How to Score Fitness Runs

Ashik Desai's Odyssey You will find Ashik Desai's odyssey as remarkable as we do. Ashik was a sunny-natured boy enjoying all the luxuries offered by a well-to-do background. Suddenly, his father - a high-flying executive - was stricken by a progressive brain disease. Overnight, the family finances plummeted. His father resigned from his firm.

His mother struggled in an underpaid job. And Ashik had to change schools. The sale of their family car came as another blow to the sensitive boy. Over the next difficult years, Ashik wrestled with his inner demons. It was painful to watch his father's slow deterioration, to see his mother returning tired home from her long hours of work, cooking, cleaning and taking care of, his father. Nobody seemed to have time for Ashik.

Somehow, he managed to scrape through school. Attending college brought no reprieve. His heart was not in his studies.

Indeed, it was not in anything. He felt listless, lethargic; indifferent to what was happening around him. He began complaining about stomach aches, asthmatic attacks.

He missed his board finals and lost a year. Finally, he dropped out and confined himself to his home. He watched his classmates graduate, take up jobs.

They spoke about management courses, confirmation letters, only heightening his sense of alienation and failure. Then, one day, his friend Ramesh persuaded him to join him for an early morning jog at Bombay's Jogger's Park. The Jogger's Park is a well ­planned, well-laid out ground in Bombay's suburb, Bandra. Shouldering into the sea, it is buffetted by crosswinds from the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. This sprawling park has been shaped from one man's dream - Oliver Andrade.

On its whitewashed gate-wall, the black painted words 'From Sir with Love' proclaim Andrade's intention - a cradle of fitness gifted by a school-teacher to his "boys". Perhaps it is fitting that it was in this park with its invigorating atmosphere suffused by a physical training teacher's great concern and love for his boys that Ashik underwent a transformation. This park was to be a turning point in the troubled boy's life.

At first, the lonely youngster merely looked forward to meeting his friend. For that one hour that he jogged in those wind-blown surroundings, he escaped temporarily from his worries and insecurities. Every morning he looked forward to this activity that brought him relief. The weeks sped by and even, today, Ashik cannot pinpoint the day when he began to feel positive changes.

He slept deeply and dreamlessly. His stomach aches and asthma vanished. He walked with a spring in his step. Simultaneously, his once-lethargic brain seemed to come alive - as if a new door had been opened. He felt re-vitalised, fresh, eager, alert.

He re-discovered his hunger to move on, to make something of himself. Jobs were scarce for an undergraduate. For some time, he knocked around in part-time jobs and enrolled himself in college. In the morning, he jogged. Finally, he joined a small private concern which demanded long hours of work - outdoors. But nothing fazed Ashik.

He studied nights. It was a long, difficult haul, but he persevered. Until, one day, he ran his eyes over the list put up on his college notice board.

He had passed! Ashik Desai had graduated! Today, he holds an excellent post in a five-star hotel. And his appetite to better his prospects in the hospitality industry continues to grow. For Ashik Desai, today, the future is an exciting challenge with unlimited potential.

What is remarkable about Ashik's life is that fitness was the dynamic force that lifted him from depressive self-doubt to self-confidence, from sickness to health, from failure to success. Fitness gave him back a vital element that he had lost - self-belief. Unbelievable as it may sound, any aerobic activity does bring about changes both physiologically and psychologically. It is not an exaggeration, but a fact. The word 'aerobic' has an interesting history.

Aero is a prefix denoting 'air' as in aircraft, aerial, aeronaut. 'Aerobe' is a micro-organism capable of living only in the presence of atmospheric oxygen. From it was derived the adjective - aerobic. This word would have remained in the dictionary to be used only in science laboratories, if it weren't for one man - Dr.

Kenneth Cooper, director of Dallas' Aerobics Centre. He was the first doctor to co-relate oxygen intake and pulse rate with various types of exercises, the speed, the duration of each activity. Since then, evidence has continued to pile up proving this pioneer's revolutionary findings. As Cooper discovered, aerobic fitness is a powerful bridge that links body and brain in healthful harmony. Ashik Desai's daily one-hour jog did more than any psychiatric counselling or pep talk would have done. As he breathed in oxygen, his lungs transferred it to his blood.

His heart began beating faster and pumped the oxygen-enrichened blood to his body tissue. Here it combined with his fuel sources - fat and glucose - to produce energy. As his body-mechanism grew more efficient, it triggered off two powerful hormones.

One was the noradrenaline, popularly known as the 'kick hormone'. It is found in large quantities in the blood of swimmers, rally drivers, runners and other athletes tested after their events. It unites brain and body in a tremendous surge to get up and go.

By its very dynamic quality, it reduces fatigue, stimulates alertness and concentration and banishes physical and mental lethargy. The second one was the norepinephrine hormone, described by fitness experts as the 'happy­feelings hormone'. It destroys depression and enhances problem-solving abilities. No wonder, Ashik plunged back into the mainstream with the joyousness of a free foal galloping on the open fields of life.

So, was Ashik Desai's transformation a miracle? Yes, it was. But it was a miracle brought about by him. He was his own miracle-maker. His family's circumstances had turned him into a depressive. Had he presented himself before a psychiatrist it is possible that he would have been prescribed anti-depressant pills.

Ashik would have swallowed them and felt better. That's because those pills would have altered his brain's chemistry and lifted his depression. But Ashik did not consult a psychiatrist.

Instead, he jogged every morning and changed from a depressive to a normal healthy boy full of vigour. Suddenly, life did not seem so intimidating. Rather it appeared bright and full of possibilities.

What does it prove? That aerobic exercising can bring about a positive change in your brain-chemistry as much as (and more than) an anti­depressant pill! Which also brings us to an exciting revelation - that the properties of an anti-depressant pill are also contained in our brain and can be triggered off by aerobic exercises!.

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