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Breaking Down Cultural Barriers

Posted: Tue, 05 Feb 2019 12:53

Breaking Down Cultural Barriers

In the 80s working in the fitness industry was not something that most Asian parents would view as a suitable career choice for a girl. Gyms were considered a place mainly for men and not an ideal environment for Asian females. I was questioned many times about why I wanted a job, which was unsuitable for a woman; low paid and had no real potential. My ambition was not taken seriously and there certainly was not any support from most people I knew.

It was not until 1998 that I decided to pursue my dream and train towards a career in the fitness industry. I decided not to share my decision with any other family members or friends other than my husband. He supported my decision and gave me the encouragement, confidence and the extra push I needed to enrol on a Personal Training course at my local college.

Being a stay at home mum for 8 years and then going back into education was a scary decision. My mind was full of doubts. I felt maybe I was too old to try something new. However, this didn't stop me. I have always felt that in order to grow one must face their fear. I went ahead with my decision. At college in the group of 25 students I was the only Asian woman.

After completing my studies I took up various posts in the health and fitness industry, which included working in a prestigious health and fitness club in Warwickshire for 8 years. Alongside this I worked in the community teaching fitness and dance classes to adults and children.

I have always been very driven and ambitious and opening my own gym was my dream. In 2010 I launched my own Personal Training studio. 'Body Perfect Personal Training Studio' for women – delivering a 121 Personal Training service and small group classes. This established me as one of the first Asian women to launch a gym in the UK for women – and the 'go to women's fitness expert' in my city and nationally. I delivered coaching plans, at the studio and online that helped women globally to get in better shape, to feel good, gain confidence, build on self-esteem and to become the best version of themselves.

In early 2014 I was approached by TV, radio companies and press. Opportunities opened to present, create and produce my own shows on TV and radio. I now also consult for some of UK's leading businesses and present at events and conventions within the wellness and business arena. Through my media and public speaking appointments my purpose is to create awareness for health and wellbeing, to encourage and educate people on the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. I share my strategies to overcome obstacles and develop a positive mental attitude and methods on how to follow a healthy lifestyle, which includes exercise, correct nutrition and wellbeing.

In 2018 I decided to start a new chapter in my career and qualified as a fitness tutor, assessor and Internal Quality Assurer (IQA). I am passionate and dedicated in motivating, inspiring and educating the next generation of fitness professionals.

My career now spans over 20 years in the Industry and during these years I have attended many industry courses and Asian female fitness professionals are still a minority. However, times are changing slowly and over the years there is a growing awareness in health and wellbeng. Most schools and colleges now have their own fitness gyms and training facilities, something that was very unheard of when I was growing up. The next generation of British Asians have a very different outlook on life. Nowadays, there is a lot of emphasis on image and most people want to look good and going to the gym is the norm. However, very few particularly the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) population take up fitness or sports as a career.

I believe the fitness and sports industry is still viewed very negatively by people of my own culture. Many view a career in fitness and sports as low paid and not an ideal or real career choice. Hence why there are not many Asian professionals or leaders in these industries. More work needs to be done at grassroots level and more opportunities need to be available for BAME populations at top level in boardrooms of sports organisations.

In December 2018 I was appointed as the Special Advisor for Sporting Equals on physical activity. Sporting Equals promotes ethnic diversity across sport and physical activity throughout the UK. I'm excited to be a part of the Sporting Equals team. I understand what cultural barriers Asian women and girls have to encounter and am passionate and committed in motivating and inspiring more people, in particular South Asian women and girls to get involved in physical activity and Sport - and lead more healthy and active lifestyles. Being part of the Sporting Equals team will give me a platform to actively promote equality, inclusion and ethnic diversity in physical activity and sport.

Dal Dhaliwal | Twitter: @daldhaliwalPT

Tags: Featured, Sports Policy, school sport, sport policy