Kaja Choma, 25, rediscovered her passion for sport and fitness as she fought depression after migrating from Poland
‘I overcame bullying to become a personal trainer.’
‘Iwas always sporty, and when I was younger, I swam competitively. But it was really difficult moving from Poland to Northern Ireland when I was 14, especially going to school not speaking English and having no friends at the most important time of your life when you’re building your identity. I was bullied and my self esteem suffered. That’s when I started Judo. I’d never done martial arts before, but it sparked my interest as a means to feel strong, independent and healthy. Joining the gym and taking part in different sports made me realise that it’s not just about the movement; it’s much more about both mental and physical health. Judo helped me go from being really depressed and unhappy with myself to shifting my focus into gaining control over my body. It helped me take that first step to get back into fitness again.’
‘After leaving university, it took me five years to make the decision to become a personal trainer. I graduated in 2012 and only reinvented my career a year ago. While working in HR and other office jobs, I found that none of them were fulfilling. I wasn’t made for sitting in front of the computer nine-to-five, wearing fancy dresses and trying to do it the way everyone else does. I had no interest in climbing the corporate ladder or getting into a position of power. It was more important for me to be in a position of impact where I could do something that helps other people and changes their life for the better. That’s when I applied to do my first qualification in Level 2 fitness with Belfast Metropolitan College. The college saw that instructing came naturally to me and recommended I take part in a competition called World Skills. The category I was in was for newly-qualified fitness trainer of the year, organised by the Association of Colleges. I was lucky enough to win! The competition opened so many doors for me, including being sponsored by Active IQ to do my Level 3 PT qualification and move to London for a month to ultimately go off and start my own PT career.’
‘I’ve now set up a fitness initiative in my home town of Dungannon aimed at helping women within the Polish community socialise and build their self esteem as much as their fitness. I’ve learned so much over the past few months: I’ve learned how much I don’t know and that things are never as easy as they seem, especially in this profession where you’re responsible for your own results. My career will follow my interests in training – it serves as meditation in a sense. When you’re completely focused on moving your body, you’re not thinking about anything else. It gives you a chance to switch off and forget about any problems you might have.
‘Looking to the future, I want to continue educating myself about strength training and mobility and to focus more on the psychological aspect of training, particularly working with women where there are self-esteem issues, comparisons and unhealthy habits. I’d like to have more of an impact on other people’s lives.’