Corporate Runners

We dream, we run but that’s certainly not all. We juggle it to the best of our abilities while playing many other roles – being a dedicated parent, a loving spouse, a caring sibling, a dear friend so on and so forth. But importantly, many of us are thoroughbred professionals that hold important positions with a wide range of responsibilities with our employers. We certainly leave no strings untied when it comes to delivering on our duties that also help us pay up our ever-growing running-related bills. With that in mind, we interviewed a few Dream Runners from various chapters who work for Corporates across the city. We wanted to know what keeps them ticking on both fronts – as a professional and as a runner.

Sathish Kumar from Velachery, Susheyl Balabaskaran from Bessie, Krishna Kumar from Marina, Dhanasekaran from Medavakkam and Magesh Rajamani from OMR work in different industries including Automotive, Finance and IT. While their professional experience averages well over 10 years, they have all been smitten by the running bug in the recent times, with earliest of the starters hitting the trail in 2014. And that list includes Subha Vinothkumar from Boat Club who used to bunk PT classes for music and had never run in her life but now swears by it.

What is also striking is how the culture at their workplaces invariably encourages them to stay healthy and fit. At Sathish’s company, none other than their ex-CEO who was at the helm for many years, was an avid marathoner himself. He started a program where the company contributes a certain sum for charity for every kilometer run or every hour that is spent on fitness. The leader’s philosophy, needless to say, percolates across the organization. In some organizations, their official global meetings have started to feature running as a team-bonding activity. Magesh’s role, to quote an example, demands frequent travel. The first thing that he packs on each of his trips is his running kit. With more and more colleagues taking to running, there are fast-growing running communities at workplaces too.

These runners we spoke to almost uniformly swear by the fact that running has influenced their professional life positively. Starting the day with a run provides them with a lot of positive energy, which in turn helps them in being more focused and productive at work. Susheyl, for instance, felt that “Running brings about clarity of thought especially when I have difficult situations or decisions to make. It gives me the much needed ‘Me time’”. And Krishna almost echoed the sentiment: “After my run, happy hormones rush through to help conquer the day regardless of the uncertainties I face at work”. For Dhana, taking stock of his mileage, pace and even looking at his running pictures keeps him highly motivated.

The beauty of it all is that many of these runners become the center-point of fitness initiatives and discussions at their workplaces. Dhana’s colleagues are impressed with his structured approach to running – the clear plans and the steady progress. His posts on social media have inspired many of his co-workers and he would like the story to continue. Subha describes that her running journey has been infectious in her network. Her consistency and effort has caught the eyes of colleagues some of whom have now bought shoes and have begun walking. Magesh is no less of a cynosure and his fitness levels have made him the go-to-guy that shares useful tips on leading an active lifestyle. Krishna went a step further and demonstrated how his disciplined approach as a runner helped him scale a peak in the Himalayas. One can’t really ask for a more inspiring and real example than, that on the peaks that running helps one conquer!

In today’s world, white collar jobs are fast on the rise and the story isn’t going to change in the near future. That means long hours at your desk staring at PCs, sedentary lifestyle, monotonous tasks at times, stressful and occasionally unrealistic targets to cite a few characteristics. Add to it the global and multi-cultural business context which means work hours that usually don’t have a boundary in many cases. All these are recipes that pump in high levels of stress, anxiety, health-related complications and are a direct threat to your physical well-being. This is why physical fitness becomes all the more important and non-negotiable. The beauty of it is that each one of the runners that we interacted with and we are sure in the larger running community have realized this long ago. They are investing in themselves and their well-being because they realize health is the most important wealth. And Sathish brought a beautiful perspective to the importance of being physically fit – ‘The best gift you can give to your family is you staying fit’.

There you are, the wealth of knowledge nuggets from our runners from leading MNCs that have chosen health as their priority and running as their means for fitness. We didn’t stop there. We tried to be quirky and asked them ‘what if we gave you a job that is closely connected to running, and you had to choose between your current job and that’. Guess what, we had a divided house. While some of them jumped at the idea that making their passion as their profession would be the way to go, others felt that it was more like a cross-training where they would love to apply their learning from the trail on the table when they are sitting for a negotiation. There’s no right answer, but our running friends at Corporates definitely agree on one thing – (in Susheyl’s words) – ‘At work, we are like these gold fishes in a bowl. Running helps us break the glass and experience the real world’.

Running works as a great de-stressor and an opportunity to learn a lot - from your friends and of course from the body itself. That it also helps stay healthy is an added bonus!😀

Marathon Running and Corporate Stress

Many of the the top business executives are marathoners, Raghuram Rajan, Anil Ambani, the newly appointed boss of TATA Group Mr. Natarajan Chandrashekaran to name a few. Being busy with corporate work has not hindered them from training regularly. In fact, most of them swear that regular physical exercise has not only improved stress management, but also has helped them achieve a higher level of success.

The Vice President of an auto manufacturing company, based in Michigan was a runner and as a team building activity he decided to register his employees for the Kalamazoo marathon. He also came up with a plan to train his employees. The act of working out together in an informal environment not only made the employees more fit but also improved their camaraderie, which in turn resulted in higher productivity.

Keeping the well being of employees in mind, many corporates have gyms, swimming pools or TT tables in their campus. Companies like Tech Mahindra have a runners club and many others sponsor sports events - with the hope that their workers would take up a physical activity. There is a clear understanding that regular exercise reduces stress. Yet to be a success in the business world, one has to work late, travel and meet unreasonable deadlines. Thus the stress is created in the office and the stress buster too is available at the same office.

Running causes the brain to secrete a hormone called endorphin and also a chemical called endocannabinoids. Both endorphin and endocannabinoids relieve stress, get rid of anxiety and provide a sense of happiness. In other words, the longer you run the happier you get.

The nice thing about running is that it can be done anywhere and at any time. All you need are a good pair of shoes and comfortable clothing. It is very important that runners experience joy while training and this joy in turn act as a stress buster. It is also important for all runners, irrespective of whether they are seasoned marathoners or have registered for the first time with GAVS DRHM 2017, follow a prescribed training schedule.

Here are some tips on how you can bust your stress while keeping your corporate job:

1. Join a structured training program: Long distance training plan typically include core training, sprints, short runs, long distance run on Sundays and a couple of rest days. They demand about one hour of your time during the week and little longer on weekends. Joining one such program will keep you focused and organised.

2. Run during or after work: Most corporate offices have gyms attached. If because of a late night meeting you missed your training session, try running the same distance on a treadmill. If you don’t have a gym in your office run in the evenings. Find a park or a relatively traffic free road and run the prescribed distance. Many motivated runners keep a pair of shoes under their desk, thus constantly reminding themselves of impending run.

3. Find a partner or Create a group– It is quite likely that you will find at least one person in your office who shares your passion for running. Co-ordinate and keep each other motivated. If you are a team lead, take this training opportunity to build the morale of your teammates and create a runners group.

4. Pack your shoes - Don’t let travel prevent you from following the training schedule.

5. Join other running groups - If you travel often, social network with other running groups. You will end up making some new friends while continuing to train.

6. Long runs are for Sundays – How about getting together with your office mates to run on Sundays. The camaraderie will make the run worthwhile.

The key to running a marathon is regular training and focus. If Sunita Williams can run the Boston marathon from space, I am sure we can train while at work.

Corporate mantra can be best summarised with a quote of Christopher McDougall, “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.”

For me personally, running has given me the physical fitness to manage a hectic work life where I travel more than 12 days on most months. It has, more importantly, given me mental clarity to manage complex work and personal related issues. Finally, it has given me a wonderful set of friends! All in all, a most rewarding experience.

Cup of life

One of the celebrated runners of our Chapter-Bessie Dreamers welcomed the new trainees to this season of DRHM 17- calling it an early morning “Cup of Cheer” to hit the training tracks every morning, we at Dream Runners, like Riki Martin vouched, revel in the fact that we are blessed to have this “Cup of Life” called Running, which fills to the brim every morning giving all the runners an ‘all day long high’ that cannot be replaced by any other stimulant- in strength or the length of the euphoric ecstasy.

Life is a race- but never a pleasurable one all the time- in this mad mad Corporate world. WE have clients who can be demanding-perceived to be unreasonable most of the time, vendors who can be exasperating, colleagues who can be petty, bosses who can frustrate, juniors who can stand you up-well all in a day’s work. Can all these be wished away by the swish of Mandrake’s magic wand?

Well, blissfully no; half your life’s mysteries and challenges, Almighty doesn’t love to take away!

All of the above and more to be able to handle in your stride and cadence, is what long distance running hardwires you with. Slowly but steadily giving you the handle to swing at anything without blinking, with the elan of a naughtiest wink only your WhatsApp emoji can mimic – ‘cos you become a brilliant student of life- if you can handle the challenges that every kilometre throws at you, whether you do a 10K, 21.1k or a 42.2k. How meticulously you plan your completion, with the same panache will you be able to duck or head-in whatever corporate life entails, doesn’t matter if you are a Techie of any pedigree, Business, HR or a Finance pro…

Who wants to scrimp on beauty sleep, setting up half a dozen reminders on the ubiquitous smart phone to wake up well in time even before the birds have, just to gang up, warm up and crank up miles on the Garmins n Fitbits… well we are a relentlessly growing breed, who have found this irresistible intoxicant and would go to any length to hit the trail- whether it be be a hilly terrain, ‘fly over’ or loops by the beach, adding to the zing n variety in training. Catch some of the of the Top Corporate honchos head for an exclusive run-cation to zip in and out of a Marathon Event, any part of the country or globe- terrain variety thrown in for the kick- for the “hatke’“ experience. That provides a welcome “zest holiday” besides the de-stressing provided by hobnobbing with the running fraternity or literally taking in slow-mo the sites and sounds and aromas unique to the city.

The upside of waking up 4ish in the morning most days of the week, especially on a blissful Sunday morning( which most of the couchies would flippantly term as unearthly and criminal!) is obviously hitting the bed early - else early rise consistently is unsustainable; don’t you worry, once you get into the rhythm of an early wake up like you do for those 5 am first flight out - beauty sleep would come calling by 830 pm!;-)

One more very interesting fall out would be watching what you eat-which has a humongous impact on how light and good you feel while running, how powerful your strides are and how ungrudgingly your muscles and other systems recover post the run. You would start limiting your Page 3 parties, but that doesn’t mean you stop socializing - you win a geometrically progressing circle of co-runner friends across the city and nation(s). After all, isn’t it a common passion that binds long lasting relationships? You wouldn’t gourmandize on super rich foods that come your way, but pick and choose an equally mind-boggling variety of hitherto un-noticed and balanced protein-rich, nutrient filled and adequately carb loaded combos. Not that you would shudder at the thought of gulping that brownie or pan-pizza or seeking that extra pint, but would unconsciously be very very cautious and picky about what goes in and when.

Not to speak of the absolute control of your time this sublime hour gives you - no calls to pick up, no deadlines to beat, no mails to be checked, no land-mines to be cleared. It’s just you and your pace, stride and rhythm and the fresh air sanitizing your body, mind and soul - what a luxury. Capitalize on it - de-stress, clear the cobwebs of the previous day, prioritize the day that is yours, strategize for your short, mid-term and even long term goals, get on top and stride ahead to race through the day with a confident spring in your step and smile on your face …

What’s the downside taking to this passion - well you lose a lot - whichever age bracket you are settled in, you would see a slide in your LDL stats if “bad cholesterol” haunts you, sugar levels go south if you’ve always witnessed surging blood glucose levels earlier, blood vessels breathe easy, in the long run easing your systolic and diastolic endowing you with lifelong “Normal BP” ☺..well nothing really works against you - you get a bundled insurance from all the lifestyle afflictions and and many terminal illnesses.

Many of us have “been there, done that”, what stops you from saying it is “Day One” of your Training for a Run, rather than a “One Day” I too shall… please wake up, lace up and show up! The 5 AM air is rarefied, waiting to give you that much needed leg up to a take on what the day ahead is going to serve you..

Isn’t this what we all long to get every day of the week- the Cup of Life filled with Joy?

I find running as the symbol of perseverance and resilience. Apart from helping me to keep myself fit and energetic, It teaches me to push my mind and body to their limits and balancing them with those of body, which happens every time I participate in an FM.

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