In a nation where women still face a hard time in getting what they truly deserve, Sonali stepped into a profession which was considered a taboo for women – Bodybuilding. For a mother of two, to decide to walk the ramp and flex some muscles was a challenging decision in true sense. In the past couple of years, Sonali has become a venerated name in women’s bodybuilding all across the globe. Juggling between her familial responsibilities and her passion for bodybuilding is something that Sonali has mastered quite efficiently. In our interview with this super mom, we found out how bodybuilding and fitness can change the life of a woman. She also shed light on how aspiring women can make a successful career out of fitness and bodybuilding. Read through for an inspiring conversation with Sonali
1) What are the most common fears of a woman when it comes to bodybuilding or weight lifting?
When you say bodybuilding, the first picture that you see is muscular, huge, big, and masculine and this is not something a woman can relate to. Even I used to thing like that. That is how a woman’s mind works. It scares them.
2) What are the challenges that women in bodybuilding or fitness face as an instructor and as an athlete?
When it comes to cardio or group classes, you have music, dance, Zumba, there is walking or running on the tread mill; this is all okay. They have been doing this and you don’t have to actually convince a woman for this. But when it comes to weight lifting, women feel that the moment they start lifting, whether it is 1 kg or 2 kg, they will bulk up and they will start looking like men. Hence, the first thing they do when they sign up for training program or for a personal trainer is remind him that they do not want to look like men. This is where the challenge lies.
They have to go through the program, 12 sessions or 14 sessions, to understand that it is not going to happen. They will not become like men. No matter how many times you explain it to them, no matter how many articles you show to them, they are not convinced. It is only after going through those sessions, they notice that they have toned up, transformed, become curvier than before, have lost weight and gained muscles at the right places and that they are looking good. It is only after those sessions they find out that it was all just a fear.
3) How does bodybuilding help a women get fit and tone her body?
I feel every person has his/her own weaknesses, flaws and strengths. If you ask a girl, she will list 100 flaws in her body. My nose is not good, my arms are flabby, my stomach is out, I can’t wear this dress, I have got stretch marks, my thighs are huge etc. There is not a single woman whom I have come across who has that self confidence. Bodybuilding or fitness in general, builds up confidence. It brings the positivity in your life that you are good or okay – you need to accept yourself and bodybuilding helps you to accept yourself. It brings positivity and confidence in your life.
And of course, once you start looking good, your confidence doubles. You carry yourself really well. You are much more positive about life, about people and everything else in life. Nothing affects you that much. You look good, you feel good!
4) What are the career opportunities for women in fitness or bodybuilding?
Once you get into fitness you can either go for group fitness classes so that you can become an instructor for any of the fitness classes like aerobics, Zumba etc. You have certifications for them. Then there is being a personal trainer. For this you should approach a local gym who often offers a lot of courses. You should start from the basics –observe people and see how they work, how the mind of a client works and how the mind of a trainer works. You observe all that and then go for the next level i.e. higher studies like sports nutrition or doing a personal training course form a renowned institute and getting certified in something that really interests you. You then become a trainer and get on the floor.
There are also grading for trainers. You can therefore, become trainer for stars or celebrities. They really pay you well. You can even get into competitions and become a professional competitor or become a fitness model. Once you start getting sponsors, you can become a sponsored athlete.
So the options are there. There are plenty of opportunities but you need to give your 200%. There are so many talented people out there. There are so many who look good. Then how are you different or why should you be chosen. So you need to give your 200%.
5) How should the perspective of Indian society change towards women who are into fitness and bodybuilding?
I think things have already changed a lot since 2014, when I competed for the first time. There will always be people who will oppose and I totally understand where it comes from. We are an Indian society and women are expected, especially moms and wives, to take care of the house. There are still many who have still not realised that they can balance home and work. So if a lady is doing a 9 to 6 job, it is okay and people have accepted that. I am sure that people will accept that women can be in fitness or glamour or any other industry too.
Things have changed and I feel there is a more positive approach towards women who are in this field. Men and women have equally accepted this. However, there is a long way to go. Forget about men, it is very essential to educate women. Women need to be taught as they are still apprehensive and they have still not opened up to the idea of weight lifting.
Kids should be educated about health in general. The PT that we have in school is not enough. Bodybuilding is a sport and kids should be taught about it in school and colleges. This sport has different categories. If you want to build a physique and transform your body, it takes discipline and dedication. It has always been there with us, we had pehelwaans and kushtis and now it has reached Olympics. It is just that more awareness is required among women. Women will have to take the initiative for themselves. Men will accept eventually. They will have to act and see how this profession transforms not just body but the entire life of an athlete.
We intend to take her message to the nation so that more and more women take up this profession and transform their lives. Bodybuilding is a challenging but a glorious sport. We sincerely hope that we will soon step into an era where Indian men will gladly allow their women to be a part of this sport and women will not shy away from the idea of weight lifting. As long as there are women like Sonali Swami around, we are sure that such a future will definitely come.