‘Have learned all my exercises from Milind; he makes me do pushups and planks’: Usha Soman

Milind Soman’s dedication to fitness needs no retelling. But, even his 83-year-old mother, Usha Soman, is an inspiration to many. Usha, who is fond of trekking, holds the record for the oldest woman to complete the Sandakphu Phalut trek in the Himalayas at the age of 81. Besides that, she has also run a marathon – barefoot in a sari – in her late 70s. And much to everyone’s surprise, she recently even tried her hand at cycling – after nearly 25 years!

In an exclusive interaction, she spilled some beans on her fitness routinelessons she has learned from her son, and what’s next on her agenda.

The first thought that comes to your mind when you think about fitnessā€¦

I want to be independent when it comes to my functionality as long as I live. The mere thought ‘I want to be fit’ inspires me to be fit.

Usha Soman talks fitness and more (Source: PR Handout)

Tell us about your early life.

I grew up in a typical middle-class family and had a normal childhood. We didn’t travel during the holidays. Instead, I read books and did arts and crafts. I wanted to become a doctor, and when I started college, I became a science student. However, I eventually chose to do B.Sc instead and went on to do M.sc in nutrition. After getting married, I worked abroad in clinical biochemistry at a general hospital. After moving back to India, I started teaching clinical biochemistry at Wilson College. I retired from teaching in 1996. I always wanted to travel, so I traveled within India and internationally before the pandemic.

I discovered trekking after retirement. Trekking is a more vigorous form of hiking and lasts for more than a day.

How has your fitness routine changed in all these years?

I was athletic throughout most of my childhood. I was sporty in school, but my activity decreased after graduation. Now, I am very active because of my son. Every year, he does the Pinkathon, which initially inspired me to stay fit. I don’t run, but people assume I do because I once ran with Milind for fun, and that video went viral. That made me famous (laughs).

I go for a walk early in the morning for about five kilometers. Then I come back home and do all the chores. I cook all by myself. Then I watch some television. I love to read, so I do that.

What’s your diet like?

I eat to live, not live to eat, which keeps me healthy.

Tell us about your association with GetSetUp?

I wasn’t aware that a platform like GetSetUp is there for older people like me. It was only when Anita, their program manager, reached out to me that I came to know about the wonderful community. She asked if I would host a class where I share my life and fitness journey with others who are also older adults, to encourage them and help them get inspired. When I checked their classes, I found so much variety in forms of exercises specially designed for older adults, which is fascinating.

milind Milind Soman’s mother Usha shares why it is important to be active (Source: PR Handout)

What do you lacks in today’s generation when it comes to fitness?

First of all, believe that you can. Don’t start any exercise with ‘I cannot’. At least try it. You may or may not be able to do it, but try. Walking is the most straightforward exercise, so start with walking. Then you can go on for push-ups and sports. Start slowly and build up. But the most important thing is, whatever you do, make sure you are doing it every day without fail, even if it is for five minutes. That is very important.

What are you currently training for?

An ultra run at Shivaji Park every year usually takes place on August 15. I run 50 kilometers there.

Milind says he learns a lot from you. Is there something you have learned from him?

I have learned all my exercises from my son. He was the one who made me do pushups and planks. So I wouldn’t have done that if it wasn’t for my son.

Why should people, especially women, take to fitness early?

Exercise has no age, staying fit is important for everyone. Better start a routine early on than picking up a new interest when your body demands it.

How can people in the family and friends motivate older people to stay active and workout?

Working out together has been a lot of fun for me, Milind and Ankita. I would say do it with your parents and try to understand their challenges. Introducing them to peer groups like GetSetUp where one can take up a challenge or have an accountability partner is also a good way of introducing them to a fitness routine. Working out heavily is not something that makes you fit suddenly. Start slow and build your strength. For women, even house chores add strength to an existing fitness regime.

What’s next for you?

I like to learn new things. Anything that I come across, like craft or any new exercise. I just want to keep learning. That is my passion, to learn new things. Recently I have been playing the game, Wordle with my family. We have a daily competition to see who solves it first.

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