Indian women in sports are kicking ass left, right and center. Sadly, their victories are highlighted only during a sports event like the Olympics or the World Cups (or if Shah Rukh Khan does a movie where he teaches them hockey). Our country has produced a snowboarder and most of us don’t even know that! That’s why, meet Nimisha Popatia, an NRI who lives in Malibu, California. She’s India’s first female snowboarder who has done helicopter snowboarding in places like the Himalayas, Alaska, Chile and Canada. She’s not just a snowboarder though, Nimisha is also a cyclist and in a fun chat with us she revealed how she manages to do all of this and much more!
I didn’t know this initially, but I was born with adventure in my DNA. When I was a little girl I only liked to play with boys, because I was so strong and fast. As a child in India, I would often get in trouble for playing and competing with boys as this was not socially acceptable. I loved playing cricket and riding bicycles despite the social norms that dictate girls shouldn’t do these things. But I had my private collection of Barbies as well.
I come from a very small town called Porbander, Gujarat, Porbander is the kind of city where everyone knows each other’s first and last names. When I was 14, I would drive an Ambassador car and by 15 I learned to ride motorcycles. I was constantly ridiculed for this, but I think it was the trailblazer in me that kept me strong. Now, that I am older and wiser I still use this trait to be my own person and pursue any dream and achieve any goal I have.
My biggest adventure began when I was 34 and met my husband. We bonded because we are both trailblazers and pioneers. He is the founder of Bally’s Total Fitness and has 450 gyms all over the world. Apart from that, he’s also a world class snowboarder. He introduced me to a whole new level of training. I had never snowboarded before and this is where the real adventure began for me. My introduction began with a crash course in private snow boarding lessons; 14 days straight and 4 hours a days. It was hard to survive in the beginning, but I got stronger and started to enjoy the rush of the whole experience. With his support and my determination, I became better with time. I am truly blessed for this experience; it would have never happened if not for him. I train year round and keep myself in my best shape. We snow board 100 days a year including a couple weeks of helicopter snow boarding. Snowboarding is a key part of my life. When I return from my helicopter trips and My friends always ask me “Did you survive?” I simply tell them, “I thrived!”
My life changed in 2011 when I met my husband. Everything aligned perfectly and my life changed for the better. I found my soulmate and discovered the athlete that was in me. I was carrying an extra 30 pounds of weight that I lost once I met him and started training with him. The secret I tell everyone is to “date my husband” if you want to lose weight. In the beginning it was hard, but it was his push that brought me to the level of fitness I am at today and enables me to compete at the level I do. He has taught me to live strong and healthy. His saying is, “as a woman gets older the only thing that will set her apart from others is how physically fit she is.” It is really true as now that I’m approaching 40 I have never in my life every felt so good and strong . I hope to inspire others along the way.
A normal day for me is very busy. Workouts have become my work and profession. I wake up between 7 to 8:30, I have a Laird super-food creamer and coffee in the morning for energy without eating any food. I bike 7 days a week and include 90 minutes of lifting 90 Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I live in Malibu, so there are great mountain/bike trails close to the house. I do a lot of mountain biking. Regarding my eating habits; I eat two meals a day, lunch and dinner. I call my Sundays “treat day” as I eat what I craved during the week. After working out I do 3 cycles of sauna and ice therapy. This helps me with recovery. I am usually done working out around 4 pm each day. I usually cook dinner afterwards or check out local restaurants and by 9pm my lights are out ready for the next morning of working out. When I travel I usually stay where there is a gym and spin for 90 min, so I never really miss a day of working out. It is the consistency that pays off.
You need to keep up with flexibility and endurance, along with a strong mental attitude. Being motivated and goal oriented along with believing in yourself that you can achieve your goals is important. As they say, “Rome was not built in a day.” You have to be consistent and ready to take on the challenge, once you put your mind to it you can achieve it. Eating right and getting proper nutrition is also a must.
Yes many times, especially when I was 15000 ft up on Himalayas. The helicopter couldn’t land and so it was just stuck the air. I had to come out of the helicopter in specific 20 degree angle and snowboard down. It was really difficult, but the adrenaline rush was out of this world. I just had to tell myself to NOT let fear hold me back. I remember one time we had a landing that was not so great. The helicopter was on the front two tips while the drop should be straight down; if I’d slip I would just slide down the mountain. I literally had to hold my guide’s feet. I didn’t think I would make it back alive that day. That was the last run of 17 that day, and although a very scary landing it was the most magical run ever. Sometimes we can’t let fear stop us from trying something new or having adventures in life. I know this may sound crazy but my best runs are always when I am scared to death. So don’t let fear stop you from having fun!
Despite being often put in secondary categories, I would say woman have come far in male dominated world. For example, Sakshi Malik became the first woman wrestler from India to win a medal in the Olympics and PV Sindu earned a silver medal in Olympics for tennis . And lets not forget Ishita Malaviya the first female surfer in India! I would add my name to the list as the first Indian woman helicopter snowboarder! We have already made our name in a man’s world.
On many occasions women have a certain level of endurance that can withstand more pain. At the end we have to understand it’s a mindset and artificial mental barriers that we grow up with that say a woman is “not supposed to do this or that” especially in Indian culture. The world is changing and it all starts with attitude. If you give a man enough competition they will have to respect you. Let’s support each. We got this. We can show there is new sheriff in town and bring it on! We are ready to take any challenge!