A busy gynaecologist ,performed Mumbai’s first gynaecological robot-assisted surgery, a podium finisher at Kolhapur triathlon, Turkey Ironman 70.3 finisher, someone who juggles between delivering babies at the clinic and her training, mother of two, here is 47-year-old Dr. Ashwini from Mumbai.
Family of doctors
I come from a Maharashtrian family where education was the utmost priority. My mother is a gynecologist herself, and I have seen her managing work and home with precision.
I was always a sincere, “accha-baccha,” and was awarded the best student medal in grade 10.
My single focus was to be a gynecologist even when my mother warned me about the hard work followed by long working hours.
But I was determined about my career goal. My elder brother went to KEM to be a gynecologist, and I followed his footsteps.
I was a table tennis player in my childhood, but never an athlete. In the later stage, I loved going to the gym and was always fitness conscious.
I went to KEM and enjoyed my tenure in learning medicine. I married my classmate, and I am blissfully married for 23 years now.
I started with my private practice immediately after my post-graduation, and I had no time for anything else. My kids were born in 2003 and 2006. I had multiple duties to address now.
I had excellent live-in help, and I knew my babies were cared for well. And hence I could focus on my work. I could manage breastfeeding by expressing milk to be given to my babies in my absence.
My mother and mother-in-law both are working women, and I am very proud to mention how beautifully they have managed their work-life balance.
Although I had generous support that enabled me to focus on my career, but due to long work hours, I could not attend to my kids as much as I would have wanted to.
When my daughter was ten months old, my full-time help left. My clinic was from 7-9 pm, and I was returning home at 10 pm.
I had to take a tough call here. I had self-talk and concluded that my children would grow only once; my work will go on.
I decided to manage my work timings according to their schedule and shifted my evening clinic hours to morning.
“There are choices to make at each point in life, but choose what makes you proud.”says, Dr.Ashwini
In 2011 two of my close friends did a half marathon, and the distance attracted me.
Very next day, I was out in the neighboring park to try out running. Not even 500m and I panted, as I had run at full speed. An unknown lady who must have been 60 years of age was watching, and she approached me and asked if I aimed to run. She then offered to teach me and showed me how to run slowly and steadily without getting breathless. And I was then able to run 2 km efficiently.
I joined a running group called Run India Run. I did my first half marathon at SCMM(Standard Charted Mumbai Marathon) under the able guidance of our excellent and inspiring Coach, Mr. Samson Sequeira.
I was in love with the outdoors now. We were blessed to train at Juhu beach, which is serene and beautiful in the early mornings. The morning training at the beach with constant encouragement and support from the rest of the group started on a positive and lively note.
In 2014 just a month before the SCMM, I incurred a stress fracture.
I was extremely disheartened but I still went to the expo and collected the bib.
I was restless the entire night before the race day, and seeing my state, my husband told me to go and run on the condition that I do not return further injured.
I jumped out of the bed as if I was waiting for some push; I went ahead and finished the run.
“Deep desires find their way.”believes, Dr.Ashwini
I then enrolled for 42kms. I developed hyperactive airways due to smog exposure in the winter months and had to take inhalers to be able to train. In two out of three full marathons that I attempted, I had bronchospasm despite the inhalers. I still completed the distance, though I wouldn’t recommend anyone to do so, being a doctor myself. I realised that this was becoming counterproductive.
By this time, a couple of my friends had done the Half Ironman, and the idea of doing three different sports back to back intrigued me. I decided to try my hand at it.
However, I had never trained in swimming. And I had hardly cycled in childhood, and never after that. After the SCMM, I purchased a hybrid bike and enrolled for swimming lessons and enrolled for my first Duathlon at Vasai, where I stood fourth.
I started learning to swim and cycle for races at the age of 45. After the Duathlon I attended a Tri camp to understand what a triathlon was all about. Most of the people there were experienced and talking about cadence, BRM, and what not! It was like Greek and Latin to me. I felt entirely out of place.
I joined swimming lessons keeping the Goa tri in mind, to be held in February 2018.
Swimming and cycling were a substantial uphill task for me. I had to slog in the pool and put in lots of effort. In November, I tried to swim in a 50m pool and came out completely exhausted. Till Nov end, I was unable to swim 1500m in the pool. And here I was eyeing the Goa tri, where there was a sea swim! (quite ambitious).
I was determined to overcome this incompetency and gave it my best.
And one beautiful November morning, some magic happened, and I could swim the pool’s distance. I was amazed at this miracle.(well, thinking about it later – it was my ardent effort of not giving up)
Cycling was another challenge. I was terrified to ride on the road. I was scared of the traffic, potholes, being run over and falling. It took me three years to finally think of cycling as fun! Before this, it was nothing but stress for me. But with consistent practice, I grew in strength.
After completing the Goa tri, I registered for the Kolhapur triathlon in Nov 2018. I stood first in my age category and managed to shave off a good 30 mins from my Goa timing.
For both Goa and Kolhapur triathlons, I trained under Dr. Kaustubh Radkar, and I thoroughly enjoyed the process.
It was now time to take a plunge in the Ironman race. I registered for Turkey 70.3, and under the strict guidance of Viv Menon, I started my disciplined and structured training. Ashutosh Barve helped in a big way to improve my freestyle swimming.
The race in Turkey was a remarkable experience. The water was cold, and I struggled with headwinds during the bike course. But by God’s grace, I completed all the three courses of swim, bike, and run successfully. All credit goes to Viv and Ashutosh for making me worthy of this medal.
It was a delight to see my family cheering for me at the finish line. I was genuinely grateful to complete the race, but I couldn’t cherish the moment the way I had imagined it.
My partner in crime, my best friend, with whom I had trained for all the races, had two punctures on the bike course and couldn’t complete it. She was genuinely happy for me, though, and I hugged her with teary eyes.
Next race, I look forward to crossing the finish line together with her.
Managing the clinic, training hours, and children were challenging, but then it had to happen, so it did.
I remember episodes when I have rushed to the clinic for emergency delivery calls and came back home to finish the remaining cycle training.
Learnings at 45
There is a learning in every race. I have grown from a person who didn’t know swimming, was scared of cycling to a successful finisher in Turkey Ironman 70.3.
I recall a childhood episode where I was in the pool with my cousin, splashing about at the shallow end. He jokingly dared me to jump into the pool’s deep end (15 feet) from the first-floor diving board. Without hesitation, I went ahead and jumped. He was shocked and scared, as I didn’t even know swimming. “Giving-up” and “turning away” from challenges doesn’t come to me easily, I keep fighting until I attain my goal. This one incident pulled out the fear of open-water away from me.
Last year, I thought I would try to do the same thing. Now I knew swimming, and there was nothing to fear! But believe it or not, I walked to the edge of the first-floor board and couldn’t muster the courage to jump! I turned back on two occasions.
As children, we are far more fearless and daring than adults who are gripped in uncertainty and anxiety. Childhood experiences can translate into valuable life lessons. Skills like swimming and cycling when learned as a child remains for life.Dr.Ashwini
I have also come across people who have labeled my race participation as a mid-life crisis. It is difficult to explain the finishing line’s joy even when I haven’t won the race.
Mother, gynecologist, working women, athlete- what’s the Gyan for women audience?
Mother– As a mother, you’ll always have unending responsibilities. You have to be the strongest pillar of the family. It is vital to find some me- time, however. Take care of yourself first to be a caregiver to others.
Gynecologist– Women need to do weight-bearing exercises, including strength training for better bone density. Strolls won’t help to make bones stronger.
Please get back to the routine soon after childbirth. The best time to lose weight is during lactation when you can actually eat 500 calories extra and still lose weight if you exercise a bit. So start working out, and you’ll be back in shape quickly.
Working woman– It is imperative for a woman to be financially independent, whether she needs to contribute to the household or not. A woman must have an income of her own. Children of working women are usually well adjusting, confident, and independent.
Athlete– Discipline commitment and hard work, my training has made me A better human being with lots of patience.
I can prioritize my work and other obligations. I have started oil painting again and joined music classes too.
My approach towards personal and professional life is more organized and structured.
Never think that you are too old to learn a new skill or start your journey on fitness. It all boils down to only one thing-
How badly do you want it, and how hard are you willing to work for it?if you want, you will- Dr.Ashwini
I would say take the plunge, and soon you’ll be on the racing track!