I’m often asked in jest if pursuing fitness and wellness is all I do. My solemn, stock answer is “fitness enables me to do ALL that I do “. And it’s true! If it weren’t for my physical fitness, I wouldn’t be able to do a fraction of what I do. For starters, it gives me greater bandwidth. The time I invest in my wellness schedule comes back at least 3 times over in the form of heightened productivity. I find that right after my exercise (running, swimming, tennis, HIIT whatever it may be that day) I’m the happiest and also the most productive. The endorphins released as a result of elevated heart rate not only mitigate the effect of the stress we carry, but also clear the head allowing for more objectivity. I firmly believe pursuing a wellness regimen makes you a better version of your self and helps you not only maximize your potential but also be the best you can be at everything that you do. I’m an entrepreneur, an actor and a producer, I’m always up for new challenges, I pursue my hobby of flying and biking with zest, spend time with my family and dogs, and in general I would say I’m an optimistic, happy person. And I have wellness to thank for it.
When interacting with people on the subject, I’m often asked how I find the time. The most common refrain from people who want to pursue fitness but don’t, is the lack of time. And I ask them a simple question – what do folks like Mark Zuckerberg, Justin Trudeau, Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama (when he was president) have in common? The answer is that despite being very busy and not to mention important people they all invest time in pursuing a fitness regimen. Condoleezza Rice, even when Secretary of State and traveling across continents religiously ran 5 miles everyday! The reason some of the most successful and busy people in the world invest time in fitness is because they understand the power of unleashing their maximum potential.
When I was younger I focused more on the visual benefit of fitness. I was introduced to running by my father at age 15 and can’t say I liked it. I thought exercise was something pursued by people who wanted to lose weight. But as my fitness levels increased (even though I remained the same size, considering I wasn’t overweight to begin with) I began to feel stronger and happier. And before I knew it, I was hooked. Over the years I have actively pursued many forms of fitness. From marathon running that allows targeted goal oriented training to strength and resistance training to yoga to playing a sport, I keep varying my pursuits. And today at 38, I believe I’m actually fitter and stronger than I was at 15 years of age. Oh and by the way, I’m still pretty much the same size.
In recent years, my focus has shifted from fitness to wellness. Wellness is all encompassing and not just restricted to the physical form. Making sure the mind is well is equally important. I now end my fitness regimen everyday with breathing exercises and meditation. Eating right is an important part of wellness, because exercise alone cannot absolve us of the sins of eating wrong. Most of us are particular about what fuel we put in our cars. We don’t put petrol in a diesel car. Because that would compromise the engine. What we eat is fuel for our body, why do we then compromise on what goes in? In fact, those who keep pets would never feed them some of the stuff they put in their own mouths, subconsciously aware of unhealthy food and its impact on the body. I’m not advocating living without indulgence. All I’m suggesting is regulating it. And being aware of when we’re indulging – because we often lose perspective and can’t tell nutrition apart from indulgence.
Another key lesson I’ve learnt over the years is that wellness (and fitness) is actually a journey. One never quite ‘arrives’- because the moment one thinks one has reached one’s goal and stops- the slide begins. It’s actually most evident right after achieving a goal. I had trained very hard for a particular half marathon some years ago and achieved my target timing. Basking in the glory of my success, I took a few weeks off only to find even running 5 kilometers was a challenge. No matter how fit one gets, how fast one can run, how much one can lift, there’s always room to get better. It’s only this spirit that can maintain a lifelong commitment to wellness. ‘Losing weight for a wedding, or a film role’ in my opinion are shallow goals that give no long-term benefit. The goal to have is to live a fuller, healthier life, keep vitality at a maximum and illness at bay.
The body is a medium to live life. Ensuring its wellness and upkeep should be top priority. After all we have only one! This very body if looked after well, by eating and exercising for longevity and not merely to look good, will serve us well into our 70s and 80s and ensure we are pain and disease free. We are all going to grow old, might as well have a healthy body to see us through.
Gul Panag is an actor and entrepreneur and a wellness advocate. She is a co-founder of Mobiefit, a suite of health-and-wellness applications and the inaugural member of Thrive’s India Evangelist Network.