India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Sports & Fitness
June 02, 2015

How Gul Panag Got Me To Run

Text by Natasha Sahjwani

How do you get a distressed couch potato off her feet to make her first run?

Call me sluggish or a couch potato, but I can proudly proclaim that being a fitness junkie has never been my ballgame. I preach that there is nothing wrong in being a few kilos overweight, in fact the chubbier I get, just means that there’s more of me to share.

In a fast-paced world, food has always been my solace, my saviour and my dark knight (like the doughnut). But, as our seemingly inappropriate love story matured, devious dark forces came to play – ‘Mr. Fat’, ‘Mr. Cellulite’ and ‘Mr. Diet’, left me with very little choice. I’ve never believed in being a gym rat, or a cardio bunny, or any misinterpreted health mascot. But here came a war which my body was unfit to wage.

Round one started off by dashing along the oceanfront in the wee hours of a sleepless weekend. Only making it halfway through my ideal goal, my inner demons roared at me in disgust. Round two saw me replace all unhealthy take-out meals into home-made, unsatisfactory sabzis and dals.

The battle was barely even half won…and my body was in need of a power boost. And just like that, it happened. Gul Panag launched an app, First Run, and I decided to give it a test run (literally). After all, I’ve always admired Gul for being staunch in her support of all the right causes.

Upon clicking into the app, I saw a picture of my new fitness guru in top shape for the sprint of her life. Moving further, the app gave way to two kinds of marathon runs: 5 km and 10 km. As a first-timer, 5 km seemed achievable(!) The app seamlessly organised my program into 27 sessions, thrice a week and 30 minutes non-stop. Within minutes, I saw Gul pop on my screen teaching me basic drills, running forms and cool-downs. As she prepared to get me in form, I was ready to hit the lush garden prepped and ready for me, at my home.

The first session can be described as one of the hardest, yet one of the most feel-good things I’ve ever done. Dividing my first day into eight sprints of one minute each, the app made sure my interval training didn’t leave me exasperated. Halfway through I caught myself clenching the muddy ground of the park wheezing, “I can do this!” Worn out, I plopped down for an undocumented 30-second breather, and caught some aimless aunties looking at me in despair. As my playlist shuffled to Young Blood by Bea Miller, I felt new-found energy pound through my veins. I trudged along, dodging people in my path with the guiding voice of Gul in my head, to finish what was left of my course. My incessant whines and sighs were put to a relief when she finally announced my ‘First Run’ was my last run for the day. Flushed face, aching bones and a certain numbness later, I could feel something new erupt within me that made my ‘First Run’ not the last one after all.

Know more about the app with a Q & A with Gul Panag:

  • First Run
  • Gul Panag, App, technology
  • Run, Gul Panag, Tech

What inspired First Run?
“I have always been passionate about fitness, while my partner, Gourav Jaswal, runs several tech companies. Having known him a long time, we thought there was a need to marry fitness and technology. I became a part of Mobiefit (the company behind First Run) and that’s something we have co-founded together. The app has been designed to take you from being a couch potato to a 5-kilometre runner within nine weeks.

How do you think people are going to benefit from this app?
“Well, primarily it targets first-timers who have never run before and it will help them embark on a rewarding fitness journey. Just the way in which everybody wants to be a great cook — make a lovely lasagna or a great rajma — and the only way to start is with a recipe. So the app gives you the fitness recipe to begin! They say any habit takes two months to be formed; this program is a little over two months, nine weeks, precisely. I am hoping that those who follow this app regularly (thrice a week), will be runners by the end of it.”

Apps on your phone… I use a host of apps. Ola/Uber/Meru for when I don’t have a driver, for instance. I use the PVR app, because it helps me figure out which movies are playing right now. I have a compulsive disorder for wanting to know what the temperature is, all the time. So, the Accuweather app, comes to my rescue.”

What’s next?
More apps from Mobiefit. We will have another app coming out soon. We’re working on a version for children and men for First Run as well.”

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