By Ashima Sethi
As a rhythm cycling instructor at Absolute You, Nandini Sehgal discusses the ins and outs of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and how she inspires others to follow suit.
In recent years, Thailand’s fitness culture has undergone a tremendous transformation. Gone are the days of meal-skipping and crash diets thanks to the introduction of centres and programmes that change the way people perceive healthy living. At Absolute You, for example, members can partake in rhythm cycling, an immersive workout complete with upbeat music, lights and a cardio-centric routine that feels more like a thrill ride rather than an afternoon at the gym. It was this unique rush that drew Nandini Sehgal into this challenging and rewarding world. She gets candid about her experiences, while explaining the importance of prioritising your body.
Was fitness always one of your interests?
Honestly, no. Growing up I never understood the concept of fitness, as I joined sports in school to escape homework. During my first year at university, I began exercising to get into shape before going on a girl’s vacation, and that’s when I began noticing the positive changes. This led to a domino effect, as my skin improved, my mood got better and so on. Now, fitness has become a significant part of my daily routine.
Why did you decide to turn your passion into a profession?
I started cycling over a year ago at SoulCycle in the U.S. Afterwards I tried many studios in Bangkok when spinning was first introduced. Last year, I always found an excuse to work out whenever I got frustrated with my corporate job. I began cycling more regularly, sometimes taking two classes a day. In April, while I was contemplating quitting my job, I came across the news that Absolute You was accepting applicants for training in May. It seemed like a good idea, so I went for it.
Why did you choose to become a rhythm cycling instructor as opposed
to other types of fitness professionals?
I get to high-five sweaty strangers…just kidding! There is so much going on in my life, and that cycling room became my safe space, where each lesson provided a release. It is also a great opportunity to become a part of a community, because you get so close to your riders and build relationships with those who return to your classes. I’ve always felt like I was put on earth to make people happy— that is literally the definition of my name— so if I can make one person happy in my class, I’ve done my job.
What was the training process like?
I trained five hours per day, five days a week, for two months. I was told to participate in more than 50 classes before training to ensure I had good stamina, but I don’t think you can really prepare yourself for the exhaustion. Halfway through, I wanted to give up, but I pushed ahead, and I’m proud to say that unlike previous years, my batch of training had no quitters.
What were you taught?
We focused on form, to make sure our legs were correct and our weight was even. We learned off -the-bike concepts like nutrition, because we were expected to give people advice. We had to know first aid, as riders would ask about injuries and pain. We had to understand how to count beats and rhythm to create routines. Finally, a big part of training was actually spent soul searching, as they had us break down our walls to reveal authentic personalities that people could relate to.
What other skills are required for the job?
You have to love it! Cycling isn’t something you can just do for money. You have to be okay with talking to and connecting with strangers, and you have to be comfortable in a confined space.
Do you work as an instructor full-time?
Actually I’m a part-time instructor, teaching about seven classes a week. I work full-time in business development and marketing for a start-up called Whapow Thailand.
Is it difficult to balance two jobs?
It’s manageable, because my cycling classes are assigned around my work schedule, so I teach before and after work, and on weekends.
What are some challenges of being an instructor?
You have to keep finding ways to inspire yourself, otherwise it will get mundane. For example, I constantly work on my playlists to make sure they’re fun for both me and my riders. You also have to live up to what you’re preaching, so if I tell my riders to sleep and eat well, I need to do the same.
What are some of the benefits of joining a cycling class?
If you want to exercise in a way that doesn’t feel like exercise, then cycling is a good option. It’s a great way to challenge and surprise your body, because you’re in a room with lights and music. In only 45 minutes, you can burn up to 500 calories. Some people are conscious of exercising in a group, but the beauty of being in that room is that you’re all in it together, while still having a very individual experience.
What advice would you give to people who want to live a healthier lifestyle?
Always listen to your body, because what works for one person won’t necessarily work for the next. For example, my body doesn’t respond well to boxing, as it leaves me in too much pain. I’ve also tried veganism and it didn’t suit me. A lot of us look for quick fixes, but healthy living isn’t achieved that way. You have to be patient, as it takes a lot of trial and error before you begin to understand what your body responds to.