Nayana James has in the past represented India in the Asian and Commonwealth games. She also brought home laurels when she won a silver in the Asian Indoor Championship, and won two golds back to back in Senior Federation Cup 2017 for long jump and hurdles. She has been formally training as an athlete since she was in grade 6, and will be participating in the upcoming Olympics, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.

We were in conversation with her, let's see how inspiring one can be:

When and where did your journey of being a sportsperson begin?

I had always had an interest in sports ever since my childhood. When I was in kindergarten I used to take part in all kinds of activities and sports conducted for us. But it was only when I was in class 6 that I started training as an athlete seriously and started participating in a lot of zonal and regional athletic events with a focused mind.

Tell us about some highlights of your athletic career so far.

When I was in class 10th, I received the Junior National Award for long jump and also subsequently made a record in the same event. Although the record was later toppled, it enabled me  to perform really well in in the Under 20 Nationals. I am to this day quite proud of it! On the basis of my performance, I was selected for the Senior Federation Cup in 2017, which was my first international performance. I participated in two events - long jump and hurdles, and won gold medals in both of them. I received a bronze in Asian Track and Field long jump event, shortly followed by a silver in Asian Indoor Championship and a bronze in Asian Invitation Championship. I currently am preparing for the upcoming Olympics, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.

How important is fitness to you? How do you manage your sports career while also being an inspector?

Fitness is of course extremely important as a part of being an athlete. I joined as an Income Tax Inspector right before the Asian Games, and it was, to be honest, quite difficult to balance both work and health. But you have to do what you need to do! I used to work out in the morning, then go to work and then work out again in the evening, because I needed to be at my best for the upcoming events. For anybody starting out, they might find it difficult at first but will gradually find a balance to incorporate all important things into one single day.

If a person has just 30 minutes of spare time in a day, which high calorie burning workout should they resort to?

Rather than going to the gym and undergoing rigorous workouts, one should try adapting to an active lifestyle in general. Take stairs instead of the elevator, try walking to nearer destinations, cycle around the park instead of just sitting there. If you're not an athlete or your work doesn't require you being active, even jogging 30 minutes a day should suffice. Also you need to be a little mindful about what you're putting inside your body. Nowadays even young people are getting diagnosed with lifestyle diseases like PCOS and diabetes, which can be avoided or at least delayed if you consume clean food.

One morning fitness ritual you swear by?

I feel that hydration is important in the morning, so I drink half a litre of water as soon as I wake up. Before working out I mostly eat some dates, raisins and a green banana (a variety of banana found in Kerala, not raw banana) to provide me with the required energy. Post workout, my favourite thing to have is a big bowl of salad consisting of cucumber, carrot, beetroots etc with some fruit juice. I also eat 3-5 egg whites.

Should one workout while menstruating? Should women weightlift?

As menstruation is different for everybody, it really depends on how painful or heavy your periods are. I continue training like any normal day even when I am menstruating as I do not suffer from cramps or any kind of pain. If you are someone who has intense cramps then I would suggest not working out.

Women should definitely weight lift because resistance training helps develop muscle and that is good for your overall health. You shouldn't worry about getting bulky, because unless you take steroids or some additional supplement the chances of that happening are unlikely.

Do you believe in the 250 minutes theory; ie, one should workout for 250 minutes in a week?

I definitely do. In fact, I feel that one should exercise everyday in a week if possible, whenever they have the time. 35 to 40 minutes of workout in a day should keep any person fit and healthy if they're consuming wholesome foods.

Have you tried any fad diets on the net? (GM, IF, Keto) Has it worked? Should one try them?

I have never tried any of these diets and I don't think I would recommend it to anybody else. Simply because it is not just the duration of the diet but your whole life that needs to be considered while you are making a change to be healthy. Any change that you make is not going to be fruitful if you do not sustain it for a longer period of time. Just avoid very greasy and fatty foods, work out a little bit everyday, and drink a lot of water - you are good to go!

How seriously should one take the weighing scale? Should the measuring tape or the scale be the correct marker for fitness progress?

The first goal should be to determine what you actually want from working out - is it being healthy, being fit, losing weight or slimming down? If your BMI suggests that you are overweight, then your goal should be shedding off the extra kilos. If your weight is fine but your body needs a little toning, then you should rely more on the measuring tape. If you're happy with both, you might as well want to workout for developing muscle to improve your metabolism. You can also not entirely rely on any of these mediums, because the scale or the tape will not show your body fat percentage, or your muscle mass or your stamina. Being happy and feeling energetic should be your markers.

How often do you have cheat days?

Personally I think that the hardships that go into following a diet should not be wasted by cheating. Atleast till you achieve your desired goal, try not to falter too much from your path. After that you might have a cheat day at regular intervals.

What to wear while working out? Activewear essentials in your closet you can't do without.

You should choose whatever you feel comfortable in. My staple activewear would be a tank top and tights. I also like to go for pullovers that have full sleeves. You perform better and lose weight faster when you wear clothes that make you feel good and enhance your workout.