This week we sat down with our amazing Onelife Fitness - Brambleton trainer Michelle Chong and her mother to talk about their mother-daughter/trainer-client relationship dynamic. We hope you enjoy their story as much as we did!
Michelle, tell us what your mom means to you and what your relationship with her is like.
Michelle-She's the center of my world, she raised me to be the woman I am today and I'm so grateful to have the relationship I have with her. Even as a child, she always made me feel like I was a part of the conversation so I never felt like she was only a parent, but she was also my friend.
Coming from a Korean immigrant family, were you raised with traditional values as they pertain to your culture?
Michelle-My mother has always been much more supportive of my goals and career aspirations compared to most traditional Korean families. Traditionally, we believe in taking care of our elders, especially considering all of the sacrifices they made to raise us in a positive environment, so when I became a personal trainer I felt that the biggest way I could give back was to ensure she had the healthiest life possible by becoming her trainer.
Mrs. Chong, what was it that made you decide to sway from the traditional Korean parenting and raise Michelle differently?
Mrs. Chong- I grew up in an unconventional Korean family as well and I always felt that my relationship with my parents was much more horizontal than vertical due to my parents being in the entertainment industry. My father was a well known jazz guitarist and my mother was a famous singer, but once they immigrated to the US, because they wanted the best life for me and one that had more stability and normalcy, they became a little more traditional in their parenting and didn't really give me choice to choose a career based on what I liked. So, when I had my own children I didn't want to stop them from pursuing what they were naturally inclined to or good at. I decided that I would allow my children to pursue what they loved and allow them the space to figure it out.
That's beautiful. Michelle, how did you become your mom's trainer and how does that relationship dynamic differ from the mother-daughter relationship?
Michelle- It started when I lived in NYC and became a certified PT for the first time and anytime my mom would come visit me I would train her at the gym I was working with at the time and we'd turn it into a mother-daughter workout/spa day; it also helped me get my 10,000 hours and learn how to become a better coach to my clients. As I got into body building and started learning more about nutrition, coming from a culture where food is a center piece for our communion, I knew I wanted to extend that knowledge to my family as well. When I moved back to Va I moved in with my mom and she allowed me to pay rent through being her personal trainer. I joke that my mom is my worst client (laughing), but it's really just that I love her so much and care for her so greatly that I probably expect more from her and push her farther than most of my clients.
With your relationship as trainer-client then mother-daughter once you get home are you able to turn off the relationships or do you see an overflow of both?
Mrs. Chong- I think its an overflow of both, but in the beginning I think I was a very difficult client because I was more like a mom and would always whine, "What do you mean I have to lift 15 pounds or I have to do a 50 pound kettlebell swing?!?"
You weren't used to being pushed by your daughter, huh?
Mrs. Chong- (laughing) No, but I realized that it is so amazing once you start training how easily your body adapts and how important it is to keep pushing yourself further and Michelle helps me realize just how strong I am. The only thing I wish is that she'd give me a little more enthusiasm because she can be quite serious when she's training me! (laughing)
Michelle- I definitely put on my trainer hat like, "Okay. Play time's over, its go time" (laughing).
Michelle, tell me about some of the success your mom has had since working with you or what you're most proud of her for.
Michelle- We've always been active together, we used to dance together, take Zumba, and she was the one that actually introduced me to fitness. But as I became a trainer and started emphasizing the importance of implementing strength training into your routine she became all ears. I'm most proud of her for her consistency and willing to take on something new, especially with the myths of women becoming, "bulky" from strength training and most avoiding it for that reason.
Mrs. Chong, do you see any added benefits to other areas of your life as a result of your strength training with Michelle?
Mrs. Chong- About three years ago I started learning ballroom dancing and competing and I realized that what would set me a part from the other dancers was my leg, core, and back strength. Also, as a real estate agent things are much different now than they used to be before the internet. In the past I would get a lot of movement from showing one house after another, but now everything is done online so I'm sitting far more than I used to. Training with Michelle ensures that my muscles don't get cold from sitting all day and I don't suffer from tight hip and back pain as a result.
We know that right now obesity has become its own pandemic again. Research has shown that since Covid over 64% of Americans have reported 30 pounds or more of unwanted weight gain. Mrs. Chong, in a time where fitness is essential to quality of life, what advice would you give to others who are going to read this interview, but still may be on the fence about coming to a fitness club and regaining their health?
Mrs. Chong- You can make it as complex as you want or you can make it as simple as you'd like, the important thing to do is commit to your health and take it seriously.
Michelle- If anything, Covid has taught us that we can't take anything for granted. I do emphasize that old habits are hard to undo, but they aren't impossible. Just start small with commitments you can stick to and be willing to get professional help as well as celebrating the small victories along the way.
We hope you enjoyed our Mother's Day special interview with Michelle Chong and her mother. Be sure to follow us on Instagram @onelifefit to catch all of Michelle Chong's trainer tips and free workouts.
Happy Mother's Day!