Kamal Karnatak, Senior Vice President and Group CIO, RJ Corp, and CIO Power List 2016 winner, on how fitness transformed his life and the lessons it taught him. By Shweta Gandhi
Losing weight is on almost everyone’s to-do list. But only a handful stick it out and emerge victorious. Kamal Karnatak is one such person. Kamal’s story of how he lost 16 kg over two years is the kind that’ll inspire you to wake up in the morning and go for that run you’ve been putting off.
The ‘before’ story
Let’s rewind to 2014. Kamal weighed 96 kg and his cholesterol levels were going through the roof. He was borderline diabetic, borderline high BP and was tested for high uric acid. If that wasn’t enough, Kamal was also Vitamin D deficient and suffered from other associated health problems like bloating. “I thought it was high time I did something about it,” says Kamal.
He then started training on his own, but realised he wasn’t being regular. “That’s when I decided to go for a GOQii smart watch. It features a personal coach and she is always guiding me and motivating me. I felt there was someone watching me and I was accountable for my actions,” he explains.
Even though he began exercising regularly, he realised he wasn’t losing weight. That’s when he started to monitor his eating habits. “I had cut down on my food intake, but I wasn’t dieting,” he says. Instead of eating three meals, he started taking five at regular intervals, with fruits, vegetables and protein-rich foods in the evening. “I lost about three to four kilos, but then the weight loss stopped.”
Once Kamal had invested a few months into this, his personal coach asked him to take it to the next level by running. “The first day I ran, I could not keep at it for more than 40 seconds,” he remembers. “My coach said that within a year, I should plan to do a 6k run. I conveyed my doubts to her, for I couldn’t even complete a stretch of 600 meters then!” Putting aside all apprehension, Kamal continued with his walk/run routine and over a period of time built the stamina to run.
“Eventually, I reached a stage where I could run for 18 minutes sans any break,” he says. Not concerned about the speed or the distance at which he was progressing, Kamal only cared about how much he could run without stopping. “This instilled the determination in me that if I could move on from 40 seconds to 18 minutes then I could definitely finish a half marathon (21.1 km). So I seriously started training for that.” His belief in himself paid off when he completed the Airtel Delhi half marathon in November 2015 in two-and-a-half hours!
Tips for beginners
“The problem with running is that if you’re not doing it properly, chances of you getting injured are very high. So you need to take a lot of precautions,” says Kamal. “You also need to have the right kind of gear—your shoes, T-shirt and track pants will help you avoid injuries.”
Kamal suggests going for dry fit tees and dry fit shorts/tights. For footwear, he recommends simple running shoes without pump technology or push-ups. “An important point—if your body is giving you signals that you should not run, then don’t,” he adds, and insists that you should never run on an empty stomach. “Have a banana, protein bar or some fruits—but not a complete meal,” he says. After the run, he suggests you immediately have a protein shake or a protein bar. Then have a protein and carbohydrate-rich meal within 30 minutes.
Yet another important part of the regimen is stretching. “This is very important. Never start running without stretching. Stretch before and after,” he says. And runners who are looking to complete a half/full marathon must take care to engage in strength training. “You should not run every day when you’re starting out—do core training on alternate days. Working out both your upper body and lower body is vital.”
The fitness pyramid
Kamal breaks down the pyramid of keeping fit into four factors—food, physical activity, water and sleep. Food, he says, doesn’t only mean what you’re eating—it also means how much you’re eating, what time you’re eating and what combinations you’re eating. For example, if you’re eating more carbohydrates in the evening then it’s a problem. “You can have as many carbohydrates as you like till the afternoon, but not after that. You should have a low carbohydrate, high protein dinner,” he says.
Monitoring your physical activities is next. “Keep an eye on how physically active you are. GOQii helped me in monitoring the number of steps I took in a day. You can set a target of 10k to 12k steps,” he says. Kamal says it’s important to pick an interesting activity that will keep you engaged. “I started liking running, but everyone is different. If you like swimming, playing tennis or squash then do that. But that doesn’t mean doing 45 minutes of gym and then binge eating.”
Water intake is another factor that people, especially in corporate offices, seem to forget. “You need to consume 2.5 to 4 litres of water a day. Set a reminder to drink,” he advises. The fourth and final factor is sleep. “The quality of your sleep is extremely crucial as your body needs rest after a busy and stressful day.”
Future fitness goals
Now that Kamal has fulfilled his dream of running his a half marathon, he has his eyes set on a full marathon. To prepare for that, he has undertaken a challenge of running continuously for 100 days straight. “I am just 28 days into this and have already completed 150 km, with the aim to finish 500-550 km. The idea is to do a minimum of 2 km every day. To motivate myself I share regular updates on Twitter using the hashtag #100DaysOfRunning,” he says.
Having made fitness a part of his life, Kamal is now set on inspiring fellow CIOs—he was instrumental in setting up the CIO Health Run that took place simultaneously in Delhi and Mumbai in February this year. Over 200 CIOs participate along with their families. “When I saw the changes taking place within me, I realised being fit has to be priority, and I knew I had to engage the CIO community in this,” he says. This is his fitness journey, and it has only just begun.