Fit to enjoy

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While going to the gym may be the conventional choice to achieve those #fitnessgoals,
NT BUZZ explores some other equally cool and fun options

CHRISTINE MACHADO | NT BUZZ

Admit it. We all want that perfect body. The abs. The flat belly. And of course, staying healthy and having a regular exercise routine in place is of paramount importance, more so now, with a pandemic in full bloom around us.

Going to the gym is often the first thing that comes to mind on our mission to get into great shape. But there are many who have opted to attain their fitness goals by either looking at options that complement their gym regimes or are completely different.

Beach diaries

Sunil’s Fitness Wave at the beach for instance began in 2015 and boasts of many happy clients. It was started by certified personal trainer Sunil Karmalkar, along with his wife Aisha, who is also a certified personal trainer and certified pilates trainer.

“When we began Sunil’s Fitness Wave on the beach, the outdoor workout was mainly for cardio purposes as gyms at the time did not offer too many cardio options. Working out on the sand is low impact on the joints and is much safer than exercising on hard ground. Sand also makes workouts tougher, more intense and we get faster results,” says Sunil.

As clients began asking for holistic workouts, they added weight training to the mix. “Now we do three days cardio and two days of weight training during the week. Every weekend, either Saturday or Sunday, I take my clients for outdoor running on the beach or hill runs or stair runs for variety,” says Sunil.

Each workout session lasts for 60 minutes and they don’t repeat the same workout programme for at least three months. “I have designed over 100 variations of workouts – HIIT, tabata, super sets, fitness games, kickboxing moves, core workouts, sprints, endurance runs, agility,” says Sunil, adding that they design workouts that suit most clients and are customised to the group, especially for general fitness, athletes and weight loss. “We modify our programme depending on the current fitness levels and capabilities of clients and then gradually increase the intensity,” he says.

Apart from this, he also spends a lot of time educating clients on fitness. “It’s often challenging to clear the myths they have heard from family members, friends and random fitness enthusiasts who give advice based on their own experience and without any knowledge of fitness backed by science,” he says. They have also tied up with a qualified nutritionist, physiotherapist and orthopaedic doctor for professional advice if needed. “This gives us an extra edge of trust,” he says. In fact, he says, many people are unaware that BMI is outdated and their progress has to be monitored through Body Composition with regard to fat loss, muscle gain, visceral fat loss, etc.

The duo also provides a nutrition plan from a qualified nutritionist, fitness assessment by physiotherapist and fitness tests like muscle endurance and cardiovascular fitness done by certified trainers to monitor progress.

“We have helped people achieve their fitness, weight loss and conditioning goals faster than they thought possible. We have clients who have lost 25-35 kilograms. The best results for us are that so many female clients have been able to fix their PCOS and have begun getting their menstruation cycle regularly. Other clients have got their blood pressure, asthma and diabetes under control,” says Sunil, adding that their clients range from 10 years to 60 years.

And while COVID-19 may have temporarily disrupted their fitness programme, things are slowly getting back on track again.

“I think more people are realising that keeping your immunity up is the best defence against COVID. This requires you to keep your fitness levels and strength up and that’s what we offer,” he says. Besides, he says, the beach group workouts are a lot of fun. “Many clients have told us that they feel more motivated and push themselves when they train together. And nowadays, people prefer training outdoors as it is safer,” he says.

Dance it out

If you’re someone who loves dance, zumba could be a great fitness option to look into. And in fact, it was her love for dance that drew ZIN Wilma Britto to it in the first place.

“I was immediately attracted to zumba because it was dance-based and unlike the usual strenuous exercise routines. In fact, it’s like an exercise in disguise. So, what better way to have fun, dance your heart out as well as keep your weight and health in check!” she says.

Since there was no training in Goa at that time, Britto did her training in Mumbai and then began teaching zumba in Goa in 2012, conducting classes at The Playce in Mapusa and Don Bosco’s Oratory, Panaji. While the lockdowns necessitated online classes for a while, she has now begun taking regular classes again with safety precautions in place.

And over the course of the journey, she reveals that she has personally observed immense changes in her students, be it physically, mentally and in their overall well-being.

“Zumba takes care of your overall body health and toning, and since it is a dance-oriented exercise you are automatically having fun while exercising. This fun grows 10 times when you are in a group. I’ve seen students not only coming out of their shells but their attitude and outlook towards life has become more positive,” she says.

Elaborating further on the benefits, she states that zumba is a full-body workout as it uses almost all the muscles. “It de-stresses the muscles, which in turn improves posture. Many of my clients, due to the long hours of a desk job, often develop a bent posture which improves over time with a daily dose zumba,” she says.

Zumba also burns your calories at a high rate. “The zumba regime helps structure your cores and obliques by burning the fat from these areas. It also helps improve one’s metabolism and blood circulation,” she says. In addition, zumba also ensures better coordination and more endurance.

“Also, because it is a high-energy dance workout, it increases the oxygen levels in your body which will help you to stay more energetic. It also improves blood pressure,” she says.

Given the energised feeling, it helps you get a lot of fresh ideas and makes you more confident in taking decisions too, she says.

“I’ve had students right from 13 years to 70 years. Maybe their pace may differ but zumba can be altered to cater to individuals need, pace and rhythm,” she says. However, she cautions that one should always disclose any medical history to the instructors. She also advises that one should take an opinion from a medical expert before starting any exercise.

The best part about zumba, she says, is that it doesn’t use a lot of equipment and one can practice anywhere and anytime. “All you need is some good music and good friends to work out with,” she says smiling. “And with Goans now becoming more conscious about their health and at the same time being ingrained with music in their blood, what better exercise routine could one ask for than zumba?”

Go upside down

If you’re looking for something a little more offbeat, let Deboshree Roy Chowdhury introduce you to the upside-down world of aerial flow.

It was during her initial training years as a dancer that Chowdhury was introduced to aerial arts, which led to her training under international artistes. About two and a half years ago, she completed her teacher training course in hatha yoga and restorative Iyengar with Aum Yoga in Anjuna. She decided to combine the two as aerial flow yoga and now teaches this at Studio Naach, Arpora.

The classes begin with a warm up followed by a stretching and conditioning flow inspired by hatha yoga and aerial training. This is followed by drills for upper body conditioning, which leads up to aerial asanas being performed in the air.

“Aerial flow is for anyone who is looking to try something new and challenging. One simply needs to have an open-minded approach, be okay with the fact that it will take some time to get used to the feeling of being upside down or understanding how to manage their body weight once they are airborne,” says Chowdhury.

And aerial flow is great for people with lower back discomfort as the upside-down hanging helps in spinal decompression while also promoting a greater blood flow to the brain. It also helps build greater arm strength, upper body strength, core strength and flexibility, boosts digestion, and detoxifies the circulatory and lymphatic systems, which delays the onset of cardiovascular issues.

“It also helps burn calories. Being suspended in the air requires a stable core as you change positions in a way a mat yoga class can’t. In fact, a study performed by the American Council on Exercise shows aerial yoga rivals the effectiveness of aerobic exercise. During a 50-minute aerial yoga session, you have the potential to melt away 320 calories,” says Chowdhury.

Aerial flow also requires coordination of breath and movement, which in turn promotes a much better understanding of the body and breath connection and harmonises them.

“The way I approached it and the way my students have responded to it was nothing short of miraculous. I saw people do things they never dreamed of doing,” she says. “It has been very uplifting to see how people’s bodies and minds have benefited from aerial yoga. I have seen a significant improvement in their posture, strength, the way they carry themselves and the way they feel about their bodies,” she says. Besides, she says, as a teacher, it’s been a beautiful journey of understanding how each body is special and busting myths relating to strength and ability. “There is a belief that you have to ‘look’ a certain way to believe that you are strong. That is an unhealthy approach to strength your body image. I have found that with the correct technique and sound advice, the body is capable of so much more than we are led to believe,” she says. “Strength is simply understanding how to manage your own body weight best, and for me it’s been great to see how many people can do aerial flow with just an understanding that goes deeper than the outer layer of appearance. I have seen complete beginners with no yoga background come a long way in three months. All that they had was a desire to keep pushing, keep trying and enjoy the world of flying!”

Try out an ancient art

Martial arts are also a great alternative to stay fit and healthy, and among the various martial arts that one can take up is the not so common (at least in Goa) Kalaripayattu.

Kalaripayattu or Kalari is an ancient martial and healing art from South India, mainly Kerala. It is considered to be the oldest martial art and in fact, Lord Parashurama and Lord Agastya are believed to be the founders.

Kalari aims at the overall development of an individual beginning from physical strength, mental balance and progressing to spiritual upliftment. A student also receives moral training from his/her teacher. This training includes how to guide students and how to behave towards other people.

In Goa, Aasaan Bibin Kavumpurathu, a professional kalaripayattu instructor from Kerala started classes in 2018.

“I started kalari as a fitness purpose. But slowly my practice became more serious and I fell in love with kalari. And every day kalari surprises me more and more,” he says.

And according to Kavumpurathu, Kalari is more than a martial art. “Once a person joins kalari training, we start with different body movements like leg training, hand training, lower stands, animal postures, jumps, stretches, etc. Our daily routine sequence called ‘meypayattu’ covers all the fitness aspects,” he explains.

Once a person is able to do a one-hour kalari training, kalari weapons are added to the practice.

“We also have a kalari treatment consisting of natural oil and herbs. Eligible students get the chance to learn the treatment part also,” he says.

Anyone above the age of seven years is eligible to come and try out the martial art. Free trial classes are also conducted.

“Kalari will help you increase your stamina, strength and flexibility. It will develop your self defence skills and improve your focus and concentration,” he says. While initially not many in Goa were aware about kalaripayattu, this is slowly changing and more people are coming for his classes. “Before COVID, we conducted classes at Maruti Temple, Mala and Artjuna Cafe, Anjuna. In August, we restarted the Anjuna classes only for adults with social distancing measures,” he says.