Fitness enthusiast Vandana Rajesh speaks about managing work and home

Updated: Nov 20, 2016, 12:32 IST | Gitanjali Chandrasekharan and Anusha Subramanian

Mumbai, now a pro at running, is done with the half-, full-marathon. Where will it find its next extreme fix?


Dr Rajesh, currently training for the half-Ironaman at Dubai, says her day runs like clockwork but she also wants to squeeze in some quality time with her twins, Ishika and Ishaan, aged 7. PIC/Nimesh dave

The one indulgence that Vandana Rajesh, 42, admits to having given up is television. It’s helped her find time to squeeze in other things — training for a triathlon while juggling a day job as anesthetist at Juhu’s Sunridges Speciality hospital, and being mom to Ishaan and Ishika, her 7-year-old twins. “Ideally, I’d keep my kids away from TV too, but that’s not so easy,” she smiles.

Rajesh, always a fitness enthusiast, says she took to running in mid-2011, around the time her twins’ were around two. “As their sleep patterns regularised, mine became awry. Instead of tossing and turning through the morning, I decided to go running,” she adds. Having missed the deadline to register for the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM), Rajesh signed up for the half marathon at Auroville. It was her first 21.0975 km run. Since then, she has run so many races that she needs to pull put one of her goody bags in which she keeps her medals to recall all the names correctly. However, it’s her last medal that’s got her excited — the recently held Hyderabad Triathlon with distances of 1.5 km (swimming), 40 km (cycling) and 10km (running) on an Olympic distance route in which she clocked 4.15.55 hours and even got a podium finish.

Andan Angadi makes it a point to head home every day for lunch so that his nutrition stays in check. Pic/ Poonam Bathija

Andan Angadi makes it a point to head home every day for lunch so that his nutrition stays in check. Pic/ Poonam Bathija 

“I had done the half marathons and the next challenge would have been to do a 42K. But I found that too dull. Then I realised that I was good at swimming and, if I took up cycling, I could attempt a triathlon. It would also help me cross train and use muscles that are not touched during running,” adds the Andheri resident.

Rajesh is among a growing tribe that, having done the half-, full-marathon route is now setting its sights on steeper challenges such as ultra marathons, or in Rajesh’s case, triathlons.

Prepping is key
When not training for an event, Rajesh trains one hour daily. Closer to races — her next one is the half Ironman in Dubai in January (1.5 km swimming, 90 km cycling, 21.1 km running) — it can go up to 1.5 to two hours. Her days begin by 4.30 am when she goes for a run or swim, depending on when a surgery is lined up at the hospital. If it is at 6.30 am, she will squeeze in an hour of strength and core workout before heading to work. Else, you will find her plugged into music and running on Juhu beach or clocking in 1.7 km in 45 minutes at the Juhu Vile Parle Gymkhana Club, where she is member. “It’s close to my hospital and is convenient,” she adds.

Jayaram Rankawat can’t cook eggs at home, so ensures he gets his protiens at work. PIC/Datta Kumbhar
Jayaram Rankawat can’t cook eggs at home, so ensures he gets his protiens at work. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

Minutes are shaved off in the morning routine with a well-oiled machinery that begins rolling the previous night. While Rajesh keeps her own clothes and gear ready, depending on which is the chosen workout for the day, breakfast for her children is a staple boiled egg, which is prepared the previous night. Lunch and dinner are prepared by the domestic help, who has also now fit into the routine.

But, hitting Mumbai’s roads that early in the morning hasn’t always been a pleasant experience. Once Rajesh, while running in Aarey Milk Colony, got mugged (she now carries a pepper spray). Having started cycling last year, the first time in years, she recalls having suffered bruises at least twice within the first fortnight after being chased by dogs. “Even before the first set of scrapes healed, I got a second one at the same spot.” But, giving up is not an option. “If you have an accident in a car, do you stop driving?”

What she does regret is not having enough time with the kids. While she is back home on most days by 5 pm, she says, “I don’t have time to take them to any special classes, or the library to read books.”

An expensive passion
In Andheri East, 31-year-old Jayraman Rankawat, an ultra runner will be able to join Rajesh in the calculations it takes to keep his passion for fitness going.

Rajesh has spent a cool Rs. 53,000 on her cycle, the SCOTT Contessa Speedster 45, and registrations for events are an added cost (the registration for the Dubai half-Ironman is Rs. 22,000 (excluding travel and staying cost). Rankawat smiles sheepishly when we ask him how many pairs of shoes he owns. “Four,” says the father of a toddler, who took to running last January when he was prodded by wife Harishika Swami, who worried that he was putting on too weight. “Two pairs are the Adidas Ultra Boost, which costs Rs. 21,000. They stand good for a mileage of 2,000 km. Another is a Reebok that cost me Rs. 8,000 and the fourth is in the same price range. These I wear when running shorter distances,” he adds.

Rankawat travelled the distance from 10K runs to ultra runs rather quickly. His first half was in March last year, and in August, he ran the 12-hour Independence Day run that’s held annually at Shivaji Park, clocking 62 km. “Then I signed for the 100 km run at the Bangalore Ultra in November 2015,” adds Rankawat.

With the ultras in his training schedule, Rankawat’s mileage has increased. He had targeted 3,000 km this year and has already clocked 3,065 km. His week’s schedule includes running three times a week for 8-10 km, and yoga on the two spare days. “If I run 25 km on Saturday, then I’ll run 21 km on Sunday... I have to practice running on tired feet.”

Among his longer races, Rankawat counts the Jaipur-Delhi run of 260 km, the Mumbai-Goa run of 600 km, both of which took between eight and 10 days off his calendar. How does he manage leaves from work?

“I don’t take any other leaves. I take leave to run. And, when they [runs] are in other cities, Harshika and I make a holiday out of it,” he says. He wanted his wife to accompany him to Ladakh where he ran 21.09 km in 3 hours, but she couldn’t as she was then pregnant with their son, Chaitanya and a high altitude wasn’t recommended.

Scheduling a personal life
Andan Angadi, a Chembur resident, was 42 when he took to cycling and then running. In 2.5 years, he has run about 60 marathons and completed several long distance cycling rides. “After college, time was spent trying to establish my business. Once that was done, I was already 40 and decided it was a good time to get back to a fitness routine.”

Angadi initially started taking part in local cycling events where he met likeminded individuals. He’d head for practice rides with them and in a few months, started participating in BRMs — long rides of over 100 km within a specified timeframe — different terrain rides, cycling on weekends in the outskirts of Mumbai and elevation rides. Running entered his life when he wanted to add a variation to his regime.

“Initially, I started with 10k runs and took part in all local challenges and improved my timing to participate in the SCMM Marathon. I started with the half marathon and initially, my timing was 2:27. Thereafter I ran 15 half marathons with my best timing being 2:05. I am moving on to running full marathons,” he adds. Now, Angadi concentrates on doing off beat runs and cycling trips. For which the training is all about building high levels of endurance.

Three days a week, Andan runs and works out his upper body, core and abs and legs. Sundays are reserved for long runs or long cycle rides to the Yeoor hills in Thane, Pali Hill loops, and daily evening cycling of about 10-15 km.
There has been some sacrifice on the family and friends front. “My habits have changed drastically since I started training. I don’t keep up late since sleep is very important for the body. My friends weren't too happy initially. Now I meet them once a month. My family time has decreased. Now, I try and spend as much time with my wife over the weekends. I’m also now selective about the events. For instance, I had to choose between the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon and the Indian Navy Run in Mumbai. I chose Mumbai.”

Andan's wife Hardha says, “Initially, he would inform me about the events at the nth hour. I have told him to prepare a calendar so that I can plan my schedule accordingly. I also try and travel with him as often as possible. That is our chance to be together.”

Words of the wise

Running coach Raj Vadagama says the biggest hitch for ultra runners is greed for quick results. “I tell my students that it takes two years to become a good runner. They train for two weeks and then come to me and ask if they can run a half marathon. Self-motivation is key. One has to be self-motivated to wake early and train with dedication.
Another problem is paucity of training venues in Mumbai. So, we train on the road where traffic is unbearable and pollution is three times higher,” he adds.

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