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What Gave Me The Motivation To Keep Fit After Quitting The Army

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My name is Shailaja Parthasarathy. I’m 46 years old and a radiologist by profession. I am also an ex-army officer. My husband is a microbiologist and has served in the Indian navy for over 22 years. We were classmates from Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) and have a lovely daughter Shruti, who’s now in her second year of college. I had already taken part in various 10k marathons by the time I moved to Delhi in 2012.

Pinkathon was my first organised runs in the year 2014. After that, there has been no looking back and running has become a part of my life. Fitness and health have always been very important to all three of us and we try to do as many activities as possible together as a family. Our daughter has also taken part in various runs in Delhi along with us. While I served in the army as a Short Service Officer from 1994-1999, fitness definitely played a big role in my life. As they say, ‘once a soldier, always a soldier’. Being fit and healthy is so integral to a soldier’s life that it never really goes away.

After leaving the Army, I accompanied my naval doctor husband on all his postings. I was fortunate to still be within the fauji environment, where serving personnel, as well as their families, have a very high awareness of fitness. For a very long period in my life, I was travelling and working. I even completed my post graduation from AFMC, Pune during this period. There were times when I couldn’t focus on my fitness like I wanted to.

When I came to Port Blair, I started my own practice, leaving me with no enthusiasm for exercise. Suddenly I found friends commenting on my ‘prosperous’ looks and I got a jolt when I found that I had put on 5-7 kgs. To counter this, I started my walks again. I have successfully completed two half marathons since the first time I ran the Pinkathon. Pinkathon brings three things together – the love of running, breast cancer awareness and women’s health & fitness. I started running in 2010 and I loved it, and as a doctor, the latter two reasons were very important to me. It is sad but true that women’s health and fitness is a secondary issue to most people, including women themselves. Family commitments, domestic chores and childcare leave women with very little time to focus on their own health.

In the army, fitness is more or less a part of your life which you cannot escape. Whereas as a civilian, I have had to make time for exercise and make sure that my work schedule and domestic commitments are arranged around it. The reason which inspires me to run at the Pinkathon is that it encourages women from diverse backgrounds to incorporate exercise into their routines in whichever way they can because health is a priority.

As a radiologist, my work does not involve too much movement.Usually, I’m sitting in a chair, doing ultrasounds or reporting X-rays or CT scans. And for the new age nowadays, ‘Sitting is the new smoking’! This basically means that sitting down for long periods of time is very detrimental to your health. I cannot highlight enough, the importance of at least 30-45 minutes of exercise everyday.

Running is one of the simplest, in terms of equipment. All you need is a pair of running shoes, and you can just go! In my field, we are always sitting inside air-conditioned, artificially lit rooms and doing our work. Running or walking outside gives me the much needed opportunity to breathe the fresh air, get some sun on my skin and appreciate the big blue sky.

Recently I started training with a group called RunXtreme, and this has been a game changer. Our leader Tarun Walecha takes us through a pre-run stretching program, and trains each person according to their level. We also do strength training together. Group training is so much fun because exercising alone at home or in a gym can be a bit boring. So my advice to people would be to start walking or running today, and if there is a group near you, join it! Events like Pinkathon and training for them offer all these advantages – of being outdoors, getting the adrenaline going in your body, and running with a group of people who will build each other up!

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        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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