It was the year 2010 and the month was April, I was on vacation with my family in Goa. The property we were staying at was a beautiful resort in South Goa. Little did I know that on the last day, my life was going to change forever.
It was a 4 day stay where I indulged a lot in snacks and drinks. On the morning of day 4, one day of our return to Delhi, when I woke up I could feel that my belly muscles had flexed more, beyond the chest line and I couldn’t see my feet while standing. My rounded belly blocked my vision. I immediately rushed to the hotel gym to get in some strenuous cardio on the treadmill and elliptical cross trainer, thinking I might be able to get rid of all the extra calories I had accumulated during my stay in Goa. The gym was built in such a way that it had mirrors on all the walls. What I saw in those mirrors terrified me.
My belly was sticking out like a gas filled balloon and it reminded me of that ‘Gubarrey wale bhaiya’ who used to come here to sell those CO2 filled balloons and we used to joke ‘Bhaiya ka pet aur Gubara Ek Jaise Hai’. I sat on one of the gym benches holding my head in both hands and wondering, “What have I done to myself?”
I’ve decided that the first thing I’m going to do when I get home is join a gym. And I did exactly that the next morning. Without any investigation, I joined the gym closest to my house. It was an impulsive decision and not very well thought out. A decision made on impulse will always backfire. I made an impulsive decision to join the gym without researching ‘how to reduce belly fat’. Little did I know that there are better ways to reduce belly fat than joining a gym. I didn’t think of the process as a whole, but only one pillar of the process.
To my credit, one thing I diligently did was maintain regularity in going to the gym despite my hectic office life. I would go to the gym every day, even for a few minutes, but I will go and do a treadmill. My focus was the gym and more precisely, the treadmill. I thought the treadmill alone would help me lose that annoying belly fat. I would run at a pace of 10, 11, 12, and sometimes even 13. I would come home exhausted, take a quick shower, and run to the office without eating a “proper” breakfast. I would eat anything and everything that came my way, thinking that since I’m doing a strenuous treadmill, I can afford to eat anything.
After 3 months, when I checked my weight, I was distraught. My weight had further increased by 3 kg. Depressed and not knowing what to do, I went straight to the trainer at the gym and told my sad story. The gym coach listened to me with wide eyes and being a smart guy, he immediately understood that a murga was sitting in front of him. He convinced me to hire a personal trainer for 8,000 rupees a month. This was more than Rs 20000 which I already paid as a yearly subscription. Desperate to reduce my belly fat, I hired him. He promised me that he would bring my weight back to normal in 3 months.
The next day I started my weight training. The trainer handed me my workout card which had all the exercises from Lat Pull to Bench Press, Barbell Squats, Lunges, Crunches and Dumbbells. I followed him diligently and the trainer was very happy with my dedication. When I returned home, I ate whatever was made in the kitchen of our house. I didn’t change my diet. I thought that with my new exercise regimen, since I’m working so hard, I should eat more, otherwise my body would break down.
The concept of HEAT DEFICIT was not known to me then. This continued for another 3 months but without a difference. Now the trainer took my weight every 15 days. Sometimes he weighed 1 or 2 kg less and sometimes 1 or 2 kg more. When he weighed less, the coach took all the credit and when he weighed more, he gave it to me saying that he needed to put more effort into my training. After 3 months I discontinued that trainer but continued with the rest of my gym subscription despite not getting the desired results. After a year, little had changed and my protruding belly was now parallel to my feet.
I was depressed, but still determined enough to get rid of my belly fat. When you are constantly thinking about something, the universe also conspires to make things work in that direction. One Sunday morning, while walking through my housing complex, I met my neighbor who had just moved in. She was coming back from her morning routine and being Sunday she had gone to run the Half Marathon. Needless to say, he was very slim and fit. I asked her how she holds up so well. I also shared my problem with him and asked him to help me get rid of my belly fat. She invited me to join her running group. She told me that this would help me lose those extra pounds. She told me that some very good ultrarunners in her group are very lean and fit and that running with them would help me lose those extra pounds.
Accepting his invitation, I joined the group that consisted of more than 200 members. I was introduced to all kinds of runners, from ultra runners to long distance runners, tempo runners, sprinters and short distance runners, from 17 year olds to 70 year olds. They ran on the road, on the track and on the grass. My Fitness learning started from here.
The first thing they told me was ‘Diet is more important than exercise’. It is useless to run 10k or 15k or 21k if during the day I am eating much more than I have burned. I should eat a balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. My morning breakfast should be within 30 minutes of finishing the race and should consist of eggs or peanut butter or oatmeal or Daliya and coffee. My lunch should be slightly lighter than my breakfast and should consist of a dal, two rotis, subzi, and curd. My dinner must be the lightest and must constitute a khichadi. My hydration should be 8 to 10 glasses every day. I was taught the concept of HEAT DEFICIT and that too at no cost. I started to feel lighter a week after running with the group. I was determined to lose weight in the next 3 months.
I increased the intensity of my running. I was now doing drag racing and pace racing and started competing with my fellow runners who were more experienced than me. I started asking about distance and times confident enough that soon I’ll be better than them. Little did I realize that we are all LIFESTYLE racers and racing them or even beating them would not be good enough for any purpose. One day, while trying to run as fast as possible to overtake a teammate, I experienced pain in my left knee. I didn’t stop but kept pushing myself. When I finished running, the pain was so intense that I could barely walk. Some members of the group helped me and advised me to see a doctor. I was diagnosed with ‘Runner’s Knee’ and the doctor advised me to rest for 7 days. 7 days? Do not run? I was horrified, but had no choice but to take a break. Those 7 days taught me the biggest lesson of my fitness journey.
We are LIFESTYLE athletes and not amateur or professional athletes. A lifestyle athlete is not professionally trained or makes a living from the sports he plays. An amateur athlete is professionally trained but does not make a living from the sport he plays. The A-Pro athlete is professionally trained and makes a living from the sport he plays. So as a lifestyle runner, he should put as much pressure on my body as he can take. By competing with other runners, I was putting an extra load on my body that my body couldn’t handle. Either I increase my muscle strength by following a training program or I stop competing with them. I must compete with myself, understand my body and improve my own performance. I also learned how to deal with injuries.
After my injury healed, I was back on track. I spent those 7 days reading about fitness and watching youtube videos from fitness experts. What I learned there is summarized below:
- Fitness is a lifelong journey. Once you decide to go on that journey, you should do your research before embarking on any activity.
- Diet is an integral part of the process. The role of diet is 70%, while the role of training is 30%.
- Rest and sleep are equally important. In fact, it is during rest that our muscular strength is built.
- Optimal fitness is achieved through a combination of a balanced diet, a good exercise regimen, and rest.
- 70% of our body is water. So we must stay hydrated, always.
It has been 10 years of my association with the running group and I am happy to say that I have been able to reduce my protruding belly. I’m as skinny as my son going to college. He and I wear the same pair of jeans. People keep congratulating me on that Sholay dialogue ‘Itni Umar toh nahi lagti aapki’. With a wry smile, I tell them ‘Thank you’ feeling happy inside.
I hope that this article inspires the reader and that more people get into a healthy mode and do some kind of physical activity. May we all lead a healthy life. Keeping your body in shape is a way of thanking God for blessing us with life!
Gaurav Bhatia, 53, is a management graduate with more than 30 years of sales management experience at various functional levels. I have worked with the Tata Group, Tata Green Batteries as National Channel Manager, Sleepwell Mattress as National Vertical Manager, Vodafone as Circle Retail Manager and Reliance Infocomm as Area Manager. Currently, he works as a sales strategy consultant and trainer and is associated with Cos of repute. He is a fitness enthusiast, HM runner, and cyclist.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above article are his own and are not endorsed by CitySpidey in any way.