Talking sports, training and wellness with Swetha Subbiah
Swetha Subbiah is the founder and technical head of Sweat by Swetha, a fitness consulting company that provides end-to-end fitness solutions for corporates, commercial health clubs and individuals. She has worked as a personal trainer and fitness coach for close to a decade and is currently one of the five Nike certified instructors in the country. She believes in helping clients understand and respect their body so that they stay clear of short-term fixes and focus on lasting lifestyle changes.
Her approach to personal training… I start with a client interview, followed by a fitness test and then a program built on the information gathered. The client interview helps me understand their goals and also the type of program I think they will enjoy. We then do a fitness test to see if the client can achieve the goals they have already set or whether it has to be modified. I believe in always starting slow, especially in the first few sessions so that I know where the client is really at and how much to push them. It lets you gain insight into their motivations and the type of training they would enjoy. It is absolutely useless to do a program that they find boring or doesn’t keep them motivated.
Tips to begin your fitness journey... Remember to always start slow. We are constantly bombarded by images or people who are talking about their fitness achievements, which can get intimidating. Sometimes it makes us think that we should do a hundred push-ups!
Always start slow, understand your body. Understand that it is already a big achievement to be in that place, to want to be physically fitter. Once you are in the space mentally, work with respect for your body. Push the program once you get stronger. But always be kind to yourself; acknowledge and applaud beginning the journey and take it nice and slow.
Tips to choose a personal trainer… First thing to remember is to know that the fitness industry is still a fairly unorganised sector. Make sure that your trainer is certified. It is like going to a doctor; we wouldn’t go to a surgeon who hasn’t been to medical school, right? We need to be just as discerning when choosing a trainer as he or she might not be able to plan according to your needs and might end up injuring you in the process.
The next step would be to do a trial session. It is important to see if you have the right vibe with the trainer, as they might be certified, but moving into the session you might realise that this is not the right personality type for you. Though, most trainers do change and adapt themselves to the client’s requirements. As a personal trainer, I am constantly changing to keep up with my client’s needs and expectations. It is important for you to feel comfortable with them.
Breaking stereotypes and encouraging more girls and women to take up sports… My passion for fitness is very strongly rooted in sports. I grew up playing sports, representing Karnataka in the under-16 category in hockey. And as it happens in India, around the time of my board exams, I had to make a choice on continuing to play or concentrating on academics. The choice at that time was pretty clear that it had to be academics, especially being a woman. This led me to pursue an undergraduate degree in Economics and then work for Ernst and Young. But that life was not as fulfilling and it brought me back to sports, my passion.
Since it was a completely new area, I joined Fitness World and decided to get certified to become a trainer. It is only recently that I have found a way to get back into sport, not at a professional level, but recreationally. It has made me realise that this is a wonderful way to get fit. After many years of hitting the gym, which is great as well, I realised that the feeling I got from playing a sport could not be substituted. I am also certified as a performance trainer, which enables me to work with elite athletes and sportspeople.
Most women, especially in our country, once they are done with college no longer play any sport. They keep fit by joining a group class or a gym. This does not have to be the way things unfold. You can continue to play sports post having a child, or even if you’re working in a corporate job. You just have to find the right group for you. It is a great way to get fit! Having said that, I will add that it takes a certain level of fitness to play a sport. If your fitness level is not good then there is a chance of injury. If you’re beginning a fitness routine, work at it and build up to playing a sport.
I have partnered with a friend, Tanvie Hans, a football player who has played in the English Premier League to start a small football group in Bangalore. We get together to play football recreationally over the weekend. The group has now grown to 90 women! I encourage women to take up sport and this football initiative is a start. I would like to branch into other sports as well, so that if football isn’t your cup of tea maybe badminton or basketball ... there are many options. I want women to realise that they don’t have to hit the gym alone but can just go out and have fun while getting fit!
Exciting events at Nike… Nike has a very clear agenda for the foreseeable future, which is to focus on female athletes. By that they don’t mean professional athletes but anyone who wants to get fit. For the next few years we will be focusing on women and sport, on how to empower through sport. Sport here is not defined as a particular game like cricket or tennis but anything that gets one moving.
There are many exciting events and programs that are in the pipeline and while I can’t divulge more, I can say that you should keep a lookout for the launch of new programs. Follow my Instagram handle for India specific updates.
Collaborating with WeWork… I work with WeWork through my fitness consultancy, Sweat by Swetha. I handle their fitness and wellness program, which means setting up the gym and an accompanying program in locations with these facilities, and also designing other programs for them. For example, every Wednesday is ‘Wellness Wednesdays’ where WeWork offers a free class for all of its members. I curate these classes across all their sectors. I source the instructors and manage the program. With the program, my goal is to ensure that every week members are experiencing a different form of fitness. I think that is very important for me to keep people motivated and to just keep them moving. With ‘Wellness Wednesdays’, it is not restricted to physical wellness but also looks at mental wellness; we have included yoga and meditation as well.
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