Taru’s motivational story begins with taking up running at 49 to running 50K ultra marathons with ease. In this interview, Taru gives us a rundown of her personal fitness mantra.
It is no secret that regular exercise keeps us fit and healthy. However, many of us with busy personal schedules and deadlines find ourselves making excuses or going on fad diets. This week, Taru Mateti, a long-distance runner and podium finisher in more than 35 events talks about her inspirational fitness journey while balancing a family and career.
Read on to find out more about her fitness routines and healthy lifestyle choices. Taru also shares her unique advice on running for readers eager to begin their own journey to fitness and health.
Tell us something about yourself.
After I got married to a fauji, I initially got into badminton, walking, and aerobics – the running came only less than four years ago (at the age of 49). Never an athlete in my student days, I surprisingly took to running well, and started enjoying it more than other activities that I was involved in. Running is a complete stress buster for me and contributes to many other aspects of my life than just fitness.
In the last 3+ years, not counting the innumerable training runs, I must have run more than twenty-five half marathons and an equal number of 10Ks, two 25Ks, five full marathons, and three 50K ultras including a 50K+11K as pacer crew.
I also competed in a Duathlon last year, coming first in the Veteran category. I have won more than 35 podiums at different running events across India (and run a half marathon at Melbourne too), in different age categories, including a few in open too. I cross train by Cycling and Gymming regularly.
Additionally, I was the Race Director for FICCI FLO Run in 2016 and an Event Ambassador for the same run in 2015, and a Running Ambassador for Tiger’s Point Hill Challenge in 2016. I like to give back to the running community by volunteering at running events and sharing my running experience with whoever likes to discuss or seeks basic advice.
What excites you the most about long distance running? Please share some experiences with us.
Running is addictive—it gives a high :). I enjoy the solitude, the experience of being outdoors and just being able to think random thoughts, sing to myself, or talk to a friend as I run. I love pushing myself and testing my limits. The tiredness, and sometimes exhaustion, at the end of a run is exhilarating. One has to do it to experience it and understand the satisfaction of having overcome a challenge!
How often do you run in a week? How do you prepare for a new challenge you take?
I run 3-4 days in a week, but
I do cross-training or strength training on other days. 1-2 days are rest days.
I think understanding requirements (for anything), setting realistic goals, and planning the whole exercise, are key to a successful execution. I also plan some buffer weekends for my long runs. I always keep in mind the advice given by one of my mentors: It is always better to be under-prepared than injured.
What is your view on holistic health, wholesome nutrition, and an active lifestyle? How do you maintain your health and your lifestyle?
I believe that balance and synergy between all elements are two essential factors; excess or shortfall of anything is bad. I try to eat healthy, work out regularly, walk/stand a lot during my desk job and in meetings, take the steps instead of elevator as much as possible, rejuvenate on weekends, sleep enough, hydrate well, interact with friends, think positive thoughts, and pray daily even if for just two min. Besides this, I like to break all rules on some days—after all, to indulge is human, and to forgive is a Coach 🙂
What is the best advise you have received from your mentors/industry experts to upkeep with the activity?
From a personal perspective, two things that needed correction were some vitals such as Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3, and Hemoglobin; and running form. I have worked on both of these and am reaping the benefits. I took remedial action and now regularly get myself tested to keep checking. Although, my form does slip at times, I endeavor to get it back on track with help from my mentor.
How do you power yourself up before the runs?
The night before the Sunday long runs/competition runs, I generally have dal khichdi with jeera aloo and curd. This is a regular ritual at our place for Sat night. Other days, I eat regular home cooked Indian meals. I also am very fond of Salads and fresh fruits which form a part of my daily diet.
Please share a wellness and fitness tip that you employ on daily basis to stay in shape and be active.
To jump out of bed as soon as the alarm rings, some days at 4:30 AM, others at 5 AM 🙂 This gives me the time to do whatever I need to stay fit. Of course, I do have no alarm days too! I also “try to” sleep early and, of late, eat healthier than before. I take the steps instead of elevator as much as possible. I take frequent standing and walking around breaks at work.
We come across multiple stressful situations on daily basis as working professionals and in society. What is your favourite way to release tension and relax?
Any cardio activity works for me: earlier it was aerobics; now I like to go for an easy run. A solo run is almost meditative. And although such a run starts as an easy run, the speed slowly increases anyway.
On some days when there is lesser time on hand or I need to do something with lesser impact, I just do a little warm-up at home and then do some stretches and yoga asanas. Of course, I have my Hubby keeping me laughing and entertained on a regular basis 😉
Is there any specific age group to pursue long distance running?
This one is simple: not really. One has to be above 18 to take part in half and full marathons, but there is no real upper limit to start running; for that matter, to stop running either! Fauja Singh ran his first marathon at the age of 92, and decided to retire from running in events two months short of his 102nd birthday, although he mentioned that he intends to continue running otherwise!
Are there any side effects such as stress on knees or effect on any other body parts due to regular long distance running? If yes, then how do you counteract the same?
If one ensures that increase in mileage is gradual and methodical, the form and breathing is correct, kit is comfortable , there should not be any unusual problem – unless there is some serious physical constraint. It is important to warm up and cool down correctly before any physical activity. For any persistent or increasing aches, one must consult a doctor. That said, running is a high impact sport and each one must find one’s own level of tolerance and pace of progress.
How can one stay healthy while pursuing modern lifestyle?
If one can find time for eating, one can surely find time for healthy eating because both the options are available and take similar amount of effort 🙂 Keeping a food log for some months helps. I believe that crash and fad diets don’t work in the long run; it’s a lifestyle change that is needed. Staying healthy is a matter of priority, and everyone must take out time for some kind of workout at least 5 days a week.
It takes just a little bit of planning and determination to spare that 30-60 min for yourself, and that keeps you healthy, happy, and energized through the day. There are times when I do squats while making tea or pushups and lunges while watching TV (if and when I do watch TV). It is only a matter of making it a priority. Believe me; this can be dealt with on a case-to-case basis. And one doesn’t have to run a marathon or lift hundreds of kilos to stay fit and healthy. It’s the small things that matter.
What would you advise to our audience who are yet contemplating to take up long distance running?
The only way to take up long distance running is to get started! If one isn’t running at all, then the beginning is with a run-walk routine; there are many ”Couch to 5K” programs that can be followed. If one joins a group with a mentor, there is the added benefit of motivation and availability of guidance. Buddying up also helps in being regular. Listen to the body, but don’t be discouraged by some initial minor aches and pains that soon go away. Of course, it is important to get the standard tests done too, along with taking care of hydration, nutrition, and sleep. Avoid overdoing things in the beginning, actually anytime 🙂