SHEELA PAI / Professional fitventurer, always on the hunt for new and unique physical challenges and the best workouts in NYC and beyond
I feel like we might be kindred spirits lady! We have the same love for fitness. Have you always been like this? Did you play sports in school (high school or college)? or did you have an aha moment at some point and...
Aw, we definitely are! Loved working out with you--we need to make it happen more often! I have NOT always been like this. Furthest thing from it. I was always the kid who was picked last for the team. From college through graduate school, I put in half-hearted appearances at the gym. Lots of ellipticaling and sad crunches. The first few years I was out of graduate school, I signed up with a personal trainer and saw him two or three times a week to ensure that I squeezed some exercise into my late night/all-nighter filled work schedule, but fitness still was not a passion, or even fun, for me. Then, about five years ago, I was dealing with an especially tough work assignment and decided I needed to find a better method of stress release. I hesitantly stepped into my first bootcamp class and realized I had finally found my oasis. The one place where, for one hour, I could just put down my PDA and focus on making myself stronger than I was the day before. Over time, the gym has become something much more than just a place to release stress. It is now a place where I constantly set new goals and test myself so I can see what my body is capable of, break through mental blocks, and determine areas for improvement.
So I had the opportunity to work out with you for a week and it was fabulous! You e-mailed me your workout routine for the week and we went from there - is that a weekly thing for you? Do you find it challenging sometimes?
I do start the week off with my class reservations set and solo workouts planned. I gear my schedule towards training to accomplish discrete goals (e.g. running or rowing at a particular speed and/or for a certain distance, completing an unassisted pull-up, increasing the number of push-ups I can do in one sitting) and chipping away at long-term, big picture goals, such as increasing my endurance and improving my coordination. It does get challenging, though, because I have to accommodate my work schedule, and life in general, and any emergencies or sudden deadlines that may arise. Last minute class and workout cancellations are inevitable, but I always make sure I never go more than two days without exercising, even if that means just doing a quick, efficient WOD. My body needs and craves exercise, especially when life becomes more demanding.
If a guy suggested a fitness date as your first date would he win cool points for that?
He definitely would! Since fitness is such a huge part of my life, it is important to me that anybody I date prioritizes having a healthy, fit life too. A fitness first date is a great idea in general because you automatically have something to talk about; no uncomfortable pauses over drinks to deal with. The activity would have to take us both out of our comfort zone so we would bond over it instead of trying to compete with or impress each other. In the winter, open gym time at Brooklyn Zoo (complete with jumping on the trampoline and into the foam block pit) or climbing at Brooklyn Boulders would be fun. As for the summer, I’ve always wanted to try kayak polo (yup, it’s a thing).
Ok so...you’ve got on one of your colorful tanks, fly ass printed leggings and then you lace up your sneakers and...BAM! You have been transformed into one of NYC top teachers/trainers. What could I expect from your class?
Haha, I am in no way qualified to put together a class, though I’ll admit I think it would be cool to teach a class called “Snatch and Catch” which would consist of tabata-like circuits alternating between rower sprints and kettlebell moves, like swings and snatches. It would be the ultimate core challenge! In terms of teaching approach, I would aim to both encourage my students but also push them to set new goals and achieve them every class. I’d want to emulate all the qualities my favorite instructors have in common--their attention to form, their care in formulating each class so it challenges both beginners and ardent regulars, and their emphasis on ensuring each and every student has a positive experience and leaves class feeling better (both physically and mentally) for it.
Name 5 fitness related items you are lovin right now:
1. KD Dance NY thigh-high leg warmers: Sometimes I’m literally too tired to pull my pants on after a workout. These are great because I can quickly, easily pull them over capri leggings and still be warm in high 20’s weather.
2. Bobble Sport water bottle: Love the ergonomic shape and grip, fun colors, and the fact that it’s BPA-free and filters the water as you drink.
3. Rowing Machines: After I competed in the Spartan and Civilian Military Combine Races last spring and finished with disappointing times, I realized that I needed to revamp my HIIT heavy workout schedule to build up my endurance. Classes on the water rower at City Row and the erg at Throwback Fitness have helped me tremendously in that respect. In addition, I did not realize how much my body needed low-impact workouts. Once I incorporated more rowing into my regimen, I stopped plateauing in all my classes, and my body felt less inflamed and fatigued all the time.
4. Gaiam Restore Total Body Massage Roller: For people who, like me, do morning workouts and then have to run to work, this portable roller is a must for your office. It’s not a replacement for a proper rollout with a more vigorous roller (like my favorite, the RumbleRoller) but it’s a great tool for muscle recovery on-the-go so you can ward off soreness and tightness. I also use it at the end of the day to warm up my muscles and prepare myself for an evening class.
5. Rx Smart Gear jumprope: Rx Smart Gear allows you to custom design a jumprope in colors of your choice and to tailor it for your jumproping goals, whether you’re a double-under expert or just trying to not be a hot mess (me). I’ve seen significant improvement in my performance since I started using mine, and several of my friends have had the same experience.
I resolve to move in ways that significantly build muscle. To move to the next level fitness-wise and accomplish many of my discrete and bigger picture goals, I need to incorporate more strength into my regimen. In particular, it’s time for me to make a serious commitment to a more formal lifting program.