June Member Spotlight: Nick Kong

We are very excited to introduce you to Nick Kong our June Member of the Month. I used to see Nick at afternoon classes but recently he has been attending with the 6AM group.  If you haven’t had the chance to meet Nick at a Fit Camp you may have seen him at one of our picnics or events with his wife Kelly and their dog Chewie. I always ask people to tell me a little bit about themselves and then I paraphrase it here, but I loved Nick’s response so much I’m going to use his own words to tell you a little about Nick before Forward Fitness. 

“Hey everyone! I’ve been a Forward member since late 2019, but I came to STL via Washington, DC. (grew up in Brooklyn, NY) … so please excuse me if I ask touristy questions like “Where is Castlewood,” or “Why does IMOs pizza only have provel cheese?” Much to the embarrassment of my wife, Kelly (who is also a Forward member and grew up in West County), please also excuse me if I start to unconditionally rant about house projects, Manchester United, or self-defense / MMA! If you ever see me doing anything weird in class, it’s probably because I’m imagining doing that particular exercise in the context of some kind of fight movement. I’m a fan of kinesiology (makes sense given how many physical therapists I’ve seen in the past!) and often see connections in our workouts to fight movements. For example, how we throw the medicine ball against the wall when facing sideways is exactly the same rotational hip and foot movement as if you were throwing a hook punch (like a boxer). So, I imagine each throw is exactly how I would throw a hard hook punch, loud exhale and grunting included!

Also, fair warning… despite attending early classes, I’m still not a morning person. I’m practically sleep-walking when I show up at 6AMs! Just know that it’s an accomplishment just making it!”

When asked why health and fitness were important to him Nick said that he has been involved in organized sports and various athletic endeavors since high school. He even ran cross country and track in college. “Health and fitness routines are just a part of my life and serve as a great reminder of something you can put forth effort and see concrete results. And after a long day of work, getting to do something for yourself is a stress reliever!”

“The other big reason why health and fitness are important to me is just mitigating the natural aging process as much as possible. Because of my running career, I have had several knee surgeries and want to be sure I can stay active as I age. My immediate family members also never prioritized physical fitness and find themselves being physically limited as they get older. For instance, my retired, 71-year-old mom has a fear of walking far because she gets pain in her knees, limiting the places she can visit on trips. It’s hard for her to keep up with her grandkids, who want to go-go-go when she visits.

Lastly, my other big hobby is self-defense training (think MMA-style where I have to learn how to fight from kickboxing range, wrestling / clinch range, and fight on the ground a la Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or BJJ for short). It’s something I transitioned to after competitive running for years after college (I guess I wanted to learn a new skill?) but not to the point where I want to compete and fight in the octagon. Staying healthy and fit allows me to train and learn more!”

Nick had this to say as to why he joined Forward Fitness, “In terms of strength and conditioning, before Forward Fitness, I mostly did my own gym routine. I attended a few group gym classes but never really liked the concept of working out with other people; the gym was just my own thing, where I get to zone out, listen to music, and be one of those gym rats at Gold’s Gym (or whatever big box gym was nearby). The problem with this approach is that it takes a lot of effort to make up your own gym workout every day plus no one is there to correct your form or show you something different. 

At the insistence of Kelly, I checked out Forward Fitness. I didn’t know what I was missing until I found it! Meeting the coaches and going through the first few classes, I realized that there’s a whole level of fitness that I was barely tapping into by doing my own workouts. There was no way I could replicate that expertise in body movement on my own. Most of all, I didn’t know how motivating the community of other members turned out to be. Being surrounded by everyone who is trying to get better and is local to STL has made me feel more at home in STL!”

In the last few years, consistency has been his biggest challenge. “When you set your own workouts, it becomes very easy to not be accountable, to miss a gym day and make it up later, or just not pushing yourself to go harder. Stagnation slowly creeps in and when you notice it, it’s time for a change in your routine! Consistency is also difficult if I’m getting injured too often. Prior to Forward, I had a persistent lower back issue that would flair up after doing something routine (like heavy squats, overhead presses, or lifting boxes). It was sharp enough for me to require taking time off from the gym (which never makes you feel good about yourself!). I had to change my routine and lifting form if I ever want to get better! I began to focus on body awareness and how my hips were positioned during certain overhead movements. I focused on getting more quality reps instead of “muscling it” through my back. And I started to strengthen my glutes and hamstrings! I picked up on all these new habits through Forward Fitness workouts and suggestions from the coaches!”

As far as keeping fitness a part of his life, Nick reports, “I’m a pretty competitive person as I like being challenged and measuring against different goals. However, lately, I’ve started to notice new ways of measuring my fitness that tell me that I’m on the right path. For instance, being confident in lifting Chewie (see the picture!) from the ground without pulling my back or helping someone load their suitcase in the airplane overhead without much effort reaffirms that something is going well. As Kelly often reminds me, I can no longer do the same things as 20-year-old Nick! Managing my core strength needs to be part of my routine for longevity. Lifting heavy boxes or helping a friend move shouldn’t cause my back to get out of commission for days! 

It’s great to have big goals like finishing a marathon or winning a race, but I’m also finding that being mindful of everyday movements reinforces the importance of staying fit!”

Some of the accomplishments he is most proud of include minimizing injuries and most recently, Forward Fitness’ Feats of Strength event. “I never maxed out on deadlifts (too scared! Probably still scared) or the assault bike before (despite owning one at home). Someone once told me that the best part about new challenges and events is that you’re setting a PR (Personal Record) every time since that thing is so new to you.”

“The other biggest accomplishment is just measuring the amount of recurring injuries that I’ve had. I’ll still get little injuries here and there (like right now, my left knuckle was slightly swollen due to some semi-competitive Brazilian jiu jitsu sparring) but, on the whole, nothing that has really caused me to seek an orthopedic surgeon! I can continue to do what I love and train what I want!

The last accomplishment that I’m proud of is just witnessing my progression. Recently, in the middle of Brazilian jiu jitsu rolling, I was told that I am stronger than I look by someone who outweighed me by 50 pounds! Of course, he still was able to submit me, but it took him longer than it did before!”

The advice Nick would give someone thinking about adding routine to their lives: “Do it! Fitness routines are the most complex simple thing you can do. There’s not a lot in life where you can say that when you consistently show up and do the work (the grind), you see results over time. Plus, it helps to have coaches and other Forward members supporting you along the way!

From a mental health standpoint, I like to remind myself that if you can do something like staying consistent and seeing results, then maybe other things in life do not seem as daunting to overcome.”

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