The fitness guru

Back in November, 2015, a spontaneous urge to start running sprang in my mind. As far as I can recall, this was not a conscious thought or a pre-planned course of action. I was working away on my desk, and suddenly I tweeted “I’mma Run the Marathon”. Since then, I have ran two half marathons, numerous 8 ks, 5 k, and other shorter runs. The 41 km full marathon has so far eluded me, but I will definitely run that one – Someday…

My urge to run, back then, has seen me transform myself from a non-runner to a runner. Over the course of these one and a half years, I have started paying great deal of attention to physical health and fitness. I make sure to run, go to the gym and work out on a daily basis. I also make sure to sit down and be mindful on a day to day basis.  I have also started paying a great deal of attention to the food I eat. And this has helped me develop the habit of making my own meals. In-addition to all of these changes, I have started to enjoy the household chores that need to be done. I feel that doing all these household chores combine to make a great calorie burner on a daily basis.

As I was returning home from one of my runs, a question popped inside my cerebral cortex. Who is my inspiration, my fitness guru- someone I look up to? Since I had started running very spontaneously, I really did not have any inspiration as such. Neither had I put any thought regarding fitness guru prior to today. I had no answer.

In my early days as a child and in my teens, I had always been very athletic. I used to play cricket, football, and basketball when I was back in school, and really admired Mark Waugh as a cricketer. Had I been a cricketer, the answer would have been very simple. Had I been a footballer, maybe I would have an answer too. But here I was- neither a footballer nor a cricketer. I had become a running enthusiast by sheer spontaneity, and over the years, the enthusiasm of running had spilled into other aspects of my life. I tried to reason with my head- maybe I did not have a fitness guru in particular. Maybe I was just driven more by the situation and my need to change things around me. I won’t disagree the environment around me was definitely a catalyst behind that unconscious decision to suddenly start running. But this answer did not suffice, and so I continued to ponder.

Then I found my answer. I had been unaware of it, until now-

My mom wakes up early every morning and starts her day by taking a walk with Happy (Our pet dog). She then recedes to the living room and with hot water by her side- she starts her daily yoga sessions. Mom has been doing yoga for god knows how many years now, and she is really good at it. This one time I approached my mom and asked her if she could sit in the lotus posture. Now back then I had only recently started my mindfulness sessions and I was struggling to sit in the lotus posture. Not only did my mom sit in the posture but she actually lifted herself up in the air with the support of her two hands whilst still in the lotus posture. For a women in her late 60’s, that was impressive (at least I thought so).

You should see my mom during her walks. She is super nimble, and fast off her feet. I remember how this one time, she shared her story about how she fell down while walking. And with excitement, she tells me “In a flash, I was up on my feet and walking again.” She further went on to add how one of the onlookers was awed by her energy. I think I, my family, relatives, the not so close relatives and friends have always been awed by her energy.

My mom has been doing household chores way before she started doing her yoga. In her own words she recalls “Pahiley tah hamilay pani sinka bachenam”. She was referring to times before she was married. Furthermore she added it was only after getting married that she started tending to household chores. And that is how she learned the art of cooking and home management. I’d be the first to testify that she’s an amazing professional in both of these. She has a simple philosophy that allows her to do all of this, and it is “I will do it until I can.” This attitude has led her to always be fit and healthy despite her age. She is very active and seldom procrastinates when it comes to doing the chores. This does not mean she tends to all the household chores. My sisters have always been around to help and it is with deep regret that I say that I haven’t. But things have changed over the past year and a half- I have made an active attempt to do all the chores. I apologize to both my mother and sisters for not having started earlier. But now that I have gotten used to doing the chores and have reaped the health benefits – I would happily continue to do it for as long as I can.

Finally, her diet is something that really amazes me. There would be days in the past when I often complained that she was eating too little, especially for dinner. Her dinner looked like a dinner fit for a bird and I would ask her to eat more. Her response would be “I eat as much as my body needs.” She has a larger meal (fit enough for a human) for lunch, and has a fulfilling breakfast. Also during the day, she takes refreshments and finally after dinner, just before retiring for bed, a glass of milk. Her philosophy for eating is simple – “regardless of the taste of the food, I eat as much as I should”. My meals aren’t quite as small as hers, but they are definitely now as per my body requirements.

Unknowingly, I had just been doing what my mom has been doing all along for all these years. I know I have a long way to go and I am just starting out. But the ideal scenario would be to continue and keep on striving to get better.

I am really glad that I was able to ponder upon this question regarding fitness guru. The response made perfect sense to me and now I know who my Fitness Guru is – My MOM.

Happy Mumma Day!!!!!!!!!

 

Conquering a different demon

After almost a year of planning, preparation, and training the day I had been waiting for finally came. In between there had been two injury layoffs, but on the day of the run I had no injury concerns. I was ready for the long distance running session albeit only for the “half marathon”. I had originally wanted this run to be a marathon but instead chose to enroll only for half-marathon as I did not feel quite ready for marathon. Nevertheless, I was excited and rearing to go.

The date 26th of November, the venue- the hills of Kakani and I was running 21 kilometers. Days before as I was enrolling I had asked the organizers if the run would be on flat land or would we encounter hills and trails? They laughed at me and said you do realize we are in Nepal, right. I did know this but I was only hoping for the terrain to be a bit merciful. However, regardless of the terrain I was ready to go conquer the 21k.

On race day I felt ready and my gut instinct told me I would be able to see the finish line. I did not know what was in store for me during the race, that, I would have to find out as I ran. Before the start of the race I got the chance to meet a champion runner Mira Rai, which in itself was quite a moment and she even wished me luck. J  And then the race began at 10:00 in the morning –

 

The Start

I got off to a fairly decent start, I knew I had to manage my pace and race management was the key. This was my first ever half marathon, but my months of preparation had at least given me an idea that I needed to plan this race. It would only get tougher as the race progressed that I constantly told myself. Also, I kept on telling myself that if I start to compete with others then I might as well throw the towel in. I mean I really wanted to get to the finish line in about three hours that was my primary target. In other words I was telling myself to run my own race and not be concerned about what others did. I managed to stick to this idea and though I felt I was getting overtaken left, right and center, I stuck to what I had to do. I got through the first check point at 1.3K without any concerns and forged on.

Then the race took a turn a different turn as the track converged into a narrow trail. Surrounded by trees the trail was a great place to run and it provided cover from the sun, but since the trail was narrow and slippery. Honestly, I did not like running on such a trail especially because they were slippery, also I was weary of the narrow trail because I was concerned for my ankles. I have twisted both my left and the right ankle in the past year. The left ankle suffering a ligament tear back in December 2015 had kept me bed ridden for almost a month. So, I treaded very carefully, watching my steps and not trying to run very fast. The steep climb and declines also made the trail even tougher and it was best to go slow. I did try to keep a decent pace and had to constantly tell myself that I would not do a leisurely walk. Even, when I did walk on the trails, I tried to make sure that I was walking a decent pace. Then came checkpoint two at 6.2K and it was time for some refueling – biscuits and water.

 

The middle

The legs were feeling it now and slowly they were beginning to hurt. I had gone past 7kms and during my practice runs the most I have gone is around 10. I was getting to a point after which I did not know how my legs or my body parts would deal it. Then came check point three at 9.3K, I remember volunteers clapping and encouraging the runners, this and the biscuits were really helpful. I made sure to also hydrate myself and set forth again. I was beginning to believe now and I felt I would be able to finish the race and in a good time, maybe even in less than three hours. And, then again the track changed and this time for worse. The volunteers pointed to the left and as I made a left turn I could see a climb but I had no idea how long the climb would be. It seemed to go on and on and there was no way I would be able to run. I could see other runners also struggling on this climb and they were walking. I started walking too but made sure I kept a decent pace even when walking. I did not want to walk gingerly and look like I was struggling although my legs and back was hurting by now. I had practiced in the streets of Kathmandu and this terrain was different and tough. But, at least I had trained and that counted for something. So, I pushed on and climbed, expecting the climb to end soon but it did not. It felt like it was never going to end. Just when I thought I saw an opening to a wider track and downhill, the climb on the trail continued. Then the sign showed up – 15k. I was elated at this sight, just 6 more kilometers to go I thought but I had no idea what was to come.

 

The Conclusion

I was past the 15k mark now but I felt as if my legs were giving up now. I could feel the pain on my left knee on my every step and my right thighs were hurting just as much. Every time my feet landed I felt as If I would twist my ankles. I started getting more concerned about my ankles now. The more I thought of it the more close calls I got. Couple of times I did get those narrow shaves. Whew!! I would then say that was close and I walked on. I was not able to push myself to run now and inside my head a demon was growing, constantly telling me what if I am not able to finish this? I had planned my race right, I had not overworked myself and it was not as if I was exhausted but it was more a case of my legs giving up and even more, my head was buying into the idea that my legs had run their course.

I was now really struggling and so I made sure that I was looking behind me and that I gave way to the runners behind me when they got close. And then a group of three running in a line came close, and as I gave way, this one guy in the middle just says “Come hop in the running train. We will do this slow and steady.” So, I got aboard and hopped on the running the train and behold I was able to run again. It was not brisk running but more joggers pace but at least I was back to running and suddenly I was not concerned about my ankles. I just tried to stick with the running pack and matched their pace and surprisingly I was able to keep it up. In the way we also made others hop on the running train and this formula worked. It felt good to motivate one another and running like this helped. At the end of the day for all of us it was more about being able to finish the race. We got to the 18k mark and then it was time for some granola bars, biscuits and water. We got going on and now I knew we were close. I did feel I was tiring out now and so I backed up a little bit, but now I knew I would finish this race, thanks to the running train that got me through the little mini rut I had been in after the 15k mark. I forged on slowly and though the running train went on without me, it had served its purpose for me. I would surely be finishing the race.

There was one final climb which again was long and tough. Once, this was done it was running to the finish. The 21k had been done and the demon conquered. It took me 3 hours and 29 minutes to finish the race, a bit longer than what I had expected but I did not care. I was happy to finish the race, under really tough running terrain.

 

My first ever half-marathon.

 

 

How I quit smoking?

quit-smoking-illustration-man-speech-bubble-telling-angry-cigarette-character-cartoon-41247975.jpgOn July of 2015 I decided I was going to quit smoking. After more than a decade into smoking I was finally ready to call it the quits. However, this by no means was my first attempt. There had been numerous failed attempts in the past. This time, I felt more ready than ever, and was more determined to do it. Now, more than a year later I can safely say I am no longer a smoker, and that smoking and cigarettes don’t entice me either.

As a former smoker myself, I am aware that many smokers want to call it the quits. However, I also know from my past experience that it is a tough ask, and I also know from experience that it is not impossible.

I want to share my experience so as to encourage myself never to smoke again, and also hope that my experience can be helpful to anyone who is looking to quit smoking.

So how did I really quit smoking –

  1.       Deciding to quit

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First and foremost, I just decided that I had had enough of it. I wanted to smoke no more. I wanted to be able to run and play without running out of breath 30 seconds into starting those activities. I wanted to get rid of that constant smoker’s cough (many smokers will be denial regarding the smoker’s cough, but get real).

Like many smokers out there I too have had experiences of deciding to quit many times prior to this. I, however, wanted to really do it this time around.

  1.       Research and a perspective change

After deciding to quit, I jumped into researching all the benefits of not smoking. The findings were very uplifting and I wanted to experience the benefits of not smoking.

060412_1252_ChangeYourP2.jpgUpon my research I also stumbled upon a perspective. This perspective suggested that instead of seeing my past failed attempts of trying to quit smoking as failure, I should rather see them as gained experience. This new found perspective encouraged me, and I felt confident enough that I would be able to quit this time.

  1.       Getting hold of the mind

“Mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master” says Robin Sharma, and this quote holds true when you are trying to quit smoking. Smoking, like any other habit, is hardwired to your system because you have done it for so long and quitting will test you physically and mentally. Research shows that it takes around three days for your body to throw out the nicotine present in your system. After which you are no longer physically attracted to nicotine present in the cigarette, and then starts the nicotine withdrawal effect. This withdrawal effect is made worse by the ongoing mental challenge. The mind is a tricky little bugger and it’ll say things to you to get you back to smoking (it did for me). “Just one cigarette,” it’ll say; other times it’ll be like, “you’ve gone clean for a week. That’s something – just one cigarette now. It’ll do you no harm.”  The key is to stay strong-willed and to not let the mind overpower you. Slowly, the voices will die down. The physical as well as the mental addiction will eventually subside.

This is not by any means an action that happens overnight, and as with any other practice, quitting smoking also takes time. But if you stick to your guns, the urge to smoke will eventually disappear.

  1.       Putting them running shoes on (being a freak)

As I quit smoking, I wanted to give myself more reasons ( as if I did not already have many)  to not take up smoking ever again. So, I put my running shoes, on and started to run every day. With no deliberate smoke ingestion, I was able to run without getting the wind knocked out of me in thirty seconds.  Running brought a breath of fresh air into my life (literally). I began enjoying pushing my body to run 3 miles at first, eventually followed by 5 miles, and even 10 miles

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Finally,

  1.     Started reading

Also, as a smoker, I know one of the times when people smoke a lot is whilst waiting for someone/something. I used to do it too, but then I found a better thing to do- i started reading instead. I started carrying a book with me everywhere I went, sometimes even in my mobile device. So, in order to curb that urge of smoking, I dove into the books. Eventually, the urge always died down minutes later.

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When I started running…

The many health benefits of running are known to both runners and non-runners. However, there are certain experiences that can be only noticed only when one starts to run. I have been running every morning for about six months now (barring the time when I have been injured), and it has benefited me in numerous ways. In addition to the obvious health benefits, running has introduced me to new perspectives. These are the perspectives I want to share –

  1. The world don’t matter

When I first started to run, I was very self-conscious about it. I would get the sense that people who were watching would judge me if i didn’t run in a certain acceptable way. But soon I began to enjoy running, and I loved doing my weekly 5 miles. On other days, a 3 mile run would suffice my appetite for running.  The more I ran, the more I loved it, and soon I was not self-conscious about whether people were looking or not. Nor did I feel obliged to run in certain style. I would sometimes take huge strides while running;other times, I would run just on my toes. Most importantly, I did not feel the need to run in the conventional style as long as I was running sincerely and honestly and doing my allocated miles for the day. At the end of the 5 mile run, I punched the air and then punched my chest (Djokovic style) in delight. It did not matter who was looking – I was having fun the right way, and that was what mattered.

This perspective was an eye opener and it brought about this mindful awareness. The important thing was to be sincere, have fun, and the rest didn’t matter. It also occurred to me then that:

  1.  People don’t have the time to sit there and watch what you’re doing. Everyone’s is just as busy in their own lives.
  2.  If people do make comments, feel privileged that they have time to look at you in their busy lives. You don’t need to oblige, or listen to every comment.

 

2. Every run is different from the previous

When I first started running back in November 2015, I could barely run 3 miles. I would be out of breath, and catching my breath would take time. The more I ran, the better my stamina became, and I was able to run 3 miles with ease. I soon started doing five miles every weekend, and again, to begin running five miles was tough. I was able to complete my first five mile on the first try, and since then have completed many more five miles. There was one stark discovery though – Every day, when I set off to run the five miles, I would have doubts.  I eventually have always finished the five miles I have started, but during every start, my mind has had doubts. I have come to know that every day is going to be different, and just because I have done the five miles previously, I can’t take it for granted. I have to motivate, re-motivate, and re-re-motivate myself during the runs. A small variable change – the wind, the temperature, the sleep I had, the shoe, the feel in the legs could very well change the entire pattern of the run. Every run, thus, becomes different from the previous.

The idea is to stay vigilant, to keep myself motivated, and just like the run, everything that you start is achievable.

  1. Life is a marathon, not a sprint

I know this is a cliché, “Life is marathon, not a sprint,” but it does hold true. When I first started running, my objective was to run a full marathon. Unfortunately, I have not been able to do that. I might have at least participated in at least one, but well, that number never ran. But as I do my five miles and sometimes close to six miles, it dawns to me how tough a full marathon would be.  The distance of an official full marathon is 26 miles which is at least four times more than I normally run. It takes me roughly around 50 to 55 minutes to do five miles, and if I ran at the same average pace, it would take me nearly 3.5 hours to complete a full marathon. This is if I can maintain the average pace, and we know the body tires, so taking that into account, it would take me around 4 hours or more of running to do a full marathon.  That just puts everything in perspective – running a marathon does not happen overnight. When I first started out saying I am going to run the marathon, I had no idea what I was talking about. But now that I run, and have experienced the effort that goes into running, I can understand the effort it takes to run a marathon.

A humongous task like running a marathon cannot be achieved overnight; it takes time. It takes training, eating right, and mental strength to achieve the distance. I have not run a marathon, but even with all the training that goes into it, when it comes to the real deal, many falter. Running a marathon in many ways does sound like what life is. You can be prepared for it, but yet, life brings about subtle variable change to always challenge you.

At the end of the day,this is the beauty of both life and a marathon – to be able to overcome and complete challenges one after another.

 

Life’s sweeter without the added sugar

About a month ago,I decided to give up eating sugar (sucrose) for the next month. My decision was influenced by a video I watched on Youtube. Not the greatest place be influenced from, but I was, and so I set forth on this challenge – No Sugar for a month.

By no sugar, I meant I wouldn’t be eating table sugar or any product that had additive sugar. I also wanted to do this challenge because for the past year or so, I have really focused on running and fitness overall. And one of the fitness mantra (after having done the workouts) is “NO SUGAR”. Cutting off sugar means cutting off a lot of unnecessary calories and replacing them with much needed calories required by the body(at least this is what I think).

The first two weeks were relatively easy. I sometimes had the urge to eat chocolate (of which i am a big fan), burgers,carbonated drinks and other sugar laden edibles, but I refrained. I stayed true to my words for the first two weeks without much discomfort.

And then, on the third week, as I woke up one Monday morning, I had a bloated stomach. Not having sugar was supposed to make me lose weight, help me get those shredded abs but it had just done the reverse. My tummy was bulging out(so it felt), and I was feeling lost. The following days got even worse – my digestive system was all out of sorts. Those awful burps and gaseous tummy made my third week tough. I did not know what caused this and then it struck me “Does that have something to do with me not eating sugar?” And so I googled. And presto! There it was – “Sugar Withdrawal Symptoms”. This self-diagnosis made me feel a bit better, and after having talked to my friends and loved ones, I was sure that my change in diet was the reason behind my digestive system disarray. I wondered if i took sugar would the queasiness go away, but i did not want to. I did not want to falter after having gotten this far, and with only one week to go did not want to eat sugar.

And, I did not – I went four weeks without eating sugar. The sickness has disappeared and I feel fit and healthy. I have started running again after my mini-illness had prevented me from running for three days. I won’t lie: I can see the abs getting a better shape.

Above all, I have started eating a lot of fruits. In my attempt to stop eating sugar I have turned my attention to fruits that provide me with necessary sugar and a lot more. I have stopped eating a lot of sugar laden food – meaning i have cut back on a lot of junk food (if not all). And I intend to maintain this diet – No sugar.

It thus, would be fair to conclude “Life is sweeter without the added sugar”

Thank you for -Not SMOKING

Just a couple of days more and I will have officially gone six months without smoking. For me it is quiet an achievement, after having smoked for over a decade and countless failed attempts to quit- These six months is a great positive to take. I also think it is fair for me to say that at this point I have by far exceeded my own expectation by a country mile and now I feel in the hindsight it really was not that all difficult. And I wonder why I had failed so many times.

Disastrous Way to Quit Smoking

 But I do know that- it has not been so easy especially to begin with. Early July, at the very beginning it was an easy decision – “ I am going to quit smoking” I had said. But keeping up with those words would be a challenge and I knew that. When I did not smoke for the next week I thought I was doing it. But the next four days I was back to smoking. I was not smoking a lot but even one in three days meant I was still smoking. In the first ten days after I said I was done smoking I had smoked four. On a larger scale that still was an insignificant number and I could have told myself –“ Four, in ten days is not bad. Previously I have done ten in a day. So progress.” But instead this other thought came over my head and I felt I was not doing justice to my words. And then on, ten days later after having said I was not going to smoke but had, I decided THIS WAS IT. I was livid with myself for not staying true to my words. And when I purchased that fifth cigarette- the purpose was not to smoke but to crush it into pieces and throw it away. And that is exactly what I did. A bit dramatic but I did it anyway. And ever since the day I crushed that cigarette, I have been able to crush the urge, the desire and the need to smoke. And I can say“ It feels absolutely amazing.”

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My lungs would probably be the first one to admit how great it feels. Now, that I have a strict running schedule my lungs need to be healthy and with no first hand smoke intake my lungs would say that “ Thank you for not smoking.” There are so many advantages to not smoking and I think smokers are well aware of that. I was well aware of the disadvantage of smoking but I smoked nevertheless, back then. Often I would argue when someone said “Smoking kills”. I would say just for the heck of it “ What doesn’t?” But now I think it is more about being able to live so much better when smoke free. And for me it has been an experiment I have conducted on myself. You read it everywhere the benefits of not smoking but you won’t know it unless you quit. I was willing to experiment & challenge myself and I can say the benefits show. For smokers I would like you to take up the experiment, take it up as a challenge and see it for yourself.

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As for me I can’t thank myself enough for having given up smoking. I did not do it for anyone but for myself alone. But I can also say though I did it for myself, I have been able to make people that care about me happy as well. And there isn’t a better feeling than being able to make your loved ones happy by your actions. I am pretty sure given how these six months have gone for me – there is no way I would want to go down the smokers lane again.

From running for life to running for life

On April 25th, 2015 on what looked like a normal Saturday- 7.8 Magnitude earthquake shook Nepal. I was on the top most part of the house where the water tanks were kept. And when the first tremor hit my initial response was to jump to a level below. Which I believe is no less than 8 to 10 feet. If you asked me to do it today – I would definitely hesitate and think twice. But on this day- I jumped and raced out to get mom and we scampered together to the nearest open ground. Small aftershocks followed throughout the day and into the night. The very next day another huge aftershock this was followed by even larger 7.3 Magnitude aftershock about a week later. The aftershocks kept me on my toes almost always. The impact of the earthquake was so mentally traumatizing that even if some stupid yelled out earthquake- I was ready to make a dash for it. I was basically running for life, too scared to get trampled upon, scared because I did not want to die- not now, not like this.

Nepal, a beautiful south Asian nation sandwiched between India and China. This is as close as it gets to defining Nepal in a sentence. And us Nepali’s have had this definition engraved in our minds since the first standard and for some even before. But when I say beautiful Nepal, I am really not exaggerating any of it. It really is a staggering beauty with its mountainous range, epic hills, bio-diversity paradise and so much more. It really is the case of “You have to be here to see and experience it.” But the beauty has a dark side to it. And Nepal is really one of the poorest nations in the world. There is so much to do, in so many fronts: Education, Gender issues, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene and the list goes on. Constant political turmoil and bickering has been one reason the country finds itself lagging behind and the earthquake has just added to the plight. According to a post from the Kathmandu Post – Money (2015-10-6) the growth rate has fallen down drastically ever since the earthquake – from 5 to 3.4%.
The land topography of Nepal does not do it much favor either especially in infrastructural development projects. So, roads have not yet been linked to a large portion of the nation. Which means people have to walk huge distance and in an arduous terrain. That I why I think it’s fair to say we Nepali’s are cut out for the tough task. Also i think we were born for endurance sports because we basically walk this terrain. And maybe that’s why i just had a spontaneous thought of running. It was by no means a conscious decision back then though. I just felt growing up in the city- I had lost my appetite to walk and run. And I was so caught up in the buzz of city that I had neglected the physical demands of the body. But in the hindsight maybe going back to the basics was the perfect way to finding a way upfront. And that’s exactly what I have done – gone back to walking, running and cycling. Physically I have never been fitter and mentally i feel i am a lot clear in the head and I don’t plan on stopping running anytime soon. If anything I am going to run more. I don’t know how this will add up in the future or how I will be able to contribute but for now it has been a question of self-investment. And more importantly I just have a gut feeling that it will all add up somewhere, sometime. I have just got to keep at it and keep moving. And this is how I started running for life literally.
(My daily running journal since the day I started http://www.immarunthemarathon.blogspot.com )

The world’s most delicious apple

It was the 26th of December-last Saturday and I was doing my weekend five miler for the third time. The week before that I had just completed my second five miles and the week before that the first.  In the first week I grew hungry when running and even more after completing 5 miles. I was still fair distance away from home and most importantly food. So, in the second week I decided to take an apple with me. I had done around two and half miles and I got hungry. So, I munched on the apple while running. Now, what I did back then was munch the entire apple very fast and as a result- I felt I might throw up. Luckily, I didn’t. But what I figured was that was no way to eat and run.

So, in the third attempt I carried an apple and started my run. Half-way through the run again I got a bit hungry. And so I munched on the apple. This time however, I just took two bites of it and shoved it back in my hoodie pocket and continued to run. As I ran further I took another two bites of the apple and into the pocket it went again. Soon I was done with my five miles and pretty pleased with my days effort. I was hungry and I had the apple with me. It was munching time.

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The most delicious apple (whatever was left) 26/12/2015

And then I tasted it- the most delicious apple in the entire world. I was tired after the run and hungry and this half-eaten apple was fruit divine. I was so into eating that apple – I was literally, in the middle of the road talking to the apple about how delicious it was. “You are one of the most delicious apples I have ever eaten. You are so delicious that if you ate yourself- you’d actually find yourself delicious. Pity! An apple as delicious as you has to be devoured but thank you” I said. Part of this conversation was inspired (Copied) from the apple conversation from the movie “Into the Wild”. But that conversation fit my situation perfectly so I used it – and I had not made any prior plans to actually to use it anyway.

That is the story of the most delicious apple ever eaten. Tomorrow is another Saturday, which means another five or more miles. But I have one more incentive to run now – I might just get to taste the most delicious apple again.

2015 – Hindsight 20/20

It’s almost the end of the year 2015, which as clichéd as it sounds feels like started just few days ago.  And here I am doing my year review – as a matter of fact my first ever. I don’t want to dwell too much into particular incidents or follow a monthly chronological order but instead will try and identify six key lessons that served me particularly well this year.

  1. It’s not the start or the end but the journey that matters

We’d all love to have a positive and a solid start and that would be the ideal scenario but this is not always possible. At the end of 2014, I had no idea I would have one of the most horrible start to 2015. But to be fair to 2015 it was not all its doing – I pretty much carried the baggage of 2014 into 2015. And the mayhem with which 2015 started was just compounded by the extra baggage I’d carried from 2014. As the early days of 2015 rolled on, before I’d known it months had passed. I was a miserable wreck on so many levels.  That feeling of stagnancy in life was at its peak and I felt I was a victim of life.

Then I snapped – in hindsight I can say for the better.  I think I reached the saturation point of stagnancy – what happened next was I said “I don’t want this for me.” The moment I said this wind sort of changed its course-maybe. But now towards end of this year with few days remaining that day late in June when I told myself I was done with stagnancy – it all changed for me. And i think it is fair to say that I am looking forward to carrying this momentum on to 2016 and start on the front foot. Will I be carrying any extra baggage with me? NOPE

  1. From Mind-full to Mindful

This was without a shadow of doubt the best decision I made and it continues to be one. With the start of 2015 the head was filled with loads of stuffs and constant overthinking made it worse. The worse got even more unbearable when I was constantly worrying about the things I could not influence. It was around this time I was feeling horribly down in life. Towards the end of June, one evening as I sat there probably with hands on my head – surfing the net, my mind full of unproductive ramblings, I just felt that I did not want this anymore. And then the very next moment my hands fell on this book “Mindfulness: How to find peace in this frantic world.” I did not know whether this book would work for me. But I did seek for that ever eluding “peace” and if this book was going to show me the way, I was more than willing to follow. What happened then on was surreal and i was on a journey from being mind full to being mindful.  And as the days turned to weeks, it was an easy call for me to make – the latter was way better than the former.

Soon, after I found Headspace app which really was a great way to practice mindfulness (meditation). And I am almost seven months into the practice and I love every bit of it. For everyone who thinks about mindfulness is about spiritual or religious practice- it’s not. It’s a practice where you basically more aware. And in order to be mindful one need not sit crossed legged or in some weird postures and with incense stick burning – those are just a myth. You can do it sitting on a chair or even lying down- it’s all about being in the present. Also, you need not spend hours on it, being mindful for ten minutes a day is enough.

  1. Reading is to mind what exercise is to body

Another one of my best decision this year – to start reading more. I have never been a voracious reader and I don’t consider myself one. But ever since I started reading a lot more than I previously had – everything seemed better. Not that I had solved all my problems, I hadn’t – all of them were right there but I just had better things to do now than to sit or lie down and overthink about things that were well out of my control. I would have my mindfulness sessions and the reading sessions would be long and endless every day. I did not have any particular genre of books as such and I read pretty much everything- Fiction, non-fiction, self-help, autobiography and even religious Scriptures. I was reading blogs, journals – I was reading and was in the thick of the excitement of reading.  Also, by the time I started reading I already had about a months’ practice of the mindfulness sessions and these sessions really contributed for me to be able to read and make a habit out of it. I say this with immense joy that I have actually been able to read much more in the course of five months than I have done in the previous five years (I am excluding academic books).  Reading also enabled my mind to ease off and I did not have much time to think about stuffs that really did not add much value to my life but instead just made me feel miserable. And with the reading habit came the writing habit and soon I was writing more. I intend to start a podcast or a V-blog to share my sentiments very soon- which again I think will be a product of me reading more.

  1. Smoking is injurious to health

When I first started smoking almost a decade ago I was well aware that smoking was injurious and it kills. But I wouldn’t often argue just for the heck of it – “what doesn’t?” I’d say. But a week after my encounter with the mindfulness book I was ready to give up smoking for the umpteenth time.   But this time I was equipped with a little bit more grit, determination and above all experience. The fact that I had failed on so many attempts previously to give up smoking was actually encouraging. Many a times failure drags us down and we tend to believe that I am not going to succeed because I’ve failed so many times. But this time was different I actually saw my failure as my experience and felt I was better equipped to deal with effects of quitting smoking. Here again my mindful practice came to my aid. When I felt like smoking I tried to get rid of the urge and told myself it was all in the head and it was more the mental battle rather than the physical. And a week turned into two, then three and here I am today almost six months smoke free. And the lungs feel great.

  1. Running for life

Months after I started my mindfulness session, I was reading, writing more frequently and had not smoked, it just occurred to me one afternoon early November – I am going to run the marathon. I had no idea where this thought came from but I just wanted to run. And so the very next morning I laced up my runners and took to the road. I was amazed how refreshing this was and given I had quit smoking for couple of months now I could really run so much better.  It was soon two weeks into my running program and I was pleasantly surprised to see myself loving to wake up early every morning, lace up and run. I had actually started running for life and not idiomatically but literally. I just loved it.  When I got injured two weeks later with a torn ligament and was bed ridden for the next two weeks I kept the flame burning and my desire to start running was immense. This led me to believe that I was going to run as long as I could.

 Initially when I had this thought that I wanted to run for some reason deep down inside I just wanted it to a long distance run. And both running and reading about long distance running has brought about new insight about life as a whole. It is amazing how life and long distance running (marathon) co-relate to one another.  I want to write more about the co-relation but not just yet, not until I have got a taste of running an actual marathon.

  1. Keeping the feet firmly on the ground

This by far is the lesson of the year- to keep the feet on the ground. When I started this year I was sinking slowly but surely. I was a train wreck and six feet under the ground from where I just could not see the light. But then everything changed for the better and right now I feel great about myself. And I know for a fact that with this amazing feel that I get at times it is easy to get carried away. So it becomes more important that put my feet on the ground. I am in love with this journey where it is so much about self-investment and I want to keep at it without getting carried away by the positives that comes my way. Or not beat myself in time of turmoil.

Finally, I believe now everything is a choice. It starts with multiple options but then one was to make a choice and stick to it.

(My 2015 has been a great learning curve and I can’t wait for the 2016. There’s so much to do, so many plans and but I understand that whatever the circumstance I am going to deal with it a lot better and enjoy it.)

Self-Investment

This one is for days where i have questions like “Where does this lead to?” or “What am i doing?” or “Does anything i am doing make sense?” I’ve started on many challenges that i believe and have had the gut instinct are the right stuffs to do. Be it the marathon challenge or the 21earlyday challenge they’ve made sense to me when i sought forward to starting them. But i know there will be days when i will be low on motivation and will start questioning where does all these challenges lead to? That is when i need to remember I made a start because it all made sense when i began and i’ve come too far to give up.

I know i am pretty early in both my challenges and right now the energy and enthusiasm is still at its peak. But as the time goes on and there will be days where it will feel like this is the saturation point. And nothing that i am doing will make sense. I need to look back and remember why i started all of these challenges in the first place. I believe that it leads somewhere, somewhere better than where i have previously been. Like the old man Jobs quoted in the Stanford Uni speech ” Looking backward the dots will connect.” Not the exacted words but i guess somewhere along those line. So when the doubts creep in about what i am doing and where does this lead to? I should remind myself that its pointless trying to connect the dot going forward. And i should just keep on doing what i thought was worth starting and pursuing for in the first place.

For now i keep on going and remember its a personal investment i am willing to make.