Go on and hit the road!


Go on and hit the road!

I am an addict. There is something I must do every day when I wake up and then, the entire day is blissful. The days I go without, I feel unproductive and lazy. I often love doing it in a group, but sometimes I skip the social obligation and indulge alone. Every time I do it, a rush of endorphins is released in my body and I feel an immense sense of calmness. I do not have to worry about breaking the law. This summer, my addiction helped me go all the way to the highest point in the world — the summit of Mount Everest. I introduce to you the greatest drug in the world. It’s called ‘Exercise’.
We know the many benefits of this drug. The most popular one out there is to lose weight. To me, the most important benefit  is the wonderful effect that exercise has on the mind.

A good workout has the power to de-stress you and improve your mood significantly. It is a medically proven fact. It is the reason why no matter how foul a mood you are in, you will always feel better after a run. This feeling of euphoria is termed by fitness enthusiasts as ‘runner’s high’.

 You do not have to run a marathon to experience ‘runner’s high’. Moderate exercise, lasting 30 minutes, can help you experience the effects, especially if you are new to exercise.

Exercise increases stamina. Take most sports: the last ball before scoring a century; the last game in a tennis match; or even the last hour at work is when we feel the most challenged.

Stamina is an important factor in giving you the winning edge. It certainly helped me when I used up 15,000 calories and spent 18 hours climbing to the summit of Everest. Once you learn to push your body to a higher level of endurance, your body learns to push itself at any activity — be it sport, work, or just getting through life’s many challenges.

Set small goals at first
While exercise seems attractive in theory, the pain and the discomfort make it hard to get addicted to this drug. Time and again, we are inspired to try a few sessions but we easily give up and fall back into our lazy routines. Three years ago, I could barely run 2 km; today I can run a marathon (42 km) without a problem. Allow me to share a few tricks that got me there.

Goal setting: First, you need to have a real good reason. Until a tangible goal is set and you see yourself achieving it, regular exercise remains elusive. Losing weight or running regularly is not a goal, but losing 10 kg or running 10 km in 6 months is a goal. The next step is to break that goal down into smaller achievable goals — 1 kg every 2 weeks involving at least 5 hours of exercise a week is a short-term, achievable goal.

Company: Why do we enjoy sports so much? Be it cricket, tennis or golf, it allows us to engage. The unpredictability of someone else’s game keeps us on our toes. Convince a friend to come along and you will find out it is way better than exercising, running or walking alone.

Keeping the routine: What happens when the novelty of exercise fades and no new inspiration strikes even though the goal is far away? When dullness creeps into your regimen, you need to find a way to make your workout interesting. My trick is to invent little games. On a run,  I count the number of steps I take, or the number of people wearing black that day. Once, I even chased a public bus for over 15 bus stops! Sometimes, I write numbers from 1 to 10 on bits of paper, and run as many kilometres as the number I pick. The trick is to keep it different and keep it interesting.

Stay injury-free
For adventure sports such as mountaineering, the Holy Grail is stamina and injury prevention.
Injury prevention: The most important exercise that spans all workouts is ‘rest’. It is absolutely essential that you rest for at least one day in the week. Remember to get 7-8 hours of sleep every day. Without rest, the body does not have the time to recover. It is important to listen to your body. The release of endorphins can actually mask your pain as you keep pushing yourself. But if you notice the signs, stop at once. If your knee is sore, it is sore for a reason. Take time off to get it checked out, else you might end up with a serious injury.

Mindset: Remember a workout, a run or a game should always be about having a good time. Young  people tend to put immense pressure on themselves to be good at whatever they do. They over-analyse, set unrealistic expectations and get disappointed when they fail to measure up. It’s important to enjoy what you do. Go into any workout with the idea of having fun and doing your best.

Experience: You can learn all there is to know about cycling but until you put it into practice, you can never cycle. The actual experience of what we want to achieve matters. Any sport is easy to pick up but hard to perfect. Only when you spend enough time learning the subtle skills of a sport, will you go from good to almost perfect. The lessons I learnt from every mountain before I climbed Everest came together like a grand symphony in helping me scale the mighty mountain itself.
Good luck and keep those endorphins coming!

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