A thirty-two-year-old café and customer service worker from New Zealand, Ash J Gibson has dealt with more than her share of tragedy. Losing both her parents unexpectedly only seven week apart, she found herself severely depressed and overwhelmed by grief. Stopping work, she was forced to deal with the sale of her family home and other legal issues regarding her parents’ estate. Deciding she needed both a break and a fresh start, she ventured out to Tiger and in the process has discovered the warrior inside that she never knew she possessed. Having faced adversity at every turn, she has battled through it all, going from a top weight of 130 KGs down to her current weight of 80 KGs. She arrived at camp lost in life, overweight and unhealthy. When she finishes her training in a few months, she’ll return home the embodiment of Tiger strength and spirit. She even plans on working toward her PT and Group Fitness certifications. This is her story…
When you were first looking at traveling, what made you choose Tiger?
I just woke up one day and decided I needed to come to Thailand. I can’t explain it; I’d never really planned on traveling to Thailand before. I looked into the different options… going to a monastery, doing a yoga retreat, everything. Finally I found Tiger Muay Thai online and it seemed to be the best fit for me. It offered more activities and things to do around than the other places I was exploring. I exchanged some e-mails with their staff and found it was easy to get information and reassurance that it was the right place for me.
When you arrived at Tiger did you set any goals for yourself?
I first arrived at Tiger about a year ago and trained for a few months. Then I returned home for a bit, and spent some time traveling in Australia, Ko Samui, and South America. When I returned to Thailand after that, I spent a few months at a different gym, but it wasn’t quite the same. I came to visit Tiger and participate in their 12 Hour Cross Training Challenge for charity and decided to come back.
It made me realize that Tiger’s body fit and cross training are way more advanced and strenuous then the ones I attended at the other gym. Tiger is a real community. Here people will cheer you on, pushing you to finish your workout, even if they’ve already finished theirs. It can be a competition, but in a fun and supportive environment.
Since I started back at Tiger in the last month and a half, I’ve lost more weight in that time then I lost the full four months at the other gym.
When you returned to Thailand did you set new goals for yourself?
I was at 103 KGs and my goal was to get down to 75 KGs. Right now I’m at exactly 79.5 KGs. I’ve got a couple months left here at Tiger, so I know I can achieve my ultimate goal.
Have you faced many challenges along the way?
A lot. Now and then the emotional stuff still comes up and affects the way I’m training. Loneliness can be a problem; being here so long and missing home. I also used to have really bad cravings, but I’ve found that now they don’t happen as often. You just have to power through.
Can you think of anything fun or memorable that you’ve been through here at Tiger?
The Halloween BBQ Beat Down last year. I missed this year’s one, but I had an incredible time last year. It was so much fun dressing up as a zombie and cheering on the fighters. I also enjoyed learning how to drive a scooter for the first time, snorkeling for the first time and even driving a jet ski! Ive been able to do lots of little island trips, which have been great.
What are your favorite and least favorite exercises you’ve encountered at Tiger?
I hate doing any kind of squat. I have weak knees, so I have to be careful when doing them. I really love medicine ball slams, but I think my favorite exercise is when we drag tires with barbell weights on top of them. Dragging all that extra weight I used to carry on my body helps me realize how far I’ve come in my own journey.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about coming to Tiger?
I have a lot of friends and strangers messaging me asking me about how I’ve gotten my results and I’ve been sending them all to Tiger. It’s got the best range of choices and the best community feeling. Just look at my photos and my progress. If you’re willing to put in the work at Tiger, you will succeed.
When you finish your weight loss journey in February, do you think you’ll ever return to Tiger?
Once I leave, I have to start getting settled at home, so it might be a year or two before I return. I will definitely be coming back, though. I feel like I’ve almost achieved my goals here, but I would love to bring a group of people to Tiger who are dealing with loss, or even a group of fellow LGBT Kiwis, to work with them and train. It would be nice to give back and help other people on their journeys. It would also be a great way for me to keep fit.
I have never really been into sports in my life. My parents tried putting me in Kung Fu and gymnastics, but it never really worked out. I used to be bullied throughout school and never really felt supported by most my extended family because of some recent misunderstandings.
I love my family, though, and all the incredible friends Ive made on my journey. My parents were incredibly health conscious and always wanted me to lose weight. I know they would be proud of me.
Thailand is an incredibly spiritual place. Its beaches and sunsets brought me back. It feels like home.