I Overcame Bullying to Become a Personal Trainer

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

‘I was always sporty, and when I was younger, I swamcompetitively. But it was really difficult moving fromPoland to Northern Ireland when I was 14, especiallygoing to school not speaking English and having nofriends at the most important time of your life whenyou’re building your identity. I was bullied and my self esteemsuffered. That’s when I started Judo. I’d never done martial artsbefore, but it sparked my interest as a means to feel strong,independent and healthy. Joining the gym and taking part indifferent sports made me realise that it’s not just about themovement; it’s much more about both mental and physicalhealth. Judo helped me go from being really depressedand unhappy with myself to shifting my focus intogaining control over my body. It helped me take thatfirst step to get back into fitness again.

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After leaving university, it took me five years to make the decisionto become a personal trainer. I graduated in 2012 and only re-invented my career a year ago. While working in HR and other officejobs, I found that none of them were fulfilling. I wasn’t made forsitting in front of the computer nine-to-five, wearing fancy dressesand trying to do it the way everyone else does. I had no interestin climbing the corporate ladder or getting into a position of power.It was more important for me to be in a position of impact whereI could do something that helps other people and changes their lifefor the better. That’s when I applied to do my first qualification inLevel 2 fitness with Belfast Metropolitan College. The college sawthat instructing came naturally to me and recommended I take partin a competition called World Skills. The category I was in wasfor newly-qualified fitness trainer of the year, organised by theAssociation 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 Dungannonaimed at helping women within the Polish community socialise andbuild their self esteem as much as their fitness. I’ve learned so muchover the past few months: I’ve learned how much I don’t know andthat things are never as easy as they seem, especially in thisprofession where you’re responsible for your own results. My careerwill follow my interests in training – it serves as meditation in asense. When you’re completely focused on moving your body,you’re not thinking about anything else. It gives you a chance toswitch off and forget about any problems you might have.‘Looking to the future, I want to continue educating myselfabout strength training and mobility and to focus more on thepsychological aspect of training, particularly working with womenwhere there are self-esteem issues, comparisons and unhealthyhabits. I’d like to have more of an impact on other people’s lives.’

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