When her friends went for a movie or went out to hang out, she spent all her spare time workingout at home. No surprise then that eventually she crafted a niche in the fitness space by becoming India’s leading fitness coach. Meet Deanne Panday, a fitness enthusiast to the core, who has trained ‘Miss India’s and also helped Bollywood’s star heroines stay in shape.
In an elaborate tete-e-tete with Tathaastu Magazine, Deanne shared her story of being a fitness coach, a health champion, multitask-er yet staying cool as cucumber, one who never let stress get the better of her!
Let’s read her story –
The initial years…the story of an illustrious journey takes shape
At the age of 11 or 12, all my friends would get their spare time and go down and play or watch movie or meet in a park. Contrarily, all my spare time was spent doing the 90 minutes workouts at home. That was my first step towards fitness. Soon at the age of 16 among my friends I was the only one to join gyms. There were no women other than me in the gyms. In a year or two, I got into yoga. Initially, people used to tell me that yoga is for old people, but I found that yoga made me feel really good and as I was always ahead of my time when it came to fitness, I continued to learn yoga.
Before I got married I used to workout a lot. I was passionate about fitness and used to go to the gyms. At that time in Bombay, fit bodies were rare. It was not common for girls of young age to workout. There were not many gyms also. Only one gym was there in Bandra called Ten Health Spa and I was a regular there. When staying in Delhi I had to join the gym of a 5star hotel for workouts as at that time only 5 star hotels of the city had gyms. So I did a summer job and saved up money for the gym membership. I got noticed for my well toned body and magazines kept asking me to write on fitness. That’s how my journey began.
I did it for many years and whatever I experienced on stretching, or during warm-up, I used to write it down. Eventually a leading Indian Magazine hired me to write for a page called ‘GYM & TONIC’. I used to write an article every month. This started six years before my marriage when I was 20. Soon I was writing on fitness for various magazines and publications.
Making fitness a career…taking bold moves
Not everybody knows this; my father was a very big advertising guy and it was always the dream of my father to see at least one of his six children, become an artist or venture into the creative field. So because of my father I perused my college degree in commercial art and interior designing.
But when I got a break in writing, a couple of years later, it was about fitness I wrote. Besides, I was deeply passionate about fitness and it just made me feel really good. I always knew it is not about a good body but how one felt. For me, I felt so good about myself that I decided ‘yes! That’s it’. This is what I want to do and went ahead to make it a career. That’s when my life changed.
Of course, I continued to write for publications and did research. Soon people started asking me for advice on workouts because it was very rare at that time. One gym in Bandra, may be one in town. After marriage when my children were 2 and 4 years old, I decided to take my career more seriously. So I saved up some money from my writing assignments and also from the little bit of modeling I did earlier, and made a trip to Australia to do a two week short term course. My husband and mom in law and my mom managed the kids while I was away.
I remember the first day that I entered the class I couldn’t understand a thing that the teacher was saying. It was all about the actual fitness language – nutrition, supplements etc! This made me realize that I need to prolong my stay and study more deeply. Two weeks went into four months, and it was the best thing I did in my life, I realize when I look back.
The big break…..training Miss India contestants….
When I came back, fitness experts were an alien idea in India. But there I was a fitness expert who has studied internationally. So the word went around that ‘Deanne has done this interesting course in Australia’ and soon I got a call to train the Miss India contestants.
Interestingly, I also got trained as a personal trainer, without knowing that I will get into personal training. Just when I was thinking that I will only write from home and not take up a job till my kids are older, I landed into the Miss India training thing which was an overwhelming experience. It was a 30 days training with two hours a day schedule. I used to go, train the contestants and come happily back to my kids.
But after 30 days of Miss India contest, things changed for me. I was the first to introduce weight training for contestants to get their bodies toned and this gave my career a big boost and celebrities and others approached me to be their personal trainer. But I wanted to be home for my kids who were in play school then. So I started with just one client, a friend who wanted to lose weight and it worked so well that people started calling her Miss India after a couple of months. Slowly but steadily my career bloomed. Once my kids went to school full time, I started accommodating 3-4 clients and as they got busy with school and got their own friends, I took up fitness as a full time career.
Initiator of many first of its kind projects………thinking out of the box
It’s been 21 years now since I am into a full time career. I have tried a lot of things over the years. Once, I made a trip to Brazil with Bollywood actress Bipasha Basu, whom I was training her for a movie. In Brazil I was fascinated by the workout gears and put it in my bucket list to import Brazilian workout gear to India. I was the first to introduce such cool and trendy fitness gear in India and it received high acclaims. I did it for 5-6 years and it did really well. But I eventually shut the business due to sudden rise in import duty. Also the workout gears became very expensive and it was tough selling each piece.
Next was a gym. I wanted a personal training studio and it took me two years to get what I wanted. One day I stumbled on a three storied building, with a huge terrace. I took that and converted the terrace into a yoga studio, one floor into spa, one into gym, and another into clinics for physiotherapists and nutritionists. It was my dream child and it took me two and a half year to put it in shape. I named it Play – because though we all play as children we forget it once we are adults. I made the place very colorful and kept all high end accessories. I started yoga classes, dance classes, bought bio-mechanic machines from HOIST. I was the first in India to buy these machines. However, I had to shut it down as cost increased exponentially. After that I took one year sabbatical. However during this one year I never stopped educating people and continued to give talks at different seminars, held both home and abroad.
Eventually someone approached me to write a book on wellness and I was very excited to do that but wanted to write something that would be worth reading, something away from the run of the mill stuff.
I was always very composed and happy and dealt with issues in a very calm way. But over the years, I had come across clients who had a lot of stress from relationship issues, problems with workers or other numerous challenges. I saw people dealing with stress every day of their lives. I was often asked the secret behind my perpetual state of happiness and calm. My secret was the long stints with health and fitness which made me a very calm and happy person, made me eat healthy, do things I love, know how to deal with issues and relationships in a very calm way. Reflecting on these thoughts, I decided to write a book on stress and connect it to fitness.
Today, wellness destinations like spas detox centers, resorts and retreats, invite me to visit their places and give feedback, and do some social media promotions for them. I started this three years ago and love doing it as I like to travel and these destinations are about health and wellness.
Author of three books……writing things for educating people in true sense
My first book – I Am Not Stressed – was a national best seller within a month and did really well. Then I wrote the second book – Shut Up and Train – for fitness enthusiasts and trainers, people who seriously want to know about fitness. It’s a guide for men and women and has all the possible knowledge on fitness as a topic.
My third book is now out for preorders on Amazon and will be in book stores all over India from November 23. It’s my life’s work and deals with wellness in a broader spectrum. Presently, I am very excited about my third book which is being published by Penguin House.
Moreover, I also write blogs, and every Saturday, I release a blog on my website, www.deannepanday.com. During the lockdown, I tried to motivate people as most are going through a lot in today’s times. With gyms closed, I shared some signature workouts – like the couch potato workout, back pack workout, workout with socks, towel, bottles, accessories, using the wall – on Instagram. My message to people was that even if you don’t have gym, or trainers, you can still do your exercises with the everyday items. It was my attempt to motivate and cheer people up.
Interestingly, in between my first and second book, I decided to be a health coach. It was an unheard of concept in India at that time, but I had done a course on health coaching in New York which made me aware that fitness has a broader spectrum and is much more than going to gym and eating healthy food. Fitness is about what you are eating, breathing, living, teaching, walking, talking and preaching in life. As a fitness excerpt, I always advocate for eating healthy, keeping a positive state of mind, doing yoga and meditation. I conducted workshops with corporate houses where I spoke on topics on wellness and did motivational talks to educate people on wellness and fitness.
Top five fitness tips for today’s times
Everybody is different, do what suits you, don’t try to ape someone else
Stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water
I don’t believe in diets, they don’t work, eat what suits you, make it healthy and balanced, eat in small portions with lots of vegetables and fruits
Positive mind, positive speaking and actions are important
Relationships are important
Her secret regime for fitness
My regime depends on factors like daily schedule, travel plans etc. There is no set routine. During winter I turn towards yoga, otherwise I am a very big gym person. When on a beach, I do not go to gym, but make most of the beach by workingout on the beach or by beach walking. While in jungles, I do forest bathing, walks and trekking. It all depends on where I am. While abroad, like in New York, I do a lot of walking in the parks and try different classes. Though it varies with time and location, my combination of yoga and weights is something I have been doing for years and something I will never give up.
I want to open a holistic fitness and wellness studio with yoga and meditation. It would be an open and free studio, eco friendly made of sustainable materials, like solar energy for lights.
I take each day as it comes, I do not stress myself out and only do things that interests me. But, when I take up something I give my hundred percent. Also I do one project at a time.