Sucheta Pal: The Diva
Harbinger of Fun Fitness in India.
Sucheta Pal, a passionate woman who has lived her life following nothing but her zeal for dance and fitness. She had no idea just how far it was going to get her. Turning her life 180 degrees, giving up a comfortable life, this IT engineer has more than paid her dues to reach her goals.
Read on to find out exactly how a small town girl went on to become a corporate manager just to give it all up and that too, only too willingly.
Hello Sucheta, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. For our old readers and new, could you please tell us something about yourself? What are you doing these days?
Sucheta: I am teaching people how to get fitter by a very fun fitness format called Zumba. I absolutely love it because I can lose weight and get paid for it! More importantly, I am making people happy as I’m doing it.
I also have the privilege to be one of the Master Trainers in Zumba and also its Brand Ambassador here in India.
Primarily, my role is to train the trainer. If you want to become a licensed Zumba Fitness Trainer, you will have to come to my official Zumba fitness training to be able to train at a gym or a studio.
How are you juggling everything right now with your training and performances?
Sucheta: Oh! I have an extremely supportive family and a lovely husband. You can’t do it without them. We both travel a lot. Your family needs to understand that being a daughter or a wife is not your identity.
My identity is that I have a work life, social one and also a family life. It is my responsibility to balance that.
For a long time, I made work my entire life. And I completely you know…
This is when you were back in IT….?
Sucheta: No, this is now. I work a lot and it’s addictive which has made me realize that I can’t take my family for granted, especially when they support me so much. I’m on a flight every weekend. I love it but of course, I cannot do it if my family is not by my side so yeah, that’s how I balance it out. I’m pretty happy and satisfied like that.
Is it true that you have trained more than 3000 trainers?!
Sucheta: A lot more by now! However, these days, I am supporting a social cause. My partner Neha and me, we started this company called ‘Just All Heart’. We tie up with organizations like Rainbow Home who enable children from poor economic backgrounds to learn and study. Ergo, where ever we do our events, we make sure that their kids are taught Zumba and other dance forms. They also join us on stage most of the times.
These kids are so talented! We decided to set up a scholarship so that we could cover their entire costs to become a Zumba Fitness instructor.
What made you choose Zumba of all?
Sucheta: I think what made me do this, is the love for dance. I had worked in IT for 5 years.
I realized the only thing that makes me really happy in the truest form of the word, is when I dance!
That is what made me quit everything. I moved to the US in 2009; I tried out a Zumba class and I was hooked! I knew this was it!
You have to understand that in a corporate life, you often stay stressed which doesn’t keep you in the best of your health. Your body isn’t as fit as it used to be. Zumba, I saw it as a fantastic stress buster! It felt like a party! I got trained and became an instructor there; ended up working for almost 3 years and what a journey it was!
I came back to India to launch it in a bigger way around 5 years ago.
You have really gone ahead and followed your passion. How difficult was it for you to give up your job and start from scratch?
Sucheta: It was very huge and scary. Starting all over again after you have left a managerial position just to go work under someone else is humbling to say the least. Reality struck when I had to travel in local trains and buses from one corner of Mumbai to another just for my rehearsals, come back, and make calls to clients to join our classes. At that point, your ego just drops…
On top of that, I was 25 and I had to compete with 14–16-year-olds! This takes a toll on your mind. All I had was my grit.
The only thing that the helps you see it through is your determination and your family and friends. Just the fact that someone is telling you ‘You should do it!’ helps a lot!
Sucheta: My biggest challenge was myself. I always tell others, ‘Get out of your own way!’ Our minds can be the biggest hindrances or they can be the biggest motivators. I am 35 now; I had serious health issues when I was 25. I was suffering from a lot of stomach problems which in turn had affected my confidence and induced social anxiety as well. Surprisingly, these issues would disappear when I was dancing! It was the stress at work that had brought on these health issues!
I overcame these issues, eventually through help from doctors and dancing. Even now, I sometimes suffer from the anxiety attacks.
People see me perform on stage and they have no idea the amount of strength I need to get up on that stage and perform.
I am proud of myself because that has been my biggest personal accomplishment.
We are sure the readers would be interested to know what’s your day like; what you eat, what about your diet? Do you workout apart from Zumba to keep fit?
Sucheta: For me, the breakfast is the most important meal of my day, which is protein rich. I eat eggs and I have my protein shake. For my carbohydrates, I eat a slice of bread with butter of course! I have to have my fresh juice and I can’t live without it!
Throughout the day, I have a normal Indian diet. I have my dal and rice, sabzi and chicken or fish. I also love to eat apples, bananas and other fruits throughout the day.
I would eat a lot of desserts, which is extremely bad. I am trying to cut it down. I also work out which means that my body automatically rejects it. Now and then, I might have a bite just to satisfy my sweet tooth but otherwise I refrain from eating it. I never have aerated drinks either.
As for my workout, I obviously do Zumba at least thrice a week. My weekends are extremely hectic because I train for approximately 16 hours. So that does the cardio for me.
I would recommend every woman to get started on their weights training. I lift weights every day.
I do yoga as well. I meditate. In fact I will be doing Vipassana soon.
There are obviously a lot of people here who are aspiring to become just like you. What advice would you give them?
Sucheta: I would like to tell everyone who is really passionate about becoming a fitness instructor, and this comes from a personal experience, that I thought I knew it all! I became a Zumba instructor with no real experience in fitness and I realized I didn’t even know how to do a proper squat. In fact I started getting knee pains and then unfortunately so did my clients. In such cases, people end up blaming the format of the exercises. The format has been created to give you health benefits and that’s why it’s so popular and well known.
It’s you, the trainer who is the problem. So that’s the only advice I would like to give. Start studying, start learning more! Experience it more and then teach it right because ultimately we are dealing with people’s health! It is such a big responsibility. Doctors, cure but we prevent!
Since you have trained abroad as well as in India, how do you think we can improve as a fitness industry?
Sucheta: The only way to improve is to better our professional attitude here in India. As I said before, we need to keep learning and upgrading ourselves. Second is professionalism. So if you are demanding an XYZ amount from a gym, stick to your quote! But before you fight for your price, make sure you are worth it as well.
On the other hand, the payments have to be standardized in India and it can only happen if the competent trainers voice out their concerns.
That is true. One final question! Apart from the social causes that are in the pipeline, what’s your next big thing?
Sucheta: My second goal is to attach a course to every fitness event that we do.
With ‘Just All Heart’ we are reaching out to people who really are talented but do not have the means to create a career from it. That is what my focus is going to be.
The third is to become more aggressive with taking Zumba to television. I have been fortunate enough to be featured on it before. So that will be my focus; to bring Zumba to more and more people.
Thank you so much for your time and we love the work you have been doing. Your story is truly inspiring. We wish you the very best with your future plans.
Telephonic Conversation with Sucheta Pal