Suc­cess story

Kaja Choma, 25, re­dis­cov­ered her pas­sion for sport and fit­ness as she fought de­pres­sion af­ter mi­grat­ing from Poland

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‘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.’

CHANG­ING CA­REER

‘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.’

THE FU­TURE

‘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.’

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