Devina Pronolo, 28, is petite, but that doesn't hold a candle to how much punch she packs. She's a new mother, a wife to national bodybuilder Adrian Tan, an ex-powerlifting competitor, and currently a trainer at CrossFit Statera. Here is Devina on her journey through fitness, and how she managed to bounce back into the fitness game after giving birth.
When I was very young I saw a photo of a very muscular woman in a magazine. I thought it was really cool. People usually condemn women like that for having too much muscles, but I didn't feel disgusted at all.
I started my fitness journey when I was in university, around 17 and a half. I was in Melbourne, and the weather was extremely cold. I didn't want to go running outside to keep fit, so I joined a gym.
It began with aerobic classes and too much aerobics caused a serious shin splint. My physiotherapist told me I would have to lift some weights to build muscle and strengthen my bones, as I was doing so much cardio, it bordered on unhealthy.
Most people say that when women lift, they became too big. They mean it in a derogatory sense, but they need to know it's not going to happen. The women they see on stage at bodybuilding competitions with their double biceps are an extreme example. It's their job to do it if they want to win and the lengths they go to achieve that are far beyond what most people are capable of. If you watch your calories, eat healthily, and workout smart, you'll be fine.
I took a break from my full-time job to be committed to powerlifting competitions when I was competing seriously. I won a gold medal in the 2015 Singapore Powerlifting Alliance's Under 48kg category, and broke a national record. The biggest takeaway for me was how much sacrifices I needed to make when competing.
CrossFit came much later, five years down the fitness road through a YouTube video. I used to train at a CrossFit box that brought training classes for budding trainers to Singapore, and I really wanted to learn more about it, so I signed up, even though it was pretty expensive.
Control is what I find rewarding about working out. In life, we tend to have quite little of that. When it comes to lifting weights, you need to exercise control if you want to improve. It gives me control over what I can achieve, and I don't have to answer to anyone else about my performance. It also makes me strong physically, which I appreciate.
When I was pregnant they found out I had a low-lying placenta in the first trimester, so I had to stop squatting, deadlifting or benching, which were the three lifts I loved the most. I tweaked my workouts to be more body-part specific, and I would listen to my body. If I felt tired, I did less. During my pregnancy term, I think I lifted around 10% of the weights I used to.
I only went back to the gym two months after I gave birth. The first thing I noticed was that I had zero core strength, and I couldn't do pull-ups. My lower back was weak, so I couldn't deadlift either. I still haven't built it up to what it was, but I'm slowly getting there.
I try to eat as clean as possible but sometimes I get caught off-guard. As a breastfeeding mother, you're hungry 24/7, and sometimes I grab whatever I can find. I try to avoid fried food and processed sugar though.
My current training routine isn't fixed, unlike my competition days. Now, I strive for activity. If I can train three times a week, I'm happy. Usually, I do functional movements, and I try to do full-body workouts in an hour.
People often ask me how I stay motivated. It's about finding the sport you can be passionate about. Lifting is not for everyone. Just be active, and never force yourself. That affects your motivation. Always do something you enjoy.
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