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Arunima Maharshi

IWB Blogger

Fitness Blogger Sheena’s Pro Tips On Why Women Shouldn’t Be Afraid Of ‘Gym Culture’

  • IWB Post
  •  October 4, 2018

Earlier this month when we spoke to the ace fitness blogger Sheena, it turned into a long conversation. Because not only did we discuss the ingredients of her fitness journey, but also sought her advice and guidance on many aspects of health and fitness.

Now, the number of queries that we had, and the concern and content-rich replies she made, left us with no option but to break the meal and serve you with two ‘fit’ platters – say no to overfeeding! So, assimilated the first one yet?

Quick recap: It started as a New Year resolution to ‘lose fat’, but her dedication and determination induced in her a passion for fitness. Sheena, 29, along with her husband, Alpha, joined gym with the same goal in mind that many of us do, but unlike the popular trend they became regulars and fell in love with their strength training regime.

And with that dose of motivation, gear up to run through this fitness Q&A now:

Heading straight to the much-debated issue ‘women should strength train or not’ – the myths you want to break on this front?

Oh, there are so many! Addressing the most popular one:

Lifting weights will make you bulky and also along those lines, weights are for men, cardio is for women OR I don’t want to build muscle, I just want some “toning” (ugh that word!). I’ve seen many trainers tell women to stick to the cross trainer and most of their workouts are done and dusted between the treadmill, cross-trainer and some kind of abs or glute exercise.


The truth is, to achieve the body that most women want, resistance training is extremely important. And, I don’t mean lifting baby weights for months on end or doing a hundred crunches every day. I mean ACTUALLY training 3-6 times a week, with constant progress, lifting weights that are somewhat challenging. Being “toned” is a combination of getting lean and having significant muscle mass. And, aesthetics aside, resistance training is crucial for good joint and bone health.

We’re all ears…

Women are more likely to suffer from osteoarthritis and other joint/bone problems as they age. Weight training or any resistance training for that matter helps strengthen those weak spots and retain LBM (lean body mass or weight that isn’t fat). Women (other than a few rare genetic exceptions) do not have the testosterone levels that men do and therefore cannot build muscle size like men can. Many extreme female bodybuilders we see on stage are likely taking PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) and the average woman lifting weights 3-6 times a week will in no way look like that.

So how does one strike the right balance?

Don’t get me wrong, some amount of cardio is important. But the benefits of resistance training outweigh cardio. So while you should go for a run or get on a treadmill/cross-trainer twice a week or so, your body will benefit from weight training when done 3-6 times a week.

#FITMAS FIT-TIP no.3 🤸 Enjoy the process. As with anything in life, if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you’re probably not going to see it through. This is the BIGGEST reason people give up on their diet or training. It’s simple, if you don’t enjoy it, you’re not going to stay consistent which means you’re not going to see the results you want and then eventually you’ll be demotivated enough to just give up. And yes of course, any diet (no matter how flexible) is going to be somewhat uncomfortable & you WILL need to sacrifice some of the stuff you love, but it doesn’t have to be so unpleasant that you don’t even want to do it in the first place. So, find a plan or dieting method that works for your lifestyle, your eating preferences and your commitment level. If you love high fat foods then keto may be great for you, if you just can’t give up your rice & bread then keto won’t be your best choice; if you want to eat a slice of pizza everyday then you need to find a more flexible diet that allows you to do that. And, if you love salads & chicken breast, then find something that’s more structured. The same goes for your training as well. If you prefer CrossFit over bodybuilding, do that; if you want to do Pilates instead of powerlifting, then do that. But whatever you decide to do, make sure you enjoy it enough to do it almost everyday to put in the work & time it needs. Sometimes it may mean taking longer to reach your goals but if you enjoy it then that also means you’ll continue progressing beyond the goals you first set.

1,268 Likes, 6 Comments – Sheenafit (@sheenafit) on Instagram: “#FITMAS FIT-TIP no.3 🤸 Enjoy the process. As with anything in life, if you don’t enjoy what you’re…”

And if you have only three days to give, do a full body routine on all three days. Having a routine is extremely important – don’t just go to the gym and do whatever workout your favourite influencer just posted. Progressive overload, or simply put, increasing stress on your muscles over time, is important to progress and grow. But most importantly, don’t forget to have fun! If it’s not fun, you’re probably not going to do it very often.

On that note, do you have any guiding points for those who wish to build a mini personal gym at home? 

Sure. If you don’t have time to go to the gym or your budget doesn’t allow for a gym membership, that’s absolutely fine. You can still train at home with a few dumbbells. You don’t need any fancy equipment – just some dumbbells ranging from 10 lbs. (maybe 15 lbs. for men) to 35 lbs. (maybe 60 lbs. for men) and a good 3-5 days dumbbell-only workout routine.

And can one alter their home and office environment to be more conducive to their fitness goals?

Regardless of how much will power a person has, it’s easier to succumb to temptation if you’re surrounded by it. I understand this can be difficult for those living with family or friends, so if you don’t have the option to remove certain foods or drinks from your home, then reduce them to the minimum quantity possible and stock up on items that work towards your goal – lean protein, veggies, nuts, seeds, fruits etc.

We didn’t change overnight. We simply decided overnight that we needed to change. @alphamadhu Get our fat loss guide @ {link in bio}

4,591 Likes, 70 Comments – Sheenafit (@sheenafit) on Instagram: “We didn’t change overnight. We simply decided overnight that we needed to change. @alphamadhu Get…”

When Alpha and I got serious about our transformations, we made it a rule that if either of us wanted to get a bag of chips or anything which was working against our collective goals, that person would have to walk alone all the way to the store to get it and finish it before they got back. This made a huge impact on what we ate and more importantly, what we didn’t eat.

Ah, smart. Also, a guiding word to instill the habit of ‘label reading’ when out for grocery shopping?

Learning how to read nutrition labels completely changed the way we shop for our groceries. Most items that are labeled as “diet friendly” are complete garbage and usually aren’t fat loss friendly at all. You’ll also notice this for items tagged “high protein” or “low calorie”.


Information helps you make informed choices when it comes to anything in life, so why not use it to your advantage when it comes to the most important thing- your health and therefore your life itself.

You are often answering and dealing with others’ odd gym experiences. Was there ever a situation where you found yourself questioning the gym culture?

In my opinion, since gyms in India (and possibly the rest of the world) are male dominant, they’re not usually very welcoming to women, and most women tend to stick to the cardio section or warm up area to do their workouts in order to feel safe or unnoticed. I’ve seen that if you’re a good looking woman, you will be checked out and if you’re overweight or out of shape, you will be judged or given the stink eye. On both levels, this is absolutely terrible behaviour because everyone, regardless of how they appear, is in the gym for ONE reason only – to look and feel better.

A big discussion that recently happened on my Instagram (glimpse below) was around women’s freedom of choice to wear something as basic as a sports bra to the gym and women’s safety in general. The responses to that really opened up a Pandora’s box of scary experiences a lot of women face in gyms on a daily basis.


‘Body fitness has nothing to do with shapes and sizes’ – your comment? 

Healthy living and barbells don’t distinguish between shapes and sizes. And regardless of how you look, you should NEVER EVER allow physical appearances to stop you from getting fit.

However, in saying that, I have to address a new trend that seems to be born from a good place but has been misconstrued to mean ‘accept your body the way it is’.

Body positivity or loving yourself DOESN’T mean accepting yourself at your worst, but instead, building yourself to your best. This could be mentally, physically or both. 💙 For a long time I convinced myself that there’s nothing wrong with being overweight and that I should accept & love my body the way it is. People come in all shapes & sizes, and I just needed to be okay with being a size 12. The problem with that sentence is, unless you’re suffering from a medical condition, it’s likely you MADE yourself into a size 12 or 14 or 20 or whatever unhealthy size you currently are. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that sounds harsh & I would never judge a person’s intelligence or character based on their size, how they look, dress etc. But, just like you would tell a smoker to quit a bad habit, it’s only fair to be as objective towards obesity. In fact, obesity is now the top leading cause of preventable deaths in the US – higher than tobacco. Obesity in India has reached epidemic proportions. And there’s nothing beautiful about diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and the long list of chronic illnesses associated with obesity. To put things in perspective, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US) categorizes BMI of 30+ as obese and 40+ as extreme or severe obesity (I’ll have a link in the comments below if you’ve never calculated your BMI – please note this may not be accurate for advanced lifters with significant muscle mass). Unfortunately today, we look at someone obese and term them overweight when they’re worse off than JUST being overweight. At my largest I had people call me “curvy” or “big boned” and that cushioned the real issue. While your size DOES NOT define you, it CAN kill you. So, while it’s great to accept the things you can’t change (like your height or where you store the majority of your fat or your bone structure or muscle insertion/shape), it’s important to take a good hard look at the things you may need to change – your diet, your lifestyle, your habits, your activity levels, your priorities, stress, sleep etc.

1,389 Likes, 18 Comments – Sheenafit (@sheenafit) on Instagram: “Body positivity or loving yourself DOESN’T mean accepting yourself at your worst, but instead,…”

Hmmm. Would you recommend some fitness brands that you use?  

For active wear: Forever21 is my go to. They have surprisingly good quality activewear at very reasonable prices. I also love some pieces from Zelocity by Zivame and H&M.

In supplements: I buy all my supplements from and the only supplements I use are whey protein, Omega3 and multivitamins. MuscleBlaze is a good Indian supplement brand and I either use that or Ultimate Nutrition.

F* thigh gaps and skinny arms! Let’s build quads & guns instead 🤘Here’s my piece of mid week advice – DON’T STARVE, SQUAT! #womenwholift #flexibledieter #losingweight #weightlifting #fitfam #flexibledieting #strengthtraining #fitness #weightlossjourney #bodybuilding #nutrition #bodypositive #bodygoals #bodypositivity #fitness #weightlossinspiration #transformation #gymrat #fitspo #girlpower #girlswholift #fitspiration #gains #instafit #goals #progress #legday #strongstrongfriends #girlswhopowerlift #quads

439 Likes, 19 Comments – Sheenafit (@sheenafit) on Instagram: “F* thigh gaps and skinny arms! Let’s build quads & guns instead 🤘Here’s my piece of mid week advice…”

I don’t know if this would count as fitness “brand” but I use MyFitnessPal to track my macros & calories! 

And lastly, tell us about the milestones you marked on your way to achieving 100 percent body positivity? 

I would be lying to myself and the world if I said I was 100% body positive. However, I have come a long way from being insecure or anxious about how I look. I think that comes from knowing that I’m giving it my all and doing everything in my power to achieve my goals. Once you do that, there’s no reason to dwell on the problem, only work your best on the solution.



First published on Feb 22, 2018.

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