Almost every weekend there are beaming pictures of me in Facebook with my running group – Runbugs. My non-running friends look at these and think that I am some super-fit elite runner.
I am by no means an elite runner, just an average one, and “super fit”, is really stretching it. Though I must admit I do not try very hard to dispel these myths!
But I am definitely in much better shape today than I was even a decade back. I am 6’ 2” and today I weigh 81 Kg with a body fat of 18%, can run half marathons and dead lift 225 lbs and, most importantly, I am a non-smoker. Even two years back I was packing 10 kilos more, my knee used to hurt just climbing stairs, running even a km non-stop was out of the question and I was smoking a pack a day.
So, what changed?
Before giving out my secrets, a bit of background… I was never very athletic as a student, more of the nerdy types. But I was thin – super thin. Then as my career as a super hero (a.k.a. technie) started, this super-thin person became thin, then graduated to“healthy” (Indian euphemism for fatt-ish) . Finally, when I was living abroad and my “balanced” diet meant equally dividing my time between the local Italian and Chinese takeaways, I officially progressed to becoming rotund and my bong genes expressed themselves in full glory – my potbelly was truly in place and I had arrived in life.
Coming to India, starting my own business, getting married and having a kid, meant life was completely frenetic, hectic and a mad never-ending to-do list. Fitness was a “good to have” and giving up smoking was something that could wait for the next New Year resolution.
So, what changed?
Ask any fitness “guru” — and god knows there are enough and more of them around – and they will tell you in a long convoluted sort of way that there are 3 keys steps to fitness: food, exercise and rest. If you ask them to elaborate that is when things get interesting. For example, some will swear (while desperately sucking in their tummy), that lime is all you need to blast away the belly fat and an hour’s morning walk is all the exercise that a human body should endure. The neighbourhood laughter club is also vociferously recommended. And don’t forgot breathing properly, with your stomach (whatever happened to using our lungs, I wonder!?). Of course, none of these actually make you any fitter or thinner…
So, what changed !!?
I discovered that it is indeed true that all that there is to fitness is: Food, exercise and rest.
But let me elaborate below what my interpretation of these 3 words mean.
Eating: “You cannot outrun a bad diet”. Though I wish this was not true, but unfortunately this axiom is like Gravity – whether you like it or not, you have to accept it. I switched to good wholesome home cooked food (no fancy diets) – thanks largely to my wife. It means low carb, high-protein, low sugar diet. A typical weekday looks like eggs and fruits in the morning, roti – sabzi-curd-salad for lunch and a chicken stew for dinner. Weekends have some scope for partying, though I try not to binge drink these days and pass it off as research into fluid dynamics.
Smoking: This is the biggie. If I need to pick one thing which had the most profound impact – it is giving up smoking. Thing is, all smokers want to give up smoking but not just right now. I was like that but two things made me take the plunge. The first is distance running. A few months back I had a prolonged bout of smoker’s cough and sore throat and I tried running with that. I was wheezing like an old steam locomotive on its last few days – it was scary. This is the thing with distance running, it takes each of your weakness and magnifies more and more for each km you cover. It is brutal. When I was not running, I could tell myself that I can always quit later but running did not allow me the luxury of sweeping health issues under a carpet. Once, I was scared enough, I quickly read a book (bought a while back) – Easy Way To Stop Smoking, by Allen Carr. Being a cynical kind of guy, I was always sceptical about how a book can help me stop smoking – kind of like a “how to swim” book I thought. I couldn’t have been more wrong – the book was a revelation and really helped me quit. If you are looking to quit I cannot recommend this book more.
Of course, everyone knows they should exercise but most don’t have the time. It was the same with me and I felt my excuses were water tight. I have a gruelling work schedule as an entrepreneur and, with both me and my wife working, it is quite hectic on the household front also.
The first thing I discovered is the power of routine. I realized early morning is when there is no interruption and no excuses. So I started working out 3 days a week early morning, till it became a habit.
The second thing I discovered is CrossFit. It is high-intensity boot-camp style exercise which doesn’t take much time. It gives the best bang for the buck in terms of max fitness in minimum time. Also, being group workouts, there is no thinking and planning required. Just land up and survive the workout.
And, finally I discovered running. I initially started running while recovering from an elbow injury which stopped my CrossFit for a couple of months. But once I started, I just kept going. I don’t run much – once or twice a week. Of these, the Saturday long run is something I really look forward to, While CrossFit is very intense, I find the runs very calming and meditative.
I feel the key to exercise is, find something which you like and is impactful enough (for example, weight training, yoga or crossfit are good) and fit that into your daily routine.
This part is often overlooked. Our bodies repair and recover only when we rest. And proper rest for me means a good 7-8 hours of sleep every night. While I used to veg out in front of the telly till pretty late after a hard day at work, these days I am in bed early throughout the week. I reserve the late nights for the weekend.
That’s it. No magic pills, no gut wrenching diets, no baba remedies – just plain old food, exercise and rest…!
He is an entrepreneur with Rebuscode as his professional baby.
He is reachable at [email protected]