Addicted to working out, fitness entrepreneur Urmi Kothari says that what you do in the gym, almost always shows outside of it

Urmi Kothari’s Instagram page is a powerful testament to the versatility and power of the human body.

Videos of pistol squats with a club, deep stretches and handstand kick-ups rub shoulders with photographs of yoga poses, barbell squats and pull-ups. And the name of her Mumbai-based fitness studio, Kinetic Living, is an extension of this deep love for movement. “A really good mentor once told me that I was such a kinetic person,” says Kothari, who was in the city recently to conduct a workshop at The Quad.

In person, Kothari is lithe and toned with the body of someone who lifts heavy and moves well, “My body has changed so much in the last five to six years.” You see it in action in all her videos, including the 2016 Nike’s viral ‘Da da ding’ commercial that also features squash player, Joshna Chinappa, hockey player Rani Rampal, surfer Ishita Malviya, pilates instructor Namrata Purohit and actress Deepika Padukone among others.

Over a cup of filter coffee — no sugar, almond milk — she shares the story of her tryst with fitness. It was a serendipitous decision in her teens that really set the ball rolling, she says. “A good friend from school wanted to play basketball and asked me to come along,” says Kothari. And though it happened, by chance, she was soon hooked. “I discovered that I really enjoyed pushing myself physically and yes, I was challenged mentally too,” says Kothari, who continued playing the sport long after her friend moved to the US and stopped.

Lift heavy, move well

She played through school and junior college, come rain or shine, through examinations, projects and tests. “I would go and play two hours every day, even miss family outings because I wanted to play my game,” she grins. It helped that her parents were supportive, she says. And yes, she started doing better at school because of her game.

She discovered other forms of movement, along the way — dance, kickboxing, the gym — and realised that, “she could not stop”. Then there was the added incentive of a better body. “I was a chubby kid. Never obese but on the heavier side, “ she says, recalling that by the time she left Mumbai to pursue an MBA, “she had a waist of 26 inches and was the fittest she had ever been. I realised that I was addicted to working out”.

A different life

Armed with a business degree, she started working in the corporate sector but didn’t really fit in there.

So she quit and went to Kerala to join the Daksha Sheth Dance Company, a contemporary Indian dance company. It was a huge change, one that did raise many an eyebrow.

But she persevered, living in that quiet village away from all that was familiar for three years: learning new skills like kalaripayattu, yoga and Kathak, travelling all over the world with the troupe to perform. Athletic though she already was, her stint in Kerala also taught her awareness, posture and using her breath, she says. More importantly, “It opened me up; I learnt a lot about life there.”

She came back to Mumbai in 2012, with a changed outlook towards fitness: it was no longer just about movement but about mindfulness, happiness and inner peace.

She went on to acquire multiple fitness certifications — her LinkedIn page throws up at least 10 — including ones in personal training, kettle-bell training, pilates, marathon training and functional training. “I developed the confidence to coach,” says Kothari, who started her brand around then. Kinetic Living has an integrated approach towards fitness and wellness that is very customised, niche and thought through, she says, adding that she firmly believes, “whether it is fitness, work or food, you have to be aware of what you are doing.”

And while her core philosophy stays the same, her approach towards nutrition and fitness keeps evolving. “As you progress, so does your body,” says Kothari, who constantly challenges herself by learning new activities and fine-tuning her nutrition. She firmly believes that what you do in the gym, almost always shows outside of it. “The awareness quotient you develop along with the physical quotients, will make you happier.”

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