Interview – Priya Menon

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Priya Featured Image

After having worked in the corporate world for 19 years, Priya Menon is now a part of the fitness world. She is currently, a co-owner of a gym in Gurgaon. She was diagnosed with an auto immune disorder (Rheumatoid Arthritis), 12 years ago, during her pregnancy. Her earnest endeavor to stay fit and strong has been more than a life saver. To her, it’s about being fit and feeling great (with the added bonus of weight/inch loss and looking great) and that’s what she precisely does now – provides people the help to do the same.

What’s your current height and weight?

5’7”, 68 kgs

Have you ever been overweight?

Yes. Had started putting on weight before marriage. During my pregnancy, developed Rheumatoid Arthritis. Post delivery, I ballooned to 82 kgs, which was about 11 years ago.

How did you get back in shape?

Initially, controlled diet worked for me. Basically, stopped eating out. Only home cooked meals. The lowest I went down to was 63 kgs. I tried gymming in between a couple of times but my work and travel schedule and to be honest, a lack of interest too didn’t see me sticking to it. But soon, just diet control and the erratic workout schedule stopped helping me in managing my weight. I started putting the weight back on. Furthermore, my RA also was a large factor in being deterrent to my being consistent with my gymming and my lack of interest in it. It would flare up after 3-4 days leading me to take a break which would last for months. This went on for a few years.

When did you start working out first?

Around 3 years ago, I was more than 72 kgs. I stopped liking how I looked, how I felt, how the clothes looked on me and most importantly, it started dawning on me that the more weight I put on, the more detrimental it would be for my RA. That’s when I decided that I must start working out at least 5 days a week. I started going to the gym in my residential complex. The thought process was that if my lower body hurt because of my RA, I would workout my upper body and vice versa but come what may, I must workout 5 days a week. At the time, it was a mix of free weights and cardio (cycling) with the help of the gym attendant and my husband who is also heavily into fitness. When I saw myself sticking to this resolution, I hired a personal trainer who would train me at home thrice a week and I would workout the rest of the 2-3 days by myself. Hiring a personal trainer was the turning point. We worked together and around my condition. He started me off with basic body weight and light free weights to build strength in my body. Our workouts were designed for me to gain strength and stamina.

Have you noticed any change since you started working out? How has this changed you?

Over the last 3 years, more than the physical change in my body, I think my fitness regime has rewarded me with fortitude, resilience and a positive outlook towards life despite a debilitating condition like RA, which is a greater achievement for me. People telling me how fit I look or that I don’t look my age or that I do not look married and certainly not a mother to an 11 year old (not that that really mattered) was an added bonus and impetus. I am no longer plagued with the low self esteem as I was when I started off. For me, it’s no longer about weight in kilos and pounds but to be FIT. To be able to do what I thought I couldn’t do and to be able to do it life-long and enjoy doing it. There are still things which I would love to do (long distance running or sprints or heavy duty cross fit) which I find myself unable to because of the undue stress it puts on my joints but then I make up for it with what I can do. This is where my strength training comes to rescue for me. My muscles are stronger, helps with my otherwise almost dead metabolism, and on good days, I love going really heavy with my weights. There have been times when guys who lift big in the gym have commended me on my lifts, posture etc. . I have garnered enough knowledge to learn how crucial it is for women esp to lift weights, to have stronger muscles and how beneficial it is for them in the long run.

Are also into cycling, boxing, dancing, badminton, etc. ??

Except tennis, I have tried kickboxing, basketball, karate, running, badminton, swimming, cycling etc. But what really gives me the greatest high and satisfaction is strength / weight training.

Where does your motivation come from?

I have always been a fighter. And as mentioned above, I could have cowered and given up on life because of RA but it is just not in me to give in without a fight. And your health and fitness is something that you cannot outsource. YOU HAVE TO DO IT YOURSELF. It’s come to a point where I am my biggest inspiration and motivation (howsoever narcissistic that may sound :) )

What does fitness mean to you?

To me, it’s simply not about how much I weigh or how I look. It’s about how it makes me feel and how it permeates to all other aspects of my life. By doing better and more here, it gives me the strength and courage to be better and more in my professional and personal endeavours and relationships. My pursuit of fitness has shown me that I am capable of achieving so much more and my mettle to do so.

What is your diet like?

I don’t believe in fad diets. I don’t believe in fasting and moderation. I believe in moderation which is sustainable. My diet comprises of all macro nutrients (carbs, proteins, fats) with proteins being a major part of every meal, given that I train with weights. Minimizing oil, sugar and alcohol consumption (except from natural sources) goes a long way. I don’t believe in staying hungry or starving myself. Sufficient water consumption (till your urine is clear) is also something I am very mindful of. I try and make smart choices even when dining out. Since I eat almost everything on these lines, charting out my exact diet could be exhaustive :)

If you had to pick only 3 exercises, what would they be and why?

  • Squats
  • Dead-lifts
  • Tabata routines
  • Core strengthening

Which gym do you go to?

I mostly workout at home or at the gym in my residential complex

How much time do you spend in there?

An hour

Who’s your gym trainer? How long has he been into training?

He has been into training for close to 10 years and was associated with Talwalkar’s for a few years.

Have you been hit on in the gym, ever?

Never :) have always been spoken to and treated with respect due to a fellow trainer.

Is there anyone in the fitness/films/sports you look up to?

Anybody who has fitness as their priority inspires me and I have one, right at home, my own husband

How important, do you think, is fitness, for women these days?

Given the current stress inducing lifestyle, making fitness a part of their lifestyle has never been more imperative. Out of 24 hours in a day, the fact that one cannot take out 30-45 mins in its pursuit in itself is a reflection on the need for managing our lives better. Easier said than done, I know. Between careers, households, children, extended families, it seems impossible but IT IS NOT. Have a good look at your life and maybe you have taken on too much onto your plate. Women knowingly, unknowingly usually do. Learn to delegate, seek help, give up that TV serial (record it) and MAKE TIME. It’s all a matter of priorities and YOU should be your first, unapologetically.
One need not wait for an illness or a setback to start off. NOW is always a good time. It’s not just the benefit of physical and physiological well-being that one can expect. It just makes you BETTER overall, HAPPIER overall.
A healthy and a fit body houses a healthy mind, a healthy heart, a peaceful and stronger soul.

Your favorite quote (on life/fitness)?

It matters how far you have to go. What matters more, is how far you have come.
Ability is limitless

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