Minakshi Shukla, Powerlifting in a man’s domain
Juggling both her professional and personal aspirations Minakshi Shukla, hailing from Gurgaon is an engineer by education and a sportsperson by passion. A national level powerlifter and a fitness coach, Mini’s motto is simple, “it’s never too late to start a new beginning in life.’’
Born in an army officer’s house, Minakshi led an active and outdoor life throughout her childhood, involved in various games and sports activities. From horse riding to athletic events in school, she showed deep interest and natural flair in all sporting activities. As she grew up, her parents wished for her to pursue engineering as a profession since sports perhaps still is not regarded as a lucrative profession. The journey of life continued with nothing extraordinary- marriage and motherhood in due course of time.
A nudge through the mirror
“Post my engineering, never did I imagine I would one day be a professional sportswoman,” smiles all enthusiastic Minakshi. “Post delivering my son, I had gained a lot of weight, weighed 96 kg. One fine day looking at myself in the mirror I decided that it was high time to work on my fitness and enrolled in a gym to get rid of my extra flab. Along with the regular cardio and routine gym drills, I enjoyed lifting weights and realised I could pick heavyweight much more comfortably compared to other women and men in the gym.’’
“As I re-discovered my strength, I started to take professional coaching to build my prowess in lifting. I began serious weightlifting and participating in competitive events. After turning 38 with a young kid in tow, it feels great to be surrounded by iron and machines. It’s an incredible and fulfilling journey. I am loving it.”
The balancing act
Balancing a career and home for a woman calls for many challenges. And if the career involves a male-dominated sport, the task becomes herculean! Along with dealing with the pressures at home, it is the societal perceptions and expectations that can leave a person quite overwhelmed.
“When I started competing in events, I would get a lot of comments such as “Mam aap kya kar rahe ho aise sports mein,’ ‘You look too educated to be a part of such sports,’ ‘Why are you doing this now that you have a child’… and so on!” remembers Minakshi.
“The fact I had ventured into a male-dominated sport after embracing motherhood did raise quite a many eyebrows. My mother was supportive and understood my drive as she herself is quite an ambitious lady. Initially, even my husband thought that I was out of my senses, but as he saw my motivation & commitment, I can say that he is the biggest support in my sporting journey. “
Diet & More
Minakshi follows a disciplined routine involving diet, exercise and sleep regimes. The routine becomes more specific during the months when the competition or an event is scheduled. Being a pure vegetarian, she consumes a balanced diet involving proteins and a lot of starchy and green vegetables, pulses and seasonal fruits.
“Along with a healthy diet, I also ensure the discipline of time,” quips Minakshi. “It is essential I eat on time and grab enough sleep to help nurture and restore my body.
Many times it has meant compromising on my social life. I carry my meals wherever I go and earlier eating alone while the rest of the bunch is partying was uncomfortable. Now I am totally committed to the choice that I have made. It is a Tapasya, but if I don’t take it seriously, my body will not be equipped enough to take up the challenges.”
Being a fitness trainer, she is extremely occupied with her personal online training sessions all day and leads a physically active life. She regularly works on strength building as endurance comes easier in comparison. “It is easier to train to run 5 km a month but not pick up weights in the same time frame. While preparing for the competition, my workout regimen goes up to three times a day. I train myself very seriously.
“Currently, I can do a 150 kg deadlift, am trying for 170-180 kg. In the bench press, I do 60 kgs,” shares the young power woman
Disappointing sports facilities
Unfortunately, the state of sports amenities, coaching and rehabilitation centres are quite dismal. There are not many government facilities to support a sporting enthusiast, the issue is grave in smaller towns even though people out there has greater hunger to prove themselves.
“There is a lot that needs to be done to identify and hone the talent prevalent in our country, starting from schools,” says Minakshi. “During teenage, it is still easy for women to recover but for mothers and older women, it’s tougher as physical challenges get deeper. We also undergo a lot of injuries. We require proper nutrition and coaching to improve our form.’’
The current Covid pandemic has currently brought all major national and international sports events to a halt.
“The government is yet to give a nod for indoor stadium events. There were international powerlifting competitions scheduled in October, November & December. We are waiting to see how things progress in that direction.”
Engineering her way out besides a national level powerlifter, Minakshi is also the founder of B Fit with Mini, a fitness coaching initiative that helps people lose weight and initiate them to fitness journey. She represents ‘Sports Academy Association of India’ (SPAA India) as a Chief Mentor in sports education. She is on the panel with Decathlon for Pilates.
Altruism & humility
“As a Skill India certified fitness instructor I would want to give it back to that segment of the society, especially children who do not have access to sports and sports education as a whole. In the pipeline is Maatrifit – whereas a Chief Mentor I will help treat mothers and families by working on their fitness and diet routines. “
“I also dream of opening an academy someday to support women in sports at all stages of life. Self-defence, athletics, games should be an integral part of your life and it goes neglected in most parts of the country. Playing a sport is beneficial for mental health as well & I want to motivate women to come forward and play at least one sport in their life.
“I would also like to encourage corporate fitness programs for the huge pool of professionals we have in the city. For me, the best part of being a sportsperson is the discipline and organisational skills that I have imbibed because of powerlifting. I can also deal with stress and failure better,’’ signs off Minakshi.