Zee Survay is founder of ZFit Leicester, a sports and fitness club for women of all ages. The club is hosted by a number of venues across the city. Here, Zee tells us about her upbringing and how fitness and exercise helped her to connect with women in the community and gave her the tools to navigate life.
Zee was born in Leicester, the daughter of South Asian migrants who had come to Leicester from Uganda in the early 1970s. During her upbringing in Highfields, she admits to struggling with somewhat of an identity crisis: “It was nothing like it is now. Being first generation, I think there was always a struggle between your British identity and your South Asian identity,” she explains, adding: “The whole of my teenagehood and early twenties was that struggle.”
From a young age, she was a carer for her mother who was unwell, and Zee says this impacted her greatly. “I had to go from being four to forty overnight. I had to learn to take on responsibilities that most kids wouldn’t expect”. After leaving school and in her own words, becoming a “young, single mum” she says that she had to work two jobs for most of her daughter’s life and develop a “resilience mindset”.
For Zee, her own journey compelled her to work to support the community: “For me, what it does is gives me a real understanding of different experiences that people go through and I feel it’s my responsibility, having made it to this age relatively well, to then share that experience and support others.”
One way that Zee offers support is through her fitness classes. “Training gives you a sense of discipline and can really support with mental health.” During the pandemic, Zee was involved in Covid-19 volunteering efforts in Belgrave, and although she had to give up hosting live classes, she was determined to keep going on a virtual basis: “For them, they needed something that was consistent after being caught unaware by the pandemic.”
On why she thinks introducing fitness and exercise into the lives of the women she works with is valuable, Zee says: “It teaches resilience, because inevitably life will challenge us. Death happens, change happens and when that happens, we have to be able to cope with it. The skills you develop when you’re training, I believe, prepare you for life”.