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My Athletic Journey, And My Big Dream To Inspire And Grow The Fitness Community (Part 1).

The year was 2009, my dreams of being an athlete completely vanished. A year previously, I was signed up to a Football Academy in the UK and by summer it was time to pack my bags and go home. I knew that my lifelong aspirations were over. I was nothing short of devastated, confused and lost.

I remember as a child spending my weekends waking during the early morning to drive to practice. During the weekdays I would stay back after school until the teachers left to practice even more. Socialisation wasn’t really a thing for me.

I was now lost in the shuffle, going back to school after taking a year to fully focus on playing football. I felt like I’ve lost so much time, other students knew more than I did. My self-confidence was at an all time low.

Moving to a new place, new school and new city came with a new group of friends. I was now truly alone, so I went along trying new things, until one point you realise this is really not who you are.

Fat, demotivated, slightly depressed. I started getting into sport again thanks to our Football Coach who at that time encouraged me to play again. I got into the team without having to ever go to trials or practice (Sorry fellow teammates). Within half a year, I became our school captain.

From that point, I started to go to the gym. It was absolutely terrifying as a 17 years old walking into a big commercial gym. I did not know how to use machines at the time, or even know what a squat was. And this somewhat allowed me to discover my self-identity again, exercising put in the right frame of mind. I had something to look forward to everyday after school.

Then came university, I ended up getting a place at the University of Edinburgh. And again, I was faced with a choice on which activity to undertake, to continue with fitness or try to play Football at a university level. Happily, I ended up choosing the former.

Either by coincidence or fate, I met my first ever Powerlifting Coach at the gym I went to in the UK. Believe it or not it was actually a basic commercial gym. At that time I didn’t even know what Powerlifting was, but you know sometimes in life you go screw it, why not? That was me.

So we trained and honestly I DIDN'T ENJOY IT AT ALL. But he told me I should try to compete after my first session with him, so of course I signed up. So there was my deadline, I told myself after this I’m done, it will just be another ‘something cool’ I did in my life.

The day of the competition came, I lifted some PRs and didn’t think much. I went home and honestly just went on with my life. It was only when they posted the results I knew I had secured third! I didn’t even stay to receive my medal.

One can dream right? I got back to my coach and said let’s do another one! From there I started taking it more seriously. However, success doesn’t come easy at all! I think I must have come second about four times in a row (That must be some kind of record?).

After all the heartbreak, I started to focus on not losing, I knew if I could find an inch maybe I could actually win the gold. So I trained harder than I ever have, sometimes before and after class. Or even skipping classes to train (sorry mom and dad). I started setting goals. By the time I was done with Powerlifting I wanted to step on the international platform.

So, 2017 rolled around and this period completely changed my life. After doing Powerlifting for almost three years, I was finally more confident in my own abilities. I actually started winning things and trust me I was the most surprised person. My whole life, my athletic journey has been dampened by failures upon failures. Heartbreaks, many times wanting to quit. But finally I was a winner.

During the summer, I got an invite to the Commonwealth Powerlifting Championships in South Africa as part of Team Scotland. My goal has been reached. Finally I was about to step onto the international platform. I couldn’t wait for the competition to come. I had the whole summer break to myself, no school, no commitments, just me. It was then I decided to reflect upon my journey and realised all these things that had happened led me to this moment. All I felt was gratitude. And at this point my mentality from anti-social and low-confidence truly started to change. I wanted to give back through sport.

Powerlifting gave me a tool to become mentally healed and physically stronger. During the summer that year I received my personal training certification and started running free seminars, events, and even got to be featured on GQ magazine.

I wanted so badly to give back to the sport that so heavily influenced and changed my life. I just wanted everyone to feel empowered through lifting a barbell much like I did. I knew then I wanted to open a fitness facility where all the weights in the world could be dropped, use the best equipment and hire the best coaches I can find. This self-realisation was so powerful that it engulfed everything I ever did in my life so far.

That following winter I went to South Africa and won my weight class, that was my silver lining to what has been an amazing transformative journey. Of course, knowing me, it had to happen with some dramas. A month and a half before the competition I completely fractured my ankle. I could not walk or train, as it takes about six weeks for the bone to completely heal. And the competition was in, you guessed it, six weeks. I barely trained and pretty much did not walk at all. I remembered putting on the bravest face during my final deadlift, wondering if my ankle was going to snap. But I did it.

Once reality sank in, surprisingly all that didn’t matter that much anymore. The dream of having my own gym and seeing other people’s journey was what truly excited me. I’ve met so many cool people during my Powerlifting career and to this day I do miss the community. But with whatever business knowledge I had at the time, I knew opening a ‘Powerlifting’ only gym would never work as a legitimate business. It was time to serve more people, and change more lives. Yet, before that I had to change mine, time to start something new. Enter Olympic Weightlifting.



Keen Thammathataree is the CEO of a new fitness start up in Bangkok, Iron Hive Gym. He’s a former Commonwealth Games Powerlifting Champion, Olympic Weightlifter and CrossFitter. He’s extremely passionate about sports business and is a Sports Management honors degree graduate from the prestigious University of Edinburgh before receiving his Masters in Management from the University of Sydney. His goal in life is to see people use fitness as a tool for self-actualisation and finding their true inner self.

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