Through the entire period of the lockdown, 67 year old Dr. Santha Narayanan has been going through a rigorous fitness schedule at home with a programme devised on Zoom by her Bangalore-based sister and former India women’s cricket fitness trainer Radha Krishnaswamy.
Every morning, with the objective of strengthening the muscles, she has been following a one hour regime that comprises of high intensity on the spot running, skipping and 5 kg weight squats.
She has also been doing regular breathing exercises that she says will contribute to the expansion of the lungs. Added to all this is meditation and yoga.
“As a senior citizen, the body is vulnerable and the immunity tends to be low. Through this disciplined fitness programme, I have discovered a never before felt lightness in the body and mind,” she says.
On April 1 this year, she became the first doctor to organize a webinar in Tamil Nadu. Since then, she has conducted several webinars including 15 in May.
The fitness routine she says has helped her immensely in keeping the mind fresh. While she did not go to her clinic in April and May, Dr. Santha, a pediatrician, later attended specific vaccination calls.
Last year, the Indian Medical Association (TN) presented her with the Best Doctor Award for her rural service. She has been holding medical camps in the remote town of Arasalur, near Thottiyam, for the last 15 years. She says that if she has to continue to serve the people in that town, she would have to first keep herself fit. And that the current fitness regime helps her in that endeavour as well.
Just a month prior to the lockdown, she had one of her biggest moments of her life when she won in a category in the renowned international standard Tata Marathon in Bombay beating the best of the runners in the country completing the 10kms run in 74 minutes.
“I just participated and ran for fun, testing myself against the best. I did not even know that I had won till someone who watched me run congratulated me with the message that I was the champion,” she recalls.
Santha was a state champion in athletics during her school and college years in the 1960s and 70s. She beat all the records that stood at that time winning 100 meters, 200 meters, long and high jump as well as the relay and helping Stella Maris College win the annual Dr. AL Mudaliar Inter College Championship.
It was after she won the Best Sportsperson award at Stella Maris that the chief fuest of the day Dr. Sarathy, the dean of MMC offered her a medical education seat. She also captained the University to a national victory, achievements that secured her the prestigious University scholarship for four years.
For four decades after becoming a doctor she focused on her profession and took care of the family. It was only in May 2014 that she made a comeback to competitive running, driven by her fitness obssessed sister. In February 2015, she did her first 10 km marathon at Auroville. So inspired was a policeman who saw her run in Chennai that he decided to run with her in the Auroville Marathon.
Last year, she made the trip to Hyderabad and was the runner up in the Airtel Marathon. In the Chennai Marathon, she stood third.
Her daily morning routine, pre-lockdown time started at 5.15 am with a run from Hotel Woodlands on to the Madras University and back in preparation of the popular TCS Marathon that was to take place in Bangalore in May. However, with the enforcement of the lock down, the Marathon was cancelled.
So how does it feel to run at 67?
“I run for fun and not to win a medal. However, what is most pleasing is the fact that several people, youngsters and the elders alike have taken inspiration from me and have begun to practice every morning. Also, those stressed out at work in the corporate world have found running and exercising alongside me as a stress buster. It gives a good feel when you find youngsters almost half your age being motivated with my running routine.”
The next big marathon on her calendar is the Delhi Marathon. She is looking forward to participating in that whenever it happens next.
Dr. Santha Narayanan has been a resident of East Abhiramapuram for several decades.
- Report by S. Prabhu