Ranjana TN

Do something physically challenging every year!

I’ve found a system to stay fit which I very much enjoy. I stumbled on this by chance and I’m glad I did! I’d like to narrate the backstory first so that you get the context in which it came about.

The Backstory

Movement is not something I’m new to. I started learning classical dance at a very young age – when I was just 5 years old. I did that for more than 20 years before I even stepped into a gym. For the longest time, I thought that I was ‘meant’ for dance alone and didn’t quite have the build to venture into doing stuff that other people did in the gym. I was downright scared of the weird-looking equipment.

Sometime in 2015, I started listening to Tim Ferriss’s podcast as well as Tom Bilyeu’s Inside Quest (now Impact Theory). I learned about crazy people across the world who did these crazy things with their bodies like running ultramarathons, competing in races that seemed to place crazy demands on the bodies, climbing mountains, etc. I started to think that I might consider checking out what this whole ‘becoming fit’ was all about. So in April 2016, I decided to explore a bunch of classes to see if I liked any. After attending a dozen or so classes ranging from kickboxing to contemporary dance, I settled on getting a gym membership as the starting point. I was still very tentative about it all.

All that changed sometime in May 2016 when a friend asked if I’d like to go on a trek. I was intrigued. I’d never gone on a trek before! So I listened with great interest. She said that it was an eleven-day trek in the Himalayas. We’d go to the very base of Mount Everest! I said yes without thinking twice. When I looked up the trek on the internet, though, I realized that I had signed up for something super challenging especially since I didn’t know the first thing about trekking!

I knew that I had to train to get ‘fit’ and fast. I started going to the gym 5 days a week. I remember my first day there – I was so scared to get onto a treadmill. It looked so intimidating. I remember walking at 1.5 km/hr for 15 minutes – that’s how scared I was. Soon, I started doing weights (super light ones – 2.5kg), bodyweight exercises, and climbing stairs. I would always, always listen to Inside Quest episodes as I exercised and that would fuel my resolve to push harder. One day, I decided that I would go up and down the two flights of stairs at home with a 20kg backpack for as long as I could. It turned out to be 4.5 hours straight. It was only at the end of it that I started to feel like I’d be able to do the trek which was about 1.5 months away.

Doing something physically challenging every year!

In October 2016, I did the Everest Base Camp trek. It lasted eleven days, challenged me physically like nothing else had ever done before, and created memories for a lifetime. The best part was the journey of getting there – training for the trek had made me more fit than I’d ever been in my life. That got me thinking…what if I did something physically challenging every year? Not something I could just do, but something I needed to train for. That ensured a few things:

  1. I was working on my fitness every year
  2. I was keeping things fresh and wasn’t battling the boredom of doing the same thing day in day out, namely, hitting the gym in a monotonous fashion
  3. Most importantly, I was creating a highlight for the year or a ‘reference experience’. These would become memories that I could look back on fondly for years and years to come.

Once this idea took flight in my mind, there was no looking back. Every year, I pick one physical challenge to work towards and train for. It’s been the most rewarding and fun journey! Here’s what my list looks like so far:

  1. Oct 2015: Completing my Bharatanatyam Senior Examination conducted by the Karnataka Secondary Education Examination board. I trained every day for 5+ months and scored 89% overall.
  2. Oct 2016: Doing the Everest base camp trek. I trained for 5+ months.
  3. July 2017: Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. That was one hell of an experience that I will share in more detail in a different post. I trained for 4+ months in earnest.
  4. Jan 2018: Running the Mumbai marathon. Overall, that took about 10 months of training because I had never run in my life before that. I learned to run a 10k and then a half-marathon (which I ran in Bangalore) before finally running the full 42k in Mumbai.
  5. Dec 2019: Doing 50 pushups in a row by Dec 31st, 2019. I did it on Dec 28th, 2019 at sunset on a beach in Koh-Phangan, Thailand! I trained for about 12 weeks.

There you have it – my personal system for keeping fit! The best part about this is that I’m creating reference experiences that make me smile and I can take inspiration from for the rest of my life. Irrespective of what else happens during the year, I know that I have one experience to be proud of. The fun is not not only in the accomplishment of the goal but also in working diligently towards it too! I’m planning on creating a picture board of sorts and putting it up where I can see it every day at home. It’s good to remind myself of my accomplishments as well as the fond memories!

Picking a challenge for 2020

What do you think of this system? Would having fun yearly fitness goals be something you’d enjoy too? I invite you to give it some thought! It’s changed my relationship to fitness and has been a transformative experience for me. I haven’t yet decided on my goal/challenge for 2020. I had planned to travel to the US in October and had wanted to pick something I could do there like a trek! I loved watching Wild starring Reese Witherspoon a few months ago. Inspired by it, I’d been considering doing a part of the Pacific Crest Trail. That would have been so cool…it would have made a lovely memory for 2020. Another interesting one I had in mind was trekking the Grand Canyon rim to rim. A friend who lives in Phoenix, Arizona did that a few months ago and loved it. It’s been on my mind ever since.

Given that traveling might be rather difficult this year with the coronavirus outbreak, I’ve started thinking about physical challenges that can be done at home. Working on getting flat abs by the end of the year is one of the contenders but I’m not fully convinced if I should go for it. If you have any suggestions, please let me know! I’m all ears. 😀