My mother works out more than I do: Milind Soman

Milind Soman, super model, actor and fitness enthusiast, believes that one’s health and fitness habits need to come from a place of self-awareness.  (Facebook.com/MilindRunning)
Milind Soman, super model, actor and fitness enthusiast, believes that one’s health and fitness habits need to come from a place of self-awareness. (Facebook.com/MilindRunning)

Summary

The super-model, actor and fitness enthusiast on how fit moms inspire fit families and why he runs as much as he does

Milind Soman ran his first full marathon (42km) in 2008 when he was 43. Since then, the supermodel-actor and fitness enthusiast has finished a number of marathons on terrains as diverse as deserts, hills and snow, both in India and internationally. He is also by far the name most closely associated with running and marathons in the country today. It’s a recognition he wears easily but Soman recollects that he didn’t really enjoy the sport all that much when he started.

Also read: On a holiday? Head to the park for a group exercise

“I didn’t like running, but as a child I’d heard about the story of Pheiddipides running from Marathon to Athens and the whole amazing myth about him dying after he ran. I’d decided then that I’d do at least one marathon in my life as some rite of passage," reminisces Soman, admitting that he’d only signed up for the first Mumbai marathon when it was announced in 2003 because “it was happening in my city and I had no excuse to not run." While he doesn’t term the first experience ‘life changing’, Soman says that running has brought “so much more" to his life. “I don’t run for exercise, to lose weight, to be fit or for any other reason except that I love to run. It gives me joy. I cannot overestimate the value that running has in my life today," he says.

Soman says that thousands of people do approach him in person and on social media to tell him how he’s inspired them to take up the activity. “They publish stories on Instagram. They follow everything I do because what I do is simple, it’s not something that’s very technical, I don’t even go to the gym or have a trainer, and so anybody can follow me," he says. 

For Soman, the simplicity of his routine hinges on the belief that one’s health and fitness habits need to come from a place of self-awareness. “I don’t want to depend on somebody else telling me what to do Whether it’s what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat or when to exercise and how much to exercise, I want to learn it all through my own experience," he says. It’s this self-awareness that Soman feels is lacking from the fitness discourse happening in the country today.

Easy availability of information means that most people are relying on external sources rather than tuning in to understand what their bodies need. “While I think it is okay for someone to start their fitness journey by listening to somebody, it eventually boils down to them taking that first step," says Soman. The fitness advice he doles out for newbies prescribes to his philosophy and is simple. “To me the whole idea of endurance sport is not about achieving a specific target like timing or speed. Its about being comfortable doing something that is difficult," he says, and so, his advice is to ‘start slowly’.

“Remember that you need to be comfortable all through. So, take the first step. If it’s comfortable, take the second step, then the third, but if the third step is not comfortable, stay there till it becomes comfortable and then move on to the fourth," Soman explains. He also advocates trying different exercises, not just running. “See what suits you best, understand your strengths and weaknesses and work on your weaknesses," he adds. work on your weaknesses," he adds.

Standing at the cusp of 60, Soman’s insights come from a place of experience and it’s this blend of experience and wisdom that he hopes to tap into as the running ambassador for performance wear brand, PUMA. Talking about it, Soman says that besides the gear, it was the brand’s vision to increase the running space in India that resonated with him. “They want more people in India to run, exercise, and take care of their health."

Taking people along on the fitness journey is something that Soman is familiar with as co-founder of the Pinkathon marathon, a running event that was designed only for women. “Thousands of women joined that journey that we started in 2012, and while Pinkathon hasn’t happened for the last three-four years, the community continues to be active," he says before deliberating on the need for initiatives that focus on pulling more women into fitness.

“I think women are important because when it comes to families, it is women who decide what their families will eat, what their families’ lifestyles will be. So, if a woman is fit, healthy and understands what is necessary to have a better life, those are the habits and values that her children are going to imbibe," he says citing his own mother, Usha Soman, as an example.

“My mother is 85 years old. She works out more than I do and goes trekking in the Himalayas. She inspires a lot more people than me," he says. While he shrugs off the question of how he prepares for marathons with “I normally just run," Soman is keenly aware of age catching up. Recalling a recent conversation with a follower on social media, Soman says, “I had this person ask me, ‘Why are you running all the time, what are you afraid of?’ My response was, ‘I am afraid that one day I may not be able to run, and so I have to do as much as I can before that happens’."

Also read: Running the TCS World 10k Bengaluru during a heatwave

 

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