The first thing you notice about @SweatySwetha, as her Instagram fans know her, is that she is as petite as she is strong. The second is that she can turn your world upside down quite literally: when we first see her, she kicks effortlessly up into a headstand as she’s talking.
The spring in Swetha’s step can at least partly be attributed to her next fitness goal. All year, she’s been training to participate in India’s most brutal obstacle race, Devil’s Circuit. But doing just one of the races would be too easy, which is why she will run, climb, slide, crawl (and presumably tumble a bit too) in all eight venues of this circuit — and probably wait for you at the finish line in shirsasana.
Over the last year, when she’s not going into battle with gravity, Swetha has become one of Bangalore’s best-known CrossFit trainers — the coach your coaches go to. “I’ve always been athletic,” she tells us: as a teenager, she played tennis at national level before taking off to the Alcorn State University in Mississippi on a sports scholarship.
In the United States, Swetha had the most American of all epiphanies: she fell in love with the great outdoors. From her stories, we get the sense that she spent most of her years there running mini-marathons and playing beach volleyball in Miami. But in fact, she coolly managed to rack up her medical degrees in between, and returned to Bangalore last year as a practicing vascular radiologist.
Here, she met former Asiad Games champion Coach Aiyappa, with whom she started running again. “That’s when I realised my body’s strength. Once, a few friends and I decided to run from Mysore to Coorg one weekend, just for fun. I ran 115 kms over two days and I was still raring to go.” (She’s tucking into her vegan buckwheat salad as she tells this story. Full disclosure: we have to lie down for five minutes after transcribing this sentence.)
Over the last year, when she’s not going into battle with gravity, Swetha has become one of Bangalore’s best-known CrossFit trainers.
Swetha was introduced to CrossFit in the US, and took advanced training in Thailand. She now offers CrossFit classes at National Corps Fitness, Koramangala, where her strength and ability to adapt to the sometimes gut-wrenching exercises is the toast of the institute. “It may seem hard but the body appreciates being challenged,” Swetha tells us sternly. “It is as much mental stimulation as it is a physical task.”
There’s a chance you may miss her if you don’t head down sharpish. Starting September, Swetha travels to Chennai, Mohali, Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Delhi for the Devil’s Circuit races. She’s looking forward to being murdered by mud, careening up (and down?) a vertical “fright wall”, crawling through a tunnel made of barbed wire and other pleasantly sadistic trials. “I competed in one of these races last year,” she says, “and then I adjusted my own workout regime to give me a boost through the circuit.”
However, she’s willing to give you sweat(y) equity through a new app. For clients she trains one-on-one, Swetha designs personal nutrition and exercise modules. Now,“I’m using this experience to power an online guide that anyone can download and implement,” she says. This app, which she’s still working on, will go live later in the year.
As she readies for her evening batch of CrossFit students, we ask her how she finds the time to train herself, others and work full-time in the vascular surgery department at Mahaveer Jain hospital.“As an athlete, timing is everything,” she says philosophically as she begins her warm up. This is where we make a run for it too, before she makes us plank.
Getting there: Get in touch with Swetha through her Instagram page.
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