Women from every walk of life have learned to manage, accept and embrace their period as part of who they are. Some will tell you a life-changing period story, some will give you tips, such as exercising, to handle your period gracefully, some will be candid and share their period struggles with you, for example a mother and her daughter. Our series, ‘Periods and I’, is an ode to these women and their stories, and this one is all about Sonali Swami’s journey.
Sonali was introduced to exercise and weight-training at the age of 27, after she became a mother. She never felt the need to go to a gym before that and was happy with the life she had. One day, in 2012, a dance class being held at a gym nudged Sonali to go inside and enquire about it; “Music is my first love and it drew me inside”. That is what prompted her to join the gym.
Seeing her enthusiasm towards exercising and training, the management team encouraged Sonali to go get certified as a Zumba instructor and become a trainer, which is exactly what she did. Sonali conducted 14-18 lessons in a week. “This was a lot of cardio for me to be doing since past a certain age, you start to lose muscle mass and begin aging.” Upon reading some more, she realized that it’s extremely important for women to do some strength-training alongside cardio.
Sonali hired a trainer for herself to regain all the muscle she had lost. The first day was intense but she loved every minute of it. “The goal was to light weights and see what happens. I never imagined that I would be a professional athlete!” Three months in, there was a weight-lifting competition being held, the first of its kind in the country and with the support of her trainer and family, she not only participated but won!
And with that positive mindset, she won and more importantly, she found her calling.
Athletes have very low body fat percentages. This could lead to a missed period on several occasions but this is temporary; the body will soon go back to its normal self. This knowledge helped Sonali take the right steps to ensure she sustained a healthy relationship with her period while simultaneously winning weight-lifting championships.
Growing up, it was a different story. Sonali often told herself not to engage in exercise or physical activity during her period but now, she tells women not to let their period stop them.
Sonali got her first period in the fourth grade. Oblivious to what a period is, she thought it was a wound and didn’t tell her mother. The next day, when it happened again, she went to her mother for help. Sonali recalls how hushed the period-talk was and worse, she says, “We didn’t have good sanitary pads then!” Sonali experienced painful cramps and PMS but since her mother didn’t discuss it with her in detail, she had to wait a few years till all her friends got their periods.That’s when discussions finally took place.
Throughout school and college, Sonali would often have to miss a class or two and lay down with a hot water bag to ease the pain. She even popped pills on certain days. It was only after she became a mother that her symptoms got better. This experience taught her to be open and honest with her daughter about periods. In fact, when they sat down to have the conversation, her daughter already knew what a period was!
Sonali’s motivation to continue doing what she does comes from wanting to let other women like her know that there is a life outside of your family. “Your life does not need to revolve around your family. If you take care of yourself and you are happy, then you can give your 100% to the people you love. Your dreams and ambitions do not have to take a back seat just because you’re a mother.” Her goal is to empower those around her, which is why she continues to coach people and help them become the best versions of themselves; “I want everyone to be healthy, safe and fit.”
Sonali is of the mind that staying physically fit can help your mind and body be InSync with each other, for a healthy period and an overall holistic lifestyle; as long as you take care of yourself, you’ll be able to take care of everything else well. She wishes to use herself as an example and create a community of women who are empowered, healthy and happy.