Delights of the double life

Passion and Purpose

Delights of the double life

Picture this. You’re in your early-to-mid-30s, have been riding the career escalator over the last decade, and are well on your way to achieving many a dream you started out with. Then, a number or two on the health checkup turns out wrong. Or, out of nowhere, you feel a vacuum (quite likely during a long meeting) and wonder what you’re doing with life, and why ?

Often, following this, the urge to pursue a tough, physically demanding activity –  and do it well – takes root. Ironically, this sometimes becomes an added source of stress, injuries and further lack of time. Yet we see more folks each passing week taking up physically challenging sports such as cycling, mountaineering or running. It takes a lot of effort, time and persistence to build up endurance and do it right, and it’s often just weekends that these busy professionals get to follow their passion. It begs the question – why ?

“Watching your training yield results is the biggest rush I know... and somewhere in all this, to defy aging –  for however brief a moment –  is great. I don’t feel like I’m 41”, says Dr Arvind Bhateja, spine and neurosurgeon. A runner’s magazine, that he happened to read while waiting for a connecting flight to Phuket, left him very impressed.

Then 39, he decided to run a half marathon the following year, and soon realised his knees would not take kindly to it. He switched to cycling instead, and is a regular on Bangalore’s racing circuit now.

At this stage of life, earlier goals that once seemed big and worth pursuing relentlessly aren’t that much of a challenge anymore. Worse, one’s not even sure one even wants those things anymore. There’s a sudden bout of soul searching. And it’s usually followed by a serious need to catch up with the lost years and the lost opportunities, at least over weekends. These activities provide a great way to feel fitter and happier again while looking for new challenges.

Aditya Pisupati, a sales manager at Cisco, recently signed up for the Singapore Ironman – a gruelling triathlon where he will run 21 km, swim 2 km in the open sea and then ride a cycle for 90 km. He’s been riding for a while and did the Tour of Nilgiris 2009, but has little endurance experience otherwise. Isn’t it too much of a leap at one go?

Aditya doesn’t think so. “I’m 29. Life is too short to climb the steps gradually. A few suggested that I do some marathons and international cycle races before attempting the Ironman. But then, where is the feeling that I achieved something which others felt impossible or difficult?”

Many play the odd game of badminton, or practice a little yoga routinely, to keep fit. Why do some need to go to these extreme lengths? It surely can’t be a happy place to be in, with that much pain and discomfort?

Ask Dinesh KS, Founder and CEO of Wildcraft, who recently helped a techie from Chennai answer his call to scale the Everest! He understands why people take up challenging sports and embrace pain better than most.

“If you climb/ cycle/ run to your limits, it feels really good while you’re at it. The warm, achy feeling afterwards feels good; the endorphin release helps. The outdoors allows (and often forces) you to explore and extend your physical limitations, and to explore the interactions between mind and body,” he explains.

A major benefit of taking up such sports is the networking that comes as a bonus. The huge cycling community in Bangalore has its own informal races at the Bangalore Bicycling Championship, and racing teams such as Dr Arvind’s Spectrum have been born here.
What does taking up such hobbies entail? Doesn’t family time, already at a premium, suffer even more? Don’t people have to take time out of busy work-lives to go on their long runs and expeditions?

It is important to get the family involved. Aditya says he has received solid support from his wife through his injuries and recovery.

“Squeezing out some 90 minutes every day is not a big deal. I don’t sacrifice my personal commitments. If parents are visiting or I have to attend some family functions outside Bangalore, I do so. It is about balance and telling oneself that both are equally important,” says Aditya.

Dr Arvind, in fact, believes cycling helps the quality of his time spent with the family.  “It makes me want each minute with them to count.”

Professionally too, there are plenty of takeaways of following a passion. Says Sreeharsha who runs ‘Cycling And More’ (CAM), “Given that all CAM members have full-time jobs, work schedules are always a tightrope walk. But the lessons learnt on our rides – those of entrepreneurship, prioritisation and networking – have helped us in our jobs as well.”

Aditya echoes the sentiment. “I am in sales and since I finished TFN and signed up for competitions like the Ironman, I’ve been definitely more confident going after large opportunities. The basic underlying belief now is: nothing can really be that difficult!”
If the stories of the growing tribe of weekend warriors have left you feeling inspired to dust those running shoes and take them out for a spin this Saturday morning or to check out a friend’s bike over a morning ride, then don’t give it a second thought. The high you get is addictive. It’s only about getting started. How about this weekend?

Online communities to connect with for outdoor activity

Like for most other hobbies and pursuits these days, online communities are a great resource for help and advice on fitness and endurance sports. The groups are growing quite rapidly, bearing testimony to a growing interest in demanding sports in India, and especially in Bangalore. They not only provide encouragement to beginners, but also forge connections with vendors and professionals, and help to create a healthy competitive environment for those pursuing these sports seriously.

Some communities you can sign up with for various sports are listed here. You can find folks from your area with shared interests, ask questions about how to get started, the right equipment, stay informed about both informal and formal events you might want to participate in, and forge new friendships.

Runners

http://runnersforlife.com/
http://www.runnershigh.in/
http://www.runnergirlsindia.com/
http://www.runningandliving.com/

Bikers

http://www.bikeszone.com/forum/
http://bangalorebikersclub.com/

Mountaineers and Trekkers

http://www.bmcindia.org/
http://groups.google.com/group/bangaloreascenders
http://www.tagindia.net/

Secrets of success

Discipline is the key. Slowly build up endurance and follow a schedule that builds up endurance and fitness gradually, and be regular.

Encouragingly, from what he has observed, Dr Rajat Chauhan, a sports medicine specialist, believes that most people who take up running or cycling do have the innate discipline.

A good balance between the hobby and the family: You may be excited about your new pursuit and discover a new set of friends. But it’s critical that the family does not feel ignored. Talk about the sport to them, and encourage their involvement, if possible – either as participants or perhaps as support. A lot many folks lose the enthusiasm for such sports that take up a substantial amount of time when they fail to involve the family in it.

Keeping a check on how much time you dedicate to the new passion is also critical. Partitioning time between the family, other hobbies and your work helps achieve balance and keeps the activity at a more sustainable level.

One step at a time...

Many late risers to such strenuous sports often end up hurting themselves initially. What are some things to watch out for?

Dr Rajat, a long distance runner himself, has helped many take up and sustain these weekend hobbies the right way – gradually and without injury. “Everything done gradually will last far longer. Your body will be able to adapt to the sport much easier. Get into it one step at a time; do too much too soon and it can injure you or burn you out, and then it’ll end up being the season’s fad,” he says. Being regular is what works better than doing too much of a distance or pushing hard right away.

Apart from slowly increasing one’s capabilities, there is also the issue of the right know-how, equipment and techniques. It’s important to recognise and respect pain, and try seeking professional help for it as necessary. For instance, novice cyclists often end up with avoidable injuries owing to poor bike-fit and riding in the wrong gears when trying to pedal too hard. Fortunately, there are numerous professionals as well as support groups that will help you on your path to your endurance goals.

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