Irina found her great passion for sports through apparatus gymnastics: Calisthenics. During pull-ups and human flags she shaped her body according to her personal ideal of beauty: “the stronger, the better”. During sports she met her great love and even during her pregnancy, exercise was an integral part of Irina’s everyday life.
Sports fans 2018: Irina in interview
Women’s Health: We could do the interview in 4 languages. Which one would you prefer?
Irina: German and Russian are my native languages, but we can also speak English or Spanish.
Very impressive. Where does your talent for languages come from?
I moved with my family from Kazakhstan to Germany when I was 4 years old, therefore German and Russian. Later I studied English and Spanish in addition to Russian in my teacher training.
Are you as versatile in sports as you are in foreign languages?
I would definitely say that calisthenics is an incredibly versatile sport. You “only” need your own body for training, but every muscle is really challenged. You need enormous body control to master exercises like the Human Flag or Muscle Up.
When did sport generally come into your life?
The rapid progress in calisthenics is a great motivation © Stephan Wieser
At the age of 18 I really started with sports. At that time I jogged almost every day, whether before or after school. At the end of my studies I discovered apparatus gymnastics for myself through the courses offered. We had a great coach and I quickly noticed how much stronger I became. Handstand until I dropped, rope skipping on thick mats, hanging on the high bar – progress was super fast and I became positively dependent.
I stopped jogging and my beauty image changed from “the slimmer, the better” to “the stronger, the better”.
So that was your calisthenics launch?
Almost. I started with calisthenics in Berlin. For my legal clerkship I moved to Berlin with my twin sister. We didn’t know anyone, but we wanted to do sports. Through Instagram we had already seen and heard a little bit of calisthenics. We immediately looked for a calisthenics park in Berlin and discovered the Monbijou Park. There we did sports and met new like-minded friends, for example our Calisthenics team Barliner.
Follow Irina on Instagram
Describe what makes the sport so special for you?
Firstly, it is by no means the typical gym workout. You actually need several muscles working together for everything. At the same time you are in the fresh air, in parks or on the beach. There’s no such thing as isolated training; in Muscle Up, for example, your back, trunk and triceps work together to get you over the bar. And what seems impossible at first becomes a warm-up exercise at some point – today I do 10 pull-ups in a row before the training starts.
The sport gave you more than power, right?
Yes, it is. It’s how I found the love of my life. We got married and in October 2017 our son was born.
How important is sport in your life?
“I don’t plan, I just do” © Stephan Wieser
In a nutshell: Sport is my life. I get energy through movement and need movement for energy. It’s a great cycle. Besides, as a woman and especially as a mother, I love being strong, carrying my son around with a certain ease or carrying heavy shopping bags.
How do you motivate yourself – especially on the listless days?
First, my twin sister is my main motivation. We started with sports together, train together very often and share strengths and weaknesses. The great feeling after training, when you have pulled it off, pushes me even when I can’t pull myself together. And the boys in the park motivate me – since unfortunately hardly any women practice our sport, I have no other choice and have to compete with them.
You became a mom in October. The pregnancy was no sports stop for you.
No way. I’ve continued almost everything, just a little slower or with less repetition. Some exercises didn’t work any more, for example during the Muscle Up the stomach got in the way, because the upper body has to go over the bar. I just listened to my body, what is still possible and what not. But the funny thing was that at some point walking became more difficult than a few pull-ups.
How has your body awareness changed during pregnancy?
Irina also did a lot of sports during her pregnancy © Stephan Wieser
Everything just became more difficult. I didn’t make any more progress, it went backwards in sport. I had a baby growing inside of me, growing bigger and stronger. So I always had a relaxed and happy feeling.
What were the reactions of others when you appeared pregnant for sport?
From my barliners there were only positive reactions and support, I always felt good there. However, when I went to training pregnant in sports clothes, there were sometimes negative looks at me and my stomach. Sometimes I even hid my belly when I went to train alone. But many people approached me with interest and asked me what it was like to do sports as a pregnant woman.
After the birth you also had your six-pack back quickly?
Yes, the muscular abdomen came back quickly. After 6 weeks I started to train again, before that I did recovery exercises. The regeneration went fast with me, after 1 month the round belly was already gone.
How do you get everything under one roof – being a new mom, being married, plus sports and job. You got a secret?
Irina often takes her son to the workout © Stephan Wieser
Not really. I don’t plan, I just do. When my child is busy or sleeping, I do the housework, cook or sleep a little. My husband also does a lot of housework, so I’m not alone with everything. For training the little one comes along, so he has his walk and fresh air.
How did your environment react when you started with calisthenics?
I lost some friends because of the sport, because the lifestyles did not fit anymore. I didn’t want to go to parties on the weekend, but to train early the next day. My mum also had problems in the beginning and said things like: “Why so many muscles, it doesn’t look nice anymore”. But now she thinks it’s great – she even follows me on Instagram and Facebook and tells everyone about my sport. And with my husband, of course, it’s easy. We do the same sport and we just take turns.
He plays with the little one when I do my exercises and vice versa. So all three of us are out in the fresh air and exercise.
You are very active on Instagram, do sports with and without your son and husband. How do people react to you?
I try to pass on my lifestyle of the “sporty mom” as best I can. Often pregnant women write to me and ask me how I manage it all. Recently I also met with a pregnant woman to share our experiences. So far there have been no negative comments when my son was in my videos.
How does it feel when people look at you as a role model?
I can show other women, especially mothers, that sport, child and everyday life are compatible. Exercise is especially important as a mother, it makes you healthy and after each training session you have the motivation to master your everyday tasks. I was lucky to have learned to love this way of life. If I can be a role model for others because of this, it is a great feeling.