Don't stop moving

Updated: 25 October, 2020 08:53 IST | Aastha Atray Banan | Mumbai

Being fit could easily be the most important need of the world today. Feeling lazy? Look for inspiration to these three who haven't let disability come in the way of well-being

Legendary scientist Stephen Hawking, who lived with a motor neuron disease since he was 21, had said, "My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn't prevent you from doing well, and don't regret the things it interferes with. Don't be disabled in spirit as well as physically." For Sanket Sonawane, the words hold relevance. So much so, that after losing his left leg in a road accident at 16, he was optimistic that things would be smooth sailing. "It was when I got to college that I realised I couldn't even climb the stairs of the building without a struggle," the 25-year-old says. But if movement was restricted, his weight went up. He started slow, with walking, and educating himself about what he should eat and how to manage calorie intake. He also started researching workouts that suited his limitations.

Today, as he waits to join Tata Motors as management trainee, he is in a confident space that allows him to use Instagram to inspire other different-abled fitness enthusiasts. He treks, swims, plays basketball and pumps weights in the gym. "The key is to be consistent. And that's not just a physical but mental challenge too. I'd get upset when people stared at me while I exercised. Once I got over that anxiety, the rest was easy. It's all about building a habit."

Sanket Sonawane swims, treks and plays basketball
Sanket Sonawane swims, treks and plays basketball

Sonawane used social media to document his gym routines, and preparations for the challenges he sets himself up for every year. "Last year, I took part in a calisthenics competition with abled people. The routine includes squats mixed with lifts. I stood at 8th place right among the 15 competitors. It was overwhelming." He has also come down from 85 kg to 65 kg. "We have to understand that staying fit is one way to reduce the limitations of your disability. Also, I suggest you hire a trainer who can help you decide what exercises or machines are good for you. I don't have a left leg, so I want to make sure I don't damage my right, and the trainer helped me with that. Also reading and researching is important. Join fitness forums for the disabled and ask questions. In the end, it's your body and you know it best."

Sujith Koshy Varghese visits the gym regularly for strength training
Sujith Koshy Varghese visits the gym regularly for strength training

Sujith Koshy Varghese, 29, is a banker based in Dubai. After a bike accident in 2013, Verghese lost sensation below his waist, and suffered 18 fractures in his head. He had been a boxer, biker, and the life of a party. Thr frustration stemming from how his life changed egged him towards exercising. "People who had looked up to me, now, were looking down at me. I knew I had to change myself. But it was going to be hard. I wasn't able to even stand without support." That didn't stop him from joining a gym and working weights with a trainer. "In three months, I was bench pressing 100 kilos." Since then he has taken part competitions, and offered advice at motivational talks. "Starting is tough. In the beginning, just do one thing—get yourself to the gym every single day. And be ready for trial and error. If you fall, it's okay. I still need help with standing during some exercises, so that my balance is maintained." Varghese also stresses on meditation since it's your mental strength which is key in ensuring you stick to a regimen.

Marathoner Nihad Panju doesn’t  miss his daily workouts
Marathoner Nihad Panju doesn't miss his daily workouts

Nihad Panju would agree. Once your mind is made up, little can stop you. He says a turning point came in 2011, when his trainer told him: Run the 21-km marathon; it will change your life. The 30-year-old, was diagnosed with Tubercular Meningitis when he was just five months old, leaving him with left-sided Hemiplegia (partial paralysis caused by brain injury). "I was introduced to trainer Rustom Warden, and it just took off from there. I told him, I wanted to run the 21-km marathon. I didn't ask could I? Should I? He asked me to run three rounds of the CCI ground, which was around 1.2 kms, and I was wondering what I had got myself into," he remembers. But soon, he was running 15 rounds. Since then he has taken part in competitions, and in 2013, he ran his first marathon. "At the start, it mattered if I made the cutoff of the marathon as I wanted to prove something. But by the time I did, I had started loving running, and it was all that mattered."

Pre-COVID, he used to be in the gym five to six times a week, and ran one long-distance run. These days, he does a high intensity (HIIT) workout at home, and runs the days he is not training online. "Being fit for the differently-abled is all about not letting limitations stop you. You have to use criticism to motivate you. Get a trainer, so your technique is right. But the main thing is, choose a fitness routine that you love and makes you happy. That's the only way it will work."

To-dos for differently-abled fitness enthusiasts

  •  Get a trainer to show you the ropes.
  •  Read and research about the kind of workouts your body can take.
  •  Start slow.
  •  Choose a fitness regimen that makes you feel happy.
  •  Make time for meditation so that your mental health is also protected.

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First Published: 25 October, 2020 07:41 IST

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