When it comes to inspirational wāhine, Mel Yeng Tung is the real deal.
The mother of three has come full circle, from studying health and fitness at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa to working as the gym instructor at the Māngere Campus.
Previously, her work had taken her all over Auckland but being Māngere born and raised, Mel says it’s good to be local again.
“I feel like I’ve come home,” she says.
“I’ve done every type of job. I’ve been a factory worker, a Sky City dealer, an airport concierge and a call centre operator but it’s all those walks of life that have made me who I am today.”
It was when Mel was a stay-at-home mum and her young twins turned four, that Mel decided it was time for a lifestyle change.
“I was sitting at 128kg when I started and won FitMumz of Year in 2016. To experience that full transformation and then to become a trainer at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, it’s the best ever.”
After winning the FitMumz competition, Mel enrolled in the Certificate in Sports Fitness and Health programme before taking the level four Certificate in Health and Fitness Leadership programme.
During that course her kaiako encouraged her to play to her strengths of helping people.
“The beauty of the gym is that it’s all about people,” Mel says.
“If you genuinely don’t like helping people you shouldn’t be working in this industry. You have to have a passion to do that.”
As an instructor for tauira, kaiako and kaimahi, Mel says she especially likes to motivate her younger charges.
“It’s like a family. I go, ‘I’m nearly three times your age, you should be blitzing me.’ They go, ‘there’s a lady in the gym and she can carry more than me and she’s older than my mum’.”
To continue her professional development, Mel has now completed a Certificate in Adult Education and says the programme provided more than expected.
“It was a big group and I was out of my comfort zone, but I got to meet other staff and really open up.”
Mel says she will keep learning and is keen to acknowledge her children’s Tūwharetoa heritage on the marae.
While she’s fluent in Samoan, can curse in Chinese and picked up plenty of foreign phrases working at the airport, becoming fluent in re reo may be her next challenge.
“I’ve learned waiata and haka pōwhiri, now that I’m working here, and confidence. It’s an inspiring journey being at this age. I’m still a bit shy but I’ve opened up more and my faith is strong. At the end of the day I just want to be happy in myself, strong and healthy.”