How this Fit Mom, Smita Kulkarni is inspiring young ones to get fit, writes Protima Tiwary.
At a very early age, Smita Kulkarni faced the unpleasant shock of menopause. Not prepared to deal with this at the young age of 37, it took her a lot of mental strength to overcome the body changes that would follow. Hereditary conditions and family history also had her testing for other health scares. Today, at the young age of 46, Smita Kulkarni runs half and full marathons with ease and is a source of inspiration to so many young women all around her.
We sat down for a little tête-à-tête and found out how fitness changed the life of this leggy beauty.
Was fitness a major part of your childhood?
I come from a family of foodies, but active ones at that. Everyone I knew was either playing a sport, or practicing yoga, or was involved in an outdoor activity. As a child I would play a lot of cricket with the boys, kabaddi and volleyball in school and practice yoga with my father which I won’t deny, I used to detest back then.
How did fitness become such a major part of your lifestyle?
Fitness became a part of my lifestyle only in 1999. I had gained a few unwanted pounds while traveling with my husband on a ship, and I knew it was time to get in shape. I started walking a lot and started with basic bodyweight training exercises. I used to read a lot about fitness too and started doing the HIIT workouts at home.
My son was born in 2003, and I got back to training soon after. I concentrated on weight training and was really enjoying the journey when in 2009 the unthinkable happened. I had hit premature menopause at the age of 37.
It was hereditary, and I was put on Hormone Replacement Therapy to avoid the side effects of menopause (osteoporosis, strokes, weight gain) But now we had another problem- it’s a well-known fact that HRT is known to cause certain types of cancer (breasts and ovarian) and there was a history of breast cancer in my family (my mother is a survivor) I had to discontinue HRT, and that is when I put in all my energy, both physical and mental, into fitness. I started running, and soon got addicted to this “me-time.”
Smita Kulkarni- a mother, a runner, a baker, a wife, a homemaker- how has your ecosystem adapted to your fit lifestyle?
My family and loved ones have been a great support. I am extremely blessed to have a husband who is very supportive of my running and other fitness activities, and it’s an added bonus that he believes in staying fit too. My son is a football player and has accompanied me for a lot of runs and has also done a couple of 10K races with me. We are a food-loving family but everything is done in moderation.
What is your nutrition like today? How do you train?
I do a couple of Full Marathons, a few Half Marathons and 10k races throughout the year. For this, I train with Dr. Kaustubh Radkar who is a 20-time Ironman. We train 3-4 times a week, and two days are dedicated to the gym for strength and functional training. I also practice yoga every day.
As far as the diet is concerned, I have never believed in any of the fad diets, I’m too much of a foodie for that!
I just believe in eating in moderation and I try to stay off junk food, aerated water, and sweets as much as possible. And even if I do indulge I see to it that I burn it off the next day. Only if I am training for a specific race do I take extra care of what I am eating.
What has been your best race in terms of performance?
No one race comes to mind because there are so many! But if I had to pick, I’d choose the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2014 where at the age of 42 I finished in 2 hours 4 minutes WITHOUT any training. Then came the sub 2 hours half marathon at ADHM (Delhi), then the Full Marathon at IDBI Delhi. Lastly, my first international World Major Marathon in Berlin was extremely enjoyable, and of course, memorable.
How do you keep yourself motivated to continue training and running?
I have my Radstrong team and my PuneRoadrunners group to thank for all the inspiration and motivation that they have provided me with. Plus knowing that there are others who are supporting my journey and getting inspired by what I do, I am motivated to wake up each day and train even harder.
How has running shaped you up as a person?
Running has shaped my life for the better, without any doubt. There has been a physical, mental and emotional transformation. I have become so much more disciplined, I think that has been the biggest change which has affected everything else in my life. I wake up at 4:00 am and go to sleep by 10:00 pm! I have a schedule in place, I have wonderful people who support each other and I have made amazing friends on this journey. I also think I am better equipped to deal with stress now. My perfect stress buster involves me lacing up and going out for a run!
Are there any races that are close to your heart?
So many of them, but I guess it’s a tough one between the Berlin and Delhi Marathons where I ran a steady, strong race with consistent splits throughout, with no walking at all.
Could you share any myths that you’d like to bust when it comes to fitness?
Yes, there are a couple that comes to mind, the first one being that running is bad for your knees. Honestly, as long as you do a total body strength workout at least twice a week you will reduce your chances of getting injured and will enhance your running experience.
The second one is that doing crunches will get you a flat tummy. No, it’s the planks, a good core workout and sensible eating that will get you flat abs.
She sits calmly as she answers our questions, that image of perfection with her dark, curly hair, kohl-lined eyes and red pout, with no idea of the extent to which she has inspired us today. Here is a woman who shows how age is just a number, and if you believe in love, there is nothing that will bring you down. More power to you Smita! Keep inspiring.