Almost everyone is struggling. Here is how you can manage the struggle

Apologies to anyone and everyone riding high on a recent success or mega-success, who can’t associate with the word struggle.
Generally, most of us are struggling with something or the other lot of times. And most of the times it is associated with achieving a goal. The usual saying is that if you aren’t fighting, you aren’t moving.
In better words:
“You will never be entirely comfortable. This is the truth behind the champion – he is always fighting something. To do otherwise is to settle.”
― Julien Smith, The Flinch

The purpose of this post is to provide a perspective to make this discomfort comfortable.

5 ways to think and do differently to feel good while struggling:

1) Set up TINY EASY achievable goals
& achieve them. Not achieving small goals kind of confirms that you are struggling. Not with goals. But with discipline. Make it very easy for you. To be honest I have been struggling with this blog. So, what did I do? I decided to just write 3 lines everyday. I am sure that’s not what I intended initially, but I am progressing & I am sure I will finish this blog. And you will read it. Very tiny. Very easy.

2) Struggle is a STATE OF MIND
This is not something that you can tell someone who is struggling for basic amenities in life, but for the rest of us, if you feel you are struggling, you indeed will. Simplest way to start enjoying your current state is to not bother about your current state. Basically we all know this. Attitude matters. But then, when things are not going right, how do you have an awesome attitude all the while? I will tell you one of the things that I do. I watch comedy. Whichever form makes you laugh. Stand up comedy. Any language that you are comfortable with. Comedy makes you look at the lighter side of things. Another thing that boosts me up is spending some time in the sun. When I am out in the sun, I feel nothing is impossible. Not that I spend hours there, just enough to feel that spark and ease back in you. Find your “sun”. And do it everyday!

3) DO NOT COMPARE yourself with others
Without a doubt, we all tend to do this. And it always hurts when you compare “up”. Or compare with people you feel are ahead of you and so on. The fact is this: it doesn’t change things unless you have the tendency to get inspired by comparing with others. The other thing is that the other person in most cases would have started way before you, and might have worked very hard too. He/She might have “struggled” too. Let go of comparison. Compare yourself to your previous versions.

4) Pick up RUNNING (Newton’s first law)
Running is body in action. And action is fundamental to feeling good. Running may feel like “struggling” sometimes and that’s where it resembles life.. If you just push a little and continue for a while, the struggle goes away and towards the end of the run you feel blessed. The idea is, everyday after you finish your run, you feel very good and triumphant. Your mood and positivity soars and you feel everything is possible. Doesn’t matter how hard or fast you run, just set easy achievable targets and go for them. This somewhere makes your life way easier and stress-free. Trust me on this one. Try out running if you aren’t already doing it.

5) Take a VACATION once in 2 to 3 months
Need not be a lavish. A 3-4 day getaway from the regular daily routine sets up things in the right perspective. Even planning out a vacation is stress-relieving. You have a date to look forward to and that makes the wait worthwhile.

6) ASK FOR HELP
The simplest and most powerful tool we all have. Most of us get into this “it’s my fight, I will do it myself” mode lots of times without realizing it. As a toddler entrepreneur, ever since I have been building and working on the sales for feetapart.com, I have realized how much is left unattended if you don’t ask for it. There may be several NOs you may need to hear before a YES, but those were all NOs anyway if you never asked for them. One of my friends just asked for complimentary passes for a popular tech event for around 6 of us, and got it. Keep in mind the power of asking.

There is just one life, get busy living!

Minimalistic running for beginners and everyone

Minimalistic lifestyle is promoted by many nowadays, with many bloggers writing about it. Leo Babauta, the famous blogger at zenhabits.net has written many posts on this topic. Check out http://zenhabits.net/on-minimalism/ for some of them.
I have always been a minimalistic runner & have some thoughts and perspective on minimalistic running, which I want to share.
I could sound a bit biased which is intentional so that beginners realize that it’s simple and easy to become a lifelong runner. Or a runner for life.

Firstly, what is running? By its very nature, running is minimalistic. You need some space to run, and some kind of footwear(that too is not mandatory) to help you not “feel” the ground too much. Although many of us are now taking to barefoot running, and though it takes time to adjust, there is a certain “freedom” they say they experience. Afterall, running is about feeling free. It’s primarily all about the “freedom”. Everything else is secondary. Nike even has a line of shoes labeled “Free”.

What else do you need?

What is “non-minimalistic” running? For me, everything more than basic light clothing and a pair of shoes & socks is extra. I know that some people love to listen to music while running or exercising, so a basic ipod(the smallest one) is good for them. I ran my first “long” run in Dec 2007, at the first edition of Bangalore Ultra. The distance was 26km and I knew it would take me around 3 hours to finish it. Prior to that, the only thing that I had done continuously for 3 hours was writing engineering exams. And sleeping, another minimalistic activity which I never had any challenges to combat.

That’s the only run I used an iPod in, repeating songs that made me feel good and deviate the mind away from the pain, a pain that one is generally not used to initially. But as they say, try listening to the rhythm of the body. Once you get used to that, you will not need external music to “distract” you from the boredom or pain you experience while running.

Some aspects of the body music to listen to: breathing pattern & footsteps. We generally start breathing shallow while we are running, listening to the breathing pattern can fix this. Listening to your foot striking the ground can tell you how well you are gliding. What’s gliding? Gliding is the opposite of banging your foot on the ground. Gliding is not something you start doing from day one, but you need to be aware of the fact that banging your foot is wasted energy + risk of injury.

Gliding is minimalistic: you achieve more by doing less.

Shoes.
When I started running, I had shoes that were atleast 1.5 times heavier than the ones that I use now. It was a Nike then, it’s a Nike now. Talking about minimalism, when you start running the focus is on getting regular and picking up the habit. Hence spending too much on expensive shoes initially is not wise.  Comfort is the key.

What else? A watch probably to time your run, but sometimes it’s wise to run without a watch, enjoying the run “freely” rather than stressing about timing.

Running is easy. Let it be!

10 reasons the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon is worth it

I ran the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon this year on 19th Jan, 2014 for the fifth time, having run all versions from the year 2010 onward. Like all the past versions, this year too was an amazing experience for me right from training for it, reaching Mumbai, collecting the racer kit, meeting fellow runners and eventually & inevitably running the marathon. After I came back to Bangalore, I kind of got into a mode  of missing the  Mumbai marathon as an event, as a challenge and as an opportunity. I have been wanting to blog properly for a very long time  and hence this post.  According to me, here are 10 reasons why everyone should  run the Mumbai marathon once, twice and forever:

10) The city : Mumbai
Every time you come to Mumbai, the energy and the frenzy of the city is bound to fill you up. If you arrive a day before the run, you will most likely feel that you are a day late; that coming to Mumbai on Friday would have given you some more time with the city.

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9) Sea – link
As a kid and as a grown up runner as well, I always try to visualize how long a km looks like looking far ahead. Basically, if your eyes can visualize it, it makes the km look a tiny distance. The best part of running on the sea-link is that you get to almost see 1 km of “runnable” stretch in front of you. And that can be exciting!

And the best part: You get to run on the sea-link toll-free without a speed-limit.

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8)Well-organized
The run is beautifully organized right from bib collection, entry into the holding area(pre-run area for runners), baggage counters to the availability of water/electrolyte drinks during the course.

7) Encouragement on Peddar road
During running, there is nothing more soothing than good looking ladies(& others) cheering you up at the Peddar road(around the 36km mark) flyover. Married or unmarried, young or old, beginner or expert, a male is a male and an array of beautiful smiles definitely helps in forgetting the pain you are experiencing at the 36-37km mark. I haven’t noticed much machoism in the audience for our female runners, though that can be attributed to selective spotting!

6)Kids with biscuits,chocolates, enthusiasm and so much raw love
This year, after the 24 km mark, the Mumbai Marathon was an unintended run-walk routine for me. It was a struggle to say the least. But I didn’t want to get bitter and decided to enjoy the run-walk with whatever good food I could spot. Although there were people of all ages offering all sorts of nice stuff to eat, there were so many kids(of all sections of the society) offering biscuits, chocolates, oranges, candies etc to almost each passing runner with an enthusiasm so pure, you would want to hug them and carry them. Some of them chased down some runners if they sensed that the person needed it but missed it. A not-to-miss experience!

5) Gold labelled run
The Standard Chartered Mumbai marathon is a Gold-labeled IAAF road race. It ranks as one of the best road races in the world, and if you are fast enough, like many of the Bangalore runners were this year, you can use this run’s time to qualify for the prestigious Boston Marathon.

4)A close glimpse of elite runners
Another advantage of the run-walk part was that I saw some real elite runners running past me. Nothing new, but the sight of elite runners with super strides and machine-like feel is something that fills you up with enthusiasm and definitely helps to increase the love for the sport!

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3)Vada pav

Although this is something which is an integral part of the Mumbai city, but then Mumbai is famous for its vada pavs and they taste so much better after a long run. Eat freely!

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2) Leopold Cafe
For those who haven’t heard of this, the Leopold Cafe is a large and popular restaurant and bar in the Colaba area, and is buzzing with activity most of the time. Established in 1871, it was was one of the first sites attacked during the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, and the cafe was also mentioned extensively in the novel Shantaram. There is almost this ritual amongst runners to finish their run and go have beer at Leopold. Leopold is “the” place for post-run parties, and gets very crowded and busy after the Mumbai marathon each year! Not to be missed!

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1) The aches, the emptiness & the resolve

Training for and running a marathon is a big project spanning months. There is planning, preparation, training and execution. All of this takes a toll on your mind and body, although an enriching one. I have run the Standard Chartered Mumbai marathon 5 times, and every time, I have felt the emptiness and the resolve much more than the aches. The emptiness of “what next?”, irrespective of how the run went. The emptiness that I will have to wait for 365 days to run the next version of this run. And then the resolve to do better, way better next year! The only difference being that the emptiness and resolve in the case of Mumbai Marathon are magnitudes larger.