Growing up, I was never an athlete or even athletic for that matter. Being a first generation child of Vietnamese parents in Philadelphia, the priority was getting a good education and bringing home even better grades so that I could find a stable job and make my family proud. Therefore, I didn’t really choose the path of academics over athletics – I wasn’t allowed. My family’s resources (time, money) were very limited. As much as I wanted to participate in sports at school, I never felt like I “fit in” with my peers or had role models that looked like me or could relate to my circumstances. While I wasn’t “athletic”, I did have two older brothers, so I was pretty active in my free time always playing basketball, baseball, bike racing, etc. outside. Anything to not have to play alone!
Fortunately, I found myself turning to fitness for help. It had the lowest barrier to entry and naturally I starting running, then started strength training, which is when I really fell in love. It hit me, physical fitness can have a profound impact on all aspects of my health and life – not just physically. I was able to manage stress better, I had more energy and I just felt happier in my own skin.
I’ve learned that it is critical for AAPI people to not only pay attention to their mental health, but to prioritize it. Mental health is not something to be ignored and it took me so long to understand that there is SPACE for us. Whether you are taking care of your own health or one of a very small group of AAPI coaches in this industry, we deserve the care needed for both ourselves and for future AAPI generations. We need to understand how, when and why to seek help and be more pro-active about mental well-being. This is of no fault to my parents and elders, but their priority was basically survival – making sure to always have food on the table and create a better life for us. Just keeping our heads down and focused on the goal. My parents fled their home country as teenagers to escape the turmoil of war, and were refugees in the US. It’s a lot to take on at that age, and be able to build a fruitful life in a foreign place.
Today, there is still a relatively small number of AAPI coaches and trainers, but I am connecting with and seeing more and more of us speaking up and sharing their journeys. I would like to be at the forefront of being a change maker. Given my experience, I know that not feeling included or safe is a reason to hold someone back from fitness or sports. The thought of that is heartbreaking. The core values of my coaching business are focused on inclusivity in fitness and helping people focus on their training and health in a safe and inviting environment because training is for every human.