In 2015, when Michelle Kakade embarked on her journey of nearly 6,000kms on the Golden Quadrilateral Highway, only a few predicted that she would take six months to complete it. And that’s because her journey was the longest distance covered by a woman on foot, for which she went on to receive a certificate from the Guinness Book of World Records. Starting from Mumbai’s Gateway of India, she covered Delhi-Kolkata-Chennai before returning to Mumbai. Back then, she dedicated her run to “the millions of women in our country who are battling every day for survival”. And, even today, the ultramarathon runner does 8.5 to 9kms per hour, four to five days a week.
The 51-year-old from Pune, says, “I started running at the age of 35, as I just had two kids and wanted to get back into a fitness routine.” A motivational speaker and animal activist, Kakade adds that today, running is a way to prevent “lifestyle-related diseases”. She says, “I feel more comfortable outdoors and I find a gym training very structured.”
Michelle Kakade, 51
Like Kakade, there are others who either innovate a fitness regime from their daily routine or hit the gym to prove that strong women can come from anywhere and at any age.
Let them stare
Mumbai-based, German translator, Swapna Roy took to the gym in 2008 because she was putting on a lot of weight. “When I looked at my photographs, I realised that I never looked like this. I was somewhere close to 70kgs,” she says. Always leading a sporty life since her school days, the 58-year-old admits she got “hooked” onto the gym immediately. “Today, I have maintained my weight at 65kgs. With strength training, I feel invigorated. My knees were hurting this morning, but, after working out, they’re fine. It’s a great push to start your day and of course, you sleep very well,” says Roy, who goes to the gym every three or four days with a combination of cardio and weight training.
Swapna Roy, 58
And it is with the same irreverence that 20-year-old Prableen Kaur Gill hits the gym, “even with 20 men around”. She started with bodyweight training when she was barely 19, as a part of her New Year resolution, and has been sticking to it ever since. “I never knew I would love taking care of myself so much,” says Gill, adding, “Callisthenics (exercising large muscle groups) has played a vital role in my fitness journey. Currently, I am focusing on weight training, as I have just started my journey as a bikini athlete.” And just like the others, brushing aside her fears of lifting weights, Gill says, “I love every bit of my gaining phase, as I am getting stronger and better every day.”
Prableen Kaur Gill, 20
A way of life
For Mudrika Awasthi, 32, functional fitness has been a way of life since she was 15. Today, she helps people return to their “functional fitness” post an accident or injury. “My exercises revolve around using bodyweight [pull-ups, push-ups and pilates] and I add extra weights, like kettlebells, only if necessary,” she says. This freelance fitness and pilates instructor adds that she helps “clients who have trouble with their back or knees, and even teens with their lethargy through dance fitness”.
Mudrika Awasthi, 32
Several speak of how going to the gym saved their lives, and for Purva Phadke, who began strength training in July 2018, this proved true. “In July 2019, I met with an accident when I was riding my bike and a car rammed into me. I couldn’t walk for four to five weeks. Fortunately, I didn’t sustain too many injuries, and the doctor said it was because I had been working out for a year, my toned muscles had cushioned the blow,” says the 24-year-old.
Phadke proudly declares that she can now deadlift 75kgs. Ask this Mumbai-based lawyer if she’s ever afraid of the stereotypical fear of looking ‘bulky’ and she immediately replies, “I was sceptical about looking ‘bulky’ when I first started training, but women fail to understand that our bodies build lean muscles and not bulky ones. I just wish everyone would understand how strength training, protein intake and a healthy calorie deficit is the way to get a fabulous body!”