The Secret To Farah Khan Ali’s Fab Abs
I’m 47 years old, with strong abs that I’m proud of. I have never felt fitter and stronger than I do today and I truly believe that I have earned my body. I have always been very active and my childhood was filled with sports and activities like swimming, running and trekking. My parents loved the outdoors and took us on holidays to places known for their natural beauty. From the mountains and valleys of Kashmir to the dunes of Rajasthan and the beaches of Mauritius, our lives were filled with adventure. Genetically, I was lanky and continued to be so until I turned 16. I used to swim 100 laps, run eight kilometres, and wake up early to go horse riding at the Amateur Riders Club in Mumbai in the same day. All in all, my days were filled with lots of action and I think that’s what kept me out of trouble through my early years.
I was 19 when my ‘fitness journey’ began, in 1989, just after my father Sanjay Khan suffered third-degree burns in over 65 per cent of his body in a fire accident that almost claimed his life. His chances of survival were so low and the controversies that surrounded the accident were so stressful that I joined Shiamak Davar’s dance academy to vent my angst and help me cope better with the circumstances. I always had a sense of rhythm and was a good dancer, but this was the first time I was taught to use dance to channelise my emotions and express it as art. Not before long, I was picked by Shiamak to dance for his company. We used to practise for four hours a day, stretching each muscle before we broke into our routine. I realised then that my body was strong and that I could achieve anything if I willed it. I would have probably taken up jazz ballet professionally, but fate had other plans and I accompanied my father to the US to undergo further surgical treatment for his burns.
My dance training may have stopped, but what I took away from that experience was that discipline, dedication and focus are required to push one’s body to extreme limits without injuring oneself. I think that’s when I realised that fitness is more about strength, and everything I do to stay in shape should be part of
my routine rather than a habit I need to cultivate.
In my twenties and thirties, I believed that cardio and stretching was an amazing way to stay fit but, as I entered my forties, I realised that the process of ageing is not very kind and muscles tend to sag over time. A wake-up call came four years ago when I was diagnosed with borderline osteopenia a degenerative bone disease that eventually leads to osteoporosis if not taken care of. Because of my active lifestyle, I was in shock. I realised I needed to focus on strengthening my muscles now, and started weight training and Pilates to build and tone them. Two years later, when I retested myself, I was relieved to discover that my osteopenia — an irreversible condition — had not progressed and my levels had remained stable. Building muscle had helped increase bone density.
Working out is as much a part of my day as taking a shower or brushing my teeth. For me, it’s more about being healthy and mentally strong, rather than vanity. Because when you are fit you automatically look good. When you look good, you feel good and when you feel good, you are a happier person to be around because your energy is abundant and infectious.
Many young women and friends look up to me and are inspired by my dedication to staying fit. I always tell them to make fitness a journey and not the destination, because just as you cannot gain weight overnight, you cannot lose it as quickly either. Everything takes time and requires healthy habits. Just as the body is required to be active, it also needs rest and proper nutrition. Dieting and depriving one’s body is not good and can lead to severe damage in the long run; and those who are sleep-deprived can also develop many complications.
I do cheat occasionally and indulge in chocolates but I also make the effort to burn off the calories. I take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. I try to be as active as I can be and am grateful that I can go about my day without any aches and pains.
Make fitness a priority and you will never regret it. After all, we only have one body and we must treat it right!