The COVID-19 pandemic, floods, raising three kids as an only parent, a challenging but rewarding career as an infection control practitioner nurse for Fraser Health – these are all simply obstacles for Abbotsford’s Parveen Toor.
For the past 15 months Toor has juggled those daily life challenges with another goal – training and eventually competing for bodybuilding competitions.
The 38-year-old recently took home first place in the Women’s Bikini – Masters 35 plus division and second in her class on day one of the Vancouver Pro/Am and Expo event back on Dec 21. Her outstanding showings allowed her to qualify for day two on Dec. 22 competing against top athletes for a pro card, and she placed fourth overall.
But the journey from gym to stage was a long one, complicated by her many other responsibilities and the pandemic. It was actually a chance encounter with another bodybuilder that The News recently highlighted – Mark Bain – who approached her one day and asked what she was competing for.
It was through that conversation, Bain’s advice and her hard work that she became a champion bikini competitor.
Fitness has been a lifelong passion for Toor. She noted that her family was always active growing up and she continued that trend herself. A self-described “disgusting morning person,” Toor hits the gym bright and early every morning – usually around 4 or 5 a.m.
The start of the pandemic last year saw a number of local gyms close, including the one Toor called home – the former Steve Nash Sports Club. Many gyms also had to move to pre-booked and limited time slots. As a result, she began working out at both GoodLife and Club 16. She noticed a number of other dedicated patrons doing the same and that’s where she encountered Bain.
“He saw me and just asked me what I’m competing for,” she recalled. “I said I just go to the gym to hang out and do my thing.”
But Bain prodded a bit more and he learned that her diet was on point, her motivation was high and she already was well on her way to being a strong competitor in the bikini division. Basically all she had to do was increase her protein to build more muscle before the show.
However, Toor struggled with concerns she had about what others in the South Asian community would think about her exposing her body and hard work in a show like the Vancouver Pro/Am.
“This is not a South Asian girl kind of thing to do,” she said. “Just culturally for us it’s a little weird to be walking around in a bikini in your heels on stage in front of tons of people. Usually we are more covered up, reserved, quiet and modest. That’s just the way so many of us were raised. And with the show you also need the demeanour – you are on stage and it’s a show – stage presence and the way you move is a big thing with judges.”
Toor also admitted to being a bit of a tomboy, she has older brothers and grew up around a lot of men.
“But then eventually I was like – whatever, there’s a first for everything,” she laughed.
In September of 2020 she returned to a more regular schedule with her job and the kids going back to school, so she aimed for a show later on in 2020. She was completely on track, but COVID-19 reared its ugly head later in the year and caused most of those shows to be postponed or delayed.
She decided to refocus on the shows near the end of 2021 and didn’t allow anything to stop her workouts – not even the devastating floods in November. Toor works mostly at the Chilliwack and Hope hospitals, and was unable to return to Abbotsford for several days after flooding closed the highway. Being away from home did not stop the workouts.
“I was just thinking I’m not falling off my schedule,” she said, noting she slept on the floor at the Chilliwack hospital. “This natural disaster is not going to stop me.”
She was eventually redeployed to Abbotsford during the flooding and her training moved to that hospital’s gym after so many local training facilities were shut down. Toor caught the eye of regulars in Abbotsford, enough so that they agreed to help sponsor her at the Vancouver Pro/Am.
“One day I got a phone call from the ARH wellness committee and they shared my presence was motivating staff,” she said. “All the health care providers have been working overtime, critically short and under constantly changing protocols. I felt so honoured, I had no idea. So proud to be recognized and appreciated at the hospital.”
Toor went on to make them proud in December and now she wants to encourage and motivate other women on their fitness journeys. She has created an app filled with information on training, nutrition and motivation called Parveenfit.
She refers to herself as a transformation coach and wants to help guide women on a healthier path to reach their goals both inside and out. Toor noted it’s not always about lifting weights or diet, she wants to build a positive and encouraging community for women and make it more comfortable for them to go to the gym.
“For a lot of people it’s not always nutrition related or fitness related. For some it’s about managing and dealing with stress and anxiety,” she said. “I want to help with whatever people need.”
Toor said she also provides worksheets, diet tips and other materials for those who sign up. The best way to contact her is through her Instagram – @parveenfit. She is keeping it only open to women for now.
“I feel like there’s so many things to relate with, like with the kids and work and managing your household,” she said. “There are so many women who have signed on that I haven’t felt the need to extend it at this point.”
In the meantime, Toor will continue raising her three children, fighting the COVID-19 pandemic on the front lines and training every day in the wee hours of the morning. She said she does not envision ever putting the dumbbells away for good.