Powerlifting champion, fitness guide, teacher and nutritionist… there aren’t enough labels for Poonam Pahuja Duneja whose entry into the world of fitness was prompted by the urge to recover from an illness. 

It’s hard to believe that I’ve become a National athlete, in the 7 years since I began my fitness journey. In 2017, I won a gold and a silver medal in Delhi State Men and Women Powerlifting championship.

More recently, I won a gold and silver in National Equipped and unequipped bench-press, and a strong woman trophy at Ranchi.

Stumbled into fitness late

My fitness journey began in October 2010, after I was diagnosed with Chikungunya. I suffered a long bout of illness and muscle weakness made me immobile.

This was really hard, since I had a 4 year old son, and I couldn’t care for him properly. For months, I was unable to function normally and needed support to walk. But one day, I decided it was time to to take control, and get strong again.

DVD was my guide

So, I ordered a fitness DVD for beginners, bought 1 kg dumbbells and a mat. Every morning, I got up and tried to lift them. Despite my weakness, I persevered in trying to finish the warm up part of the DVD. After 2 months of working on muscle strength, I decided to increase my protein intake.

So, I bought Proteinex powder, since whey powder was not as freely available as it is now. Over 2 months, I built up my fitness to complete the first half of the fitness DVD, in 30 minutes. It took 6-8 months to complete the 1 hour workout. To reward myself, I joined a nearby gym in 2011.


Invested in a weight lifting career

I could easily lift heavy weights like a baby now, and my trainers often told me to take up weight lifting professionally, since there are very few females in this career. In 2015, I enrolled for ACE (American Council on Exercise), and ended up being the top scorer.

This was a turning point in my life, and I threw myself into a full time career in fitness.  I attended workshops and seminars related to both fields and updated myself regularly. Ultimately, I got an Olympic weightlifting certification; did a Les mils Body combat instructor course, and became a certified Triggerpoint foam rolling instructor.

In March 2017, I attended the FIT Asia Educator program and got the title of FIT Asia Educator too with the Classic Fitness Team. This qualified me to work in the national Skill India programme, to educate both fitness professionals and students preparing for international certifications in personal training ( ACE and ACSM).


Founded my own nutrition brand

Besides my power lifting and fitness career, I also founded a nutritional consultancy in 2013. Called Nutrifybypoonam, my company aims to help people overcome diet fads and fears, and provides a blend of traditional food wisdom and modern nutritional science for a healthy body. My mantra is: Eat local, think global.

The idea was to provide nutritional guidance to sports and fitness professionals, and also ordinary men and women aspiring to lose weight, curb diseases like diabetes and hypertension, and get fit. Today, Nutrifybypoonam is affiliated with the RDX chain of gyms.

Focus on self-care is important

Looking back, I feel the lessons learned are many. The most important is never to take your health for granted, since health is the only wealth. So, keep a track of your daily eating patterns and maintain an active life style.

Educator, diet counsellor, powerlifting champion and fitness coach Poonam is also on the faculty in Classic Fitness Academy, and a nutrition consultant in the RDX chain of gyms. Her columns on fitness and wellness appear in Fitness Guru and The Times of India.