22nd October 2017
It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. After a sumptuous lunch, I was on the verge of proceeding to my afternoon siesta. The 6 gulab jamuns I had feasted upon in my lunch were slowly showing their effect. It was with a feeling of contentment, I shut my eyes to begin my journey towards dreamland.
However, I was rudely awakened by the shrill ringtone of my mobile. In no mood to come out of my dreams, the thought of cutting the call crossed my mind. I realized that it was a college friend calling me after years. We had our customary exchange of greetings but I sensed something amiss in his tone. It was an uncanny gut feeling of some sad news coming my way and was waiting for him to spill the beans.
What he said next shook me and I blanked out completely.
Our dear college buddy, Raghav was no more. He was diagnosed with Hyperglycemia. Being a commerce student I had never heard of this term before; it’s a case of excess blood sugar.
Raghav was an athlete in college with a very active, healthy lifestyle, so I could not come to terms with the fact that something of this sort could happen to him.
A Reflection: A Realisation
This news shook me completely and for once forced me to look at myself in the mirror. What I saw was alarming. Here I was with a swollen face and a belly breathing heavily. It’s a common human trait that the loss of your near and dear ones makes you more sensitive and responsible towards your own health in general. This was when I decided to have a complete medical checkup done the very next day which I have been avoiding for the last 3 years.
23rd October 2017: 7:00 pm
There was a peculiar tension in the air which reminded me of the day when my board results were out. The difference was this time the result awaited was far more important than my board result.
I was waiting for my medical checkup reports. After a few tense moments, I finally received the mail from Pathology. What I saw and read in the next few minutes resulted in a feeling of depression and gloom over me. All my health parameters were in a mess and there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. To make matters worse, I was diagnosed with high sugar (diabetic) high triglycerides and high blood pressure. From what limited information I had all these parameters were a trigger to a cardiac arrest.
The damage was already done. I somehow tried to control my nerves and decided to visit my family doctor first thing the next day.
The writing on the wall was loud and clear: It was now or never
And thus began my fitness journey.
24th October 2017
After going through my reports and the customary checkup of my health stats the first word my doctor uttered was “NOT GOOD”. He then went on to explain to me the various after-effects of high sugar, high BP, and high triglycerides and summarized by saying that all these parameters, if not controlled, can lead to fatal ailments. Having not uttered the dreaded words, I could easily read from the doctor’s expression what he wanted to convey.
He asked me to follow a strict sugar-free diet along with other medications and restrictions on food intake. He looked at me from head to toe and in a very stern voice said that diet aside what I also need is a workout to cut down on my weight. My BMI metrics had gone for a toss. The weighing scale needle rushed unrelentingly to point to 101 kg, giving me a true picture of my relationship with gravity. For a height of 6 feet, I was obese by a good 15-20 kg.
The Feeling of a Defeated Soldier
I stepped out of the doctor’s clinic. My mind was racing but somehow my heart was not accepting the fact that I needed to follow any diet or a workout regime. For a foodie like me who feasted on sweets in all forms, following a sugar-free diet was torture beyond imagination, I felt like someone who would never see the sunrise again. Working out seemed like a distant, unreal dream. I thought of forgetting this entire episode like a nightmare and continuing my daily routine as it was. That’s when I was reminded of my friend’s demise and for once I made a decision to follow the doctor’s advice.
While making a decision in itself is a challenge, taking the first step to execute the decision is more challenging. The absence of sugar, sweets, and other fried items from my daily meals started affecting my overall behavior. I became more impatient, and irritable at times and was not at peace with myself. What was not helping the cause was even my morning workouts were irregular This was somehow not working for me and that’s when I decided to have a heart-to-heart conversation with my family doctor. I visited him a little late, after the regular clinic hours, and spoke to him at length about how difficult, almost impossible, it was for me to stay away from the food of my choice and how the whole thing was impacting my behavior. He patiently heard me out and offered me a lifeline called “WALKING”
The Journey of Walking: Full of Sweat, Sacrifice, and Passion
My doctor suggested WALKING to overcome my crumbling health parameters. The knowledge of a solution and implementing it are two very different things that I realized once I started this journey.
This journey was not easy. A few wise men advised me to make a small start at the beginning and then increase the effort gradually. So, I started my WALKING journey with a 2 km daily walk, gradually increasing it to 5 km and then 10 km. For the initial one month I had to drag myself out of the bed and push myself to put on my waking shoes.
After one month it became a habit and as days went by, this habit became my passion. Now that I think back, walking turned into that one life-changing habit that, well, changed my life. After 6 months, the results started showing on my body which was also acknowledged by my friends and family members. This was the motivation I needed to go a step beyond. I proceeded to register for marathons in the city. And in the process, I ran 40 marathons in the last 4 years.
While few of my friends found the whole idea of marathons foolish due to the sum of money one spends just for a t-shirt and medal, I soaked in the atmosphere these events generated. Seeing the passion of my fellow runners from different age groups and walks of life motivated me further.
Running became a passion for me.
The best part about this sport is you are competing against yourself and not others. And each day I was competing against what I was the day before, and with each day, I kept getting better, feeling better.
20th January 2019
A date etched in my memory as it was the first time I ran the 21 km half marathon in the TATA Mumbai Marathon. For a person who was 101 kgs in 2017 with no discipline over food and little to no exercise, running 21 kms was like an overwhelming experience, an absolute sense of achievement in a very long time.
I remember clearly as I was nearing the finish line I was cramping up badly and had tears in my eyes. Even today I don’t know whether the tears were of joy or was it sweat flowing out in the form of tears. It was a triumph, my triumph over my weaknesses, my poor lifestyle, an evolution so to speak. I overcame This was a case of me competing with myself, defeating the self-saboteur, and winning against my own demons against all odds.
During this same marathon, I read something that encourages and inspires me.
“When your legs tire run with your heart“A Banner at a Marathon
And that’s what we runners usually do.
31st March 2023
It’s been more than five years since that dreaded Sunday. My life has undergone a 360-degree change. All my health parameters are under control. The best part is I have got control over my cravings. I feel that it was a lifetime ago when moving from one place to another in the house took a lot of effort for me. Today, I have a passion for marathons and in the process won 40 medals over the last four years. It’s a dream to take the medal tally to 50 by next year. And the past five years have taught me that dreams do come true.
I have started Yoga sessions which I attend thrice a week and the experience has given me a new dimension to my mental and physical fitness. Today the weighing scale is not worried bearing 84 kgs of my weight. I am happier with my relationship with gravity and myself. Today, I am happy to see a fitter ME in the mirror and can proudly say that I love myself.
So, this was my journey. It’s truly said that adversity gives birth to greatness. I needed an alarming medical report way back in 2017 to wake me up and push me toward this journey. And there is no looking back.
Having said this, the fact remains that fitness is a journey with no destination and I am looking forward to treading this path for a healthier, happier lifestyle.
So, for all my friends with lifestyle diseases, hoping to see you on the track soon.
And as the saying goes… WALKING is a mental sport and we are INSANE.
You got to be INSANE to achieve something.
Paresh is a fitness enthusiast with varied interests in marathons, yoga, adventure sports, trekking, cricket, music, and Bollywood. A banker by profession with 25-plus years of experience, he has recently discovered his natural flair and love for writing. You can connect with Paresh on his Twitter handle @TavargiriParesh