We start the new year off with someone who has accomplished goals with a dogged determination and ones that took some dedicated persistence over long periods of time. With unflagging practice, Sheetal Rawat has followed her childhood dream of earning her black belt at the age of 42 after working on it for 5 years. She then went ahead ran a marathon.
I’ve known Sheetal awhile, and only over the past few years have we gotten close enough for me to watch her with an air of awe and wonder. I can’t walk fast for nuts (coz of my knee) and here she was running marathons and kicking ass (maybe even literally!).
For the most part, thanks to Facebook, there is enough and more of everyone’s accolades hitting us at super byte speeds every time we open the app. It’s reached masochistic tendencies for some. To open, watch someone be happy for something they’ve achieved or celebrate and then instinctively look back on their lives and well, you know how that goes down the drain. It’s morbidly entertaining when you sit back and watch!
So, what we do see is the icing on the cake. The final ‘aha’ crowning moment. The tip of the iceberg. What we don’t see is the huge massive amount of personal effort and struggles that laid the foundation for the tip to shine through to you.
Is it worth it?
How do I know? Well, I know just like you do. You and I will together learn in this very space what it takes to become the very best that *you* want to become.
I sat down with Sheetal (over a period of time) and this is what I have for you.
Get inspired. Fan that fire within.
Spread the joy and inspiration.
So, Sheetal, here’s how I see you. You hold a full time job, have two actively engaged kids and then there are the dinners and social events that you most likely are obligated to attend. Your downtime and weekends are precious to you. And you tell me you have TWO huge physically empowering achievements under your belt (literally too perhaps).
I have one question. How?
Sheetal grins sheepishly. “Honestly? I don’t know. I just did!”
Haha, okay, let’s start from the beginning. You say Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. That’s impressive. So, when did you start? Why TKD and not karate?
I did karate for one year when I was 11 years old in my home town. I loved doing it then and earned a yellow belt. The classes were next to my house was it was easy to attend, then the instructor moved and my parents were not ready to send me far out. Since then I always had an inkling to start but then college and job never made it happen. My son joined Taekwondo in 2009 and thats when my husband asked me if i would like to try too coz he knew that it was something I always liked. So i joined the adult class right here in the neighborhood.
How long did it take for you to get to black belt?
I started in Jan 2009 and got the black belt in May 2013
Wow! That’s a long time! 4 years. Did you ever feel like giving up?
Actually I never felt like giving up. I always wanted to be a black belt and keeping that goal in mind, did not take a single break after I joined in Jan 2009. I guess I was worried that history may repeat itself!
So what made you keep going on a daily? Surely, some days are harder and it is very tempting to give up or fall into a break?
My Taekwondo instructors Mr. Faleski and Mr. Dudla were the key motivating factors. They made the class so interesting and fun that I never got bored in so many years. Also as months passed by I made new friends in TKWD. We started having outside TKWD parties and had a nice set of girl friends. When you are having fun with the activity and also share it with others who become friends, it never gets boring.
So, this earning the black belt was quite important to you.
Yes! Childhood dream I suppose.
How would you say this helped you? Physically am sure it was strenuous, mentally? Was there a difference you saw in yourself?
In TKWD we do kicks, punches, stretching, jumping etc. This helps in building cardiovascular strength and also toning of muscles. I gradually got really toned and flexible. It felt so good feeling the difference in my body over time.
Taekwondo helped me relieve stress. On stressful days, I made sure I attended the class. After 85 minutes of class I would be completely distressed. The practice of Taekwondo has also greatly increased my ability to concentrate and has taught me how to focus my mental and physical energy. It is true what they say about focus!
Isn’t it amazing how one activity actually helps all around! How did you feel when you were given that black belt?
Very happy, and a sense of completion. It was my childhood dream coming true.
So they say work-life balance and we do know it’s hard when a woman has to play and juggle equally well many roles in just one day even. How did you juggle?
Well, work was work. Evenings, and weekends, were when I needed support, and thanks to my husband Suk, who helped at home and with the kids, or this would not have been possible! Both the kids were also enrolled in TKD, so everyone knew what it takes.
Isn’t that fabulous? I love it when the family is involved in an activity. There’s proven research that kids emulate and adore parents and the bond is stronger when there is a physical (or intellectual) activity that they are both involved in. What a fantastic way to show that taking care of yourself physically and setting a goal is how one achieves things in life, without lectures I mean! :-)
Yes! I did not start off to teach or get the kids to follow me, but then I realize how much they value and support me when I do get on such goals! So it’s nice yes, I can relate to what they are saying as I am also doing what they are, so there is understanding and it’s a lot of fun.
Awesome! Is there any one particular person who was your inspiration?
When I was a growing up my dad and I watched a lot of karate and Kung Fu movies. He always said that girls should know and be good at self defense. That’s why he enrolled me in karate class. He was not very happy that it stopped back then but when I joined here again he was thrilled. He told me to complete it this time. I just had to.
We could probably file this under things daughters do for their dads to be proud of them! Alright. So all you did was show up at every class and keep at it and after 5 persistent years, the black belt was yours! Kudos! :)
With that down in May 2013, you were already eyeing your next goal, and that was the Marathon. Let’s talk about that. Where did running come from?
Marine Corps 2013. That was the goal.
Running really just started as fun activity. Few of my friends registered for Rock and Roll marathon in VA beach in 2005…So I decided to try it out. I had my second child in May 2004 and wanted to get rid of the weight that I had put on. Since the plan was to meet every Saturday and practice long distance walk/run, I decided I could do it.
I’ve always imagined one must be fairly fit or athletic to start jogging! How fit must you be to start running?
Frankly speaking u just need to be mentally disciplined to start running. Everything just falls into place. Initially a person does not need to run. Just interval of walk and run is good enough. As long as there no severe back issues or knee issues, anybody can walk or run.. The trick is to stay consistent with the routine.
For example; my first half marathon was all walk. Then I started with the 2 mins walk and 2 min run interval. Eventually I progressed to all run.
Ah, see, now you give even me hope! Always nice to hear from folks how they went about doing it. So did you have a particular program or group u trained with?
Initially for 2 years I trained with my colleagues. We met every Saturday or Sunday and ran on W&OD. Later I decide to run by myself coz that saved my 1 hr driving time . I pulled out a half marathon prep sheet from the internet and customised it to my schedule and then followed it all the way till the race day.
Wait, you did this alone? You just printed a sheet, and got your shoes on and started running?
Sheetal laughs: Yep, just me, alone.
One can train by themselves for half marathon. Full marathon is a completely different story. Since the training period is longer (almost 4-5 months of training is reqd) and also the distance is longer, a training group helps. A friend was already part of a group that trained for marathon, and I joined them.
Hmm.. how did this come about though? Another long term goal to achieve?
Yeah, so I ran 5 half marathons between 2005 – 2012…So then I realised that half marathon was not a challenge at all, it was all too familiar. Logical next step was to do a full marathon. I always looked at the car stickers of 26.2 and said to myself one day I need to do this. It was just another goal to achieve, and things just fell into place once I found the group to train with.
Super! Run me through a typical day of training? What’s it like?
So this is how a week looks when you are training. I used to run one long distance on Sunday morning. My group organizer would decide where to run and how many miles. Every Sunday was a different location and diff number of miles to cover…Interesting run was when I ran 18 miles at C&O canal. Training runs were usually early morning, start before 7 am!
After the run, drive back home, stretch for 30 minutes. After that eat a good protein diet for muscle repair. Monday was rest day. Tuesday and Friday I would run 4-5 miles. Also on Wed I would do yoga for 1 hr so that my leg muscles would get good stretch.
Where do u get the motivation to wake up at 5 and step out into the cold?
The full marathon medal and the bumper sticker of 26.2 was the motivation. I needed to prove myself that I could do it…Also I realized while I was practicing, my fitness levels were just great. Before I started running, I always used to fall sick due to allergies. Since I started running, my immunity has increased and allergies have drastically reduced. My energy levels were high! It felt so good. Seeing this change in health, I was determined to train every day.
Also my dear husband and kids were my biggest motivators. Never once did Suk, my husband complain that I would disappear for 4-6 hrs every Sunday morning. Also kids were very proud that their mom was training for full marathon
Super mom! But I bet does take considerable effort doesn’t it? To stay on track? How important is mental strength?
Running a complete marathon is all about mental strength. After around 20 miles, most of them will have some amount of pain. It is at that moment where mental strength comes in play. Your body is constantly signalling you that you are tired. But mentally you need to visualise the finish line. You need to focus away from pain on to your breathing. You need to keep talking to yourself that just a few miles more and you can stop with the medal around your neck.
Also the running time was my “ME time”. It felt nice to get that time alone running all by myself. If anytime I was upset with anything, I would go for a run. It cleared my mind completely. Guess that’s what they mean by exercise and endorphins :)
Was there a time when your body or our mind were so drained that you said, Ok, am done, am giving up?
No I did not….Once decided, then it has to be done. she states matter of factly. Like that was even a choice!
All goals come with some sacrifices. What did you give up?
Oh yes! All the Saturday night parties. The great food and alcohol. I was off alcoholic drinks for 3 months of my training period. I made sure that I slept by 11 pm latest on Saturday night as I had to be up 5:30 am to go a practice run on Sunday. Also the diet. I had to watch what I ate. Carbs on the day before the run and protein diet after the run.
It is a mind thing isn’t it? Once we switch it off in our head, the body follows. Awesome! So what’s your next goal?
She grins: Yes, yes it is. No goals in sight yet, am looking to see what appeals to me next. You’ll know ;-)
Haha, fair enough. What is your message to ones who are on the fence? Especially ones who want to but are worried they would be hurt or they think they can’t fit it into their lifestyle?
Take it slow and do not give up. The biggest mistake most women do is that we decide to start running on day one, at high speed. Then we are not able to cope up with it and then give up. Best way is to go slow. Increase distance as you feel comfortable, and then work on speed. Life will happen and will continue on, one must pay attention to your heart and mind and do what makes you happy and proud of yourself.
There is a reward at the end of that journey right? And it’s just not that medal?
Absolutely! The reward is the sense of satisfaction and achievement. It increases your self confidence and most important increase in endurance, stamina which eventually boosts your health, and let’s face it, our generations will live long, and we have to be independant and be on our own, so fitter we are the better for us.
This is a picture of me finishing the Marine Corps marathon in 2013. You can tell how happy I was!
So, it is worth it?
Absolutely! Especially for all Indian ladies who are always busy running after kids and managing the home front. They hardly take out time for themselves. Running or walking gives them that time for themselves. This is so important for mental and physical health
I would suggest ladies who are on fence, start with a 5K and eventually do a 10 miler or half marathon is worth it. It is a stepping ladder for full marathon and your own happiness!
So, there you go. Fitness is happiness. You and you and you can do it. Only thing stopping is YOU. Yeah? :)
Have someone who has inspired you in any way? Message me either here or on Facebook or just fill in the contact form here! Every woman has a power that’s waiting to unleash, and while you are getting that cape on, you surely want to help another sister climb up and see her own potential?
If you’ve enjoyed this: click through and read about other remarkable successful women on the blog!