In recent years everyone from experts to influencers have been touting the benefits of physical fitness for mental wellbeing.
Meena Kartara is one such fitness fanatic who is especially passionate about the uplifting effects of exercise. She is an entrepreneur who is in the final stages of setting up as a private PT (personal trainer). Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting her for a chat about business, fitness and life.
Meena is as friendly as they come – effortless to talk to and abundant in unpretentious charm. Not to mention, Meena looks more than a decade younger than her 50 years– something in that fitness regime must be working!
I was quick to discover that Meena had been busy in recent months – she has recently gained certification as a boxing coach, has become a level-2 certified nutritionist, and is in talks with a local boxing club about a coaching role. She also has experience as a PT from her local gyms.
Meena was quick to praise the support she has received from Aspire enterprise support. This arm of Aspire helps aspiring entrepreneurs to realise their dreams, with the long-term goal of equalising entrepreneurship so that it is accessible to people of all backgrounds. They have recently helped Meena purchase equipment for her private classes, have provided workshops and have given one-to-one support with tasks like organising tax and building marketing assets.
Meena was clearly very grateful for the support she has received, and perhaps a little modest about the efforts she herself has made in transforming her circumstances. In the course of our conversation a second thing became clear – hers is truly a comeback story.
Journey to Becoming a PT
Meena has had a difficult journey to where she is today. In 2006 she lost her partner of 14 years to a battle with cancer. Devastated, she entered a lengthy period of mourning.
During this time Meena battled a host of mental health problems. She suffered from anxiety, depression and a loss of drive. Previously she had been excelling in office jobs and making movements on the property ladder. Now, the simplest tasks were a struggle.
However, in 2015 Meena rediscovered fitness, and her life began to rapidly transform. She wasn’t a complete novice – her partner was a kickboxing instructor (perhaps this explains her aptitude for boxing!). Through starting on a fitness journey, Meena gradually felt her drive returning, and gradually the dark cloud that had been hanging over her life began to lift.
During this time, she would approach her GP about her struggles with her mental health. The GP referred her to Talking Space, a psychotherapy programme which she still attends to this day. And Talking space lead Meena to Aspire. Around this time Meena began working in FeelFit gym as a PT, where she discovered her love of leading classes and working with clients to achieve their fitness goals. And the rest is history.
This was not the end of her struggles by any mean. Meena has had plenty of challenges. The pandemic had a deleterious effect on many people’s mental health, and Meena was no exception. However, she has persevered, and is now passionate about helping others get their life and their mental health back on track.
PT with a Passion for Helping Others
It became clear from our chat that Meena was overflowing with a passion to help others discover the healing effects of exercise. When I asked what health and fitness tips she had, her message was clear – “you have to recognise that it’s best thing to get into!”
She had more practical advice;
- Start small
- Stick to the basics
- Don’t be self-conscious – JUST GO
- Consistency is key
Along with her desire to help others, Meena was a passionate advocate for the support she has received from Aspire and other organisations. “There is so much support – grab it with both hands!”, Meena told me.
No doubt, Meena could have her clients coming back for more with her charisma alone. However she is evidently a highly skilled and qualified instructor.
Despite some genuine humility and modesty, Meena clearly has a wealth of knowledge. She is now a fully qualified PT, boxing coach and nutritionist. This enables her to run one-to-one training, classes, to write diet plans for people – providing the full fitness package. She has a range of fitness equipment including a barbell, plates, dumbbells, strength bands, a fitness ball and matts. Everything anyone would need to get into peak physical shape!
Meena lightly spoke of dreams of taking her PT business to Dubai, to enjoy the blazing sun and highlife of training such a wealthy clientele. While she spoke in wistful tones of “what if”, I don’t see why not- she certainly has all the skills she needs.
For now though, we wish her the best of luck in taking the Oxford fitness community by storm. She has overcome a great deal of challenges in her mental health through the invigorating blend of blood sweat and tears that only fitness provides, and now she is on a mission to share that gift too.