness, at first, my parents thought it was more of a hobby to keep me fit. Back then, I never really saw many Asians in the fitness industry. If I did, it was inspiring for me to see. To me, they were breaking down barriers for the rest of us who may have feared disappointing family members because we chose a career related to health and fitness vs. one in law or medicine.
During my childhood, as a young Korean Canadian, I used to struggle with my cultural identity. There were times when I was the only Asian in the classroom. My sister and I would sometimes say to each other, “I wish I could be white.” If I could count how many times a person would ask me this question, “Are you Chinese or Japanese?” Of course, my answer would be no to both. Their response would be then, “What are you then?” Can you imagine the frustration going on in my head during this line of questioning? It was a different time back then. Nowadays, with the internet and social media, people have a better grasp of our diverse country, but we still have a way to go.
When I was in grade three, my mom packed kimchi and rice in my school lunch. I was horrified and so embarrassed! I couldn’t close the container fast enough. I think I hurt my mom’s feelings when I told her how embarrassed I was and to never pack that again. Oh, the irony, when you see how popular Korean cuisine has become in the last five years.
Despite cultural expectations and stereotypes, l chose to follow my heart, love, and passion for fitness. In addition to instructing group fitness classes, I also became a certified nutritionist and personal trainer, helping many embrace a healthier lifestyle. Over time, my parents accepted my career path and are proud of my accomplishments. I’m happy to see that there is more of an emphasis to showcase Asian culture; it’s long overdue. We share our heritage and customs with others, and it impacts each one of us in separate ways. Our cultural identity, customs, and traditions are something to be treasured every month.
I am a proud Korean Canadian, who loves her Kimchi!