Going beyond appearances

Posted On
Tuesday, May 22, 2018


Shama Karkal

CEO, Swasti

Its May and many of us who made the resolution to get fitter this year may find that either we haven’t made the effort or what we started has already stopped. I’m writing because I’ve been on that slippery slope very often; I have been able to make a shift and want to tell you about it.   

I’ve been one of those girls who has been heavy all her life. Being heavy has meant that I have spent a large part of my life trying to lose weight and exercise was therefore only to get my body to a weight where I was no longer heavy, large etc. The leanest I had been in my life was a 6 month period where I was dancing three times a week; a lesson lost on me at that.  

I discovered running by chance in my late 20s, finished a couch-to-full marathon journey in 6 months, running the Sacramento Marathon in October 2004. I experienced the endorphins of exercise and though my running came to a halt after I moved back to India, the memory stayed.   

While I stayed active with aerobics, yoga and walking, my discontent with being large always remained. In yet another attempt to lose weight, I took up CrossFit lessons with Pooja Bhatia in 2013. While I trained with her for only a few months, I found my own thinking and perception about fitness change. The urge to return to running (the memory of the endorphins perhaps?) got stronger. Starting with a 5K at the Pinkathon in 2014,  I have not looked back. Running alone would have probably been boring had it not been for finding Runsulin (aka Trisulin), a motley group of fitness enthusiasts, runners and triathletes in Bangalore who inspire and support me.

Group picture with my running group after I did a 40k on my bday!

My biggest learning in this journey has been to let go of the obsession with being large. The competition isn’t with others but with myself. In the last few years, with consistent exercise, I have seen improvements in my stamina,  sleep, my focus, my mood and been forced to focus on nutrition. I’ve found that the time I make for exercise is “me-time”. It gives me perspective and helps me reconnect with myself. Knowing I am stronger and fitter, physically and mentally, than I have ever been is what motivates me to lace up and #runanywhere.

With my son

I’m happy that my workplace now has a running group (some of them more enthusiastic than me) and there is an even larger group of colleagues hitting the gym, swimming etc. explaining the benefits of exercise on the brain and I couldn’t agree with her more – exercise has lasting effects on mood, focus and reaction times.

If the first half of my life was focused on exercise to improve my appearance, the rest will be focused on growing and protecting my brain. The next time you see me, think of how large my hippocampus is!

More by this Author

The Evolving Challenge of Urban Health

Urban transformation is affecting health in India’s cities—what can we do to tackle this?

Going beyond appearances

Shama writes how running helps growing and protecting her brain

Unlearning for sustainability

Shama writes about alternative menstrual hygiene products