Sumaya Dalmia was constantly over the phone even as she geared up for an impromptu photo shoot at her maiden studio in south Delhi. She’s checking on things for her collaboration with Ananda-In the Himalayas, the destination spa in Uttarakhand. After setting up a fitness centre at the spa, she’s training a team to work with at Ananda. Between shots, she tells us where it all began.
The year 1997 was a different time. Fitness was less about personal well-being and more about shrinking waistline. Dalmia opened her first studio in Delhi to change that. “Anyone who was looking for the proverbial weight loss was counselled into taking a holistic approach,” Dalmia says. Eighteen years, two fitness centres and 300 clients later, the 37-year-old’s belief in a balanced training session remains as strong as ever. She has a reason to believe so.
“You know, more than half the injuries occur is due to wrong posture or faulty body movements than an accident,” Dalmia says. This is what her training targets at. Instead of high impact movements, she combines a series of regimes—aerobic, anaerobic, agility, muscular endurance, strength and power training—to give a complete workout to the body that can be incorporated in daily life. “Instead of blindly following a routine, we help our clients learn the right way to stand, sit and squat. Basically, it’s like replicating movements from daily life but the right way,” Dalmia says. It’s called the functional training.
This training improves the efficiency of daily movements—picking up something from the floor, lifting bags or children, pushing or pulling a furniture—and develop the muscles, improve coordination, balance and stability. She includes a dead lift in training where you become more aware about safely picking up things from the floor without compromising the neutral alignment of your back. It works out your glutes, hamstrings, calves, core, shoulders and arm muscles. It also improves coordination of muscle groups. “It’s not a new technique and has been used in the West for some time now. In India, there’re only a few experts who can offer this kind of training,” says the mother of two.
Before she recommends someone a set of regimes, Dalmia and her team of 30 trainers analyse the health, lifestyle, needs, injuries and goals of their clients. Each session is documented where client feedback is taken. Exercise is teamed with customised diet plan. A re-evaluation tracks their progress. “Every person who walks in the studio is offered a tailor-made exercise because no two bodies are the same,” Dalmia says. It might sound like a lot of work and man-hour spent but this is how it’s done here, she insists. May be this is why she’s become the go-to fitness expert for the capital’s who’s who.
On a certain day, you might bump into fashion designers Malini Ramani or Nikhil Mehra (of Shantanu-Nikhil) and a host of industrialists at the centre. Is it any different when she’s training a popular figure? “I don’t see any real difference. They’re as committed as any other person training next to them. Extensive travelling has to be tackled, that’s all,” Dalmia says. If someone has to be out on the roads for longer period, she suggests them to complete at least 36 per cent of their training in three months.
Maybe, it’s the influence from her fashion designer friends that Dalmia has dabbled in fitness gear. Working with a small team of NIFT graduates, Dalmia will showcase the line—priced Rs 2,500-Rs 4,500—at the coming India Fashion Week in Delhi. “I also plan to collaborate with my designer friends to launch capsule collections. Soon, you might find lines called Nikhil for Sumaya or Malini for Sumaya.”
Certified in over 11 disciplines from American College of Sports Medicine, Dalmia herself is addicted to fitness. She trains six days a week. “Indoor training three times a week is followed by outdoor runs and yoga. Pilates are on alternate days. The mantra is to keep the body guessing of what’s coming next,” Dalmia says. The same mantra is given out to her clients. Keep your body on its toes and you’re sorted.