A Conversation with Mari Erika Sikat

I met with Mari Erika Sikat (she/her/they/them/siya), a first-generation queer, Filipino, brown immigrant over Zoom. Greeting me with an infectious smile (and laughter throughout the call), I could feel her radiant energy as she’s representing the Outlier Training color purple in her outfit for our interview. Originally from Manila, Philippines and now here in Treaty 6 since June 2015, she is a certified personal fitness trainer making waves by bringing fun fitness to our community with Outlier Training. 

Sikat describes Outlier Training as the culmination of her life experiences and life’s work. It’s a place for her to share not only fitness experiences but through her own life experiences with others. Overall, this service is inspired by many things in her life. 

Although Sikat may be the coach and the guide for her clients in the fitness aspect, she feels that both her clients and herself are on this journey together exploring what is in store for both of them on this path. Outlier Training is a place for both her client and herself to grow in the process and journey. She is there to help her clients explore and see that physical fitness is an empowering tool for one’s life; as it empowers this one section in life, but spills out to other parts.

“Physical fitness is like a great tool to empower one part of your life, and then it spills out to other parts of your life.”

Sikat was inspired by her experiences with her grandmother, her lola. With healthcare in the Philippines not free, and being raised in a poorer area in Manila made access to medical treatment difficult, she would see her lola facilitate her own recovery process for her own health. From this form of treatment, her lola was able to live a long life, and have good health years after that. Nearing the end of her lola’s life, Sikat and her family were able to get medical help for her. Here is where Sikat would see her lola get physical therapy and occupational therapy. This experience with her lola contributed to being a major part of Sikat’s life and Outlier Training. 

Inspiration also stems from both the communities back in the Philippines and here in Edmonton for Sikat. Growing up in the Philippines, everything was very community-centered, and children were raised by kapit-bahays, her neighbors. Here, everyone would help one another, by sharing whatever they would have with one another in this community. Being raised in this environment is reflected in what Sikat would like to foster wherever she goes, from her community to her own journey as an individual. 

Being raised in the Philippines, Sikat mentions how there were limited resources for physical education, so she did not have any experience back home. Sikat confesses that she has wounds from societal beauty expectations in the Philippines, especially with body shaming. From experiencing it in the Philippines, Sikat still carried it with her when immigrating to Canada as there were no resources or any type of help. Now older, and overcoming and unlearning her old social conditioning and societal expectations, Sikat is working to bring back that childlike, carefree, free-spirited person who has the best excitement for life present day. Sikat states that she is overcoming her old conditioning of beauty standards, especially for Filipinos and now embracing herself for who she is. 

Getting into exercise for Sikat all started when a friend invited her to the gym. Time passed, and going to the gym became a social activity for Sikat; she was able to hang out with her friend and meet new people during classes. Soon, Sikat became an active and constant gym goer and felt that working out became a moving meditation for her. Eventually, Sikat became a certified personal trainer and progressed forward on this path.

“My first time having something outside of work in school, outside of my responsibilities. My first me time”

Sikat describes the word ‘exercise’ as practice. She explains that “Exercise can be not just like exercise, as in physical fitness, but exercise can also be any type of skill that you are trying to master and be a part of your life.” 

Sikat adds that exercise is “A set of practices that we want to get better on. And it’s supposed to be challenging us out of our comfort zone. And as long as we keep doing it, we’re gonna get better at it and progress.”

“Exercise is also any type of practice that challenges you out of your comfort zone.”

Sikat says. “The edge of my coaching is being able to resonate with marginalized and BIPOC communities, our communities are so underserved when it comes to the health, fitness and wellness industry. And typically in this industry, wherever we look, there are a lot of corporate gyms, and who do we see in action? What type of athletes do we usually see? What type of coaches do we usually see? And it’s mostly white says heteronormative men, that are usually the coaches, the athletes, and we rarely see people who are the same as us.” It shows Sikat’s drive to inspire other BIPOC providers to join this industry for more representation and to bring understanding that there’s nothing wrong with our practices with our food practices from what is mainly taught in this industry.

Something that Sikat wishes she knew before starting this industry was how both challenging and rewarding it is. “I wish I knew how to set better boundaries with clients and the community,” Sikat says. “Boundaries are the way, we meet each other’s needs true boundaries and for our relationship to be more fruitful. I wish I was not afraid to speak my mind – not afraid to speak my needs as a coach, how much work I would need you to do to reach your goals. This is something that I wish I knew before coaching and also at the same time that I’m still working on right now; to be able to speak my heart better for them to know what I’m saying to them is for them.”

Sikat also gave advice to aspiring individuals who want to get into fitness and/or improve their physical health, especially for those who are QTBIPOC, neurodivergent and disabled folks. 

Sikat lists: 

  1. Be kind to yourself when starting
  2. Try your best to not compare yourself with others. Everyone is different, and we all have different lifestyles/physiologies
  3. Start small! To have a consistent type of practice incorporated into your daily life, start with nothing too extreme!
  4. Have a support system/accountability bodies. Start your fitness journey with friends or family, as it becomes more of a social activity instead of a chore. Make it fun!
  5. Start reflecting. Think of your intentions behind this – the relationship that you have with yourself matters more than physical exercise and routines. 

You can find Mari Erika Sikat on Instagram as well as Outlier Training on their website.

 

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