Brand ambassador for Jetts Penhurst in Sydney and coach at Bangladesh Muscle and Fitness, Nazia Hassan gives us the 411 about fitness, motherhood and reaping the fruits of self-love.
The concept of deshi women lifting weights or looking muscular is something that’s bound to raise a few eyebrows. Nazia Hassan’s weightlifting journey has done precisely that in Dhaka and beyond borders. Currently residing in Sydney, Australia, Nazia continues to pursue her passions and serve as a fitness inspiration for women through her Instagram and Facebook profiles ‘Nazia H’.
According to her, the gender stereotype that is attached to a sport like weightlifting is a result of the patriarchal world where only men are seen doing strenuous activities. She believes women are more than capable of breaking the boundaries our society confines them to.
“I’ve always been heavily involved in basketball, football as well as sprinting, from a very early age. Weightlifting happened in 2013 when my husband asked me to join the Oxygym; during that time, it was a male-centric environment since many women weren’t involved with lifting in Dhaka,” she recalls. Although hesitant at first, Nazia didn’t back down from the challenge; she quotes that it was her partner who always rooted for her to keep training.
“Who I was before is much different from who I am today; I have trained under the guidance of my husband and trainer, which has boosted my physical and mental strength immensely,” she shares.
Pumping iron for six years and still going strong, Nazia confidently debunks quite a few myths attached to women and weightlifting. “Our bodies are estrogen dominant, as a result, we are not built to gain muscles the way men do since we don’t have even tenth of their testosterones. Weightlifting helps women gain lean muscle, drop body fat, and look toned, provided they strength train and maintain a balanced diet,” she explains.
With a focused mind and a fierce bod, Nazia really does know how to power through society and its assumptions surrounding strength training. Additionally, the motivation from her loved ones gives her an abundance of courage to rise above it all.
“My parents always encouraged me to be athletic, and they have always supported my goals. However, a family friend once claimed that my constant training may compromise my ability to conceive children,” she humours.
Nazia feels that the idea of a woman having muscle definition is an alien concept to some people. “Even during my pregnancy, people have sent messages, asking why I’m doing this? However, most of the responses from my followers have been positive so far; they’ve sought inspiration in my journey, and that’s what makes it so worth it,” she says gladly.
Training day in and day out, while mothering a six-month-old infant is no walk in the park. But Nazia does it all and shows the real picture to being a young mother while maintaining an active workout routine in a country away from home.
“When I found out I was six weeks pregnant, I was lifting very heavy at the gym; I was at the peak of my strength. I waited till the fifteenth/sixteenth week of my pregnancy to announce to my followers, and the majority of them responded positively,” she reminisces.
Nazia wanted to inspire people by showing them that pregnancy doesn’t necessarily hold you back from anything in life. Messages poured in, telling her how much she was motivating everyone. She was, however, subjected to some backlash from other social media users, labelling her as ‘selfish’ for training during pregnancy.
“People would comment or message me saying I am risking my baby’s health, without knowing my background or that I practised safe training with clearance from my obstetrician. I was probably training with 40% effort during my pregnancy. I believe continuous training during my pregnancy, before and after has helped me in numerous ways. I never thought my body would recover so quickly,” she exclaims.
Now that she’s raising her son Kayvan, she understands the joys and struggles of motherhood. “It’s true what they say: there are things you just can’t comprehend until you become a parent yourself. Your needs fall second with the arrival of a child, and you don’t even realise it. As overwhelming as it is, it’s important to stay calm while finding that middle ground between being a parent and being yourself at the same time,” she states.
Nazia’s fitness regime was not deterred even after experiencing labour pain, weight gain, childbirth, and going through postpartum. She feels that her son gives her more reasons to keep at it, while her husband cheers her on in her endeavours.
“I need to be my best self to raise him to his best abilities, and my husband plays a huge role in this. He contributes in household chores enough, and I feel that he’s an exemplary role model for deshi men,” she says.
Nazia elaborates that it’s crucial to let your child explore the world instead of holding them back. “Babies fall over, cry, they protest, you have to know how far you can take them; if you instill a sense of fear towards things, they will grow up to be fearful of them. You have to let them find their own pace,” she explains.
Moving forward with fitness, Nazia aims to create a platform for women of all fitness levels. “I see myself becoming a qualified pre and post-natal fitness trainer, I also envision myself competing on stage someday and representing all mothers and women of Bangladesh to this world,” she reveals. She’s currently working to create a complete training and diet guide for women stemming from her own experience and knowledge on weightlifting and strength training and hopes to finish it within a year or so. She says, “I plan to create an e-book that will contain all this, so one can go through it and learn from it as if I’m right behind them.”
Nazia stresses that self-love is crucial for girls, especially since we’re made to believe that our dreams should take a backseat. She points out that it is vital to love yourself, regardless of being skinny, chubby or even muscular. “You need to reach a place where you can love yourself unconditionally, take measures to improve both physically and mentally to be the best version of yourself,” she concludes.