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Woman of steel

In 2016, Nanita Maharjan made the headlines; she became the first Nepali woman to win a bronze medal in World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Federation (WBPF) Championship.  Rojina Adhikari interviews the real-life wonder woman to find out about her journey and more.

Nanita Maharjan weighs over 64 kgs, mostly in muscle. She can give a complex to most guys with her well toned muscular arms, abs and legs. Besides being a bodybuilder, she is a homemaker.

“Being a wife and mother, I have many duties to fulfil. I feel that women have great multitasking abilities and household chores should not be an excuse to not pursue our dreams,” she opines.

Maharjan grew up in a joint family of 13 members. She has been an athlete since childhood and represented her school in many district level volleyball competitions. During her early teens, she stepped into her father’s tailoring business, even though she aspired to become a lawyer. “I worked there as a normal employee. My work was constantly monitored and evaluated. I would get paid according to my performance.” she recalls.

In 2008 she completed her Bachelors. Right after graduation, her family wanted her to settle down. At the time, she was in a long-term relationship with Rujan Bajracharya (now her husband). It took some effort to convince her family but all’s well that ends well and she is a happily married woman now.

The turning point

In 2009, Maharjan gave birth to a healthy baby boy but she encountered many health problems such as a migraine, back and knee pain. After some months of rest, her husband and in-laws encouraged her to join a fitness centre to get back in shape.  Maharjan consistently worked out for three years. The first year she did aerobics and Zumba only. From the second year she began weight training.

Having witnessed her determination, her coach Rupesh Shahi advised her to participate in the first Nepali female fitness competition organised by Nepal Body Building Association. “I gave my 100% during workouts and the change in my body was visible,” Maharjan states.

Maharjan started lifting weights  up to 140 kgs. Initially, she exercised for two hours a day but for the competition, she would work out for at least six hours; three hours in the morning and three hours in the evening, followed by a strict diet.

“Initially I was skeptical as bodybuilding is very tough, especially for women. But my husband and family gave me the motivation and made it possible for me,” she shares.

WBFF Championship

In September 2016, Maharjan entered the national female fitness competition and emerged a winner.  This gave her the opportunity to participate in WBPF Championship in Thailand.

“When I arrived at the competition, I became nervous looking at my competitors from different parts of the world. I felt I lacked many things. They had been training for many years and I, on the other hand, was still a rookie. I took a deep breath gathered all my strength and gave my best shot,” she explains.

She went onto become the first Nepali woman to bring home a bronze medal from an international bodybuilding championship.

“After winning the medal, I realised physical fitness is a key to success and women shouldn’t limit themselves,” she shares. She is soon planning to open her own fitness centre in Kritipur.

Talking about the current scenario for bodybuilders in Nepal, Maharjan states that the sector is lagging behind. “There almost no support from the government. Athletes are unable to get any institutional guidance, despite the presence of organisations like Kathmandu Bodybuilding Association. Besides, bodybuilding is expensive. It is hard to maintain a proper diet plan if you are not financially strong,” she concludes.

ONE MINUTE WITH NANITA

What was the biggest challenge for you?
It was definitely the strict diet during the competition. Controlling the cravings for hot and spicy dishes and having to eat boiled food was very difficult.  Whenever I smelled meat in the kitchen, I would always get tempted to cheat.

What is your training schedule like?
Three hours, morning and evening each day.

The secret to a healthy body
It’s very simple— eating healthy, drinking lots of water and doing proper exercise.

Who are some of the bodybuilding athletes that you look up to?
Rupesh Shahi, my trainer.