Proud to be 63 and stronger than ever, Ursula Pong isn’t giving up on her goals – including travelling the world and teaching the next generation the benefits of being fit and healthy. Instead, she’s living out loud.
Ursula Pong’s resume reads like most people’s bucket list.
After graduating from Ontario’s University of Waterloo, she taught in Toronto for several years before moving overseas, where she has remained for the past 33 years. Currently, a high school physical health educator and health teacher specializing in fitness classes at Singapore American School, she has made a career of imparting the importance of physical activity to generations young and old.
“When I graduated from the University of Waterloo, I was not sure what I wanted to do,” recalls Ursula. “So I applied to a teacher’s college, and after studying there, opportunities kept coming my way. I feel very fortunate with how my path seemed to happen naturally and spontaneously.”
To date, she’s visited more than 50 countries, most recently visiting the beautiful islands of Hawaii, one of her favourite destinations.
“We have been going to Hawaii one or two times a year since our daughter Kilani was born and we find our happiest moments and times together there,” she explains.
But circling the globe is more than wanderlust for Ursula. Every two months (or as often as possible), she and her husband return to Toronto to visit Kilani – whom Ursula had at 40 years of age – for some much-needed family time. It’s Kilani whom Ursula lists as one of her biggest inspirations. “She always has the courage to follow her own path and write her own definition of success. I really admire that in her.”
From Dancing to Lifting
Long before she was demonstrating fitness techniques for her students, a love of exercise was sparked in Ursula through her participation in martial arts, gymnastics and dance. That passion extended to cheerleading when, forty years ago, after finishing her postsecondary education, she saw an ad for Toronto Argonauts Sunshine Girls auditions and, in her own words, gave it a go.
“I was pleasantly surprised to make the team, as there were hundreds of girls auditioning back in 1982,” she recalls. “I have always been a spontaneous person and would try pretty much everything. When I would discover that I enjoyed something, I would continue practicing, and I loved the progress I would make in each discipline.”
These days, you’ll find Ursula busy in the gym lifting weights practicing yoga and going for long hikes, three activities she counts among her favourites. With so much going on in her life, she ensures that she takes the time for monthly self-care, which for her involves trips to the spa for reflexology and massage treatments – in Batam, Indonesia, nonetheless.
“I love that relaxed feeling I have when I leave the spa,” she says.
Acting Authentically while Living Out Loud
Being true to herself is of the utmost importance to Ursula. Living up to her reputation as a true friend is her number-one goal, and luckily, it’s an easy task to uphold.
“My friends would say I am someone who is fun-loving and carefree while also deeply compassionate and loyal,” she explains. “I am always there for them, and they know they can rely on me anytime.”
Over the years, Ursula feels she has amassed a level of achievement that, while she cherishes, is immeasurable.
“Success is not a goal I feel I need to reach for,” she notes. “In my 40 years of teaching, I feel I have been successful in connecting positively with my students and in turn feeling like I have been able to motivate them to learn. For me, success is feeling satisfied and accomplished.”
When asked what else she would want to achieve, her list is small. In fact, she is happy exactly where she is, saying, “I am already living my dream life. What makes me feel fulfilled is knowing that what I am doing is making a positive impact on someone out there. It’s the impact I have on others that inspires me to keep going every single day.”
Going back to the topic of bucket lists, Ursula reiterates that she personally finds them unnecessary – she feels she is exactly where she wants and needs to be.
“I don’t have one,” she insists. “My philosophy is that life is best lived when experienced fullest with the people you love.”
That’s a mantra we all could learn from.
Photos by Chris Soo Images