Embracing life

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Emma Kay is proof that from adversity can rise success. The motivated athlete has endured countless health hurdles and used them to refocus and educate herself on everything from nutrition to strength training and fitness.

Emma Kay is passionate about all aspects of life. The 24-year-old is a self-confessed lover of CrossFit, yoga, real food, baking, fashion and photography.

With two high school teachers as parents, sports and the outdoors were a major part of Emma’s upbringing.

Emma Kay

Emma Kay

“I could kayak before I could walk and that’s possibly where my need for the adrenaline rush that high intensity sport gives you comes from,” she says.

“From a young age I tagged along on all dad’s school kayaking trips and took up the sport at primary school, as did my younger brothers Thomas and Simon who were both selected for the New Zealand Development Squad and also, like myself, live and breathe sport .

“We have a pretty competitive annual Christmas Day backyard cricket game and back in the day had a family social hockey team.

“Although there were many times when I questioned why I was kayaking – usually when I was upside down (feeling like I was going to drown), or camping on the side of the river in the middle of winter. Kayaking is special to me because it’s what got me into sport and fitness and I got to travel around New Zealand competing with my family.”

Emma went on to win medals in white water slalom and enjoyed success with canoe polo, playing for Central Regions under 21 teams and the Hawke’s Bay women’s team at the age of 16. She was a member of the Hawke’s Bay High Performance Sports Academy and took out Sports Person of the Year at her high school.

“I took a break from kayaking and canoe polo when I went to university in Palmerston North.”
After completing a Bachelor of Communication in Public Relations and Media Studies at Massey University, Emma completed a Graduate Diploma in Event Management at WELTEC and a Postgraduate Certificate in Business, specialising in marketing.

Emma is the first to admit her high levels of motivation and desire to achieve.

“My goal since this point has been improving my health and mental wellbeing and to be as fit as possible. I’ve come a long way, but it hasn’t been easy. I’ve accepted it and embraced it. Living with endometriosis has made me more determined to achieve things and overcome the unpredictable obstacles along the way.”

In March 2015 Emma found herself in an ambulance again, spending nights in hospital, pumped with morphine, undergoing test after test. This was the start of another downward spiral and ultimately another challenge to overcome and embrace.

“Specialist appointments started becoming more regular in my diary and pain free days were extremely rare. I stopped going to the gym as every time I exercised I felt like fainting, I couldn’t digest food of any substance without pain, and was rapidly gaining weight.”

Diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), and Chronic Pain (a neurological condition), Emma is now on a different journey, tweaking her lifestyle to cope with the challenges she meets.

Part of this journey has seen her launch a business, Embracing It Fitness, with her fiancé Ben Golebiowski, aiming to support people’s health, wellness, nutrition and fitness needs, with a long term goal of one day opening a wellness centre with an Embracing It café. Emma also hopes to publish a book on her experiences and work as a health coach.

“My passion for fitness has been impacted by my health conditions. There were times when I couldn’t exercise without pain and was self-conscious about my body from the weight I had gained. But, after two years of hard work and a new found love for health and nutrition my weight dropped and when the weight dropped I started to feel better about myself.

“I’m still learning that my focus needs to be on feeling good rather than loosing weight. And that mind shift is something we push to our clients.”

“I accepted that there was no simple answer, no cure, and no magic pill that would make life easier. I considered taking up kayaking again but at the end of 2012 I found the new love of my life…CrossFit. If you’d said to me three years ago that I was going to know what a clean and jerk was and be lifting heavy weights each week for fun – I would have told you that you were crazy. But I love every minute and cannot wait to be even stronger and fitter.

“My younger brother Simon tends to make fun of my excessive passion for the sport, not so long ago he was in the kitchen using a full milk bottle to do kettlebell swings while grunting “CrossFit” (mind you, he is an aspiring comedian).

“I am also passionate about yoga. I love it because every time I go to a class I feel empowered, I feel like a can do anything and that my body is thanking me for it. After days of heavy strength training and brutal CrossFit WODS, yoga helps take away the bad from the week and brings a beautiful sense of calmness.”

When not working as a communication coordinator or exercising you’ll find Emma baking up a storm of wholesome clean goodies and taking photographs of those goodies and running her blog Embracing It. Her blog is based on the concept that sometimes the things we can’t change end up changing us. Her most recent achievement is publishing her second run of Embracing It recipe journals, packed with her delicious recipes and inspiration.

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