I started working out at a gym only 5 years ago. Prior to that I did not have the resources to allocate for myself towards my passion. In college days, when people of my age used to follow their passion, I used to work at a night job (BPO) to fund my expenses and support parents. Throughout this phase, what kept me going was the 1-hour free hand physical routine, which I built for myself after researching online. However, I never achieved what I aspired to, I was doing something wrong and did not have the right guidance. 

After a long hustle, I made a good living for my family and self, when I started exploring my passions: Music, Motorcycle Adventures and Access to equipment at the Gymnasium. All the other passion points phased out while fitness stuck along, I realised “it’s my calling”. 

My fitness regime was going great, when I woke up one day (June 2020), I couldn’t hear well and see well from my left ear and eye.

I rushed to the doctor and went through various tests. Thanks to my fitness regime, my blood work was very good. However, I was treated for a virus, I could not do my daily chores for almost a month and was in terrible pain. Once I was on my way to recovery, I was diagnosed with Tinnitus. Imagine a fit guy, suddenly starts hearing a constant high pitch sound in his left ear and mild hearing loss. It drove me mad, questions like ” why me” “what did I do wrong” “my life is finished”. I used to go through anger, pain, and regret all at the same time. I gathered myself and pulled into the gym again. For almost a month, I couldn’t do anything apart from light cardio as I had a false sense of motion, feeling like I am going to fall. I kept at it and slow and steady could make my way to the squat rack and the bench. Now, my condition doesn’t bother me, I no more empathise with myself, rather, try to make it my strength thinking ” I SURVIVE COZ IM A FIGHTER”. Now I try to connect with as many people I can with similar conditions who are going through a bad mental phase and tell them, they are not alone, and we are in it together. 

I would summarize with ” We do not have a choice of what life throws at us, but how we react to those situations are completely in our control”



Irsyad Ramli – With determination and perseverance, Nothing is impossible.

Hi my name is Irsyad and this is my story. Growing up I was always interested in sports and I played every sport I could possibly get my eye on. So when I was 17 I started being very interested in aggressive inline skating. I was quite competitive at that point of time as I wanted to enter Xgames. However, disaster struck after I had done my O level, I was trying to hit a new trick and I dislocated my right shoulder and ruptured my rotating cuff. Needless to say, I was sent to the hospital via Ambulance at 5am in the morning. The pain was excruciating. Reach the hospital and the doctor confirms my worst fear. Pop my shoulder back in and perform a surgery on me the next week, basically I had three screws implanted in my shoulder for life. When I started bodybuilding, I wanted to hit the gym because I was putting on weight. After months of physiotherapy, I was hitting the weights and was in good shape. Fight through my shoulder pain and I was able to lean out.

4 years later, I put on so much weight due to the lack of working out. I had no time because of school, part time work and being in a relationship. From 70kg, I went up to 105kg which was the highest and fattest I have ever been in my life. I was depressed and I started going back to the gym to ease off the feeling. It was hard at first because I was embraced by how I look. I managed to lose till 93 kg.

Finally, I got the National Service letter and was awarded to serve Singapore in the army however I was placed in the Fat batch or Pes BP. I was determined to outshine and lose even more weight. In the span of 2 months I was able to lose 11kg and was at 82kg. I was in my fittest physique ever. Again, after the disaster strike, I was ready for field camp and had to carry a field pack which was 20 kg each due to an injured bunkmate. Through the whole time I could feel that my lower back was straining but I thought nothing of it. The next day we had to do shell scrape and it was raining cats and dogs. With my back pain I still push through until I look up and collapse hitting a boulder with my lower back. I woke up in my teen-age and I could not feel my left leg. It was total numbness. The pain that I felt was 10 times worse than my previous shoulder injury. 

I was sent to CGH and found out that I had 2 slip disks (L4/L5 and L5/S1) and a degenerative disk. I had to be on a wheelchair for a month and crutches for 2 months. My goal to become an Officer was shattered. I was in a very dark place. I started feeling sorry for myself and at that point I thought my life of being a bodybuilder was over. After being able to walk I start planning on how I can do the impossible. I started going back to the gym and train properly. As I work out the day after the pain starts to go away and with the help of physiotherapy, I was able to lift heavy weights and do more compound training.

I was doing well and avoided going for a surgery until July 2019. I was on my way home and my left leg became numb and died on me. I had to crawl back home from the bus stop. Apparently, my disc blocked my sciatica nerve and that was the reason why I could not walk. Hence, I went to the doctor and decided to do the operation even though the risk of getting my other nerve damage in the process. Thus, my operation was on 30 October 2019 and after the operation, I was in a world of pain. I was bed ridden for 3 days and had to learn how to walk again. I was again back in the wheelchair and crutches. The worst part is the doctor said I can’t deadlift anymore.

After I was discharged, I had the mindset to recover and go back to the gym. I started researching on success stories and what I can do to speed up the recovery. I came across an article and found out nutrition was the key to recovery, so I changed my whole diet and started eating clean as well as changing my workout routines and strengthening my lower back muscles and legs. After two months miraculously with the help of God, I was able to recover and did my first deadlift. After all that struggle, I managed to obtain the physique I could ever do.



Vicki – “I am a strong advocate in standing up for the abused and the stigmatized. “

As someone who was ostracized and bullied for 10 years by the students at my all girls’ primary and secondary schools here in Singapore, I am a strong advocate in standing up for the abused and the stigmatized. Interestingly enough, I was picked on by the girls at those schools for being reserved and ultimately, different from all the other girls. I was not extroverted and not sociable – and apparently back then, people thought that that was a problem. Through my own life experiences thus far, I have come to discover that those who were bullied actually share a similar form of stigmatization (be it from their peers or society) as those who have been diagnosed with mental illness. Hence, I thought I might shed some light on this important topic and theme of being aware of what mental illness is, and how this stigmatization still persists in Singapore’s modern society.

Having lived (yes, lived, not visited as a tourist – that doesn’t count) in the United States for about seven to eight cumulative years, you experience the side of life – for better or worse – that no other experience being stuck in one country could give you. What fascinates me whilst I was living in the United States was that people were actually encouraged to seek out therapy and that society even openly discusses mental illness and counselling, as if it were your typical water-cooler conversation. Whilst I know that Singapore has made further progress along the lines of openly discussing and understanding mental illness and the mentally-ill (along with other potentially taboo topics), I personally know a few local acquaintances here who would feel ashamed or shun  the idea of visiting a psychologist or psychiatrist – as if they were afraid that they would “lose face” if they were caught doing so.

Part of my line of work involves teaching thousands of students from all walks of life. On some occasions, I would have the privilege to train students with specific mental health conditions. What I discovered was that not only were these students much more creative, they were also capable of extreme concentration and dedication to their craft. In fact, just because someone has mental health issues does not make them any less human than you and I. On the contrary, all of us are unique and in some cases, these unique quirks may serve as an advantage in making creative or technological progress in society.

All in all, I strongly believe that the only ones who should feel any kind of shame pertaining to mental illness or the mentally-ill are those who judge, stereotype and discriminate against the people who are in those special groups. Perhaps we have the movies or local culture to blame for our default views on mental illness, but as someone who has had direct experiences and encounters with various types of the mentally-ill in various industries, I can attest to the fact that the majority of these individuals are high-functioning, productive members of society – some of whom who even proceed to do great things in the United States and the world.

Whilst I am participating in NBFA’s event for the sole purpose of fun, their theme of doing it as part of an advocacy campaign on mental illness really sealed the deal for me. I’d love nothing more than to be part of something as crucial as a movement on mental health literacy, to build more awareness and understanding of such issues into our cultural consciousness.


Lisa Zapanta – Balance of Healthy Body and Mind through Bodybuilding

I started my fitness journey when I moved here in Singapore 10years ago.  Being away from my family and friends can make me feel at times lonely and get homesick.

I want to do something beneficial for my health and at the same time keep my mind off from being homesick. I started to eat healthy and be active.  It was an on and off journey for me at that time. And the result was not consistent as well.

It was only in year 2018 when I decided to take my fitness journey seriously and consistently. And I commit myself to it. From there, I noticed a lot of positive changes in me. And in year 2019, I challenged myself more by joining a bodybuilding competition. This experience has changed me to a more fit and healthy lifestyle – both physical and mental.

Here are few things I learned through bodybuilding and I hope it will inspire other people also.

1. Boost Mental Health.  Most of the time it is our mind that will give up first. And Bodybuilding has helped me to be mentally strong. It also clears my mind from stress, anxiety and being homesick. It helped me to have a positive outlook in life & make better decision.

2. Boost Self -Confidence.  Not just in my appearance or to look good. It’s knowing that I am capable. That i can push myself out of my comfort zone to achieve a goal. Which I can apply not just in the gym but in my everyday life as well.

To me bodybuilding not just helped me in my Physical Aspect but it has its Mental Benefits as well.  It’s about having a healthy body and mind that helped me improve my overall outlook in life.

Lisa Zapanta

Andre Penke – “You are your only limit. The body achieves what the mind believes”

Hi there,

My name is André, age 58 and originally from Germany.

Like many others, experiencing ups and downs related to work, relationships, health and money, is part of one’s journey. Life may not always be smooth sailing. Nonetheless, I feel that I am usually able to pick myself up and move on from it fast.

I am a strong believer that happiness is a mindset. I try to switch my perspective of a negative situation with a positive spin to it.  But it was only recently, that I realized how deep impact and critical importance that sports, and exercise has on my health and healing speed progress!

Since year 2016 – 2018, I was hospitalized three times with “acute pulmonary embolism” which means there was blood clot in my chest and lungs. In November 2019 I was in another “hospital-vacation” for a diagnosis of “cerebral venous sinus thrombosis”, which is a blood clot in my brain or Stroke! These are critical life-threatening conditions with a mortality rate of 30% if untreated in time.

My stroke diagnosis in 2019 was the biggest eye opener for me. I was suddenly unable to use my left hand for basic things like eating, buttoning my clothes, messaging on my hand phone, weak standing and walking. I was extremely worried but thankful when the doctors said it will be a temporary paralysis for few months. It was depressive for someone, who is physically active to suddenly have limited mobility!

Recently, this September 2020, I had a total hip replacement surgery on my left hip.

All these “conditions” one after the other puts a lot of strain on me; physically and mentally. The pain and frustration really take a big toll and makes you feel depressive!

 I believe sports and exercise, subconsciously has always function as a cushion to absorb the mental and physical stress I was exposed to. (a healthy, balanced diet, might have been beneficial to it, too)

Furthermore, it is scientifically proven that physical exercise releases ‘endorphin’ hormones which interact with brain receptors to reduce one’s perception of pain and triggers positive feeling.

To conclude, from someone who has survived 4 life threatening condition and 1 major surgery: “Everyday might not be a good day, but there is something good every day. You are your only limit. The body achieves what the mind believes”