In 2014 after a nasty break up, Shonalyn found herself depressed with a lot of free time. She started to realize that all of her energy went into this failed relationship, and she had no actual goals or hobbies for herself. She was at rock bottom, and didn’t know how to distract herself and move on from everything she just went through. Shonalyn saw this as an opportunity to finally focus on herself, After years of prioritizing her relationship, she knew this was the time to focus all of her attention on rebuilding her self-esteem and self-love.
So, Shonalyn turned to the gym. Not only did she feel good about herself for being active and being more healthy, but her mental health started to improve as well. What originally started as a distraction quickly turned into a new found passion. Shonalyn started to notice her body getting stronger, losing weight, and feeling pumped. This sense of accomplishment was all new to her. Before finding the gym, she felt as though she didn’t really have anything going for her because all her time and effort went into her past relationship, she didn’t care about anything else. She didn’t set goals for herself, and didn’t feel like she was achieving anything. But at the gym, she found herself accomplishing a lot more than what she originally thought she would gain from going consistently.
“I just proved to myself that I am capable of achieving other things,” Shonalyn said remembering why her fitness accomplishments meant so much to her at the time. “This was the first time I accomplished something myself and for myself.”
Since then, Shonalyn’s lifestyle completely changed. And since 2014, fitness has been her passion. Pursuing the fitness industry has always been at the back of her mind, but she never imagined that one day she would be running her own gym, training her own clients, and starting up Kikay Fit. It took Shonalyn a few years to get to this point. There has been a lot of self-doubt, insecurities, career changes, and set backs, but Kikay Fit would not be where it is today without these events taking place. Through this process, Shonalyn realized that sometimes, it’s you and your own self-doubt that will get in the way of your dreams and success. This is the story of Kikay Fit, and how Shonalyn took her own advice by acting on the phrase, “Fuck it, just do it,” to take the leap of faith and start her small business.
Shonalyn has been taking her fitness goals seriously since she first fell in love with it in 2014. She dreamed of one day pursuing personal training as a part time gig, but didn’t really have a time frame set to make it happen. There were times where Shonalyn posted about her fitness progress or videos of her working out. Some people started reaching out to her to ask for tips and questions on working out, and it would make her feel so good that she could offer her knowledge on the subject to help someone out. In the past, Shonalyn would put herself down and tell herself that she was “dumb” or “not good at a lot of things.” With fitness, she felt confident and “good enough” to give others advice and help them if they needed it. That was a reoccurring theme that Shonalyn would soon find out about herself – that she loved to help people. That was the main reason why she was going to college to be a social worker.
In 2017, Shonalyn graduated from college and went on to pursue her dream of being a social worker. Being a social worker is hard work, she found herself wearing different hats while on the job. Shonalyn loved that she got to help people with her line of work, and she really felt like her job was making a difference is someone else’s life. But it was stressful and emotionally draining. Being a social worker really put a strain on her mental health and overall happiness. It was a combination of the line of work, mixed with a lot of overtime hours, and working overnight shifts, that made Shonalyn feel completely drained.
Shonalyn was determined to pivot and make a career change. Even if it was a baby step, she knew she had to start somewhere. She didn’t have to think too long to know that she wanted to pursue fitness and personal training. After all, it’s been a dream of hers that she’s kept buried at the back of her mind. She always knew that eventually somewhere down the line personal training would be in her cards. Now was the time for it to flourish and become a reality, even if it was just part-time, as she kept her full-time job as a social worker. It made sense to her to combine her two passions together – fitness and helping others. By combining the two, she would still feel fulfilled, since helping people was the main reason why she became a social worker.
“I still wanted to help people,” Shonalyn said. “I’m really passionate about fitness, so it’s like, why not combine them? This way I still get to help others and put in my all, but I can still have that work life balance where my life doesn’t just revolve around work.”
But, she was very hesitant. All her life and to this day, Shonalyn struggles with self-esteem, confidence, and self-doubt. She was afraid that no one would be interested in training with her, that she would embarrass herself, and probably nobody would care what she was doing. She tried her best to ignore the negative self-talk she was so used to. She got the courage to started doing group workouts in 2018. Shonalyn was renting out space at a gym to hold her monthly group workouts, and to outsiders looking in, it was going pretty well. But to Shonalyn, all she could think about was all the negative things that could be said. She was getting positive feedback from those taking her classes, but she kept talking herself out of the praise. She was still worried that maybe her clients weren’t satisfied with the service they were paying for. Shonalyn got in her own head, and in early 2019, she stopped the group classes all together.
2019 was a really glum year for Shonalyn. She ended 2018 thinking that she got her foot into the personal training fitness world, and entered 2019 feeling defeated. She fell into a deep depression and couldn’t figure out how to snap herself out of it. She couldn’t figure out a plan for herself and her self-doubt was piling on. She stopped offering her group training classes, deleted social media, and disconnected from those around her. As a trainer, you have to put yourself out there and “sell” your training to others. That meant being active on social media, and Shonalyn just wasn’t up for it. Posting on social media made Shonalyn very self-conscious, and in her current mindset, she didn’t want to deal with any of it. She had mentally checked out early on in 2019.
Shonalyn stayed doing social work full-time when she stopped doing group work outs. That feeling of being stressed and drained lingered, and it only got more intense as she stayed in the industry. After work, Shonalyn would go home and feel like her energy was on low battery. She would be cranky and moody to those she lived with, and just wanted to go home, rest, and mentally prepare herself for the next day at work. She started to notice that she became very antisocial – not wanting to hangout on weekdays because she had work the next day, but still not wanting to hangout on weekends because those were the only days she had to herself. Even on the weekends Shonalyn could never fully relax. She would just stress herself on Sundays, thinking about the work week ahead. Shonalyn was conflicted because she loved that she was helping people, but didn’t like that it was at her mental health’s expense. She needed a change, dreading work and the work week wasn’t how she wanted to live her life anymore, so she put her mental health first. Towards the end of the year, November 2019, Shonalyn decided to make the transition once again to do personal training part-time.
Shonalyn picked up 2 personal training jobs while still keeping her two social worker jobs! For a couple months she juggled four jobs to make sure she could transition to the fitness industry smoothly. And when February 2020 came around, she finally took the leap of faith and left social work completely. Shonalyn was finally committed to only personal training, and she couldn’t have been more excited and anxious for the change. But two weeks after quitting both of her social work jobs, COVID hit. She had quit to start putting in more time and effort at the gyms she was employed at, and two weeks later, the gyms were closed. She couldn’t believe it. Instead of collecting unemployment, Shonalyn decided to go back to being a social worker until Shelter in Place was over.
It took a couple of months, but gyms finally re-opened July 2020. Shonalyn left social work once again, hoping that it would be final this time around. She went back to being a trainer and doing group sessions through the two gyms she worked at. Since her time was 100% focused on her fitness career, Shonalyn finally decided to take a huge risk September 2020 to leave her two training jobs to branch out and get her own clients. She started offering group workouts again at the gym she previously rented out when she first started in 2018. To get word around that she was doing personal training again, Shonalyn hired a videographer and hosted a “launch party group workout” that would document Kikay Fit‘s debut on October 14, 2020.
The original plan was to do a couple of group workout sessions a couple times a week indoors at the gym. But COVID had other plans for what direction Kikay Fit would go. With COVID cases rising and as the holidays loomed around the corner, many of Shonalyn’s potential clients were not interested in group workouts. To Shonalyn’s surprise, her potential clients all preferred 1 on 1 training. In fact, this was a popular opinion across the board, for many different reasons. For one, it was hard to get a consistent group to all sync up their time to attend group classes regularly because of personal schedules. Two, safety reasons. COVID was only getting worse, and her clients didn’t feel comfortable training with other people. A lot her clients were hesitant to work out at the gym, and didn’t want to be exposed to equipment that multiple people were using. For these reasons, Shonalyn catered to her clients’ needs and concerns and started investing in her own equipment, and driving out to their personal homes for 1 on 1 training.
1 on 1 training was not the direction Kikay Fit was supposed to go. Shonalyn had doubts about offering 1 on 1 sessions because she feared that no one would be interested since it is more costly. When the results were overwhelmingly leaning towards 1 on 1 training, Shonalyn listened to her feedback. Even though it was not her original plan to offer personal sessions, COVID made it that she had no choice. She was so used to juggling multiple jobs at a time, and having a safety net incase one job fell through. This time around, she was only pursuing fitness, and it was her main source of income. Shonalyn admits that without COVID, she wouldn’t have been forced to leave her comfort zone. She had self-doubt about 1 on 1 training, but with the pandemic, it was her only option, and she had no choice but to pivot and offer 1 on 1 training.
“I gave myself a pep talk like, ‘OK, all this talk all these years, but now you gotta be about it,’ ” She said remembering how she accepted the challenge of offering personal sessions.
Her 1 on 1 sessions were going well, and she was surprised how many clients she had. It has been a little over two months since launching Kikay Fit, and Shonalyn really prepared herself to only have 1 or 2 clients for the first 6 months to a year. Her first month in business she had about 15 clients, which exceeded all of her expectations for starting out with 0 clientele. She is aware that clients will always fluctuate, but she is grateful for all the support and positive feedback she has already received in such a short amount of time. Because most of these clients prefer 1 on 1 and not to use the rented gym space, Shonalyn found herself making a lot of trips back and forth from client to client throughout the day. This involved packing and unpacking equipment, driving from house to house, and factoring in the time it takes to drive from destination to destination. It was a lot of sacrifice, but it led to Shonalyn’s proudest accomplishment of 2021.
Since she was commuting so much throughout the day, and gyms were closing down once again, Shonalyn got the idea to make a garage gym where she can train her clients. Shonalyn knew that she would have to invest a lot of time and money in building her garage gym, but she knew that in the long run it would benefit Kikay Fit. More people were reaching out for training, but didn’t have the proper space to do so at their own home. Others wanted to join, but she couldn’t squeeze that many people into her schedule because a lot of her time was on the road driving to her next client. By eliminating the commute and unloading / re-loading of equipment, Shonalyn was confident that she could take on more clients. She locked in the new clients to start the week of January 4th, which really pushed her to have a strict deadline to build the gym. But not only did she finish the gym in time, she finished it early, which is way easier said than done. The garage was previously being used as storage, and that in itself was a long tiring process to clean out, but by the end of it, she felt so accomplished and ready to start putting her gym together.
“Although I was ok doing it, I knew it wasn’t sustainable in the long run,” She said, explaining why driving from client to client wasn’t realistic. “So for about a month and a half, I invested a lot of money and time in building a garage gym! All the equipment was back ordered, and double/triple the price but I knew this was an investment and I had to do it for the business.”
Completing the garage gym in time for the new year already made 2021 look so much brighter. And the gym isn’t her only goal for the year. Of course Shonalyn wants to continue to take on more clients, get word around of her small business, and be available to others – but she also knows that this can only be done through marketing and posting consistent content. This is something that Shonalyn has struggled with, because it opens Pandora’s box of all the insecurities she has tried to silence over the years. She is well aware that majority of her posts are of others working out, since this is intentional. She gets very self-conscious to post videos of herself working out, but knows that she needs to step it up and show her clients and future clients that she is “about it.”
She knows that being more confident to post on social media is way easier said than done. After all, that is one of the main reasons why it took Shonalyn so long to pursue the fitness industry. She has always been so in her head about what others might think about her fitness posts, that it held her back from doing what she wanted to do with her career. Shonalyn was afraid that people would talk about her behind her back and send her social media posts in their group chats to gossip, she was afraid that her content would annoy people that follow her, and over analyzed every aspect of all the negative possibilities. Back in the day when she would post on her stories or posts, she would constantly check her phone every 2 minutes or so to see who “seen” the post and who “liked” it. It was too much. When she finally followed through with Kikay Fit, she knew that she had to adopt the “fuck it,” mentality, or she would never take the risks she needed to take to expand her business. At the end of the day, she knows that haters aren’t going to pay her bills, so she might as well put her and her business out there.
Shonalyn knows that social media can be a very judgmental place, and it can be very discouraging when you’re comparing yourself to someone else. So her advice to those that want to start working out but are too embarrassed or discouraged is to try not to compare yourself to others. She stresses that the only person you should be worried about is yourself and your own progress. It may seem overwhelming at first, but Shonalyn wants people to remember that everyone has a day 0. Shonalyn even acknowledges that people at the gym can be very judgmental or some may feel insecure and feel like they’re being judged at the gym. She urges people that want to try to workout consistently to give it a try and not let their self-doubt get in the way of taking the next step because progress is an ongoing process.
And she knows from experience that “progress is an ongoing process” when it comes to mental health and body image as well. All her life, Shonalyn thought being a certain weight and looking a certain way would make her happy. In 2017, she trained and competed in a bikini competition. At her smallest, she was 102 pounds, had abs, had the body she thought she could never have, and placed 3rd in the bikini competition. Shonalyn should’ve been happy since she thought happiness would come with losing weight, but her mental health wasn’t there. She still didn’t feel confident in her body even after winning a medal. Being insecure and lacking confidence is something that she is no stranger to. Shonalyn had to remind herself that she is more than just her body. And that’s what she wants her clients to know as well – that there are so many other aspects of them that is important. If you’re not happy with the way you look or how your body is, celebrate something else about you that you do like.
“Your physique isn’t everything,” Shonalyn said, hoping this reaches someone that is struggling with body image as well. Even as a personal trainer, she’s still conflicted from time to time on her own body image. “It’s hard for me to give advice to someone when I’m still dealing with it.”
That’s why it is so rewarding to Shonalyn when a client starts to feel confident in themselves. She loves that she is making an impact in other people’s lives by training them. What Shonalyn stresses is the importance of mental health. And that’s when she feels the most fulfilled – when her clients are thriving and radiating self-confidence. A lot of her clients were once in her shoes – insecure to step foot in a gym fearing that they would be judged by others because of their self-doubt. She loves when her clients start to notice their own progress like getting stronger, losing weight, or just doing workouts that they would’ve never done before. Shonalyn really tries to switch it up with her clients by giving them a variety of workouts, but also listening to their wants. For her, her clients aren’t just another number. She always ends up building friendships with those who train with her, I guess that’s the social worker in her!
Growing up, Shonalyn’s Lolo-dad (grandpa) always referred to her as “Kikay.” She never knew why, until one day she searched it up and learned it was a slang word in Tagalog for girl / girly. She loves that she can remember and honor her Lolo-dad by naming her business after the nickname he gave her. Shonalyn likes to think that it’s the perfect name, since her goal is to empower women and those around her. She laughs because the meaning of the business’ name was a bit random, but proved to have a deeper meaning the more she thought about it.
Shonalyn went through so much to get Kikay Fit to where it is today. She had a lot of ups and downs, and a lot of self-doubt. At times, her number one enemy and hater was herself. She looks back and realizes how much time she wasted doubting herself. When she finally let go of her self-doubts, she started to see her life going in the right direction. Sometimes, the only person stopping you from achieving greatness is yourself. Once you let go of all the negative self-talk, doubts, and insecurities, you will find yourself taking risks, not caring what others will think. You can sit there and talk yourself out of an idea and never know, or you can test the waters and see where your ideas will take you.
“My confidence still fluctuates until now,” Shonalyn said. “But I went from having 0 confidence to start personal training, to now having my own garage gym.”