IIt’s Saturday morning and I’m standing in the middle of Osterley Park, west London, between my mom and dad, getting ready for the weekly park run. My dad is jogging in place, my mom is doing the same. I’m thinking how do I get out of this? They are both full of energy, which encourages me to warm up. All I want is a chocolate and a good masala chai, my favorite spicy tea. I hear the countdown, I get nervous now, and we go. My dad has come forward and with his hand indicates for me to follow the rhythm. Behind me is my mom. I can’t go anywhere, they are both looking at me and I will have to finish this race stuck between them. Finally, we reach the finish line and I am devastated. My dad can do 5 km in 33 minutes. I can barely make it on ’45. My mom and I walk and run together.
Later, my dad will encourage me to jump a bit, and mom will make me hula-hooping. This, along with his nutritional advice, has been my daily routine for the past six months. Who needs expensive personal trainers when I can turn to mom and dad?
Last year I had a health problem; I found a lump on my neck. After a scan it turned out to be fatty tissue, which is not harmful, but unless I lose weight or have surgery, it could get worse. My parents told me: do not have surgery, let us train you and you will feel much better. I was tempted to take the easy option and eliminate it. But I also thought, maybe this is a revelation and a wake-up call for me to start getting in shape.
Over the years, I have noticed how well my parents manage to take care of their health and how healthy they seem in their 70s. I had never bothered to follow their lead or been so curious about the secret to their good health, but then I realized what a great resource they could be.
I looked at the two of them, so thin, strong and healthy, much more than me, and thought, how will I become like them? I am constantly impressed by his resilience. They have never been absent from work due to illness, unless they really needed to. They do not need to visit the GP much. Their habits are ingrained and it works for them.
Part of their success is how effectively they control what they eat. Their diet is extremely healthy and they follow it. For breakfast, it’s porridge; lunch is a whole grain salad or sandwich with butter, turmeric, garlic, raw onion, and black pepper. Dinner consists of boiled vegetables, sweet potato, lentils, or beans. They were both born in India and grew up eating fresh, unprocessed food. My dad is a retired bus driver and my mom still works part time as a sales assistant. My dad started jumping at the age of six and my mom won fitness competitions in the gym. They are truly unconditional.
In this sense, I was the opposite. He hated fitness and was very lazy, so our first step was to come up with an exercise regimen that would suit all three. As a bit light, I had to start slow. My dad told me what exercises to do and laid out my daily routine: I wake up early in the morning, do some sit-ups and breathing exercises, and then go for a run, which includes jogging, walking, and jumping. Later, I’ll take a long walk. I also eat less and drink more water. I only have one masala chai a day and avoid french fries and fried foods. My parents have also given me some traditional Indian remedies, with things like fennel seeds, cardamom, cloves, and turmeric, which have been used for years as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
It hasn’t been easy, sometimes I feel like I’m in the army when I hear them yelling at me. However, training has brought us closer. In general, I would say that they are militants, but in a caring way. When my dad told me I should eat more raw ingredients – including onion, garlic, cumin seeds, turmeric, and black pepper – my jaw dropped; I thought “really?” When he told me to stop eating milk chocolate and switch to dark chocolate, I tried it; I felt bad, but I followed his advice. But I am slowly changing. For something sweet, my mom has a handful of dried raisins or a date a day, and now I follow her example.
I was in a dark place before starting my regimen due to the pandemic, being unemployed and also turning 40. I needed help with my mental health and my parents were a beacon of light. Through this training regimen that they have designed, I have structure in my life.
Last year, my father became a sensation on social media when “the jumping sikh”. He started a jumping challenge in the confinement and raised thousands of pounds for the NHS. He is now a mini celebrity and is admired by people all over the world with thousands of followers on social media.
This year my mother became “Hula hoop kaurAnd I see how they inspire the world, especially the younger generation in the Asian community who tell my parents that their own parents never exercise.
Your standards are high and I have a lot to meet; Following his example makes me aware that I really need to improve my willpower. It’s not easy being Punjabi and saying no to samosa, onion bhajis, and all Indian sweets. Our food is not always very healthy, so I know I need to be more aware of this when I go out with friends. It is these lifestyle changes that I have made that have made a real difference to my mental health.
Now I can feel the benefits, exercise has become an addiction. It’s a game changer; I feel more positive and want to help others, especially 40-year-old Asian women who are at home feeling discouraged. My parents have shown how it is possible to exercise with simple things at home; even a jog and a walk can help keep you healthy. They say the balance is 80% diet and 20% exercise.
I have a long way to go. My parents’ fitness level is still much higher than mine, but it’s an incentive to keep going. A few years ago, my dad told me to follow his exercise and diet routine and I didn’t listen to him. Now I realize that it is never too late and little by little I am catching up.
Life is very different for me these days; I realize that it has to be if I want to be as healthy and young at 70 as my parents. My dad gets up every morning around 4 am to pray and then does sit-ups, as well as jumping; My mother’s routine is equally active. I see strength in your example. I too wake up early, do sit-ups, and drink a glass of warm water. Thanks to your encouragement, I put exercise at the forefront of my life, and everything else follows.
I start each morning with 10 minutes of sit-ups on an empty stomach. I jump for three minutes, then have a glass of water, and then an hour later, a black coffee.
I exercise for 30 minutes every day. I make sure that at least 10 minutes of my activity get my heart rate up.
If I want to take advantage of this, I try another 10 minutes of sit-ups before going to bed.
Our family’s 80:20 ratio means that we believe that 80% of staying in shape is due to a healthy diet. The remaining 20% goes to exercise.
Whenever possible, we stick to raw foods (spinach, broccoli, red pepper, cauliflower, carrots); otherwise we only lightly cook things like sweet potatoes.
I indulge in dark chocolate but avoid milk chocolate.
We stop frying and instead spread the food with olive or avocado oil and grill or grill it.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism