The trainer and mom recently moved to Siargao at the start of the year—but has not let up on living a life of fitness.
Near the start of the year, Sasja Mulder made a big decision of leaving life in the city to a decidedly more peaceful, freer one by the water.
While waiting to migrate safely out of the country, the 30-year-old trainer decided to move to Siargao with her son Maximilian (or Max).
“I wanted to end the last day of January 2021 by making a bold move and decided to leave everything behind, our beloved house, village, lifestyle; and live the remaining time by the beach, where Max Momo and I, are free,” she writes in an IG post. “A simple house by the beach. The moment we stepped on to the island, Max is away from his gadget and climbing trees with friends. This is what I was looking for.
But while the pace is slower on the island, Mulder’s dedication to fitness didn’t wane. Her son took on swimming lessons and has started Jiujitsu classes while she continues with everything from crossfit to beach muay thai.
“I’m finding other fun ways to use the strength I’ve build over the years. Mixing it up to keep our bodies and mind healthy and occupied to not get defeated by the pandemic,” she shares.
Searching for knowledge
Growing up in The Netherlands as a young girl, Mulder had loved doing sports and was always active.
She decided to take it to the next level when she found out she was pregnant. At the age of 23, she was firm of being always on the move throughout her pregnancy.
At the time, unfortunately, not a lot of fitness trainers felt they were equipped to handle pregnant clients. “In the gym, I was stared down and even the coaches there asked me if ‘I was sure’ of what I was doing,” she says.
But Mulder was determined and decided to take it a step further by studying sports science and taking a course on it in Australia, along with getting certified and supplementing her fitness education with courses on nutrition.
Armed with this knowledge, she wanted to share it with other pre- and postnatal moms.
Mulder says that in her niche as a pre- and postnatal coach, the biggest misconception in the industry is the idea that pregnant women need to eat for the size of two.
“The number two that’s growing inside you has the stomach of a peanut and trust me, you do not need that second burger,” she says.
Mulder strictly believes that pregnancy is no barrier for women who want to continue working out. “Unless said otherwise by your doctor, and you have a healthy pregnancy, you can lift, carry, and do all activities you did before you found out you were pregnant,” she says.
She points out the era of the hunter-gatherers. “If you think about it, back in the Stone Age, pregnant women did not sit on the couch eating donuts, they were still hunting, gathering, and active,” she says.
The idea of expectant mothers being fragile and can only do yoga, and I am here to spread awareness that this is absolutely not true.”
In terms of general fitness, she says that the idea that one formula fits all is impossible because everybody is made different with different needs. “Please throw away your weighing scale as a measure of being fit and start measuring your body instead and notice how you feel and the difference in wearing clothes once you start participating in fitness,” she says.
Your best shape
Her role, Mulder explains, is to guide and educate them to feeling stronger and more confident.
“So far not only have they shed inches off their bodies, I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on how they’ve become less grumpy and stressed and it has helped them with day-to-day activities. Yay endorphins!”
The name of her fitness group is Pancakebutt Bootycamp, a name that comes from her mantra “I Flip Pancakes whilst giving Bootycamp!” According to Mulder, it simply means that you can be a mom and still be in the best shape (physically, mentally, and emotionally) of your life.
Last January, Mulder shared in a post that Pancakebutt has reinvented from just community classes to one-on-one trainer.
“Get stronger with me, fuel your work outs with all the past and current frustrations of isolation, homeschooling, daily anxieties, unknown future plans and lets sweat for those endorphins, do this for you,” she says.
“I’m with you, with the weight gain, frustrations, the flactuating emotions, the worries,” Mulder continues. “Let’s take it a day at a time, if you had a bad day, it’s okay. Let’s get over it and start again, and again, and again. PM me if you’re ready, because I am, and I’ve got you!”
For those looking to start their fitness journey, Mulder says the most important thing is to find sports and workouts that are enjoyable and to find a coach to trust.
She takes care to mention that one should not feel guilty for missing a workout. Making attainable and achievable is a start, and she suggests taking small challenges such as taking the stairs.
Fitness also means making good choices out of the gym, and most important is the food you eat to refuel your body. “Eat real food, skip the isles in the supermarket that have packaging. Good food is fresh food. Stray away from sugars, and fat is not your enemy,” says Mulder.
Mulder says that she didn’t start loving herself until after she gave birth. “I battled with a severe depression a couple of years ago and until now I am sometimes too hard on myself,” she shares.
The best advice she can give is we deserve what we work for; if you feel guilt then most likely you are bottling up something, she says.
“Surround yourself with people that love and support you no matter what. Say no to the unnecessary, and stray away from anything that doesn’t resonate with you,” Mulder advises, adding that it is important to reward the self for big and small achievements.
“Lastly and most importantly,” she avises, “realize that beauty cannot be defined. It is what you see it as. And for every person this is different.”
“I honestly believe that you can be in the best shape of your life, physically. But if you are mentally and emotionally not in par with your body image, this is setting yourself up for failure which causes anxieties and depression in many women, men, and children,” says Mulder.
Hardcore fitness training doesn’t have to start so early for children, but Mulder says we can begin by educating them on the food we eat and what we put in our bodies.
“Starting their taste buds with food that grew from our earth, instead of the rich fast-food chains, will nourish their bodies and help prevent obesity and other sicknesses that come with ‘convenient’ microwavable food and junk from fast food stores. Instead of ‘curing’ children from body image issues, we should prevent it instead,” she says.
Mulder would like to pass on body confidence to her son Max, which she knows won’t happen if she doesn’t feel him well and properly. “To be straight forward, it would be wrong of me to say we should accept all body images when we stuff ourselves with food that makes us sick from the inside and out,” she says.
A meaningful life for Mulder is one with purpose and finding it was important, albeit very hard.
“For it me, it only started after I gave birth to my son, Maximilian. He was the jump-start of everything. Because of him, I started taking better care of my overall well-being, I got out of my depression because of fitness. Finding meaning is so hard, some people never find it at all,” she says.
Tomorrow is not a given, but a gift, Mulder continues. “As cliché it might sound; Life is so short. Enjoy today, do what you think you have to do for you to feel good. There is no good or bad, just the consequences of your actions.”
Banner Photo by Erwin Canlas
This story was updated from its original publication in the March 2021 issue of Lifestyle Asia.