"The mental clarity and confidence that exercise gave me far outweighed the aesthetic aspects of looking more toned and fit."
In 2007, I went through some major life changes.
I moved to Oxford to start my PhD a few short months after the death of my mother from cancer. Naturally, as anyone would, I struggled with the change of environment and the new challenge of a PhD whilst grieving the loss of my mother.
I decided to use my university gym membership and just started going to the gym in the evenings, not really expecting anything from it and noticed how better I felt, physically and mentally.
Over the course of several years my exercise routine evolved from doing just cardio to lifting weights. I noticed how much progress I could make and felt stronger and fitter. The mental clarity and confidence that exercise gave me far outweighed the aesthetic aspects of looking more toned and fit.
Up until 2016, I was exercising at the gym with cardio, exercise classes and lifting weights, but I had reached a plateau and was getting bored. It was only when I went to Boston, USA for a work placement that I came across endurance races – ultra-marathons and Spartan obstacle course races.
On coming back to the UK, and spurred on by the new found novelty of endurance racing, I made it a mission to a challenge myself and really push my fitness and body to another level.
Not really thinking about it, I signed up to take part in an ultra-challenge 6 months later and ran 50 km of the south coast of England whilst fundraising for the BHF, who fund my research. The ‘hills’ of Oxford didn’t really prepare me for the trails and undulating paths over the Seven Sisters from Eastbourne to Brighton!
In my 6 months of training I ramped up my cardio, I made sure I walked everywhere from work to the gym and then included long distance runs every 4 days. I’d never ran anything more than 5 km before, so pushing through the mental barrier to keep going was tough.
On top of this, I sprained my ankle 3 months into training and had a whole month off. The worry of injury on race day was a big concern but I was sensible and paced myself.
My next endurance challenge was the Spartan Race; 20 obstacles over 5 km. These obstacles included carrying sandbags, pulling concrete blocks, and somehow getting myself over 8ft walls (a real effort for a 5ft 2in person!). I included lots of upper body training and more functional movements such as push ups, pull ups, planks and squats which I could do at the gym and at home. My main worry was that if I didn’t complete an obstacle I would have to do 30 burpees which are brutal and exhausting!
I managed to complete the Spartan Race, alongside all the bruises, scrapes and burpees on the obstacles I didn’t accomplish. The comradery in Spartan races is incredible, people are always willing to help you get through an obstacle and there is a real sense of community amongst them.
I’ve found a new love for endurance challenges, pushing myself outside my comfort zone and gaining confidence along the way, and I would encourage any woman who wants to challenge herself and have fun at the same time to give them a go. You can’t beat feeling empowered, inspired, determined, and strong!
I’m now looking ahead to next year and completing my next endurance challenge, whether it’s a 100k or an obstacle course race!
If you’ve been inspired by Jyoti’s story, find out how to get started with Obstacle Course Races.