CHENNAI: "And slowly raise the bar up to your shins and slightly over your thighs. Now, gently place the bar down and relax,” Chirag Chordia instructs Kiran Bai, his 82-year-old grandmother, who effortlessly deadlifts two five-kg bars. In a makeshift gym that Chirag has created at their home in RA Puram, Kiran spends her mornings doing weight-lifting exercises with his guidance.
A series of fitness videos of the city-based grandma-grandson duo has been doing the rounds on social media. Ever since, Chirag’s inbox has been flooded with bouquets and brickbats. “Some people said that she should not lift weights and instead stick to doing walking or yoga. But, friends and family members encouraged us. Many, who felt motivated, requested if I could customise a fitness routine for their elderly parents and grandparents. There’s a lot of myth surrounding senior citizens’ training because it’s uncommon for them to lift weights. Everyone can train with weights, and the kind of training they do differs based on several factors more important than age,” says Chirag, a certified personal trainer and co-owner of Strength System gym in Alwarpet. He has designed a training schedule for Kiran, based on her medical history, the purpose of her training, and the kind of exercises she enjoys doing.
Never too late
Born and raised in Chennai, Kiran was a high-spirited girl in her childhood days. Swimming, kho-kho, kabaddi... she was always part of sports competitions held at her school. Later, with marriage came responsibilities. But she didn’t stop being active. Through her daily chores like milking the cows, carrying buckets of water up the staircase, and grinding masalas using hand equipment, she stayed fit. However, with age, she suffered a string of ailments and her health slowly deteriorated. Things got worse seven months back when she fell from her bed and sprained her legs.
“I dreaded the sedentary lifestyle, following my fall. My road to recovery was long and I began to feel like my end was nearing despite support from family. Fortunately, my grandson is a gym trainer and he took it upon himself to nurse me back to health. It’s been three months since we started working out and there’s no looking back. I’m reminded of those good old days when I was fearless and active,” recounts Kiran.
She does weight training thrice a week. Glute bridges, upper and lower body exercises, bicep curls, deadlifts, balance-oriented workouts, landmine press, split squats...name it, and she does it like a pro while working out, draped in a Marvari-style sari. “She’s comfortable in her home attire and does everything barefoot. Her session begins with a warm-up. Contrary to popular belief, resistance training strengthens your muscles and bones as you grow older. Studies show that it can improve brain function, decrease the risk of mortality and prevent fall. She’s now able to sit down and get up from the toilet seat and floor,” explains Chirag.
Kiran’s dedicated fitness regime has made her independent, once again. “It keeps me energetic, has given confidence, makes me feel strong and capable, and has given a purpose in life. The swelling in my feet has reduced and I regained strength in my arms. With time, the joint pain and BP issues faded too; I started feeling alive. I’m training because I want to do my daily activities without fear. To all my friends and visitors who look at me in awe, you too can do this provided you have the willpower,” shares Kiran.
Making training accessible
On his part, Chirag has been busting myths about senior citizens enrolling in weight-training and educating them about its benefits of it on social media platforms. “Strength training is important at all ages. Every workout programme is designed keeping in mind the training history and injury history of people. Most of our elders lack the stamina to walk long distances without support and strength. So, they need this and we need to motivate them, instead of feeding their inhibitions. If you have senior citizens at home and you are telling them not to do something because you feel it isn’t safe for them, be careful of the language you use. Find a way to help them retain their independence,” requests Chirag.
After receiving multiple requests from other senior citizens who watched the videos, he has now designed workouts to be performed twice a week with simple videos requiring minimal equipment at home. “People can individually reach out to me and I can modify workouts to meet their training needs. The goal is to improve the quality and strength to do daily activities with ease. This is my way of making training accessible to the elderly crowd,” asserts Chirag, who started a free trial week on November 23. A sample workout video is available on his Instagram page.
Her joy-filled gratitude to Chirag is difficult to miss in her voice, as we talk to her over the phone. True to what his name means, Chirag has been the source of light in her golden years. Here’s hoping, this grandson inspires others too.
Visit Instagram: @Chirag Chordia or strengthsystem.in