Destiny bows before the ones who move ahead breaking the shackles of comfort-zone and heads towards the road of hardship with firm determination. Indeed, those must be braves who take the tough route of life irrespective of the notion of society and well-off comfortable life. Perhaps, this piece shall introduce one such brave heart. India’s top-ranking woman bodybuilder and model, Sonali Swami, an IBBF Athlete and an asset to Indian women bodybuilding who has represented India at a number of international platforms. She has represented Team India for Asians and Worlds Bodybuilding and Sports Physique Championship 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Started as a certified Zumba Instructor and a trained Kathak dancer, Sonali Swami has ventured into the male-dominated sports of Bodybuilding in her late 30’s. A story of how support and belief in a relationship can foster lives, in this case her spouse’s support catapulted her into the muscular game of Bodybuilding. To know more about this amazing mighty woman, Abhinav from Sportz Business talks to Sonali Swami and brings an exclusive interview. Find below an edited excerpt of the interview.
Q Unlike other athletes, you ventured into bodybuilding in your late 30’s, can you tell us what made you enter into this business?
Having kids (mom of two angels) and between a busy lifestyle, I got introduced to weight training at Fitness First at the age of 37. I had never been inside a Gym ever before. At first, it was just curiosity but soon got hooked to it as the change was phenomenal. I wasn’t thin or skinny but weight training made me more strong and toned. Also, my energy levels improved and I was a happier person overall. After that, there was no looking back.
Q Kindly tell us about your inspiring journey and achievements to our readers.
After continuing weight training at the gym for about 3-4 months, my personal trainer told me about an event happening in Mumbai in 2014. The even was a maiden FitFactor competition organized by BodyPower India. Thus, he encouraged me to participate in it. I discussed it with my husband and we decided to attend the event to get a first-hand experience. As it happened, I won the FitFactor competition in my very first event and the experience was awesome. After that, I competed in MuscleMania 2014 and won Gold in two categories there. These two early success stories made me realise the potential I had in the fitness field. Later, I registered with Indian Body Builders Federation (IBBF) and started representing our country in International BodyBuilding shows. I won a Bronze medal in the 2016 Asian Championship held in Bhutan and was placed in TOP 6 in the Worlds Championship in Seoul, South Korea. I can never forget the feeling of pride holding our National Flag on stage. I am so glad that all the hard work out, has been really appreciated by everyone. I am especially proud to be felicitated by the Karnataka Government on International Women’s Day. Also, it was a proud moment to be awarded the Global Women’s Super-Achiever Award this year.The love and affection showered on me from the entire country were truly remarkable. I will cherish these memories forever.
Q Being a mother of two, how did you bring balance to your personal & your fitness professional life?
A. I have been married since 1999. I have two grown-up school going kids, 16 and 13. I am a very hands-on mom and actively involved in their day to day chores as much as possible.
B. According to me, it is very important to balance between your career and family. Thankfully, it hasn’t been much of a trouble for me because my children are old enough and are pretty independent. Also, I have got extremely strong support from my husband and in-laws. Apart from that, I also try to make out more time for myself. I get up early in the morning at around 5 am so that I get an early start to my day and can get a lot of stuff done. I have tried to reduce all other activities in my life which are not essential or necessary to me. I have cut down on the amount of time I spent in front of TV. I spent about one or one and a half-hour daily on my fitness which I feel is not so difficult to manage
Q How do you maintain your perseverance to fitness, what is the key mantra behind this?
Initially, it’s the high you get when you see the transformation happening within your body. You become more strong, you have higher energy levels. You look better. All these external factors kept me hooked to fitness and strength training. Then I started realizing that being fit and healthy is also making me calmer and less stressed. It has made me a happier person. I am more at peace with my life. My overall quality of life has improved drastically which I feel can be attributed largely to the discipline and commitment that need to be followed to remain fit and healthy. This overall transformation in me, both external and internal, is what keeps me going.
Q You have said somewhere in a blog, that weight training is quite important for women in their 30’s, can you throw some light over your notion.
I believe that fitness is for everyone. However, it is especially more important for women as they’re the backbone of our family. If the woman of the family is not fit and healthy, how can she be able to take care of others?
Most women think that their life is over once they get married and have children. We have to change this mindset among Indian women. Age is just a number! Only when the woman of family is fit and healthy, the rest of the family also follows in the footsteps and takes fitness seriously. If we want to make India a fit nation, it can’t happen without women taking the lead.
Q Do you think women’s bodybuilding is still a taboo in society?
I would say, yes, to some extent. Women bodybuilding as a sport is not yet easily recognized and accepted as compared to other sports like Tennis, Cricket, Badminton etc. However, I must say that the situation has improved a lot from the time I had started in 2013. At that time, you would see very few women in the Gym doing weight training. Now, if you go to any Gym, there are many women actively doing weight lifting and strength training. Also, a lot many girls/women have started participating in bodybuilding and fitness shows which is a really encouraging trend.
Q As in India, Bodybuilding is not counted as a sport, how do you see its future in the coming years?
Bodybuilding as a sport is gaining popularity now. Compared to a few decades back, now there are far more opportunities to make a career in the fitness industry. With several world-class shows and events now coming to India, there is a lot more recognition and appreciation of this sport. Of course, there is a need for more Govt support as it is an expensive sport. Now, there are much more opportunities for getting sponsorships and help from corporates. With the drastic rise of social media, it has opened new avenues for growth. Hopefully, the trend will continue to rise in the coming years.
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