I recently came across a sponsored Instagram post by a novice and wannabe ‘fitness influencer’. Here’s what the post was – A picture of him shrugging, with a caption about exercises that women should avoid, where shrugs topped the list.

His reason for the advice of skipping the shrugs was that it is a very ‘manly’ muscle. And women should not develop it. After laughing about that post for a good minute, I went on with my workout. Needless to say, it included 5 sets of dumbbell shrugs.

Throughout my workout, I thought back to a time when most girls wanted nothing to do with muscle-building. They had the fear of looking ‘manly’.

Back in the days

I remembered that when I was watching Tomb Raider, all I wanted were triceps like Angelina Jolie. Then I remembered the undisguised surprise on the faces of girlfriends to whom I confessed my endeavour to have those tricep cuts.

Esha Shah Fitato Buddy on women and triceps

I didn’t gym back then because my tennis coach killed us on the court anyway. He never thought that exercises like push-ups will make us girls look manly. When I did begin gymming, I remember that only guys were to be found at the weights section. On the other hand, women brisk-walked and occasionally ran on treadmills till kingdom come.

The Present Times

Oh how far we have now come! Women lift like warriors now. Women yearn for strength; as much strength as they can muster. Women yearn for endurance, flexibility and everything related to fitness. It is not about shape or size anymore, it is about varied and definite goals. These goals are personal for everybody, regardless of their gender. Running, CrossFit, power-lifting, and pretty much every type of physical activity is being explored by women as much as it is being explored by men. And we’re killing it.

The Change In Fitness

Overall, the fitness sector is seeing one of the highest growth rates in India. This is owing to the fact that fitness is the emerging culture amongst Indian women and men. And what is even more exciting is that more than 40% of gym goers in India are women. And to top it all, more and more women are opting for strength training.

Women like Mary Kom, Nikhat Zareen, Sakshi Malik, Geeta Phogat, Karnam Malleshwari, Mithali Raj, Sonali Swamy and Shwetambari Shetty are just a few women who are dominating fields and bodies that were previously considered too ‘manly’ for women.

These women are now loved and respected by peers and commoners alike. Today, you will meet girls wanting to be like these women. Talk about shattering glass ceilings!

Esha Shah, Fitato buddy on Women and workouts

I am proud that today we live in a world where my mother has battle rope variations in her workout. She squats, bench-presses (her previous shoulder injury slows her but doesn’t stop her), kick boxes and does pretty much everything that was previously not even considered by women of her age.

Men In The Equation

You know what amazes me the most? The kind of support women get from men and women. The unabashed support and pride that men display towards a woman who is fit. Random fit men help us women with instructions, form correction, workout plans, and anything else we may need.

When I was struggling to perform chin-ups, I had guy friends, as well as trainers, who made my success, their personal goal! They did not need to, but they made certain that I learnt to perform chin-ups.

They showed me the techniques. And each one of them stood by the pull-up bar and said, “You can do this. I KNOW you can. Stop doubting yourself and just go for it.” And I did. I learnt the chin-ups and the bicep pull-ups.

I can’t do too many at a time and these exercises aren’t easy for me, but I am getting stronger. The pride that these men felt at my success was heartening!


Here’s what thrills me the most – women do not yearn to be the traditional ‘damsel in distress’ anymore. Women want to be fit so that they can take care of problems themselves. They can manage all the affairs where they needed men to help them before, by themselves.

Esha Shah, Fitato buddy on women

Now, we women pick our own shopping bags. We change the tyres of our cars by ourselves. Not just that, we lift the heavy objects ourselves. We are able to defend ourselves. And we are self-sufficient.

What a great time to be alive!

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