As part of my goal to rebuild strength and reduce fat post surgery (you can read part 1 of this journey here), I diligently added running into my routine for the past 5 weeks and I have to admit, it's become kind of an addiction. During this period I often consulted with my really good friend who is the most dedicated runner I know. He's had quite a health transformation over the past few years so I had a chat with him about his journey and truly believe everyone can benefit from his story below.
Interview with Salman Khan:
What was your trigger to lose weight?
I just needed a change in my lifestyle. I was in my mid 20s and very unfit, unhealthy and often felt tired. I was looking for a new sport or hobby and thats how I found running. Also, at the same time, someone very close to me very sadly passed away of a heart attack at a very young age due to health complications. This was when it hit me. Fitness is not just a physical or vanity thing, it's about your overall health and well being.
What was your process/steps you took?
The process was extremely gruelling, long and tiring. I told myself that I needed to do something that's sustainable so I started with indoor running on a treadmill at home. I began with 2-3 km runs and built my way up. The process is slow, but the reward is long term, real and beautiful. Eventually, I moved to outdoor running and thats when I found out the true beauty of going for long runs.
A big part of my process was also intermittent fasting but you have to understand that in 2012/2013 it was almost unheard of in Bangladesh. I was very discouraged by people who were saying things like, "What do you mean you're going to skip lunch?” or “How can you not have rice or bread with your meal?” I had to fight all that and it was quite difficult too. People were not supportive or encouraging. They couldn’t understand the concept and in turn it was extremely insulting to me. I was continuously discouraged and shamed. The outlook was very different back then when it came to eating and working out in Dhaka. However, all of the negativity helped me and I took it as a challenge. I had to be mentally strong and stubborn. All the criticism and the harsh words actually ended up inspiring me to prove people wrong and that was a big part of the process.
How did you build your mental strength?
I am very goal oriented. In the beginning, I was always fighting with myself and with my mind to complete a run, whether it was 3km or a 5km run. I would often find myself to be exhausted especially in the middle of the runs but I made sure to push myself to achieve the goal. That was the beginning of my love for running. It became my therapy and helped me with many issues that were deep rooted. Running became my release and in many ways it became my life. I run 10km a day now and the one hour it takes is my favourite part of my day. It is my favourite “me time” and I am very grateful for it.
Most bad thoughts or feelings in my life was going out through every run and every sweat. I became addicted because it made me feel happy, accomplished and lighter, both physically and mentally. I found stability and discipline. I felt like after a run I could solve any work or personal problem that was bothering me because my mind was clear.
How important was the physical aspect to you?
The vanity aspect is definitely there. In the world of social media, you want to feel fit and look good. You look at other people around the world and you see how dedicated they are to their bodies. In Bangladesh, I was content with my unhealthy lifestyle which led to me being fat, unfit and unhealthy. When I first started to run, I was 96kg. When I moved to 80kgs I felt like I had accomplished so much. However, when I traveled abroad, I realized I had a long, long way to go. People my age were so much fitter and and happier. I had to change my goals even more and most importantly work even harder. I was never discouraged by any of this. I love challenges and I was excited that I had very high standards to compete with. The truth is, we should all be comfortable with our bodies and I respect everyone for how they look and weight is a very personal thing. However, eating well and doing some cardio can only benefit a person and it should be our main goal in life to try and be as healthy as possible. We owe it to the people we love and most importantly to ourselves.
That's real, sustainable weight loss! How'd you do it?
There were zero supplements involved. It was me, my running shoes, some very light weights and a yoga mat at home. Your weight loss is already in you. Yes, my full weight loss took a lot of time and people get very discouraged when I say it took many years. However, in my opinion it's sustainable if you don't take anything extra because there will be a time when you get off those supplements - your body will go into shock and you can gain the weight back quickly. I don't believe in anything short term in my life. It was never competitive. It was for my own happiness and performance. I don't compete in races. I run because I want to. It's given me a lot of mental strength. I believe in myself more, and I have this sense of accomplishment which running gives me.
I did challenges every now and then. No sugar for a month, and no carbs which does have a big impact, but those are not for the long term. I think everything you need to lose weight is already in you. It's all within our limits. I've not done anything great. I just pushed myself and believed in myself, when no one else did. I don’t have a problem with people who use supplements, to each their own, but in my opinion a long term and sustainable way to go about it is if you just keep being as natural as possible and work hard with a strict disciplined routine. Consistency is everything and if you can work at it everyday, then results will come no matter what happens.
What are your thoughts on rest and recovery?
They are extremely important. You have to know your body and listen to it. If I feel good, I will go for a run. If I have an injury, then I will rest and go when I am better. Its very simple! After a run, I am always icing my knees and heels because that repairs the tissues. I make sure to stretch before and after a run. Stretching is good for performance but also a nice relief for your joints. A few minutes is good enough if you do it right.
Any final thoughts or words of wisdom to anyone who wants to start running and overall live a healthier life?
Honestly, it all starts with a stubbornness to keep going on and on. I am very stubborn and I just refuse to give up. I can accept not accomplishing a target, but I will give it my best to make sure I did everything I could to at least get close to if. The best thing I did was that I found something I love in running and I made a routine around it. You have to train your mind to keep going no matter what. Sometimes, I wake up and I really don’t want to run but then it becomes a battle with your mind and you have to fight the sleep, the heavy eyes and just get out of bed. There will be a hundred reasons to not go for a run or go workout. You could be sick, hurting from a heartbreak, hungover, too much work stress etc etc etc. However, in my opinion, those are exactly the reasons why you should go and workout. The best way to get over most issues is to go and get a good workout in, and in my case a good long run can solve most things for me. In our busy lives, it is important to dedicate a certain time to your workout. Sometimes I wake up at 3 am and go for a run because that’s the only time available to me for that particular day. No excuses because in the end, it’s your body and ultimately you’re the beneficiary of the hard work. I love it, I live it because I truly believe in the results. You will have a lot of people continuously tell you that you can’t achieve this or that, but thats when you have to just be strong enough to not listen to those words and keep going at your own pace. If your intentions are right, then with hard work and discipline you can achieve anything you want.
Thank you, Salman! I really appreciate your time and insight. It's definitely helped me a lot and is keeping me going. I type this as I'm icing my knees (advice taken from you!) after my longest run since surgery, 8.3km and I feel great! If anyone is interested in learning more about his journey, have a read of this article he wrote.
Stay tuned for an upcoming post which will be Part 2 of my post surgery journey of fat loss and strength building.
Have a great week everyone! Take care of yourselves.
Interview led by Devi Bajaj
Executive Director of Enliven Concierge