In Conversation with Sanjana Saxena
Sanjana Saxena is an athlete, content creator/influencer and a second year undergraduate at Jindal Global Law School. She has been on her fitness journey since 2016 and has experienced a lot along the way. She has been documenting her fitness journey on her Instagram page.
In this interview, Sanjana sheds light on some mindsets that are worth adopting when approaching fitness.
- What was your goal when you first started taking fitness seriously? How have your goals changed since then?
- So I started fitness mostly for weight loss. But then I also started competing in competitions. So my goals changed in terms of my training, the number of hours, the coach I was training with and what I would eat, because it’s very different when you’re actually doing it for a competition and when you’re losing weight. So eating habits and my training were two major things that took a complete 360-degree change.
I’ve competed in the nationals and in 2019 I was ranked 7th all over India in CBSE 800m. So I represented Maharashtra and Goa in the year 2018 and 2019 and I’ve won several state and district medals.
- What motivated you to start making content on Instagram? What do you aspire to achieve through your content?
- So content creation was something that was very new for me. I never thought of, you know, firstly making your account public was like a big thing. You know, reels and they’re gonna reach people.
So basically for me content creation was just a way to put it out there y’know, amongst people because I didn’t do fitness to make content. I just made content with my fitness journey. There was never a specific need to make content. It was just on my journey, to put it out there, to motivate people and because I get so many DMs that say “I saw your story and it motivated me to hit the gym today.” and it feels really nice. It was just to tell people out there that you could start slow no matter what. Everyone’s process and progress is different. It’s just to let people know it’s a slow process and to not get demotivated or discouraged. Just keep doing whatever you’re doing.
- Physical activity is much easier to make routine if you enjoy it. What made it easier for you to stay on track when you started out?
- I think it was the satisfaction after every workout, which personally I don’t think anything else can give. So getting that satisfaction and imagining getting that on a daily basis. You are just happy all the time because of that. So mostly it’s the satisfaction part and with that satisfaction and training and everything, it just became part of my routine and now it’s more of discipline than motivation.
- How did you find what you like? What was that one particular activity that made you workout consistently?
- I have done a lot of types of exercises. In lockdown we were not allowed to go outside, there was no cycling, there was no running, so I tried a lot of home workouts. You must have heard of Chloe Ting, she was very famous at that point of time. So I have tried everything – HIIT workouts, just home without weights, with weights, I mean it’s basically that. It’s a lot of trial and error and just doing what you like. So now, I don’t do YouTube videos. I don’t like them and I usually just hit the gym instead.
- Are there any activities you do now that you don’t particularly enjoy but do anyway?
- Most days I have a continuous workout which is running right after I am done cycling. I do like it, but it’s very tedious, I am like “okay, let’s just get done with it, let’s just finish it.”
- You mentioned in an interview that your coach is Dr. Kaustubh Radkar, a 30-time Ironman Athlete. At what point in your fitness journey did you decide to turn to him? Is there a specific goal that you hope to achieve under his guidance?
- So basically again as I said when I started competing I searched for coaches. I tried many coaches too, but then you have to get that rapport with your coach right? When I coached under him I had that vibe and rapport with him, I am still coaching under him. I think that was the turning point – I wanted to coach under him. I am part of the Radstrong group. He’s an Ironman. Most of the trainees there are doing duathlon, triathlons, long marathons, full marathons. But with him mostly, I expect to have good endurance and a healthy lifestyle.
- Flexibility is an important aspect of fitness that seems to fall to the wayside in the fitness discussion. Why do you think that is the case? What other aspects of fitness do you think are important but overlooked?
- I will answer your second question first. So firstly I would say stretching, warm up, water intake, protein intake. So before I started coaching under Dr.Kaustubh Radkar, I was doing everything on my own. Everything was internet based. It was like let’s eat these many calories, and this much water, but there are a lot of things that you need to know from people who have experience in that. I think stretching and warming up are the two basic things which people miss out on. They just go and do the normal workout, they don’t warm up and stretch, and that is not sustainable. Because your muscles don’t repair if you don’t have enough water, you don’t get enough sleep. Eating habits, water intake, sleep schedule, warm and stretching are things people overlook and that should not be the case. And about flexibility, many people say yoga is boring and that’s why we are just gym rats. I get that point, like I don’t do a lot of yoga either. But again all exercises are not just for the fitness part but also your health in the long run. Because yoga helps out with your heart and everything and these are things people miss out on. But these are things that should be done, even if it’s the least they can do.
- There’s a rumour going around in fitness circles that cardio is not important for losing body fat and toning muscles, while we were told the opposite our whole lives. Is that really true?
- People don’t take it seriously but it’s not like you have to run a half marathon every single day. Even if you are on the treadmill running, easy jogs, running for like 15-20 minutes two or three times a week, that’s great for your health, heart, muscular health and stuff. So cardio is important. Most people who are only into gyming, they don’t really give an importance to cardio, but I think it should be there. It’s not just for your body weight and you are losing it, it’s also for your own inner health.
- Did you ever make any missteps while you were training? How did you realize that you had made a mistake and how did you go about correcting it?
- I think with my eating habits and training, I used to overtrain and eat less. When I had just started my fitness journey I was on a very strict diet. So I will let you in on an incident. I was very strict about it, I didn’t eat any outside food for two years straight. I had gone for a competition in Delhi so of course you had to have outside food. They gave us chhole bhature and bhature is made from maida. I ate it, but I couldn’t digest it. My body had forgotten how to digest maida. That was the tipping point when I realised everything has to be in moderation. This was one of the biggest missteps that I had taken with my eating and food habits.
- You’ve mentioned in a post that you suffer from a lot of back pain during menstruation. How do you manage training on such days?
- I always listen to my body. If my coach gives me a cycling target of 50km but my periods start that day, I think about whether my body is ready for it. I always go with ‘When in doubt, rest it out’. You can take as many rest days as you want because you shouldn’t exert yourself in such a situation. If I’m down and refuse to take a rest day, I’ll just end up in bed for the next 3 days. It’s better to rest it out, rejuvenate, get that energy back and then start again. So I don’t push myself when I’m down.
- Content creators have been vocal about how they often have to remind themselves to not hyperfixate on social media metrics. But paying some attention to them still is an essential part of the job. As a content creator yourself, what kind of boundaries have you set between yourself and your platform?
- Having a fitness page I realise there are so many people better than me. I get to learn from them. So your reach and your views of course motivate you to post more and be frequent about whatever you are doing on your page. But i think there was a point where my reels were noy getting a lot of reach, who won’t be sad about that. But I understand that the reel I am making or whatever content I am posting, even if that is making a difference for one person, I think for the start it’s enough. I do it with passion. It’s like I am sharing with people what I am doing, so again I am not doing fitness to make content, I am doing fitness for myself. Irrespective of my content creation, I have been doing fitness for the last 6 years.
- When starting from scratch, it is hard to keep yourself accountable to your goals. But now, you have achieved them at least in some capacity. How did you cultivate the self-discipline that you have today?
- As I told you, I started with weight loss. With that I started competing and that’s how my whole lifestyle changed. As I said, eating habits and training and everything. If you enjoy what you are doing, its not a task anymore. When you enjoy what you do, it becomes part of your routine and then you get the discipline for it. Because in the beginning it was mostly based on “I am motivated for it”. But motivation doesn’t last long, it’s discipline which takes you a long way. So in the process, I became more disciplined with my routine. You have that one goal “that I want to achieve this and till I get that I won’t stop”. So in the starting two years when I didn’t eat anything, I was like “weight loss,weight loss,weight loss” and then after doing that I got to moderation in training and everything was set after that when I started competing.
- Rates of progress for achieving your goals are different for different people. But we also live in an instant gratification world. How do you come to terms with not achieving your goals as fast as you expect to?
- I can give you an example of this. So, I get many DMs asking about weight loss, skincare, hair care and stuff. One girl texted me asking about it and I told her what things she should do and what to follow. Within 4 days, she texted me back saying she couldn’t see results.
So I told her that she needed to give it time and trust the process. It takes a long time. I know, even I get disappointed when I see myself post so frequently and still don’t get many views. Or when I use so much weight but still can’t see any aesthetics on my body or running so much but my stamina is not increasing. But I know you need to be patient here, because whatever comes easy, goes easy. When you finally achieve something that you worked hard for, you do feel that YOU have achieved it.
You can follow Sanjana on her Instagram handle @sanjanaaaaa19.
Sridhar Iyer, TY B.Sc and
Shruti Reddy, SY B.Sc
Urvee Bodhale, SY B.Sc