Couch Potato to Runner - My Story!

Except perhaps for a few years during college, I have always been a chubby person for as long back as I can remember.
In school, I was not a very active kid. I was and still am mostly an indoor person. In contrast, my sister used to be the outgoing one and I was the one who used to hide behind the curtains whenever someone came over our place. Somehow, I took liking to reading books and that kept me busy most of the time.
Sports and games were not my cup of tea. I was lethargic and spent most of my time lying on the bed with a book in my hand. But, my student days definitely stood out for one thing. There was a routine in my life - an impeccable routine. My parents get all the credit to have instilled the sense of discipline in me. And in those days, even though I despised it sometimes, I had no other way than following it.
Later in life, when I joined my first job, my sedentary lifestyle followed me. However, with professional life, came the tags of stress, unhealthy eating habits and irregular sleeping habits.  I justified the same with the rationale that to have a strong professional career, I need to focus on work and everything else was secondary. Living independently, I slowly lost control over the routine in life. Every day was a new day and every day, I did things at different time. And I felt good about it. I felt as if I control my time and I decide what to do with it. Only time to go to office was fixed. There was no fixed time at when I return from office, when I return back to home, when I eat or when I sleep.
When I look back now, this was kind of a period of time when I was leading a bohemian life. I started to gain more and more weight. While I had hypertension since my college days (diagnosed as essential hypertension), it started to flare up more. I did not care about that. Several such years of unrestricted unhealthy lifestyle lead to a sharp increase in my cholesterol and triglyceride levels. By that time, I was married and there was a semblance or routine which had come in to my life. I was eating homemade food which was good for my health.
In order to control my lipid levels the doctor prescribed medicinies. I did not want to take any more medicines since I was already on hypertension medicines for the last 15 years.  I wanted to make certain lifestyle modifications to control my lipids. I tried to walk  several times a week. Started the walking routine several times, but failed at maintaining the regularity each time. My weight kept going up and I reached 82 Kg in 2010.
In the mean time, my blood sugar level was inching up and I had high uric acid in blood which was causing joint pains (gout).
Doctor diagnosed me with metabolic syndrome (High BP, lipids, uric acid, obesity). Advised me medicines and exercise.
Family members suggested me to join a gym, but i did not like the idea. I knew I will join it, but will not continue. My problem was I was not able to maintain regularity. Hence I refrained from joining the gym. In early 2010, finally I had to resort to taking statins to reduce my cholestorol and trigylceride levels. After a course of 90 days of the medicines, the lipids came down, but again six month down the line, they went up again.
Since 2007, I have tried to walk regularly. But, as mentioned earlier, every time I started, I could not sustain it for more than 10 to 15 days. But now, I realized that the only thing necessary for me was regularity in whatever exercise I do. Be it joining the Gym or a yoga class or walking. Nothing else will help me but regularity in whatever I do. I reflected back on my life in student days and realized how regular things were. I understood that the only way I can control my lipids, hypertension, sugar, uric acid was to have a regular healthy and active life.
There was another reason for me becoming health conscious in 2010. My daughter was born. I want her to learn to value health and fitness in her life. I wanted myself to be a role model for her so that she can pick up these habits easily.
I told myself, if I can continue a regular walk for 3 months, I will then join the gym.
That is when I started to go for morning walks in late 2010. It was difficult to get up in the cold Bangalore winter morning, wear a jacket/sweater, shoes and go for the walk. But I tried to stick to it on most of the days that I could. I took help from one of my most trusted habits. I found that I can rely on my old reading habit to help keep me motivated. As I like to read and read a lot, I read up the benefits of walking on the internet for at least 1 hour every night. I found that the more I read about it, the more motivated I was to go for my walk. Thus, I was able to continue this for more than a month for the first time in my life. I did not tell this to anyone at all.
Slowly I came up with the guts to run a little. In my earlier attempts at running, I would be huffing and puffing in a minute, hardly being able to cover even 200 mts. My legs could not take the pain. My heart used to beat like it would explode. My lungs felt chocked and throat felt as if it would gag from the dryness. I thought running is not for me and I gave it up. But by early 2011, my habit of walking was more or less established.
So, I announced it to my family and friends what I have been doing. Everyone encouraged and that kept me going. I could see the results in 4 months. By march 2011, I was 4 kg down to 78 kg.
I moved from Bangalore to Hyderabad in April 2011. Joining the Gym was an idea I was toying with. But my gout flared up in Hyderabad and I was prescribed medicines and pain killers for that. I post poned my idea of joining the Gym.
I continued my walks in Hyderabad. I continued my motivational reading as I could see a direct effect of the same for my daily motivation for walking. While reading up on walking, I digressed from walking to many other topics on health and fitness. I read up on diet, different types of exercises, running, gym classes, spinning etc. I figured out how many calories are burnt by which exercise, which food contains how many calories, which food is most likely to give me more gout pain, which one increased cholesterol, etc.  I tried to become more active. I read that stairs climbing was a good exercise and tried using stairs more often at office. I stay on a sixth floor home and walking up and down gave a good exercise. So, I converted my morning walks to kind of walks with stair climbing up and down the six floors. I was able to climb up and down the stairs 5 to 6 times within 30 minutes period along with a short walk between the climbs.
I took note of how many minutes it took me to climb up and how many to come down, how much energy I spent. I recorded everything. My weight started falling down at a higher rate. Within the next 2 months I was down to 74 kg. But I still needed to lose weight. Gout pain was still there. Cholesterol was normal. Triglyceride was on slightly higher side. Doctor again advised statin, gout medicine and exercise.
Another decision I made around this time is that I will not eat outside. I decided with my wife that we will go out for lunch or dinner only once in a month. I will eat home food most of the time. This was one of the best decisions that I made. This one along with exercise really paid off.
I also continued reading up more and found an article called "learn to run". This article explained how one can go from walking to running in small progressive steps. I decided to follow it. Since I was walking and climbing stairs in the morning, I decided to follow the learn-to-run in the evening.
In July 2011, after my birth day, I decided I need to re-new my body. On 13-July-2011, I started my first session. The learn to run program suggests one to run only for 3 days a week. It is not a complete run, but rather walk and a run in between.
This is my journal entry "Session 1 - 34 min. Run 1 minute. Walk 2 minutes. Do this 8 times. ------ DONE on 13-Jul-11".  I was not very happy after this first run. I was rather worrying if I can sustain this for the all through till I was able to run or not.
My journal entry in the 3rd week: "Session 1 - 45 min. Run 3 minutes. Walk 2 minutes. Do this 7 times. ------ DONE on 25-Jul-11 ***** ABLE TO RUN FOR 21 STAGGERED MINUTES !!!!!!!! ****"
This was probably the maximum time I had ever run in my life. Running for 21 staggered minutes, 3 minutes at a time and 2 minutes walk in between seemed such a great achievement that I boasted this to wifey. However, I still had the fear that I will abandon this program. Still doubted my commitment to regularity.
The initial weeks of running put tremendous stress on my muscles and skeleton. I had pain in all parts of my body. My legs, quads, glutes, hands, shoulder and back - everything seemed to  pain. I had pain while walking, while climbing stairs, while driving the car the tail bone used to pain for some reason. Sometimes during a run, my hands would feel numb and sometimes they will have a tingling sensation. I read up on all these on the net. I figured out that these are temporary pain which is coming as by body is adjusting to the pounding of the running .
By august, my weight was down to 70. I continued my exercises both in morning and evening. Walking every morning and running in 3 evenings a week, I began to feel good after my morning stair exercises and evening runs. Somehow the profuse sweating and increase in pulse and heart-beat brought about a nice feeling afterwards. I would come home from my exercises and look at myself in the mirror, sweat dripping down from my face like I have just come out of a shower and feeling real good.
I started reading up more on running. Discovered websites like, runners world etc, read up other runners blogs, became a members of Hyderabad Runners google group and did all that I could while sitting the couch to motivate me for my run. I learnt about warm-ups, cool downs, core-exercises, running injuries. I started to like running.
I was careful not to run fast as the program advised that a beginner should try to run for time and then distance. As a beginner, I did not worry on my running speed. And with my knee pain from gout, I was extra careful. But I got my first knee pain from running in September by which time I was doing a run-walk for about 5 Km in 45 minutes. But I continued with it. By November 2011, my weight came down to 66 kg, my lipids were all normal. Uric acid was within reasonable range, though doctor still wanted that to come down. I also informed him about my running routine and got green signal from him to continue it.
By 14 weeks I was able to walk-run for 8 kilometers in about an hour's time.
At home and at work, people started noticing the changes in me. I was leaner and fitter. The bulge had gone. The tyres around me had vanished. I was looking much younger. Some thought that I was sick. But every day I got some positive comments and I enjoyed them. I had to buy new clothes as my old ones were not fitting well anymore. But still I was worrying that I will fall back to my old ways and gain weight. Hence did not buy new ones.
On 26th January, 2012, the Hyderabad Runners Club organized a club run. I wanted to test my mettle in a 10k race. My first target was to complete a 10K and second was to complete it with-in 1 hours. I participated and completed it in 1 hour and 26 seconds. Felt great. Felt like a runner.
Ever since completing that I have been running regularly and have decided to call myself a runner. I have experienced many positive spin-offs from running. More on that some other time.
This is my story from being a couch potato to a runner!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for reading my blog. Your comments and suggestions are welcome!