Responsibly Fit: Sumaya Dalmia

Responsibly Fit: Sumaya Dalmia

Fitness is a way of life. It definitely is the right way to lead your life but not at the cost of damaging one’s muscles. Thanks to the trending Instagram hashtag #BeastModeOn, we have begun to overtrain ourselves like beasts, but the key lies in finding the right balance. Overtraining one’s body may lead to the breakdown of striated muscle cells resulting in leakage of cell matter into the extra-cellular space. It can present itself with myalgia, muscle weakness and swelling; this clinical syndrome is called Rhabdomyolysis. If not treated on time this can lead to serious complications such as kidney failure.

We speak to one of the leading fitness and wellness professionals in the country, Sumaya Dalmia, who has been a pioneer in the wellness and fitness industry since 1997. She spills the beans on how to avoid muscle damage, a holistic approach to fitness and the importance of a personalized workout chart for one’s physical wellbeing. Edited excerpts…

Since how long have you been in this fitness industry? From where did you receive your education and training?

I have been in the industry for 22 years. I was always into competitive sports during my school time. I pursued Economics Honours and then went on to do my masters in NYU (New York University). I met a fitness professional over there and then ended up doing my masters in sports science. My degree equips me to handle athletes. I’ve also completed many other certification courses like APSN, personal training, kickboxing and pilates from the pilates foundation. 

Fitness is emerging as one of the fastest-growing segments in the healthcare sector. Do you think there is enough scope for fitness experts in India?

If you asked me this question 10 years ago, I would have guessed that we are still a little behind in the fitness sector than the rest of the world. But, there is a rise in healthcare professionals whether be it fitness or yoga trainers. The vast majority of the clientele is now more aware than ever. They know what they want. Hence, the experts are qualified in their particular sectors. People have realised that they can get injured while training and to protect them from such situations there is a rising demand for qualified training. So that’s a big change and a good shift

What does the concept of holistic fitness mean? How is it different from other fitness programmes?

As the word suggests, holistic means a 360-degree view of a particular topic. So if it is applied to fitness, it means looking at fitness through varied angles including core training, nutrition and lifestyle. And an expert is someone who looks at fitness from a very holistic perspective. Even within fitness, there are sub-topics which cannot be overlooked. Strength, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness and core strength are 4 segments that play a vital role in the absolute development of the body. Overall we look at a person’s lifestyle, time commitment, injuries or any pre-medication history. You and I may share the same goal but we may have different physical attributes. And a smart trainer who is well adept with these practices would design a customised fitness plan for an individual.                                

Keeping in mind the increasing stress level among corporate professionals, how will it help them to remain fit and healthy?

Our life expectancy is approximately 80 years. In today’s time, corporate professionals at 40 and 50 are setting goals to motivate themselves to lead a healthy life. Organisations have started recognising that their employee efficiency will increase if remain fit. And nowadays, many corporate houses have an in-house gym facility. Due to which employees spend lesser time eating lunch and prefer religiously working out whenever they get time during the day. Individuals are now aware that they are continuously sitting on their desks, hence they should get up and walk, at least every one hour.

Do you think rhabdomyolysis is a major health concern or just an overtalked syndrome?

Rhabdomyolysis often goes unnoticed. It is a severe injury that leads to oedema which is very tough to detect. The gym is not only the prime reason behind rhabdomyolysis. People who are into competitive training- such as bodybuilders, weight lifters or people who have a tendency of overtraining might have a higher risk of it. But for someone who is into regular training, it is very uncommon.

When you indulge in exercise, rest and recovery are important factors. But, there are other factors that may cause rhabdomyolyses such as trauma, an accident or an acute muscle injury. For someone who is into competitive training or has overstrained their body,  they need to understand that they need to rest well to make sure that their muscles are not traumatised.

According to you, how is one likely to get rhabdomyolysis? Can fitness and extreme workouts be termed as a common cause of it?

It is more focused on competitive training, not with mild exercises. If you have a muscle injury or a twisted ankle and even, after 48 hours or 7 days, you don't see the swelling go down you must seek a medical check. The byproduct of a torn muscle is myoglobin which causes acute kidney failure. If it goes unnoticed, it can affect your kidneys. Over-training and a poor diet can immediately make one’s body go into acute stress. You must always pay attention to recovery and rest. Even, lack of sleep, constant injuries-these are all signs of overtraining.

Are there any precautions that can be taken while doing strenuous workouts and to avoid muscle injury?

You should have a scientifically planned workout designed specifically for you by professionals. One must have 1 to 2 days of rest between each workout during the week. A lot of injuries happen because of lack of flexibility. Hence, stretching becomes an important exercise. You need to make sure that you cross-train. For instance, one day you can go to the gym and the other day you do yoga or go for a walk. When you cross-train, the body is less susceptible to get overstressed. One must eat a healthy and balanced diet when one is training hard. Your body gives you signs that you are drained out and you must listen to it promptly.

Are there any exercises in particular, which are more prone to causing this body ache and should be avoided?

Exercises that are more rigorous in nature like a plyometric workout, where the muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time are more likeable for injuries. The body is adapting to function in coordination. Exercises like skipping and jumping require a lot of mindful training. Nowadays, people have started doing functional exercises without learning the basics. Also, if one practices heavy lifting without proper cautions and if your base is not strong enough, chances to get a wounded increase. These are typical exercises in particular, which are more prone to injuries if not done with precautions and prior knowledge.

If we leave rhabdomyolysis untreated, does it start affecting other body functions as well?

Yes, Rhabdomylosis is directly related to a reduction of kidney functions. When it happens, it causes trauma to the muscles and reduces myoglobin count, a protein which is required for the growth of your muscles. When the kidney is overstrained, it can also lead to acute kidney damage. 

What advice would you give to someone with rhabdomyolysis? Besides excessive training, are there other markers that lead to this condition?

The prior advice would be to go to the right expert for this condition. Secondly, you must drink plenty of water to ensure that your kidneys are functioning well. Also, you need to get your blood tested to know the CK (Creatine Kinase) level to indicate some kind of muscle trauma. Do not to overtrain your body and do gentle exercises until the muscle is completely recovered.

Other markers apart from overtraining may be an accident or some lethal injury. Even some medication can be a prime cause leading to it. Other than that, excessive physical exertion or indulging in works that require extensive manual labour can lead to rhabdomyolysis.         

What are some common mistakes made at the gym that lead to this syndrome?

Overtraining, overloading the muscles, not resting and lifting too heavy too soon or without balanced progression. Everything needs time and muscle needs to adapt them. So if the muscles are not accommodating your fitness regime and you’re overstressing your body, the chances of you getting injured will increase.     

How can you tell the effects of a healthy, muscle-building training session from a damaging over-training session?

A healthy muscle training session will make you feel energetic post the session. It will ensure that your body is not tied up in terms of flexibility. You will be able to sleep well because not exercising is another cause of insomnia. Doing the right amount of exercise will increase your cortisol level and you will be absolutely fit. 

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