LAHORE: “When I started off, it was hard for everyone to understand me. I did face a lot of resistance not only from society but also my own friends,” says Maryam Nasim, a certified personal trainer in Melbourne who hails from Peshawar. This makes her one of the very few qualified female Muslim personal trainers in the world. Talking to The Express Tribune, Nasim shares how she was able to break stereotypes associated with Pakistani women working in the fitness industry.
“My own friends made fun of me and my body, saying mean things about me lifting weights. At times, it would upset me a lot but I learned to move on. I accepted that people who make fun are ignorant and do not respect what others want to do with their life,” recalls Nasim. “The northern Pakistani in me knows nothing but to fight and prove herself over and over again. Also, I thank them as it has only made me stronger and worked out in my favour.”
Nasim has been living in Australia for eight years now, since the time she first moved for college. With her family still in Peshawar, she feels she represents modern Pakistani women who are living away from their families in pursuit of their dreams. She works as a personal trainer at a gym in Melbourne and her blog on fitness and wellbeing, titled IAMFIT, was also widely followed, before she shut it down due to preoccupations.
“My passion for health and fitness led me to become part of the fitness industry. I was overweight during my teens and I decided to shed pounds by starving myself completely. I ended up losing 30 kgs in a short period of time, which not only affected my health but also my energy levels, leaving me feeling lethargic,” she adds. This was the turning point in Nasim’s life. She realised that fitness isn’t merely about losing weight. “It is about looking after your body, making sure you eat right, exercise are fit and strong.”
Nasim has slowly but surely grown prominent in the field by leveraging social media and blogging about fitness enthusiastically. “Being recognised for what I am truly passionate about is something I’ve worked very hard for. I remember the first time I came up with this idea. People actually made fun of me. It feels amazing when I receive feedback from people about IAMFIT and how it’s making a positive change in their life.”
When she initially started off, Nasim tried making a name for herself on social media, where self-promotion can get dicey and slightly embarrassing. Her experience was similar but she powered through. “My Facebook friends would say things like ‘you don’t have to put everything about your workout on Facebook’ but my goals were different. In no time, people started recognising me for my work.”
Despite its downfalls, Nasim admits that social media is a great platform to put one’s message across in today’s world. “Everyone thinks they can give you fitness advice, and most importantly, everyone is here to correct your form and they can’t go past a fitness photo or video without mocking someone’s body.”
Nasim reveals she was able to connect to people in Pakistan through social media and reach out further, beyond her geographical location. “I use social media to find jobs for people, find accommodation and other productive activities.” She is also working on introducing other interactive fitness platforms that would be more beneficial to people who want to achieve their fitness goals.
Courtesy : Express Tribune