By Sameen Mohsin
Maryam Nasim, is a professional fitness trainer from Pakistan, currently living in Melbourne. The eldest of four children, she hails from Peshawar. Taking up a career in the fitness industry is not something you would expect from an average young Pakistani woman, but Maryam not only did that, she is excelling in it. Breaking these kind of stereotypes cannot be easy, so we decided to talk to Maryam, to understand her journey and how she managed to stay focused despite the obstacles she faced. About her initial years when she starting taking her own fitness seriously, posting her progress online, she says “initially everyone was confused and not very supportive of what I was doing. But at the same time I found support from people who I didn’t even know. Complete strangers on social media gave me the strength to continue what I was doing.” That is when she realized she needed to depend on herself for confidence and motivation.
Maryam came to Melbourne eight years ago and studied Accounting in college. The initial years were difficult as she was away from her family who she is very close to but exposure to the multi-cultural environment there and the independence she gained made her self-reliant. At the end of the degree, she decided to study Fitness. Breaking into the industry was difficult because as she says, men don’t trust women when it comes to weightlifting; it is a male dominant sport. It isn’t very common to see a Pakistani woman lifting weights, which is why it is extremely difficult to win the confidence of people when it comes to fitness expertise. Another obstacle she faced was understanding her own body, “It’s not as easy as it sounds. It takes time and one needs to be very patient to understand what works for his or her body. You learn through trial and error.”
For mental fitness, she says she stays away from toxic people and ignores their comments, taking everything in stride as a learning experience. Talking about fitness and her blog IAMFIT, Maryam says, “It’s about promoting a positive and fit self-image. It’s about giving people the confidence that as long as you are trying, exercising and trying to look after yourself, it shouldn’t matter what size you are. It’s about promoting strong and not skinny. I hope one day I can make a difference and change things, [and encourage] our younger lot to focus on becoming strong and not focus on being skinny by starving themselves.”
When we asked Maryam about the kind of advice she would give youngsters trying to determine their path in life, she says that one needs to be extremely confident and headstrong when it comes to the path they choose and should be prepared to face all kinds of challenges, “If you are not ready to be uncomfortable then you probably don’t deserve to bring change. It’s never going to be easy. People will try to manipulate you into thinking you’re doing the wrong thing; you need to be ready to remind yourself every single minute that what you are doing is right (as long as it’s not causing harm to anyone). You need to be prepared to be judged and called names, and should be ready to overcome such societal pressures.”
Maryam is determined to continue breaking any kind of barriers in her way and is now currently training to compete as a power lifter and become an athlete, focusing all her energies towards the endeavor. We wish Maryam the best of luck and thank her for inspiring youngsters especially woman to stick to their dream despite the challenges.