An IT professional, progressive runner, determined triathlete,self-motivator, nothing weighs her down-both figuratively and literally, a total novice in the athletic world, cycling lover, mother of two- Ami Paneri from Mumbai.
Motherhood and the aftermath
I was the eldest of the three siblings, always an obedient and studious girl. I loved playing with electronic items more than dolls, thanks to my dad. He worked in ISRO, and gadgets were a significant part of family discussions. I was an outdoor child. Playing in the wild, running on trails, and burning the skin under the sun were my favorite things.
I learned cycling on hired Tobo bikes and got my first personal cycle in grade 6. It was a prized possession.
Since then, the cycle was my mode of transport to school and then to college as well.
I completed my MSc, M.Phil, and secured a gold medal in computer science.
In 2007, I got married and shifted to Mumbai from Gandhinagar. I started working as an ERP professional.
In 2008 I had my first child. After six months of maternity leave due to several reasons, I could not join back to work. I was loaded with heaps of responsibilities of a young child, mother in law, and self.
I faced the most challenging time between 2009-11; the postpartum phase.
I was irritable all the time and was piling on weight. My health was deteriorating. I had lost interest in everything. There were regular tiffs and arguments at home.
I was missing myself.
In 2011 I had my second child. I weighed a whopping 90 plus kgs now.
I gradually started with regular gym and weight training. I loved that one hour in the morning, all to myself.
Motherhood is joyous, but it can also be overwhelming. Everyone congratulates you on having a baby, but no one warns about the aftermath, mainly postpartum depression.says Ami
Gaining back the confidence
It’s told that I speak “heavy” words, but now I was proving it correct. I was so heavy that I became self-conscious all the time. I would avoid going to public places, meeting people, and would avoid the gym at the “crowded” time. I would avoid arms workout at the gym as the bulge embarrassed me.
In 2011, my husband participated in the SCMM Dream Run, and I went along. The electrifying environment zapped me.
I wanted to be there- running.
I wanted that zeal and energy- and I had none.
The best thing that happened during this time was, I got back to work. It was a welcoming change. I was happy to move out and sort my routine.
In 2013, I participated in SCMM half marathon and somehow managed to drag myself and reach the finish line in 3.37 hours.
I realized what it takes to run and finish.
I had no idea about training, so I started running independently. I managed between kids, work, and home.
In 2015 I participated in the SCMM half marathon and finished in an abysmal timing of 3.58 hours.
I didn’t progress but digressed. I was missing out on something, but couldn’t figure out what.
In 2016, I joined Pinkathon. I was incredibly body-conscious and would run before the sunshine to hide from the eyes watching an overweight female trying to run.
Pinkathon helped me realize that many like me are struggling with body shaming and the social stigma attached to it. I had lots of co-sisters sailing in the same boat. I gradually gained confidence and started running in a group.
In 2016, a friend organized Wada Duathlon and asked me to participate. I was thrilled. I got my cycle, and long lost love was back in full form. Cycling is my childhood love, and once I am on my bike, I am the happiest person around.
I gradually started coming back to my happy and confident form.
In 2017 I participated In Wada Duathlon yet again and stood first.
In the same year, I did my first 80 km ride to Kharghar with the Malad cycling club.
Ah! I was flying.
“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930), author of Sherlock Holmes
The Ladakh Marathon: in quest of a timing certificate
In 2018 My husband registered for the Ladakh marathon and I wanted to participate as well. After booking the flight tickets with an overdose of excitement, the reality came crashing on me.
I didn’t fit the eligibility criterion. I did not have a required timing certificate.
Viv came to my rescue. What would I ever do without his meticulous training plans?When I shared my desire to participate in the marathon, he gladly welcomed my thought and encouraged me to train hard.
I participated in several 10 K runs.
I was chasing races and timing. I was desperate.
And finally, from 1.40hrs, I managed 1.18hrs for a 10K run.
Whatta delight! I had the timing certificate, and I was going for the Ladakh marathon.
I finished the marathon and it was a great confidence booster for me.
Trying the Tri
Our training group, MMA(Mad Menon Academy), is always buzzing with interesting discussion. This time the term Triathlon caught my attention.
Further, it was revealed that Triathlon is a combination of three sports, swimming, cycling, and running one after the other.
As I mentioned, heavy is my second name, so I took this “heavy” decision to participate in the Kolhapur triathlon 2018.
The primary issue was – I didn’t know how to swim. Swimming for me was splashing in the water and nothing more.
My husband ,Sopan became my teammate. I would take him to a 25 meters pool and ask him to stand at a distance of 15 meters, enough for me to push myself from one end, float, and then hold me to start the same process all over again until I finish the entire lap.
I would also refrain from putting my head down in the water.
Shankar Thapa came as a guiding light. I gradually improved my swimming from 15-100-500-700 to finally 1000 meters.
With all the training and hard work, I was still not losing weight.
As William Blake said, The true method of knowledge is an experiment. So, I did what all it could take to shed the extra kilos. The catch here was that I was following google knowledge, and in this process, I compromised on my immunity.
I had worked hard, but I was not in good shape, health-wise.
Still, with firm thought and the belief to reach the finish line I, along with my husband, headed to Kolhapur to participate in the first Triathlon.
We both panicked in the open water swim, and it was a DNF.
In February 2019, I participated in my home turf, Gandhinagar Triathlon. It was a pool swim with a uniform depth across the pool. As I jumped in the pool, I panicked yet again. The lifeguards prompted me to pull me out, but I requested them to give me a few minutes to regain my composure.
I was angry with myself. I took a deep breath, asked my mind to shut up, and firmly told myself, “Ami, this can’t happen again-just; go for it,” and I swam through the entire distance.
I finished the Olympic Distance in 4.21 hours
I had to complete the unfinished battle. In November 2019, I participated in the Kolhapur triathlon, this time for the Olympic distance.
I finished in 4.29 hours.
I shall continue to work hard under my coach’s guidance and will try to improve in the upcoming races.
Curves and the social stigma
I have faced enough questions about my weight. I have hidden under large clothing, covered my arms, and ran alone not to expose myself to the world.
I hid for a very long time.
“If losing weight was easy, we would all be skinny.”Steven Magee
Participating in the running and triathlon events, with the support and encouragement from the family, fellow runners, and coach, I accepted myself as me. I can now run in broad daylight, wear cycling shorts, and swim in a bikini.
I have overcome all body shame, and here I stand beholding my confidence firm in my gait, and yes, I still use “heavy” words!