Let me be ME

Posts tagged ‘womenpower’

Curvy and Cheeky ,Attitude knows no boundaries: Ami Paneri

Ami Paneri

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.

“You’re so much more than the numbers on your plus size lingerie”

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.

Myself and Sopan at the Ladkah Marathon

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.

Kolhapur Tri

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!

You are beautiful because of the light you carry inside you. You are beautiful because you say you are, and you hold yourself that way.

Mary Lambert

Snail-paced cyclist to a Podium finisher: Ritu Kudal

Small town to the city of dreams

Snail-paced cyclist to an Ironman finisher

Determination is the second name of Ritu Kudal, a Mumbai based 41-year-old mother of two beautiful girls. 

Bahu(bride)
To a babe !

Pallu (veil)clad Marwari to a girl in running shorts.

Ritu has quite a few finisher medals in her kitty like Dubai 70.3 (1.9kms swim, 90kms bike, 21.1 run) 2020; Kolhapur 70.3, 2019(Podium); Hyderabad 2018(Olympic Distance-1.5kms swim,40kms cycling, and 10kms run), Full marathon 2017, countless half marathons, 10km and 25kms pacer.

Let’s read Ritu’s story in her narration.

How and why?

I studied in Udaipur and was into sports right from childhood. Kho-Kho and running were my favorite sports; I have even played until the state level. I was selected for national and had to travel to Nepal for the race; my mother was in doubt. Firstly coming from a Marwahi community, there was a stigma for girls to participate in sports, and secondly, pursuing sports was not a serious discussion. Even I was unsure, so I left where I started and continued to study further.

Soon I was married, but I am glad that my parents respected my opinion to find an educated match for me. 

I came to Mumbai after marriage and continued to pursue my Charted Accountant course. My husband, Tarun being a CA himself, helped me in the completion of the course. 

I carried on with my duty as a dedicated housewife and managing children.

When my elder one was six-months-old, just to come out of boredom, I started to learn swimming. The oldest student was in the swimming class was 60 years old.

There is no age to learn anything new

First lesson
Ritu with her family

It was during the Ganpati celebration when I was sitting in the pandal, holding my second child in my lap when my elder daughter’s gymnastics instructor uttered under his breath that I look like a Ganpati. I went home and looked at myself in the mirror, and he was not wrong. What had I done to myself? With a chubby body and bulging belly, I surely looked like Ganpati.

Do not neglect yourself after childbirth. Your body needs a lot of attention.

Second lesson

I developed hypothyroidism as well.

I started walking and mild exercising until one-day, I met someone who had completed his half marathon. I was shocked by the distance he covered when I was struggling to walk even a 5K. When my younger one was six -months old, I ran my first 10K Pinkathon race in 2013 and finished in 1.02hrs.

It is always challenging to take the first step but dare to take it, and it’ll make all the difference. 

Third lesson

There was no looking back then. I did the Goa marathon, Kundalika river. Marathon, Stara Hill run and, after four years in 2017, ran my first full marathon with systematic planning and training.

The race moment

My first Triathlon was Hyderabad 2018, Olympic Distance. I chose to race here to test waters, and surprisingly, I stood 4th in my age category. Next was Kolhapur 2019 70.3, and the (OWS )open water swim came into existence. Ah! to face the fear of open water and then to swim through that distance was a tough task. I trained hard and was a podium finisher at the race.

Dubai 70.3 was announced by now, and after talking to Tarun, I registered. A race that I can never forget.

Podium at Kolhapur 70.3

My coach Viv Menon and swim coach Ashutosh left no stone unturned to turn me into a beast by gruelling training plans. My day started very early, and after preparing the breakfast and packing my kid’s tiffin boxes, I used to head for my training. There were days when my body gave up, and my legs ached, but I had a massive target in front of me, and I didn’t pause.

Before the race day, I packed my bike, learned how to mend the puncture, made my mind to travel alone. Yes, it was my first international travel on my own. It was a great accomplishment to get the visa stamped, issue a new SIM card, and manage everything on my own. 

After the trial swim, I was down with a cough, cold and high fever. I panicked as my body was too weak to face a tough race ahead. 

On race day, my swim went well, but due to coughing I had gulped a lot of seawater, I started vomiting while cycling. My left side of the body was almost frozen, and I had severe pain. I was tensed not because of my state, but what if something happens to me? I have children back home.

My mind could not register a DNF (Did Not Finish), and I pushed myself hard to the finish line.

Dubai 70.3

The glimpse of the India flag at the finish line, the sense of victory and achievement took away all my pains, aches, fever, and anxiety.  It was a moment of pride and triumph.

You have to put effort on your own to achieve the impossible.

Fourth lesson

Gratitude

Mom, you can do it

I am very grateful to my parents, who ensured that I get a proper education. I can’t thank my coach Viv Menon, Ashutosh, enough, who pushed me hard and beyond my limits.

Most importantly, I could have never done any of my races without Tarun. Whenever I step out for a competition, I always ask Tarun to put his hand on my head. It fills me with immense confidence and trust. That cheer from my kids,” Mom, you can do it!” kept ringing in my ears all through my racecourse.

Is the hunger over?

No, the hunger to chase the impossible will never get over. Once I was back from Dubai 70.3, I enrolled for the Goa swimathon for 5K. My coach asked me, “are you ready to fail, Ritu?” I replied, “it’s not about failing or timing, but I want to test myself.” I am glad I took a plunge and finished the 5K swim.

Dare to dream and have the courage to chase your dreams. What seems impossible now will become a reality soon. 

Ritu’s mantra

Learnings from being a Badass mommy

Getting married or having kids is no reason to stop you from achieving your dreams. Never stop learning, never stop dreaming, and be happy for yourself and on your own.

Dream Believe Chase Achieve 

concludes Ritu

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