Pursuing true fitness

Functional living

Pursuing true fitness

Gul Panag is an actress, former Miss India, politician, fitness enthusiast, runner and now, the chief fitness officer of MobieFit, a tech start-up. She recently released the website’s first app, First Run, which is the world’s only voice-coached app.

Based on Josh Clark’s revolutionary Couch to 5K (C25K) programme, this app aims to make runners out of non-runners and offers 5K (9 weeks) and 10K (12 weeks) running programmes. Excerpts from an interaction:

What does fitness mean to you?

Fitness is flexibility, endurance and strength. You could be a size 8 and be fit, and a size 2 and unhealthy. Fitness means functional living; getting our bodies to work at an optimum level.

I have always been a fitness enthusiast and a very strong advocate for the same. At the age of 15, my father wanted me to start running and I couldn’t understand why, as I was slim. On his insistence, I took up running and ran my first marathon at 16.

In today’s fast-paced life, how can busy people make time for fitness?

The very fact that you are taking up more responsibilities makes fitness all the more relevant in your life. You can do so much within the confines of your home. Walk wherever you can and if you have school-going children, you can walk them to their bus stop everyday. I go round and round the building, when I can’t run outside. But looking at the greater picture, we need to make fitness a part of our culture. Shifting from a labour-intensive to service-intensive lifestyle, we haven’t made space or time for our own health. And the proof is that our country has the highest incidences of diabetes today.

But why run? Why not swim or do yoga?

Running is the easiest form of exercise. All you need is a good pair of running shoes and you are set. It is an activity that can be performed anywhere, anytime. Any activity that increases your heart rate releases endorphins, the feel good hormones. And running does just that.

Does running damage one’s knees?

Every person has a finite capacity. Moving beyond that will take a toll on the body. Multiple factors can cause damage – weight inconsistencies, health issues and so on. Just walking down the stairs could hurt your knee. So, running, in isolation, doesn’t damage your knees.

Is running on the treadmill as good as running outdoors?

While running on the treadmill, you won’t find any friction. In fact, it helps you to run. You run in a closed environment so there is no exposure to bacteria or germs that you would encounter while running outside. Personally, though, I prefer running outside.

Is there a pro-fitness diet you follow?

We wrongly believe that once we start exercising, we can eat whatever we want. You can refuel your bike’s tank only when it gets empty. For running distances less than 20 km, you don’t need to load up on carbs.

Remember, we only need our body to function at an optimum level, so commiserate the input to the output. Deploy self-discipline in your routine and don’t make indulgences your staple diet. I do indulge in occasional treats, but I make sure that I burn them off.

What’s your fitness schedule like?
My fitness schedule is divided into two branches – running and non-running training. From September to May, I train in running for two major marathons and the rest of the year, I
indulge in endurance, flexibility and strength training for 40-45 minutes a day, four to five times in a week.

Any quick fitness tips?

First and foremost, be aware of your ideal capacity. Walk everywhere – use the stairs instead of the lift. Or you could park your vehicle a little further away from your destination and walk the rest. Indulge in some form of physical activity daily, and work on your posture. Eat regularly and cut down on processed foods. It’s good to establish certain fitness goals, like running a marathon. This helps you stick to your schedule and is also very effective in keeping you fit.

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