Interview – Deepika Rao

Deepika is a friend, certified fitness trainer, and fitness nutrition specialist from Hyderabad. She grew up in Chhattisgarh and moved to Hyderabad in the early 2000’s and since then has settled here. She has a Masters Degree in Medical Microbiology and has worked in the healthcare sector since 2007. Up until recently, Deepika worked as the General Manager, Operations, for a chronic disease management company, which she then decided to move on from so she could focus her attention on fitness, training, and spending time with her 7 year old son.

Without further ado, here’s what I covered in my interview with one of Hyderabad’s newest and upcoming fitness trainers and nutrition specialists! She can be reached via her social media (links provided at the end of the interview)

When did you start training, and why?

I was introduced to the world of training when I was about 21 and it was all in fun. My friend had joined a gym and decided to quit after 2 days. I agreed to take it up, just to have something to do apart from college and hospital duties. I took to it like a fish to water. I am grateful to my first coach there, Shyam, who patiently and passionately taught me the basics and made sure I learnt the foundations right and didn’t run behind the current fad.


The love and thrill of working out stuck to me and over the next few years, and I continued in some capacity or another. Sometimes I followed the latest workout regimens like the P90X,  and sometimes, like through my pregnancy, I did some lighter and more functional workouts.

What kind of workout do you do? Do you train in the gym or have you tried other forms of exercise like CrossFit, outdoor cardio, bench workouts etc.?

I workout at home, so it’s largely floor and body weight exercises. I do love weight training and include it in my workout through dumbbells and kettlebells. I didn’t have the time to go to a gym in the last few years with the long hours I was spending at my last job and so I have slowly built my own little mini gym at home with some basic equipment. Currently, I am working at building my own garage gym with a rack as I prefer working out at my own pace.

I haven’t tried CrossFit, i.e. going to an outfit and following it day in and day out. But, I do follow the basics of it by designing and following a high intensity functional workout plan with the equipment at hand. I enjoy outdoor cardio and go for a run or a swim as part of my active recovery every week.

In your opinion, what would you say is the biggest negative aspect of youth around you who want to train and transform?

Lack of patience. Need for immediate results.

There are no shortcuts. None that would help you reach your goals without harming you and your body in the long run. Getting fit is not a temporary fad, it should be your lifestyle. You cannot and should not fall for the latest trick which claims to transform you in a week or in a month! Listen to your body, pay attention and take care of it. And, how do you do that? By eating a clean and balanced diet and by working out in any way that you find enjoyable. Whether it’s lifting heavy or dancing away in a Zumba class.

RJ NoteThis is gold right here. 

What would your advice be to youngsters who want to improve their bodies, put on muscle, and overall be fit and strong?

Make fitness a part of your lifestyle! Focus on healthy and mindful eating and include some kind of physical exercise everyday. I wouldn’t want to get into the details of how to put on muscle as each individual and their metabolism works differently and how they can gain muscle should be determined after an assessment by their fitness trainer. (Which would include a diet recall as well as the current physical condition and fitness level.)

However, to be fit and strong, you have to be consistent. This doesn’t mean you tire yourself or starve yourself out. Work with your trainers and nutrition specialists to come up with a plan for you which would help you reach your goals while making sure you are enjoying yourself. Mental fitness and strength is extremely important and plays a big role in your overall fitness journey. So, doing what you can while enjoying yourself is mandatory for reaching your goals.

Another very important thing is to work with professionals. Make sure your trainers are certified and you take diet advice from a fitness nutrition specialist, if not a registered dietitian. Despite what advice you get out there, do your own research too and please use common sense. Cross check with someone with more experience and knowledge if you aren’t sure about it, before you take any major decisions, especially with diets and supplements.

How important are supplements in your training? Does everyone have to take supplements?

Apart from the regular Calcium and multivitamins I have been taking from the beginning of my motherhood, I do not take any supplements. I am thinking of trying a plant based whole protein supplement as a back up for the times I am unable to keep a track on my diet, for reasons like travelling and also as I am slowly (very slowly for my liking) trying to turn into a vegetarian.

I do not believe everyone has to take supplements, but if you are vegetarian or a vegan, there are a few nutrients you might be missing in your regular diet. Also, if you are looking at quick muscle gain in a short period for unavoidable reasons (Can’t stress enough how important it is to go slow and do it in a healthy manner), you can talk to a nutrition specialist who can guide you further.

If you had to select three mandatory supplements for regular gym training, what would they be? What does each one do to your body?

I do not believe that any supplements are mandatory unless your diet excludes certain nutrients.

What are your goals for fitness and body? Are you going to compete?

I want to keep getting fitter and stronger. I want to keep pushing myself and learning new skills. I do not intend to compete and if I do, it would be for the thrill and fun of being part of it than to look at the numbers. My biggest competition is getting better than I am right now. So, basically I am competing almost everyday!

How has your life changed after you started working out?

Apart from the usual great benefits of exercise, with increased strength and a better looking body; my journey with fitness has helped me immensely with fighting depression.

I realized that I was battling depression 4 years ago and daily workouts became my escape from all of it. What started as an escape became an integral part of my life and has helped my fight and come out on the happier side of it.


Exercising releases endorphins, hormones which make you feel good, they take your mind off worries, they help you gain a lot of confidence. I am glad that I found and stuck to this healthy way of coping, which has definitely made me a much happier person.

What are the biggest mental battles for an everyday regular girl to go through the struggle of working out?

First of all, getting out of bed, finding time in our busy schedules. The lack of motivation, the temptations all around.

The worst mental battle is the constant comparison and need to adhere to a popular image or idea of a body or the best way to work out or the right things to eat. It’s even harder when you do not have the understanding and support from the people around you. Like I have said before, fitness is a lifestyle and modifying your lifestyle without support can be very difficult. Surround yourself with positive people who encourage, support, and motivate you.

Did you ever face any downtime or injuries? How did you recover mentally and physically?

I went through a shoulder injury right before I was going to participate in “The Devil’s circuit” which made it almost impossible for me to complete most of the obstacles there. I made the mistake of attempting some of the obstacles which I shouldn’t have. This aggravated the injury and I had to rest my shoulder for almost 3 weeks. I focused more on lower body and core exercises during this period.

I have had a chronic knee pain, which was recently diagnosed as “Jumper’s knee” which is an overuse injury. This means I cannot stress or overwork my legs anymore and I have to be extremely mindful of my workouts. It was very disappointing especially the first few days post the diagnosis. But as I learnt more about it and slowly understood how my body was reacting to it, it became better as I learnt to move forward while handling this injury. I realized a chronic condition didn’t have to be debilitating, on the other hand it gave me a better insight into working out with injuries which comes in handy when I am training my clients.

How important is diet? What do you eat? How often do you cheat?

Diet plays a very big role in your fitness journey. 70% is from diet and 30% from physical exercise. Unhealthy eating, no matter how many hours you spend in the gym is not going to help you.

I do not follow or recommend any specific diet plans except for clean and healthy eating. I do not eat white rice (as far as possible) or any processed food. I make sure my meals are well balanced with carbs, protein and healthy fats in them.

No concept of cheat days for me. Everything in balance. Holding back and completely cutting out on certain food items just to have a cheat day would end up with you overindulging yourself and losing all the good work you have put in. You like desserts? Have them. But be mindful of the quantity. You don’t have to eat the whole pastry. You can share it with someone. Or learn to make some healthy variations yourself!


I have 5 small meals in a day. Overall my meals have a lot of vegetables, whole grains/millets/brown rice, a lot of lentils and legumes and at least one fruit a day.

What qualifications/certifications do you have?

ACE Personal Fitness Trainer

ACE Fitness Nutrition Specialist

What sort of clientele do you usually target?

My current clientele consists of working professionals and couples. I have a detailed discussion and assessment before we start training to make sure we both are aware of the expectations and responsibilities involved. I follow this with my personal training and online training clients.

What advice would you give to people who believe that they can only workout in phases and get tired after a few days/weeks/months and never return to it?

Don’t try to jump in and make massive changes at the get go. Go slow, make small changes which you can keep up till they become a part of your routine. Eat healthy and enough to have the energy to workout and at the same time go with your day. Let your trainer know when you are losing focus and motivation and let them help you with a different regime to make it more interesting. Have people around you who would encourage you and stop you from falling off the wagon.

Most importantly, do something you enjoy. Fitness is not just about running on the treadmill or pumping iron at the gym. There are various ways to do it. Yoga, Swimming, Zumba, Calisthenics, and the list goes on. Explore what you would like and have fun while getting fit!

Outro

Deepika may be new on the personal training and nutrition circuit in Hyderabad, but she is someone who understands and practices sensible fitness. If you’re someone who’s looking to incorporate fitness into your lifestyle without resorting to extremes or crash courses, Deepika is the one to train and guide you. Want to start training with Deepika? you can find her social media links here:

Deepika Rao Instagram

Deepika Rao Facebook

Deepika Rao Website