"When I was 17, I was introduced to the concept of an ideal body type. To be honest it’s what drove me to join the gym. But eventually working out and exercising became so much more than just achieving an enviable figure. I understood movements, understood how to work on different parts of my body, and learnt the essentials of healthy eating. At some point I decided that I wanted to learn a sport, something that challenged me. So I started training in Olympic Weightlifting. It is a sport that involves two competitive lifts 'The Snatch' and 'The Clean & Jerk' - both performed on a barbell with weight plates. Choosing to train has truly changed my life. Both mentally and physically. I feel like a different person now. I interact with people who like me have chosen weightlifting and they have really helped make me a confident, patient, calmer, wiser version of me.
What motivates me is the hunger to do better, to be stronger than yesterday. When I am on the weightlifting platform I block all my thoughts. I need my mind to be fully involved in the task at hand. I don’t allow myself to be distracted by anything. It’s like therapy or meditation for me and it makes me a better person. No matter how upset I maybe, weight lifting allows me to forget.
Fitness is a very important aspect of who I am. It’s not about how my body looks on the outside but about how I feel on the inside. It’s about having a disciplined lifestyle. I don’t need to wake up every morning and go throw weights or eat boring meals. I do it because I love doing it. I am passionate about it. I learn something new everyday. I face situations where both my mental abilities and physical abilities are challenged.
As a woman I feel that we face a higher degree of body shaming. Women are expected to be beautiful. We are so often judged on how we look on the outside. Most magazines, the internet, the fashion industry etc. promote a particular body type. The pressure to look a certain way can get crippling. And what we see is what we compare our bodies with. Which obviously shouldn’t be the case. Each body type is different and beautiful and everyone must respect that and embrace it with confidence. I myself have had to face a lot of criticisms about my body type, I often get called too skinny or too muscular. But at the end of the day what should matter the most is how you look at yourself. If you are happy - then don’t give others the power to make you feel less than you are. If you are comfortable in your skin, flaunt it. If you want to look a certain way then work for it. Set a target and achieve it. Do it for yourself and not for anyone else.
My dad was an international golfer and my mother practices yoga daily. As a family we are fairly fitness oriented. Their support is what has got me this far. I also work with my dad full time in the hospitality industry. So I need to make weightlifting a priority during my non-office hours. The kick that I get by waking up at 5:30 in the morning irrespective of the weather is amazing. It takes a great deal of willpower and discipline to be able to do what I do. I am equally grateful to my coach as well. Her belief in me has helped keep my dream alive. I train in a gym that caters specifically to athletes, it allows me the chance to interact with fellow weight lifters, to learn and grow from their losses and triumphs. My coach believes in me and wants me to take part in the senior state weight lifting competition which is to happen sometime in November. I didn't take up the sport to compete at first but now that my coach sees the potential in me. I am in the process of preparing for the same.
My advice to young women would be to let nothing stop you from doing what you want to in life especially not your gender. Also give yourself time, don’t give up because you can’t see immediate results. Things don’t happen overnight. Lastly it’s never too late to start something new; age should never be a barrier to your personal growth."
Vera Puri works in the hospitality industry and practices olympic weightlifting.
* In association with Puma.