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From hospitality professional to Instagram’s latest fitness sensation, Puneet Rao has become the talk of the town. He talks to us about his Insta-live transformation sessions.

Puneet Rao

Tell us about this 45-day Insta challenge that has become so popular, especially in this lockdown period. 

Puneet Rao: When the pandemic happened, my studio closed. I realised that I would not be meeting people to train them daily. Immediately, I turned on my laptop and phone and went on Instagram. I posted about a 21-day workout programme on Instagram Live, the same day the lockdown was announced. I was possibly the first person to start a workout programme online during that time so I managed to help thousands of people transform their life and their mind and body after that. 

After 21 days, I increased it to 30 days and then 45 days. Now, we’re doing a 60-day challenge. I make sure I talk about fitness and nutrition in the simplest terms possible to make it relatable. That’s how we’ve built a community on Instagram, around fitness. 

Tell us about this epic journey of transformation. A change of profession, a change in body image. From a hospitality professional to a fitness guru.

Puneet Rao: I have to say that I loved what I did in the hotels; I was a front desk supervisor and enjoyed communicating with people. But in hotels, sometimes you have to work three shifts, and these shifts keep changing. It hampered my sleep schedule, but I never missed out my gym sessions. I realised that beyond working, I was getting good at motivating and inspiring colleagues around me to get fit. I started to learn more about fitness and spent a couple of hours daily reading it, and also got myself a fitness certification. 

I started training two clients, and my first income as a fitness instructor was Rs 2,800. I didn’t care much for the money at that time; I just loved what I did. I decided to take on a few clients, and I was already married by then. As you know, it’s tough for a married man to jump careers, because I had to take care of my family. My wife and my mom supported my decision to switch careers, and here I am, in an entirely new career.  

Puneet Rao

What advice do you have for someone who wants to undergo a personal transformation? 

Puneet Rao: It is always a good option to opt for a personal training transformation. In short, you are more disciplined with your coach in front of you, looking at you and supervising your form. It also helps you stay on track and helps achieve that transformation.

What are some of the mistakes that people make during their fitness transformation? 

Puneet Rao: The first thing is that people find quick fixes. We all live in a world of instant gratification. That’s not the approach. You can’t build muscles faster and get slim quicker. Do one step at a time. Master your basics and then progress. 

 The next thing is protein. People think that protein is everything in life when it comes to fat loss, but it is not. If you want to burn fat, it is about calorie deficit. If you want to build muscle, surely you need protein, but you need to train equally hard and eat your carbs too. The answer does not only lie in that box of protein, contrary to what many out there believe. These are the two main mistakes that people commit.

Puneet Rao

How can one integrate fitness to be part of a hectic lifestyle? 

Puneet Rao: What you start your fitness journey, you don’t need to start with long workouts; start slow. I would say walk, then start running, perhaps even dance a bit. Then you can add some basic lower body and upper body workouts. It will take no more than 15-20 minutes of your day. Add some yoga routines to your day. It helps a lot. Once you see small changes in your body, you will want to make more time. You will see yourself getting better and more confident. Eventually, you will add those squats and pushups.

Puneet Rao 

Tell us about a regime that has worked for you?

I will start by talking about sleep. I want everyone to know that sleep is the most important part of our life. It will transform you and help you get stronger, thereby to burn fat, it will help you recover. Then, start your day by drinking a lot of water. And in general, drink a lot of water. I like to meditate too. I started with five minutes daily. Then I progressed, and now I meditate every single morning for 20 minutes. It helps me stay calm and be productive in whatever I do. 

Then, I train people online, followed by my training. Then I learn a bit; I sit down with my books. I always make sure I update my skills. I spend time with my family because this is extremely important and helps you stay sane. I have a one-year-old daughter who motivates me and inspires me. 

If you were to recommend a fitness regime in 100 words, what would it be?

I would repeat, sleep enough. Sleep is recovery. Discipline is more important than motivation. Meditate, even if it is for just five minutes a day. Practise slow breathing in one spot. For five minutes, sit in one place, keep your back upright, chest up, look straight, close your eyes and do breathe in breathe out routine. Make sure your first meal is nutritious and healthy. And finally, keep your body moving and active, in spite of a busy schedule, try and fit in 45 minutes at least to work out. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a fitness journey? 

Just start! Don’t think about that one day, when you will start.

Puneet Rao

The biggest hurdle that you have come across in your fitness journey and how you overcame it?

This pandemic has been one of the biggest hurdles in my life. Before this, I was always thinking about my progress. Thanks to the pandemic, everything shut. I don’t have access to my studio, but I still have to pay rent and salaries. It is rough right now. I don’t know what to do right now, but I am glad to have inspired people to work out. You too can get better and stronger by working out at home.  

Any apps that you would recommend to fitness enthusiasts?

I recommend HealthifyMe and MyFitnessPal if you want to track calories or what you are eating. For training, I would say don’t depend on apps, have a good coach. I think the Nike app is also good if you want some decent basic workouts every day.

All images: Courtesy Puneet Rao/Instagram

Riaan George

Riaan J. George is a luxury journalist and blogger based between Mumbai, India and Colombo, Sri Lanka. He has also worked for several leading luxury publications including L’Officiel India, Eat Stay Love, Blackbook India and India Traveller. He is passionate about covering beats like luxury trends, grooming, men’s fashion, auto, hospitality and aviation.