Educating to make change

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What do you get when you combine the power of two highly motivated Wintec sports science graduates? A successful, thriving business.

Tanya Kong, co-owner of Next Level Fitness tells how she took her passion for sport and helping people achieve their goals and built it into a career…

“I moved to New Zealand from South Africa six years ago. I grew up loving sports because of my dad who had a great passion for it.  I remember waking up early on holidays since I was seven, and sprint training on the beach, preparing for the upcoming athletics season each year.

“This training taught me how to set goals, how to work hard to achieve them, and most importantly that if you fail, you need to get up and try harder until you succeed. Learning and living that from an early age set me up for what was to come.

“Arriving in New Zealand was a huge challenge; having to speak English 24/7 and it was also rather a culture shock. One thing that I knew I could turn to, which couldn’t possibly be any different in a new country, was exercise. It helped me to achieve goals, and I also met lots of like-minded people.

“After making a few wrong turns, I finally found my passion in 2011 when I started my sport and exercise science studies at Wintec.”

Since completing her Bachelor’s degree, Tanya has gone on to establish Next Level Fitness with business partner Dane Ladbrook (who she met while studying at Wintec). They currently own two gyms in Hamilton offering group training, fitness classes, strength and conditioning coaching, yoga/Pilates, massage, nutrition plans and more.

A desire to extend their offerings to clients led Tanya to complete her Postgraduate Diploma in Sports and Exercise Science at Wintec in 2014.

“I wanted to further my skills in clinical exercise physiology/rehabilitation so I could offer clients a better, more specialised service.

“The post-graduate study helps you think about things in a different way.  I learned so much in one year by working with the lecturers in small groups that I couldn’t possibly have gained from books or articles and I worked with the best.”

Tanya lists Michelle Bridges (Australian personal trainer, author and TV personality) as one of her biggest inspirations.

“Seeing how she has grown her business, the success she’s achieved and the many people she has helped is very motivating.”

Her other big inspiration is closer to home.

“Stephen Burden [Wintec senior academic staff member] is a huge role model. He pushed me throughout my studies to try and get me to think outside the box and it has helped a lot in business.  He is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable people I’ve met.”

You get the feeling from talking to Tanya that role models aside, she has no problem keeping herself motivated, because she genuinely cares about the work she does and the people she works with.

“My love for sport and helping people achieve their goals is what keeps me going. The first clients I ever trained were my own parents, so seeing how training improved their quality of life was amazing.

“I came from a family where my dad was always the one training me, so to have the roles swapped around now and to be able to help him and so many others is why I do what I do.

“I love seeing people succeed.  You’re not only helping them achieve one goal, you’re helping them to change their quality of life, and seeing the joy that it brings is awesome. You need to have the passion for it.  If you don’t genuinely care about people’s wellbeing, then this is not the business for you.  If there’s something that people see straight through, it’s when you’re only there to receive a pay cheque.”

So what’s next for Tanya?

“My goals are to expand the business, get a much bigger space with more trainers and physios on board, open up a few branches across New Zealand, and take over the world!”

Watch out world!

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