I believe that fitness is for anyone and everyone. Fitness should be an accessible, creative process that inspires and empowers you to live confidently in your body.
My fitness journey is a continuous process, a lifestyle of always growing and learning. But my fitness journey is not only about fitness. It’s about creating a balance between eating Filipino food with my family (rice forever and always), enjoying chocolate in all of its forms, and making healthy decisions without sacrificing the cultural, social aspects of eating. It’s about finding confidence in myself and loving my body when it is difficult to find women who look like me in the gym or on social media. It’s a journey I try to look at as interdisciplinary, as intersectional. It’s about being inspired and empowered, while hoping to inspire and empower others. I’ve found lots of women of color on Instagram who are my inspiration and who also keep it real when it comes to social issues and representation. But when you search “Asian American fitness,” the top hits are hyper-sexualized stereotypes and fetishes of Asian women and the desexualization, undesirable portrayal of Asian men. There needs to be more content from Asian Americans that tackles these stereotypes head on and addresses the lack of Asian American representation to make it mainstream and frequent. We’re here! Just doing our thing. I’m here to try and be a platform to show one face of #asianamericanfitness. But I’m only just one voice and experience of the huge, super diverse, and move-making group of people!
I am very privileged to have gone to schools with great general physical education and athletic resources as well as live a lifestyle now that allows me the leisure time of running races and working out. My foundation and basics about stretching and warming up from elementary through high school years have stuck with me. Unfortunately, as early as this, I also remember becoming fixated on sizes and numbers, that mine were not as small as my peers. I wasn’t aware of why or how I thought this, but it stuck with me. My first official organized sport and athletic extracurricular activity was club volleyball in 6th grade. This was great because I met more girls my age who also had strong thighs. Throughout middle and high school, I did volleyball and track (sprints and hurdles), until my senior year when music took over my extra circulars. (I play viola, and that journey is an interesting one too!)
In my first year of college, despite having access to an absolutely beautiful gym with many diverse resources in an all women’s space, I only ran on the treadmill. I was also intimidated by the machines and weights and anyone using them. Transitioning from high school to college was not easy for me. I didn’t take care of myself emotionally amidst the social life adjustments and figuring out how to fully manage my own time. Luckily, one of my friends persuaded me to go to my first high intensity interval training (HIIT) class near the end of first-year, which completely changed how I worked out. After that workout, I remember feeling a soreness I had never experienced before, in muscles I never worked out before that point! With this friend and another, our trio regularly went to HIIT Fit and spin classes throughout college in addition to doing workout DVDs such as Jillian Michaels and even P90X and Insanity (these last two did not become regulars). With these two friends, I started running outside, very slowly I might add, trailing behind them since they both had cross country, track, and soccer experience. During my senior year (2015-2016), my suitemates introduced me to Kayla Itsines’ infamous BBG. I worked out irregularly that first semester because of thesis and academic stress. And honestly, I was not investing in myself, I made excuses and let myself slip from even choosing small, healthy options daily. But I got tired of feeling sluggish, mentally and physically, I just had to change something, starting with each day. So during winter break before senior spring, I started BBG with the intention of finishing all 12 weeks. My workouts started at home, with bags full of books as weights. By the middle of senior spring, I was doing BBG Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, HIIT Fit classes Tuesday and Thursday, and running or cycling Saturday and Sunday — while eating much better. I felt more comfortable in the gym (it’s liberating when you realize most people are doing their own thing and not judging you!), reading how to use the machines, trying out things I looked up online, and talking with the trainers and instructors at the gym. I have always prided a happy layer on my stomach, but during this period was the first time I had ever seen my abs. I have never struggled with weight, but I was never “toned” nor did I ever have muscles like I did during this period. It was still hard to not compare myself to skinnier, more toned peers. I went through typical college cycles of eating badly under stress, having some weekends of drinking more than I should have, consuming 2-3 cups of coffee a day, and not getting consistent sleep. Yet, my metabolism was very much on my side and the dinning halls made it really easy to eat whole and healthily when I stuck to it. I did not have a “freshman 15” but I certainly wasn’t getting any stronger during that first year. Since graduating, I’ve had to redefine what fitness means to me in a new lifestyle context. I’ve started to reframe my mindset when I start comparing myself to others and to truly start appreciating my body. I’ve also started to question the perceived norm of beauty standards and the language of workouts, especially towards and in regard to women.
In May 2016, I moved from Southern California to Washington, D.C. and to say it was a hard move is an understatement. I didn’t have a job. I hardly knew anyone. I felt trapped in my apartment, anxious and not knowing where to begin with anything. I was scared. In terms of fitness, I stopped working out. I didn’t have money for a gym membership. I became discouraged to run outside because of catcalling. Eventually, I got sick of feeling physically and mentally weak. I remembered when I first started BBG in January 2016, the first time I actually completed the 12 weeks. I remembered back on this time and used it to inspire me to start it up again, doing the workouts in my apartment with a chair as a bench and filled orange juice gallons as weights. I started running outside to discover and get acquainted with the neighborhood and city. The consistency of working out during this time was kind of spotty but in August 2016, I got a Planet Fitness gym membership, using it mainly on weekends because my new job was over 2 hours away by public transportation. I made a resolution for myself to run a half-marathon every 6 months, because why not? Not to mention the ubiquitous amounts runners in DC inspired me to do so. My first half was the Navy-Air Force Half-Marathon in September 2016 (also my first experience with chaffing. I argue it was more painful than the run itself). In December 2016, I got a car and was able to go to Planet Fitness before work and use the gym at my work without worry about transportation timetables. In a typical new years resolution fashion entering 2017, I vowed to use the gym at my work to complete BBG for the second time, and I did so 12 weeks later. In March 2017, I ran my second half-marathon, the Rock n Roll Series Half-Marathon in D.C. Since then, I’ve moved to an apartment with gym in the building and nearby running/bike trails.
Throughout this journey, I’ve gotten better and being more comfortable and confident in my skin, at accepting and embracing different beauty standards instead of riddling myself with constant comparisons about why I don’t look as skinny, as slender, as toned as other women and peers. I still have insecurities so I sometimes still compare myself to others, I’d be lying if I said it never happened. But I’ve gotten much better and quickly reframing comparisons as inspiration and being aware of my own positionality and role in creating an inclusive fitness space.
I’m not a certified expert in fitness, training, or nutrition. My journey is about finding out these things for myself and hopefully inspiring others to try things out for themselves. But this journey is also about being real, about how life isn’t always roses and sunsets. It’s a constant process, it’s being in the present, it’s a practice in visibility and representation at the forefront.
I hope you’ll join me on this journey via my blog and Instagram!