Today Antonio Van Praag is a fitness ambassador for a leading Canadian company and works as a coach at Fusion FitLife. But fitness wasn’t always a part of his life.
“I was a chubby kid and as teenager the bullying got to me. I thought changing my physique would make it stop, and it could even help me get a girlfriend,” Antonio says.
As a 14-year-old teenager in Venezuela, where all the gyms were exclusively for bodybuilders, Antonio started his fitness journey with an outdoor run. The first day he could barely run a kilometre, but he kept at it day after day.
“I started losing weight, my physique changed and it was also the time I started university for structural engineering and biomechanics. That’s where I met a student who introduced me to triathlon. I fell in love with the sport and in 1986 I even made the Venezuelan team.”
Although he loved the sport, Antonio decided to prioritize his education. After finishing his program, Antonio immigrated to Canada and started looking for jobs in his field of study. Enduring a long struggle with an unsuccessful job search, Antonio realized he wasn’t in Venezuela anymore and he could actually make a living out of his passion for fitness.
Antonio started from ground zero. First, he learned to speak English, then he took courses in fitness leadership and after that, he worked at gyms all over the city before starting Fusion FitLife with three other coaches.
“There are infinite reasons to get involved, health is number one but by going to the gym you can socialize and build a community through fitness,” Antonio says.
Among students, Antonio is popularly known as Coach AVP and a tough instructor, but he sees it as passion.
“Going through a tough challenge, pushing through and obtaining a goal it’s like life. For me it is rewarding to see students achieving goals after the challenge, breaking the mental threshold between I can’t and I did it. My passion is helping people cross that line,” Antonio says.