Minakshi Shukla: Fitness and Its Changing Meanings for a National-Level Athlete
Meenakshi Shukla, a national-level professional powerlifting athlete. Her list of achievements is long - Ms. Fitness India 2019, Gold medal in kettlebell competition IKFF (International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation), ‘Mahila Prashikshan Sansthan’ as ‘Face of the Year 2019,’ and many more.
Another example of an athlete defying all the societal categorizations of age and gender is Minakshi Shukla, a national-level professional powerlifting athlete. Her list of achievements is long and decorated- a podium finish in Ms. Fitness India 2019, a gold medal in kettlebell competition IKFF (International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation), recognition by ‘Mahila Prashikshan Sansthan’ as ‘Face of the Year 2019,’ and many more.
Among many other renowned associations, she is a panelist with the Sports Academy Association of India (SPAA), and a Chief Mentor of pilates at Decathlon (cyber hub)for Pilates.
In a conversation with SocialBoat, she talks about what fitness has meant at different stages of her life, her several motivations, her beautiful tattoos, and her current goals. Read on to read a tale of breaking stereotypes.
The Past and Present Association with Fitness
As an army child, Minakshi had always paid attention to fitness. The way fitness is practiced now is very different from what it was then. As a child, she picked up some sport or another, which would act as a way of developing physical and mental health. Minakshi then went on to pursue her engineering from Bangalore, after which she started working in the corporate sector, and fitness took a back seat. She got married and had a child after which she gained a significant amount of weight. Minakshi says,
“Post-pregnancy, nothing was the same anymore.”
Amidst the gym culture in 2007-08, she joined the gym. With time, she started weight training, in addition to cardio, and realized that she was making progress at a rapid rate. She decided to take it up as a profession.
Now at 43, Minakshi says,
“Initially, I started because I wanted to look like the false aesthetic body image I had in my mind. But now being fit is about getting things done, getting from point A to B without any difficulty, any kinds of aches, headaches, etc. which should be the ideal goal.”
Currently, Minakshi’s motivation is nothing but the medal that she is eyeing. Her aim is to play at the national and international level and is currently preparing for the Olympic Lift.
A Routine of 5-7 Hours of Workout
Minakshi is on the clock throughout the day and is very particular about following her routine.
“70% of my training is recovery. If I don’t follow the routine, I won’t get proper rest, and it will affect my training."
Her day starts at 5 a.m. in the morning when she takes training sessions for some corporates and marathon runners. She is also associated with some doctors for whom she takes postnatal exercise sessions. After managing some household chores, Minakshi starts her workout at 12 p.m. which lasts till 5 or 6 in the evening, after which she takes a few sessions again. She prefers working out at home because she can focus on one lift and practice it as many times until she is satisfied. By then it is already dinnertime, and then time to sleep. Minakshi usually doesn’t go out or party. On the rare occasions when she does, it is in the afternoon, and never late at night.
Preparing for the season in October-November, her main focus right now is on building strength and skills.
Tattoos and their Meanings
Going through Minakshi’s social media, one is likely to notice her beautiful tattoos. Out of the three, one is her father's Identity Card number. The second one is a rudraksha and a third eye. And the most recent one is a lacy design, which has an interesting backstory.
“People told me that a lacy design was too flowery and girly, it wouldn’t go with my profile, and that I should have something bold instead.”
Minakshi then talks about the misconception that women who lift weights are more manly which is absolutely false. And this problem has many layers to it. She recalls an incident from January 2020 when she was participating in a competition against some women who had come from rural Haryana.
“They looked at me and said, "madam kahan haath pair tudana aa gaye. Ye aap hum par chor do."”
It was quite surprising for Mini to realize that urban women are thought of as pampered who work on laptops and aren't capable of doing extreme physical work.
Advice To New Mothers
As a woman in the field of fitness and sport, and through her personal experiences as a mother, Mini has seen how different and difficult things tend to get for women. She is currently working on an app for new mothers, where they can learn what exercise and food habits they should follow to maintain themselves post-pregnancy. She also goes to a lot of seminars to talk about these things.
A piece of advice she gives to new mothers is,
“Please enjoy motherhood. Fitness is also an equally important part of it, and if done correctly, all will eventually fall into place. While pregnant, follow a routine and maintain that post-pregnancy. Avoid all sudden changes. You can scale it up, and bring it down accordingly. Take advice from your doctor and follow it. The doctor always knows best.”
Summing up her approach, Minakshi says,
“It's very simple, there is no rocket science involved. Day in and day out, I do the same thing until I achieve it.”
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