Racing thRough the day
For Ayesha Billimoria, fitness training is a full-time job, so is keeping the dream of competing at the Olympics alive for fifteen years and working constantly to realise it
What no one tells you about the city that never sleeps, is that Mumbai is actually in a state of suspended slumber early in the morning. The roads are relatively empty, the loud orchestra of horns and sirens from the night before now function at decibel levels that permit the easing of frowns and getting to Arts in Motion dance studio in Bandra at 6.30 am isn’t quite as difficult as it would be at any other time of the day. That’s where athlete, fitness trainer and Adidas ambassador Ayesha Billimoria, 30, begins her Wednesday mornings. As the rest of the city rubs the sleep out of its eyes, she trains a group of 20 women to thumping music, making them do everything from planks on another’s downward dog to interesting variations of table top crunches. The exhilaration in the air is palpable, as are Billimoria’s instructive words of advice on form and motivation. And not only does she motivate those 20 or so women in the studio, she also simultaneously motivates close to 20,000 followers on Instagram to get up and work out, by posting updates, stories, live videos and pictures on her handle Fitgirl.India.
As we get into the cab at 8 am sharp after her class, heading to her home-cum-training centre in Grant Road, where she
takes personal training sessions between nine and noon, Billimoria recollects her days as a young athlete, while munching on a Yoga Bar. “I eat everything, I sometimes eat junk also because your body does crave that,” she says. She was a three-time national champion in the 400-metre sprint and it continues to be her dream to compete in the Olympics one day. A series of terrible trainers and injuries have deterred her physically over the years, but mentally she is determined to still make it.
“When I signed with Adidas, I got the confidence to get back on the track and 2018 will be my big comeback here,” she says. Gearing up to represent Adidas in the 10 km race in Berlin, she remembers how she recently completed a 10 km race in Dubai even though she was recovering from Chickugunya. When we reach her quintessentially-ParsiSouth Mumbai home, we climb up a spiral staircase, where her next student has already arrived. Billimoria clears her room, rolls out the exercise mat, creates a barbell with a bamboo stick and two sand bags; and with two blocks and a kettlebell, her very own home-gym and fitness centre is ready. While periodically eating spoonfuls of pomegranate, she traipses around the room ensuring her client has perfect form while executing the listed exercises for the day. Her bookshelf on one side of the room has a variety of reads from Murakami to Usain Bolt biographies; Wholesome Kitchen by
Pooja Dhingra sits on the top shelf alongside Diary of a Whimpy Kid. On the adjacent wall is her dressing table, with a calendar photo of Billimoria atop it, her cropped hair a blazing pink, posing in a stud farm in Pune. The table itself has her laptop hooked to speakers, the upbeat track setting the mood for the class that is underway. Billimoria finally gets some respite at 12.30 pm, after three hours of back to back home sessions. Her sister, Binaifer has picked up her two-and-ahalf year-old daughter from school, and Billimoria, exhausted but dedicated, takes a quick shower, while her niece naps in the next room. Binaifer tells us of Billimoria’s love for Crime Patrol and how she, herself once an athlete has signed up for the #100DaysOfRunning challenge with Adidas on her sister’s request. The latter joins us for lunch soon after— we’re eating Chinese sitting in a room decorated with her many medals, trophies and a poster of Dil Toh
Pagal Hai (her father is a Madhuri Dixit fan and she a huge admirer of SRK). “India is not the place to be for an athlete, unfortunately most coaches are men,” says Billimoria. She asserts the importance of people learning that running and training well is important. After lunch, she takes a one-hour nap and then gets ready to resume her fitness rituals. She heads over to Priya Darshni Park for a run at 4 pm and then to conduct training sessions for school children between
5 pm and 7 pm. With that, she finally wraps up her day.