Your background and how you came into the fitness world
I hail from a moderately conservative family in Patna, and had no background in fitness or sports till I turned 30. Growing up, my parents prioritized academics over everything else and because of this any talent I had in the field of sports remained dormant up until 7 years of my married life. I married at a young age, and by the time I was 30 I was already the mother of two boys.
Marriage comes with responsibilities and going through everyday rigmarole, and without any creative outlet it was a frustrating experience. In fact, it led to me in a state where I was frequently ill, and going to the hospital became a routine affair. Not only did it affect my physical health but also my mental health, for which I took support of anti-depression medication.
One day out of concern, my sister suggested to me that it would be good for me to join a local gym and aerobics class as it would give me a chance to meet new people and provide a much-needed break from my mundane routine.
I vividly remember day one of my aerobics class, not able to do basic exercises and experienced trouble even keeping up with the class. I was so uncomfortable, that I consulted my gynaecologist who concluded that I was overweight, and my muscles were very weak and it was the first time in my life that I physically exerted my body at such an intensity.
Never-the-less, I kept attending my aerobic sessions and within two months I started getting the hang of it. Over time, not only was I getting physically better, but it also had improved my mental health. So much so that I no longer needed to take anti-depressants. Since then, I have not fallen in that trap.
Your running journey
A friend of mine suggested that I participate in the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon in 2009. I only had 3 months to prepare and it was a daunting task as I had never even run a 5k before this, I started with 2km and gradually increased my distance with every run. At this point timing wasn’t the concern, it was completing the half marathon. This turned out to be a challenging task but I was able to run 16k before the event. I finished the half marathon in 2 hours and 14 mins.
Within two years of finishing my first half marathon, I ran my first full marathon. I soon became a recreational runner, and my goal was just to complete the run, timing was not my concern as running was not my primary activity. However, once my son finished his board exams, I focused my efforts into training to run and within 3 months I was consistently recording podium finishes.
What made you excel at running?
Prior to my experience in running, my foundation lies in a comprehensive program that I consistently followed on a week to week basis focusing on long term benefits and injury prevention.
My aerobic capacity developed as a result of high intensity activities such as step aerobics, Zumba, just to name a few, and on the other hand my anaerobic training was a result of combinations of plyometrics, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) with use of weights or bodyweight.
Before I even began running, I had a high fitness level by virtue of my weekly activities. I taught back to back classes of aerobics thrice a day, and on the other three days I engaged in bodyweight training, this helped me achieve an especially high level of fitness. It was this background of mine due to which I made a comfortable transition into running.
Elaborate your coaching style
I believe in leading by example, thus I participate in the events of my trainees as it helps me not only develop my own skill but also gives me experience, this in turn enables in betterment of my training sessions. As a regular and passionate runner, I’m able to cater specifically to the requirements of my trainees.
The fitness plans that I provide my trainees are customized to account for the health condition, experience, age, level of fitness, and the final objective or goal of the aspiring runner.
My primary aim is to provide a holistic approach to health and fitness, as it plays a vital role in strengthening the foundation of the runner as well as improving their skill. This holistic approach includes nutritional guidance, sleep, rest and recovery to improve level of fitness without which the effects of the training can’t be felt. This approach includes strength training 3 days a week as it enhances prevention of injury and provides countless benefits to the performance of the trainee. Finally, it is important for the trainees to enjoy the process as much as the end result. I use a lot of improvised methods and use unique activities to make my sessions enjoyable, so that they are able to develop their passion of running without losing interest.
Your favourite races
Both my debut races the Delhi Half Marathon and the Tata Mumbai Marathon are my favorites and continue to participate in those every year as my annual pilgrimage. However, I’m open to new events. In fact this year I was planning to run the Khardungla half marathon if not for the lockdown, so maybe next year I’ll try again.
Your Personal Best race and Strategy ADHM in 2017 where I finished the half marathon in 1h:34m:41s. It’s quite an interesting incident because up until a month before the event my training was chaotic and I was not really confident in my abilities, but because I considered it my pilgrimage, I participated anyway. I knew that my training was not the best and that I would have to get creative to get a decent timing. Instead of starting slow and speeding up towards the end, I decided that for the first 10k I’d run at a faster pace and then if I felt tired, I would slow down. To my own surprise I was able to maintain the pace throughout the race and got my personal best.
Dealing with setbacks
I don’t think much of bad performances or setbacks, instead I see them as an opportunity to better myself. Instead of getting frustrated I view such experiences as a challenge, and I know that I hold the patience and perseverance to bounce back stronger than before. I note my mistakes and make sure they are not repeated in the future.
Women in various life stages and how to stay fit
Fitness is extremely important at any age. For some reason, women often seem to ignore their physical requirements in order to carry out activities they do on a day to day basis, be it at home or in an office. It is important to realize that maintaining a healthy body leads to a healthy mind, and that this in turn leads to productivity and happiness. Furthermore, as women get older, they are subject to various changes in their body, and living a healthy life ensures that these changes don’t cause any negative effects.
I’d like to take this moment to encourage all women to take up one sport of their choice and pursue it for their happiness and give their 100%. It’s about getting better every day; a race or tournament is a form of reinforcement. As they say, races are to go and get your medal at the finish line; the actual race began long ago between your body and mind.
Nirupma is a fitness coach and marathon runner based in Bangalore. She coaches runners at Fitneskool, Bangalore. She holds personal best of 45m:13s for 10k, 1h:34m:41s for half marathon and 3h:36m:06s for marathon.