By Liana Jacob


AFTER leaving an ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP this woman discovered a love for weightlifting that even PREGNANCY couldn’t stop – admitting she hit the gym FIVE TIMES A WEEK and did 100KG DEADLIFTS until the day she went into LABOUR.

Personal trainer and online coach, Yanyah Milutinovic (33) who lives in New York, USA, had grown up into sports; her fitness journey began when she played football at the young age of four years old.

She quickly fell in love with various sports including karate, swimming, basketball and sprinting and this passion continued until she was 16 years old. When she was 21 years old, she was in a very relationship which turned abusive, this lasted five years.

Yanyah pictured enjoying a cup of coffee at a cafe. MDWfeatures / Yanyah Milutinovic

Throughout this time, she fell into bad habits of eating junk food, late nights drinking and partying and poor sleeping patterns. Four months later she woke up with a terrible hangover, looked in the mirror and suddenly had an epiphany. While she had left her abusive ex, she was now abusing her body. Seeing her body looking ‘unrecognisable’, she didn’t like what she saw and decided to make a change. She was 12st 7Ib and a UK size 10.

She set up a membership with her nearest gym and began working out religiously six to 10 times a week. Her new drive to become fitter and healthier became her therapy to overcome the abuse she went through.

In 2016, through her dedication to the gym, she met her husband, Risel Martinez (30), who became a strong source of support for her throughout her recovery. Just two months into their relationship, Yanyah fell pregnant with their child, Smiljana Vida Martinez (2).

Yanyah pictured in an orange crop top in the gym. MDWfeatures / Yanyah Milutinovic

While her body changed again due to her pregnancy, Yanyah was determined to stick to her gym routine but instead toned it down accordingly. She continued to work out but three to five times a week. She would continue to deadlift 102kg for 12 reps even until the day she went into labour at 41 weeks. At her heaviest, she was 16st 2Ib and a UK size 18 but managed to lose over a stone just two months after she gave birth.

Her fitness motivation continued and once she was back to her usual routine, she began working out four to six times a week on weights mostly. She alternates looking after her daughter with her husband so that they both have time to work on themselves. She is now a healthy 10st 5Ib and a UK size 12 to 14.

“I have a long background in sports and began my journey at the age of four playing football. At the age of eight I began karate and even won the Open World Cup for Children and Cadets when I was fifteen years old,” Yanyah said.

Yanyah pictured in her early twenties while she was in an abusive relationship. MDWfeatures / Yanyah Milutinovic

“I have trained swimming, basketball, sprinting and a lot of other sports but football and karate are where I excelled in the most.

“After stopping karate at the age of sixteen, I didn’t do any sports or physical activity at all until I picked up fitness at the age of twenty-eight.

“During that break I began living a pretty unhealthy lifestyle; long nights out drinking in clubs, poor eating habits, and terrible sleep routines.

Yanyah pictured (middle) with friends when she was partying. MDWfeatures / Yanyah Milutinovic

“I had also left a five-year-long extremely abusive relationship; I had my head cracked against a Jack Daniels bottle, both of my eyes and mouth burst open.

“He would choke me under a cold shower, he would slam my face into a plate of food, slam my head into the brick wall, hold me down and beat me with his fists.

“However, after leaving this relationship I started drinking more for about four months and then one morning, hungover as usual, I stopped by the mirror in the living room and I looked at my reflection.

Yanyah pictured now showing her fit physique in a one-piece swimsuit. MDWfeatures / Yanyah Milutinovic

“I stood there for what felt like a lifetime, staring at myself deep into my eyes. Finding my soul. In that moment I understood that despite leaving him, I still hadn’t left the abuse because I was my own abuser now.

“My body was unrecognisable from what it once was, and so was my face. I didn’t like what I saw, and I didn’t like what I felt.

“That day, I said ‘no more’, I washed my face from the night before and got ready for the gym. That was the beginning and I haven’t stopped since then.”

Yanyah pictured lying on a rock on a beach in a purple bikini. MDWfeatures / Yanyah Milutinovic

Yanyah has since met a man who has restored her faith in love and helped her heal by being her number one supporter when it came to working out and being there for her when she had to attend doctor’s appointments when she was pregnant.

“I met my husband at the gym; he is my biggest supporter not just in my fitness journey but the overall journey of life,” she said.

“He didn’t miss any workout that I had during my pregnancy and he didn’t miss one single doctor’s appointment.

Yanyah pictured with her husband, Risel, in the gym where they met. MDWfeatures / Yanyah Milutinovic

“He is the one I can bounce ideas with whether it has to do with my fitness, business or life in general. During postpartum he made sure that I was able to go to the gym by doing his part as a parent.

“I was nauseous all the time until my eighteenth week of pregnancy with all day sickness; working out made me feel overall better but it was mentally difficult to get to the gym some days; that’s where discipline came into play.

“Risel and I would take turns staying with the baby so that we could work on ourselves. Dealing with postpartum depression (PPD) during my fourth trimester meant that working out was not only crucial for my own mental wellbeing but the overall wellbeing of our family.

Yanyah pictured just after her labour. MDWfeatures / Yanyah Milutinovic

“I would feel so much better after a workout where I was able to release stress, anxiety and emotional pain.

“At ten months postpartum, I lost my younger brother, which made the PPD overlap with grief. Yet another very difficult time in my life where my husband (and his amazing family) stepped in to support me.

“With my fitness experience, I wanted to try a different approach than what I’ve done before, different than what we often see on social media with mothers getting back into shape.

Yanyah pictured post-labour (left) and now with a muscly physique (right). MDWfeatures / Yanyah Milutinovic

“I didn’t want to focus and spend hours and hours doing cardio. As a matter of fact, in the first one and a half years of postpartum I didn’t do any cardio at all.

“My focus was on maintaining and rebuilding my body weights. The weight loss of fat would eventually happen anyway with intense weight training but in this way, I was able to ‘save’ the hard-earned muscle mass and build my body stronger and better than even before falling pregnant.

“Pregnancy is not a disability (at least in most cases) and as women, pregnant women are a lot more powerful than what society wants us to believe.

Yanyah pictured in a red bikini showing her muscles. MDWfeatures / Yanyah Milutinovic

“There is no animal in the animal kingdom that takes a break during the time they are pregnant. For an example, the lioness hunts with the rest of the herd until the day she gives birth.

“We were created to move, and if physical activity is healthy when you’re not pregnant, why would it now turn into something unhealthy during the most important time in most women’s lives?

“But the most important thing to know is that all fitness levels are different before pregnancy and the same goes for during pregnancy. You should get a green light from your doctor first before beginning or continuing any fitness activity during pregnancy.”