A journey had begun, rather unexpectedly, in a new world; one that is diametrically opposite to the one I had been in for years. A thorough educationist, with triple postgraduate degrees (MA English, MEd and MBA), I was engaged in a diverse career, donning the roles of teacher, lecturer, event manager and writer. That was until the day I entered the gym. Little did I know that such a step would change my life and begin my journey, a journey that was planned by God, a journey I was destined for. I started weight training at age 37, when most people, especially women, give up or are done with their weight training careers.
Nobody would have guessed that within a few months I would be chosen to represent India at the world stage in physique sports and have a new direction to my life. In these two years, I have realized that there are a lot of myths about weight training and supplements, especially for women. There is also a lack of awareness about physique sports in the country, the biggest drawback being that it is not recognized or looked upon as a sport. People confuse it with body-building and have the impression that it results in a physique which looks huge and unpleasant.
Muscularity is often associated with masculinity. This is the biggest misconception about weight training. It does not make one look bulky or manly at all. Instead, it makes one look toned and will increase strength and stamina. Th e key to a properly balanced physique and a sculpted body lies in weight training. Yet most people are either unaware or unappreciative of its benefits and nuances. Th e science of nutrition and exercise is so vast that even a lifetime is not enough to educate oneself on it. Fitness does not merely refer to hitting the gym or exercising; it is a lifestyle.
Staying fit is both meditative and therapeutic. We are aware of the innumerable benefits of exercising, maintaining a balanced diet, so on and so forth. However, it is still not clear to many of us how to go about it. The mushrooming fitness industry, which was in its infancy until a few years ago, is now standing tall and vibrant with promise of phenomenal growth. But to make maximum use of this, we need to have a clear understanding of the concepts of weight training and the effects of complementing it with a well-balanced nutrition plan, or what some call 'dieting'.
Dieting does not mean remaining hungry or staying away from rich food. Neither does it mean restricting oneself to bland or tasteless food. Rather, it is a balanced blend of all the nutrition required for the body. It is indeed sad that people in India link fitness with merely being thin. They decrease their food intake or work out excessively. The results of both are disastrous in the long run. Any kind of exercise is important and has its benefits. Each muscle can be worked on with a set of targeted exercises that will give you a desired shape.
Athletes aim for a particular body type that gives them the best result for their particular competition. They have a year-round diet plan and have a strict training pattern, which they religiously follow. They achieve the unachievable only through an intense program of weight training. They also take supplements of protein and amino, which are essential for the growth and recovery of the muscles. Contrary to popular belief, supplements are an essential part of fitness training.
Another myth about weight lifting is that one should not be lifting heavy. Instead, lifting heavy will strengthen you and improve your stamina. Undoubtedly, weight training should be done with proper protection, so as to avoid any chances of injury. Heavy lifting should be done under guidance. Take the help of gym trainers for every exercise.
But remember, there is no shortcut to fitness. It is necessary to follow a structured program, focusing on either one or two body parts a day. Over time, the bar is gradually raised and a very high intensity is reached by regular practice and perseverance. Men should aim for a physique that is both proportionate and aesthetic; for women, a beautifully sculpted and toned body with shapely features. Nevertheless, genes also play a vital role in the shaping of our bodies. A particular type of exercise or diet may yield wonderful results for somebody, while it may not be the case for another person. The time that it will take for one's body to completely transform depends on one's genes and, of course, the commitment to one’s own program.
Weight training has a plethora of benefits, most of which may not be documented, and it makes you more focused, disciplined and also generates a sense of accomplishment, as you achieve newer heights. The inability to find the appropriate routine and time is an excuse for many and a drawback. But remember, you are not competing with anyone other than yourself.
(A mother to a 10-year-old, Jinnie Gogia Chugh has represented India twice at the world championship, in physique sports. She is a brand ambassador of #fitindia campaign, a Glanbia initiative with Government of India)
(In arrangement with SMARTlife)