Sonali Swami is a name that is synonymous with the Indian bodybuilding community. The mother of two started weight training at the age of 37 and is still going strong! She is an IBBF athlete who has bagged the bronze at the WBBF Asian Championship 2016 and is among the country’s the Top 10 bodybuilders. In an exclusive interview with mobiefit, Sonali talks about her journey from being a mother and her tryst with weight training.

Hi Sonali. You are one of the key women in the bodybuilding community in India…what was your starting point?

After my marriage, I had put on a lot of weight because of which I took up dancing and brisk walking. Weight training happened later when I was 37 years of age and at 38 I took up weightlifting.

How does being married and having kids play a part? How do you manage all the responsibilities?

I think it’s about priorities, so I’ve set my priorities in terms of my family and fitness. I believe that the kids deserve healthy and fit parents. I make sure that I give a 100% to my family and I take care of my health as well, so that my kids have a healthy mom around them. I wake up early in the morning, get the kids ready for school and finish up all my tasks before they get back home. I plan my day in such a way that I get to spend quality time with them.

I wake up at 5:30 am and prepare meals for the kids. At 7:00 am I drop them off at school. After that, I hit the gym and train my clients in the morning. I also finish up my training by 12:00 pm. The kids return from school at 3:00 pm, so I finish up all the chores before they get home so I can spend time and unwind with them. In the evenings, they go to the park and play with their friends while I try to fit training more clients during this time. One thing I kept in mind is for all this to ensue, I picked a gym facility that is close to my house. This way I save up a lot of time on traveling and can perfectly balance my personal and professional life.

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Before I embarked upon this competitive journey as an athlete , I was living a simple yet hectic life of a mom who happened to be a fitness instructor . . . Though my life now does revolve around strict regimes, Few things that I did NOT change are what I feel are THE MOST IMPORTANT ONES when it comes to health ❤️ ————— ✅following what feels right and natural to me and NOTTTT feeling guilty or shame or anxiety/stress allllllll the time over eating something/not exercising Coz I know I am committed by and large to a healthy lifestyle. . . . ✅enjoying my food and eating! It is one of the greatest pleasures in life. . . ✅eating mindfully and with gratitude. . . . ✅Notttt trying to be “perfect” or follow diets, or rules ALLLL THE TIME…( where's the funnnnnn!!!) . . ✅relaxing and resting as n when needed. . . ✅exercising regularly. I Get up early and get moving doing whatever i love and whatever that makes me feel refreshed, energized and alert. . . ✅Being moderate about food intake and exercise. Balance is key! . . ✅✅And most importantly , listening to my own body and what it needs over what i have heard, read or been taught to believe. ———————————— On that note, HAPPY WEEKEND 😊so loosen up And Have a blast !! . @optimumnutri_in @bodybuildingindiaofficial @adidaswomen #bbg #trainharder #workoutmotivation #workout #bodybuilding #weekend #physique #shredded #muscles #abs #bodygoals #teamon #bodybuildinglifestyle #bodyweight #bodycare #bodyfit #fitmodel #bodyfitness #bbgfamily #shoulders #athlete #delts #womenwholift #gymshark #gymtime #personaltrainer #gymgirl #balance #saturdayvibes #saturday

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How many children do you have? Do they workout with you?

I have two children. My daughter Saanchali is going to turn 14 this month and my son, Shaurya is all of 11 years. I have a mini-gym set up at home. So they usually do chin-ups and pull-ups. Though they might not be serious about workouts like their mother they do keep themselves active through extracurricular activities and sports. They understand the difference between healthy and junk food and appreciate what I do.

When did you first conceive and how did you manage post-pregnancy health?

Saanchali was born in 2005 and the postpartum depression was there because I was out of shape and I had no starting point to get back on track. I couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror or step out of the house. My husband and in-laws were very supportive though. I feel the women understand better and they nudged me to take up walking. I followed this and a strict diet and within 6 months I was back to my previous weight. But I would like to point one thing out here when I say I followed a strict diet that means I dieted hard! Without any professional guidance, I put my body through an extreme diet just for the sole purpose of losing weight. Though I might have lost all the pounds, I also ended up losing a lot of muscle as well.

After the birth of my second child, I thought I’d take a more professional approach. I joined ‘Fitness First’ and initially as a member I was intrigued watching others take up aerobics and other group classes. I was encouraged by the management to register myself for certification courses. I took up Zumba and Les Mills Body Pump certifications and became an instructor with them. This was the first step of my fitness journey. I enrolled myself in their one-on-one personal training classes and realized how essential weight training is, especially to women in their late 30’s and mothers. I learned a great deal about diet and nutrition as well and realized how wrong I was all along! Skipping meals and foods may have made me skinny, but at 37 I was far from being fit.

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TRANSFORMATION TUESDAY ❤️ . . . 👉🏼👉🏼Everyone’s bone structure and built are based largely on their genetics but that doesn’t mean we cannot sculpt the body of our dreams. . . However, we must keep in mind a realistic goal , to achieve the best …our body can produce. ———————————– —————✅What we need is a PLAN ……… . . We watch gym addicts train day in, day out but we just  won't see the change if we don't know what we are aiming for!!!!!!! ———————————- By focusing on specific areas meant i could create and sculpt the body in a way i wanted and that's exactly what I did. ——————————– Well… Isn't that something !!!! 🙂 . . 👉🏼Weight training actually allows you to personalise your body to how you want it and create shape and toned curves🙌🏼. . . 2017 was more about those delts n more round and perky derrière🙌🏼 . . It takes time ..yesssssss!!! But it's possible 🙏 I know I have loads to do, lots to learn n implement, so much to work on , but ….. one step at a time 🙂 @optimumnutri_in @adidaswomen @fixmynutrition @allovernuts @happyhealthymeorganics @ibbf_india

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Being fit is one thing, what made you venture into Bodybuilding?

Over the time I have understood the discipline and dedication that goes into building a physique worthy of bodybuilding. I never planned on becoming an athlete, but when I took up weight training in 2013, I just had one goal in my mind.. that I just wanted to build a stronger body. When I found out that ‘Fit Factor’ was happening the following year, I thought I’d give it a shot. I had no idea that I would win! Having a personal trainer helped too. One might google and watch youtube videos, but I feel that having a personal trainer is needed to start seeing results.

What are some of your achievements?

I won my first title at the Fit Factor India – March 2014. The same year I was also the Muscle Mania India winner in Fitness and Model’s Physique category. I joined IBBF in 2015 and competed at Worlds Championship to be amongst their Top 10 athletes. In 2016, I won the bronze at the  Asian Body Building Championships, which was a great moment for me. In 2017 I competed at the Asian Body Building Championships again and secured the 6th position.

Wow! That’s amazing given that you started training at 37 years. Do you believe that age is just a number or does one have to take precautions with age?

Though age is just a number if you’ve not been active in your 20’s and your 30’s you will be a beginner in terms of weight training. I was too! The good news is that you can start training regardless of your age. So it doesn’t matter if you are a teenager or in your 60’s. When I took up weight training at 38, it was a starting point for me. I think one has to be selfish when it comes to their health and start devoting time to exercising.

Women and bodybuilding – What is your take?

I feel things have improved considerably. I come across a lot of women who are taking up weight training, bodybuilding, and calisthenics. Women are wired to be mentally and physically strong, and with a sport like bodybuilding, you need to have a stronger willpower than a body. It’s not a taboo anymore and women understand the benefits of weight training. They may not all want buffed up physiques, but whatever their ideal body is, the crucial point is that they are working towards it.

Any advice for amateur athletes?

The first piece of advice is that you have to be patient. A lot of people get disheartened and disappointed within the first 2 months. They feel they are not on track and usually give up when they don’t see immediate results. But don’t give up! Be consistent because all our bodies are different with their own starting points. So, just be consistent and patient with your diet and workouts and you will start seeing results soon.

What’s your one piece of advice for new or expecting moms?

Don’t stress out. Just enjoy! The journey of becoming a mom is a beautiful experience. Once you’ve been through all that and your first priority should be your child and your family. Slowly take baby steps and do not rush. People usually take up extreme steps by seeing their favorite celebrities going back to size zero in a couple of months. Remember that you need to care for yourself and your baby, so take it slow. Just eat healthy and take up exercise when you are ready.


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