Monday, December 19, 2011


I am a 23 year-old fitness professional. Helping people transform their bodies for almost 3 years now, I often get inquiries from ladies wanting to lose weight and “tone up”. Usually they ask me whether I take aerobics classes. Or they expect me to make them do aerobics and endless hours on the treadmill/elliptical trainer. They surely don’t expect me to say “My female clients mostly lift weights.” When I tell them that weight-training will get them the best “return on investment” of time and effort in getting their body-shaping goals, they are aghast!

I don’t blame them. There are so many myths surrounding weight-training, especially when it comes to women. They have been led to believe that lifting anything more than 2-3 kg, the will make them “bulky” and muscular like men. The marketing machinery of a popular sports shoe brand has succeeded in convincing them that daily 2 hours of dance aerobics and pounding away on the treadmill is the only way for girls to lose weight. They are unaware of seriously harmful side-effects of excessive aerobics – chronically high stress hormone levels, knee ankle and lower back pain, muscle loss leading to weight gain when returning to normal levels of exercise and diet, vicious cycle of huge swings “yo-yoing” in bodyweight and appearance, and metabolic and hormonal damage.

In the first conversation with a new/prospective female client and the first few sessions, I explain to them the above. I also assure them that they don’t have to worry about getting “big muscles” since women have around 10 times LESS the amount of testosterone levels (the hormone associated with muscle growth potential). They will gain some muscle which will give them a “toned” look, giving them killer curves. Only those women who train very hard with weights for a long time and lose a lot of body-fat enough to show abs get that muscular, manly look (a la Bipasha Basu in her fitness dvd).
While my focus with female clients is to get them the toned and shapely body of (for example) Deepika Padukone. Not to mention the fact that that little amount of muscle gain will also raise their metabolism a bit i.e. the amount of calories your body burns throughout the day. Weight-training also strengthens the bones and joints, which is crucial for women since they are at a higher risk of osteoporosis. It also gives their bodies much more stable since women in general have too much flexibility. Moreover you can keep the heart pumping and get a decent “cardio” workout during weight-training itself by resting little or not at all between exercises.

But these are the physical benefits of strength-training for women. I am a feminist at heart and what I love most about it is the awesome psychological boost it gives them.

Most girls don’t know this, but deep-down they love feeling athletic and “hard-core.” They love getting strong; it empowers them. When my female clients realize that lifting weights won’t automatically make them overly muscular and that if often causes them to lean out and improve in shape, they set lifting records left and right!
I love the look on their faces when they get stronger than they ever thought possible and at the same time lose inches of fat and develop nice muscle tone which shapes up their arms, hips and thighs (the areas most girls complain about being too flabby).

They don’t just get stronger; they FEEL stronger both in their bodies and their minds. Their confidence increases, they develop a mental “edge” over girls who’ve never lifted weights, their posture improves - in short they “kick ass”! ;)

Here’s to empowering women through strength-training – Go girl!


As only the young can, I used to scoff when older, wiser people said stuff like

“You gotta do it for the right reasons, or you won’t last long”
 “Love the process, don’t worry about the goal too much”
“The journey matters as much, if not more than the destination”
“Live in the now, love the now and your future will take care of itself”
What does this have to do with exercise? Everything.

We exercise because we want to lose weight and build/tone up our bodies. And we want that because we want to look good naked, we want clothes to fit us perfectly, so that we look and feel attractive, confident and sexy. We want people to compliment us on how fit and in-shape we look, don’t we all just love that!

All these reasons are perfectly fine, of course. But somewhere along this chasing the gold-pot of our dream bodies, we forget something crucial : how incredibly delightful exercise is on its own!

Incredible??!! Many of you must be going, “Exercise is WORK!! What’s “incredible” about it??!”

Try this next time you’re exercising. Stop worrying about stuff, empty your mind and FEEL what you’re doing.
 My favourite form of exercise is lifting weights. It doesn’t have to be yours, maybe your thing is running.  I have found that it is counterproductive to force yourself to exercise in the way you don’t like most of the time. Prioritise what you love to do first, fill in “the gaps” (cardio or weights) later.
So when I am working out, lifting weights, I be “in the moment”.  I focus on how incredible it feels to lift heavy iron, how incredible my muscles feel pumped, how incredible it feels to be strong and getting stronger…. I focus completely in getting every rep right, completely focused on the set. Between sets, I focus on how my body feels…  I delight in the PHYSICALITY of it.

After I am done, I bask in the endorphin rush, the amazing feeling we get after exercise. I savour the feeling of achievement, of a task done. I consciously store these feelings away in my mind. And since I exercise in the mornings, I feel GREAT for the entire day.

 I don’t worry any longer if the weights didn’t go up in a particular session. I don’t worry about progress. I am focused on it of course, but not worried (believe me I used to so a lot of it before). When I feel I am not making progress over a period of time( getting stronger and/or more muscular and losing fat), and I catch myself feeling bad about it and thinking “What’s the bloody use doing it?”, I pull those feeling out from my memory, reminding myself just how much I love lifting.

I have now been consistently training 3 times a week for the past 4 weeks and guess what? I am loving it.
Oh, did I mention that I am stronger, more muscled and fitter? :D

Like they say about happiness “Happiness is a by-product of doing what makes us feel fulfilled. You cannot purse it by itself.”