It’s been a while I met a triathtlete – after Rachna Subramanian and Parul Sheth, I am now catching up with Meera Cheema who is India’s Ironman No. 2 at the moment. She recently bagged this coveted position. An avid runner, a national level swimmer in women’s category and someone who had never biked before has started her triathlon journey in 2019 and cracked it to the top within months. She is also a friend. We got together to talk about some basics on her training, nutrition, what’s keeping her inspired and going despite a full time private banking job on the sides.
Q. Why did you chose to do an Ironman?
Meera: What started off as a fitness tick for me quickly morphed into a passion when I started participating in half marathons in 2016 and placed 4th in my category on my very first attempt at the Airtel Delhi half-marathon with a time of 1hour 48 minutes.
Once I had a taste again of what my body is capable of, drive and fiercely competitive spirit took my mind to ambitions most women post 40 have put to bed. Marathons challenged me physically, but for a lady who had been a national level swimmer in my teenage years and whose body was operating at top capacity already, I knew my next battle had to be as much on the mental terrain as it was on the physical.
With the target of Iron Man- a gruelling triathlon over 113km in one day- identified, I was set to work training my body and mind for the challenge, all while making a mark in several other events on the side, finishing First in the Goa Swimathon in March 2019 and First again in the IDBI New Delhi 10k run.
Q. What were your challenges?
Meera: While I had been swimming as a child and running was not new, I had never ridden a bike in over a decade. once I signed up for my first iron man event my next step was to get myself a race bike, with so many options available in the international market I was confused with the choices. these race bikes are expensive and knew that I wanted the best bike. I first shortlisted the bike and brand I wanted.
Cervelo being one of the best brands in TT bikes was the one I wanted. it was a expensive bike costed me Rs. 4lacs . All my savings gone was the first thought that came to mind. Since I had taken the plunge I decided to order it from Canada. the bike took almost a month till it was finally mine. the next challenge was to get an indoor trainer. One can’t ride outdoors in our city. pollution, traffic and little or no value for bikers on roads were some graving concerns. so I learnt the art of riding indoors for hours at stretch.
6am is wake up time for me, with my breakfast done and dusted by 8am- 2 eggs, one toast, fruits , almonds, figs and a glass of mixed juice. On Alternate days, I would add on Boiled Spinach and Broccoli too. Lunch is by 1pm which would be 1 Roti with Vegetables and Pulses. Dinner would be by 8pm which would comprise of soups, salads , chicken and mixed vegetables. My Mid Meals would typically be around 4pm- could be Muesli, Dry Fruits or Sprouts. This could work for me as a Pre workout meal too- where I may add on a Banana. Post Workout would typically be a Protein Shake or a Sweet Potato on days post swimming. Tea is always on my mind, which is where I may add a little milk to it, once for sure, maximum this would be twice a day.
My Training would be once a day for sure on the weekdays, sometimes twice, wherein I may end up having Breakfast or an early dinner as a Post workout too. The weekends are reserved for longer workouts, wherein the focus would shift to Intra workout meals too. I am extremely disciplined about my schedule so on days I can’t workout in the mornings, I do workouts in the evening. My day would end at 9:30pm when more than 80% of the world is starting their dinner or evening. My Total Water consumption would be a Minimum of 2-3 litres of Water- this does not include the water while I am training.
The Next 2 lines are my favorite, as it includes sweets which is my weakness and I would treat it as my Cheat Meal, which also would be at best twice a month. Hot Chocolate Fudge or a Desert from Big Chill are my favorites. Luckily for me, Alcohol or Aerated drinks have never been a temptation for me, but yes, an occasional glass of wine always works for me.
The Major key to my discipline that works for me is that I love home made food, and even on days when I have to go out, I would typically eat from home and go. This quality has been one of the key advantages for me and helps me take myself closer to my goals.
While preparing for long distance endurance works, I have loved the process of finding out what works in my performance through my training and racing. Nutrition is extremely personal but the fundamentals are the same. One needs carbohydrates, electrolytes and fluids during racing. In humid conditions we lose significant amount of electrolytes and the ability to bring our core tempt down is reduced , this makes the intake of electrolytes extremely important. Electrolyte intake during hot and humid weather is equally important as that of carbs.
There are more plant based food options and I am a believer in this much rising trend. While I still consume eggs, meat and dairy, but if the produce is of high quality ,a balanced and varied diet is stronger than plant – only and these are a rich source of fatty acids, vitamins and minerals which is key in our performance. Supplements – such as magnesium, Omega-3, Vit D,Iron and other play a vital role in balancing our essential nutrients. Hence supplements are an important part of my daily dosage.
Remember, the key is to get your basics perfect first before you get going in the journey of understanding nutrition.