These seniors prove that bodybuilding is not just a young man’s game
Meet Indian Seniors Over 70 Turning Heads For Their Approach To Fitness, After Battling Pandemic While Pressing 80 Kilogram Bench
The deadlift in a draped saree by Marwari looks cool, but the reason octogenarian Kiran Bai from Chennai started weight training at this age was for a simple but integral purpose. For the first time in five years, the 82-year-old was able to sit on the floor and stand up on her own.
This need for physical independence pushes a small part of Indian seniors to do bodybuilding; a deadly pandemic placing them in the vulnerable category only added to the need. Tired of her sedentary life, remaining confined to her home and unable to meet her loved ones, Kiran Bai was not in a good psychological position until she found a trainer in her grandson, Chirag Chordia, a partner in the system. of force from Chennai.
âWhen the lockdown started, my grandmother was saying things like her end was near. She felt there was nothing she could do but sit down with her phone, âsays Chirag, who is also based in Chennai but lives separately. “At that point my mom contacted me to ask if I could talk to her, not as a coach but just as a grandson.” What started out as phone conversations evolved into a virtual and, soon after, face-to-face training program between grandson and grandmother.
Kiran Bai from Chennai ventured into progressive resistance training after pandemic
Less than four months later, Kiran now does full body workouts three times a week: lifting five kilograms on each hand, doing seated worms, resistance bands and squats. But what makes her happiest is that she can now walk four to five lane lengths without catching a breath.
In Chandigarh, 76-year-old Tripat Singh is somewhat of a local hero in the fitness community. His workout buddies are 18 to 20-year-old men at Ozi Gym, where he became the brand ambassador after doing 584 push-ups in one go. They spot him as he squeezes 80 kilograms in the morning from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. His dedication and training earned him social media fame this year when cricketer Virat Kohli and actor Anushka Sharma shared his training videos. He now regularly shares training and motivation tips through his Instagram account that his student granddaughter helped create.
Bodybuilding wasn’t something Tripat started until he was 64. Yet he had learned the importance of fitness much earlier in his life by watching how diabetes affected his father. âI was with him in his last days. It’s hard when the body loses the battle at the end. So I decided to drive this disease out of my family, âhe says.
Tripat lives with his two sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. However, he seems annoyed that none of them share his passion for fitness.
Three thousand kilometers south of Thiruvananthapuram, 70-year-old Ambika Nair has a similar complaint. “Chettan oru madiyan aanu (My husband is a lazy man), âshe said teasingly.
âThere’s no point in staying home thinking you’re old. Follow any form of movement you like. It doesn’t have to be heavyweights, but keep going, âAmbika says. Before the pandemic, she was a regular at the Belaire Health Club, a fitness center in the city, doing 70 kilograms of leg presses.
During the pandemic, Ambika Nair from Thiruvananthapuram took a break from weight training and switched to yoga
Her fitness journey is linked to that of her daughter, starting when she gave birth and starting again more than two decades later when her daughter gave birth to her child. âI started taking yoga classes to lose weight after my pregnancy,â says Ambika, explaining that âat that time (1969) it was not common for women to go to the gymâ and that yoga was more acceptable. âThen, 18 years ago, after my daughter gave birth, I went with her to the gym to support her as she tried to lose weight during pregnancy. My daughter finally stopped going, but I kept going, âshe says.
Work within limits
When Tripat started weightlifting, his family were not very happy: âThey told me it was not the right age. They asked, “What if something happens to your joints? But luckily I had always been active, so there weren’t any major issues.
His story is true for many elderly people in this country since lifting weights is considered a game for young people. Softer cardio routines such as jogging, aerobic exercise, chair yoga, and Pilates are more common among older people. âI started running 12 years ago and it made me feel fitter. I have run full marathons in Delhi, Gurugram, Chandigarh, Shimla and so on. But despite everything, my belly stayed until I started lifting, âsays Tripat.
Chirag has been a strong advocate of progressive resistance training for the elderly. âNo matter how old you are, your bones and muscles are still living tissue. By challenging it gradually, in a way that works for you, resistance training can make you strong enough and really functional, âhe wrote in an Instagram post. In November, he announced âGrannyGang,â a week-long free trial of home workouts for seniors.
âTrain at an intensity that works for you rather than overdoing it too soon. Consistency is the most important. Train to have at least the core strength to do your daily activities, âhe says. For example, her grandmother lifts and moves half a bucket of water when she bathes, which is about 8-10 kg. In his first conversations with his clients, if Chirag finds out that they need medical attention, he makes sure they have a training clearance from their doctors. âYou have to find out where everyone’s starting point is, and then build a training program around that, not the other way around,â he says.
The movement Kiran Bai now undertakes reminds him of his youth: milking cows, drawing water from the well and grinding flour. In most cases, a movement and fitness trend in your 20s also helps get back into shape later in life.
Ambika also says that she has always been quite active; one of his favorite sports was playing basketball with his family. âMost of my peers complain about knee or arm pain that I never had from workouts. Plus, I never felt the need for household help, âshe says.
It doesn’t matter how sedentary your career has been, Tripat points out. âEven ten minutes of training is important for opening up your body. Our bodies weren’t made to sit idly by. If you do, they will degrade eventually.