The last few months have been about adapting, adjusting, unlearning and learning. Athletes, runners and fitness enthusiasts across the world too have had to set new goals in compliance with the new normal and work towards those goals as countries announced lockdown and sporting events got cancelled. In this series, Finisher Magazine brings you personal accounts of runners across the globe on how they are coping with life and fitness during pandemic. In a telephonic chat with Finisher Magazine, Chicago-based Shathish Rangaswamy shares his story. Read the London diary here.
Be it the Covid-19 pandemic that shut down the entire world or the mounting economic and humanitarian crisis and the daily grim news, everyone’s having a hard time coping. People are dealing with quarantine or isolation fatigue and struggling to keep themselves motivated. Under these circumstances, it’s almost impossible to remain upbeat. But Chicago-based Shathish Rangaswamy has achieved the impossible. When asked how is he coping? He expresses surprise and says, “What do you mean by coping? I am enjoying this period.”
Forty-six-year-old Shathish has finished 10 marathons, including the Chicago marathon, and has a personal best of 3 hours, 30 mins. He’s an active member of the local running community with over 1,000 members and has been a champion multiple times. It’s the runner’s discipline and routine that has aided him in making the most out of the lockdown.
“I have been focusing on strengthening my core. Before lockdown, I would race every Saturday, put everything in it. Sometimes I would experience soreness as I couldn’t focus on my core. Now, I have been stretching, weight-lifting and doing ab exercises,” he says.
Shathish’s wake-up call came when he lost friends in their mid-30s to heart attack. “They had no underlying condition. I got scared and started running,” he recalls. “I started by walking on the treadmill. Back then, I used to live on the third floor of an apartment building and every time, I would start running on the treadmill, the neighbours would complain. I could only manage 3 miles per day and was not showing any results. Later, I moved to a bigger house, bought a new treadmill and made good progress. I learnt running using my stomach muscles and not my leg muscles. It looks awkward but I enjoy it.”
His friends suggested he runs the Chicago marathon. “I didn’t even know how many kms make a marathon. We have a very strong running community here. I started training with them every Sunday. They constantly gave me suggestions to improve and helped me correct my mistakes,” says Shathish or as his buddies call him ‘Sam’.
Talking about his lockdown routine, Sam sounds almost reluctant to go back to office. He’s saving his commute time and running 6-7 miles on the treadmill every day. He also has a ‘good problem’. “I am not the kind of person who can sit for hours on the couch doing nothing. I start getting hip pain,” he laughs. While he’s come across friends and family complaining about boredom and lack of motivation, Shathish and his wife have been slamming it out over a game of table tennis. “Whenever we feel low, my wife and I take out all our frustration and anger playing TT. We are very competitive and don’t spare each other. But after the match is over, all is forgotten. We don’t bring any negative feelings inside our home.” The couple even enjoys playing crossminton in their backyard. For the uninitiated, crossminton is a combination of badminton, squash and tennis. It is played without any net and doesn’t need a playground or a court.
Shathish also announces with a certain amount of pride that he has managed to build a six-pack during lockdown. All that stretching has certainly helped. “The lockdown here is not intense. People do run outside, but not in groups.” And how does he run? “I put on a cricket match, anything from 1975 to the IPL matches, and start running on the treadmill. I give the same advice to people, put on some movies or a match, and run on the treadmill. If not anything, do some stretches. It will help you feel better.”
The lockdown is not some kind of downtime for Shathish, instead he is using this period to train. “Since there are no races, I am very relaxed. I am training and working out at my own pace. Last year was not a good year for me, I was struggling with my races. I couldn’t do much training then, but now I am ready for 2021,” he says adding that he’s not strict with rest days. “There are days when I don’t feel like running, I walk then. Listen to your body, don’t force yourself. Pay attention when your body tells you to shut up.”
What’s the dietary secret to his six-pack? Like every other Indian, Shathish is a rice lover. But he’s also inspired by Novak Djokovic’s diet. “I like all kinds of rice – fried rice, sambhar rice, rasam rice. Most runners prefer pasta before the races, I eat biryani. I don’t eat junk but I don’t believe in portion control. I utilize whatever I eat. Don’t stop eating what you like, burn it.”