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Fit as a fiddle, on feet and pedals

Cycling back from an all-night shoot (yes, I belong to that rare breed that commutes by cycle), I saw some 40-somethings walking briskly.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2011 00:51 IST

Cycling back from an all-night shoot (yes, I belong to that rare breed that commutes by cycle), I saw some 40-somethings walking briskly. Another group, obviously into regular training, was running a little ahead. Closer home, in the park, some uncles were practising yoga. During weekends, I see fellow cyclists riding around town; for some, cycling is pretty much a way of life.

The world seems to have woken up to the reality of fitness and health-consciousness. And although gyms abound, it’s heartening to see this gradual yet emphatic return to the open outdoors.

So what has inspired all these people to break free from the strangling shackles of lethargy, lack of time and boredom to embrace these simple yet fun forms of fitness?

Most cyclists return to cycling after a decade’s gap when they feel the need for physical exercise and find cycling an enjoyable way of staying fit. Plus, it’s easy, affordable, requires no training, and can fit into even the busiest schedules!

What about running? Praful Uchil, 40, a professional athlete who trains marathon aspirants, says, “People get caught up in their studies and careers and neglect the fitness aspect.

Once they are ‘settled’, they are more than willing to make time for their health. Running actually comes as a ‘breath of fresh air’.

It also helps them connect with a lot of like-minded individuals from different careers and social backgrounds.” Praful indicates another sweetener: “Running is an activity where spouses can accompany them. My wife Swapna joins me on weekends.” Talk about work-life balance!

Praful, along with Deepak Londhe, 37, another professional athlete, conceived Striders in 2006 to train runners aspiring to participate in the marathon. Today, Striders has over 260 members across Mumbai.

“Around 75% of our members are in the 40-45 age group, and most of them participate in the Mumbai Marathon,” says Uchil. So it’s not just youngsters in their prime who are drawn to the Marathon!

Take Dhananjay Yellurkar, 47, for instance. “As a youngster, running was the last thing on my mind. Mumbai Marathon’s popularity lured me to participate in the Dream Run in 2008. I was nearing my mid-40s and practice meant a few lazy laps in Joggers Park!” In May 2009, Dhananjay suffered a heart attack; the five blocks necessitated an immediate bypass surgery at Asian Heart Institute (AHI). Most others would have given up their marathon dreams. But Dhananjay with the help from AHI doctors (avid marathoners themselves), got into serious training with Top Gear MIG, Bandra, and did the 21-km Half Marathon. “The trauma of a bypass surgery was emotionally draining. I needed to prove to myself that my body was fine.” And prove it, he did! Last year, Dhananjay travelled halfway across the world and successfully completed the 42-km New York City Marathon!

Divya Tate, 43, is a long-distance endurance cyclist who has been riding for over three decades. “Cycling emancipates me — physically, the obvious fitness and health benefits, and mentally, the confidence of being able to ride liberates the mind.” Last week, Divya completed a 300-km endurance ride, despite a recently healed knee. “Nothing strengthens your character, as much as the challenge of an endurance event like Enduro 3, that tests you in many

disciplines like running, trekking and cycling, including survival skills!”

And for me? I prefer cycling… because I love it… and it gets me around the city faster than anything else! It keeps me fit, which is simply the icing on the cake.

(Anil Uchil is a corporate communication professional, who believes in cycling, recycling and all things green)