Its not about the DOPE…

“I want to die at a hundred years old after screaming down an Alpine descent on a bicycle at 75 miles per hour. I don’t do anything slow not even breathe. I do everything at a fast cadence: eat fast,sleep fast.”

I don’t believe in having role models.  I have never wanted to be someone else, either for better or for worse. Though I live to get inspired. I am constantly looking for people with inspiring stories. I know a lot of people who inspire luckily, or I have read their stories through books. I am craving for inspiration. In these list of inspiring people the number one has always been LANCE ARMSTRONG. His book IT’S NOT ABOUT THE BIKE is my BIBLE. I have read it for seven times now. Whenever I am down with injuries (which is pretty often)  or I am questioning my dreams I open the book and start reading it. It doesn’t have to be from the start it can be from any random paragraph in any section of the book. For me his words are the best piece of wisdom a man has ever bestowed upon his fellow people.

I am in absolute awe of the man. I first read it when I was 17 years. I suffered my first major knee injury then.   The first thing I did after reading the book was to get that yellow live strong band on my wrist.  Throughout the comeback period and when I entered my first tournament after a gap of an year I had that band on my hand.  When I sulked I looked at that band, when I felt pain I looked at that band. The band reminded me about his fight with cancer and how he clawed his way back, and compared to his ordeal mine was nothing.

” What is stronger, fear or hope? It’s an interesting question and perhaps even an important one. Intially I was very fearful and without much hope, but as I sat there and absorbed the full extent of my illness, I refused to let the fear completely blot out my optimism. Something told me that fear should never fully rule the heart and I decided not to be afraid.”

After the first book I made it a point to read everything that was written on him. I came across an interesting book which was just written on Lance’s body science. It claimed that how Lance’s body mechanism was the most ideal body mechanism an athlete can have.  Just after his Tour de France’s second win there were talks about a drug scandal. There were races in which the second and the third placed cyclists were disqualified for doping and banned from the sport. Though Lance like always denied all the claims. He made himself available for every dope test and cleared all of them. My respect for the man grew even more. During that time I read a book by a sports journalist David Walsch who wrote how there were scams running to save Armstrong from getting caught. He put in a lot of evidence in his book. He has written about four books on Armstrong. He had his team mates and opponents even his massager  interviewed and caught on tape panicking about ‘positive dope tests.  Then I saw the Tyler Hamilton interview on the show 60 mins which kind of shook me up a bit. Hamilton was in Armstrong’s team and a good friend also an Olympic gold medallist.  He is teary eyed throughout the interview and visibly guilty and uncomfortable when he spills out the beans on the whole doping scandal. He says hes seen Lance injecting EPO, seen him go through blood transfusions also seen him bribe the system to get through a positive dope test.

It will be right to say that I personally today have an asterix in my mind about  LANCE ARMSTRONG  the CHAMPION, about the way in which he won those seven tour de France titles. Though there is another truth that cannot be denied he is a HERO for millions of people and especially those who suffer from cancer. The Lance Armstrong foundation has raised about 500million dollars for patients around the world. He gives people hope and you cant give anyone a better present than that. The kind of commitment he has put in to make a change his dedication towards the cause deserve nothing but  absolute respect.  His fight against cancer was real, he survived cancer and had the will to comeback to his sport, his need to bring change in other people lives was real, his will to win not just once but seven times is real and nobody can take that away from him.

The world today with it’s wars over peace, religion, corruption is in desperate need of HEROES. Today when thousands die in their fight for a respectable life god knows we need more HEROES than the CHAMPIONS.  So at least I have let the HERO transcend the CHAMPION and embraced him. I  LOVE YOU LANCE!!!

“Today I turn the page. I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances. I will commit myself to the work I began before ever winning a single Tour de France title: serving people and families affected by cancer, especially those in underserved communities. This October, my Foundation will celebrate 15 years of service to cancer survivors and the milestone of raising nearly $500 million. We have a lot of work to do and I’m looking forward to an end to this pointless distraction. I have a responsibility to all those who have stepped forward to devote their time and energy to the cancer cause. I will not stop fighting for that mission. Going forward, I am going to devote myself to raising my five beautiful (and energetic) kids, fighting cancer, and attempting to be the fittest 40-year old on the planet.”

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" THE MAN"…in the gym – Tikhe Sir

“The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.” says Baseball star James Rollins. A gym is a sacred place for every athlete. It’s a place where they work towards their dreams. Pushing their bodies beyond limitations, dreaming dreams when they lie down on the ground dead tired.  There are two kinds of gyms. One where men work relentlessly towards goals and second where it’s just a style statement. I have been to so called classy gyms though I have always been let down, may be I’m that worked up about it because I belong to the first category. I think if you go to the gym thinking it is about wearing expensive sport outfits,  the so called cool crowd, music, air conditioning, treadmills with television so on and so forth, you have completely lost the point.  A gym is a place of heavy iron,of getting a good body, it’s about immense concentration. You need to have proper co ordination of breathing while lifting weights and a right posture to get the best results.  When someone with real purpose enters the gym you don’t see him fooling around, he’s so focused that people around automatically stay away from him.

If you have read stories of athletes you will see that most of them build up their own gyms. If you have read Agassi’s Open he mentions a gym that his trainer exclusively makes for his specific needs in his own garage. Athletes choose to work out alone, and more so when they are as big as Agassi or Nadal. There’s just no room for distraction. The other most important component of a gym is the trainer. A good trainer can do wonders to a athlete’s career. After a certain stage it’s the trainer who makes most of the impact on your game sometimes even more than the coach. I have always felt that when a athlete is getting his medal on the podium he should be allowed to take his trainer with him too. They just deserve as much respect as the player does.  One such trainer that I want to write about today is Tikhe Sir.

I don’t train under him. Though he is one of the most important man in the P.D.M.B.A gym.  He has been working here for the last 25 years. Tikhe sir has a daunting personality.  At 60 years of age and 5.7 m he has a really well built body. A big chest, strong arms and a strong core. He doesn’t have too much hair on his head but he isn’t exactly a baldy either. He wears a tikka on his forehead which immensely adds up to his new students being all the more petrified of him.  Most men who look immensely strong outside and are softies inside, well Tikhe sir is just like them. He might yell at you, pick on you, make fun of you in front of all the pretty ladies but he will also make sure you get exactly the kind of results you want.

Tikhe sirs story is a unique one. I feel though he is a man dealing with muscle he is also a saint. At a very young age he realised he was a little different from his siblings. He was a ardent follower of hanuman ji and when children his age ate lollypop he would be doing push ups in front of Hanumanji’s photo. He wanted to be as strong as him. When he was in his 20s he had decided that he would follow brahmacharya all his life.  Though he had to start earning money. So he joined Dr.Sarangpani in his clinic. He learnt as much as he could from the doctor and would help out all his patients with their exercises.  At that time he did not have a house to live in, when he reached his 30th year he had become a follower of a Yogi who had a math(something like a ashram) in Pune he started living with him in that math, and still lives there. In his mid 30s he became a trainer in now P.D.M.B.A then called chaitanya.

Tikhe sir says that 80% of trainers working in the gym were his students. He has trained the likes of Vinod Kamble, Shriram  Lagoo and so on. He says, “Right from the start I never have worked for money. I work for only one thing that is to get a smile on my clients face. That is my wealth. The satisfaction that I get by getting clients rid of their weaknesses is priceless.” I ask him, does he have friends, he says, ” Ofcourse, I do. I may not be rich but I am pretty rich in terms of friendships. Though I do hang out more with younger people. As the people my age are constantly sulking about their daughter in laws, wives, the increasing costs of medicines. I find it immensely boring.”  I ask him about his bachelorhood, I mean how can a man live without a woman. He gives me a mischievous smile, ” Kay ga tu, aditi? Now what’s the point discussing it.” I tell him that if he wants I can still hook him up with someone. He laughs and hits a tapli on my head. ” Its not that easy. When I was younger all my fellow trainers got married to their students. I could never even look at a girl. I am a Maruti Man. Yes, girls used to ask me to come out with them though I used to scare them off with my muscles.” and he bursts out laughing, I join in. “I have dedicated my life to god and helping people overcome pain and fear. I am happy.”

What a man! He did push ups at the age of ten, decided to live without a woman at 20, made fitness his profession and started living in a yogis ashram when he was 30.  He knows no songs other than bhajans and the last movie he saw was deewar and he didnt like Mr. Bachhan much.

Tikhe sir has people from the age of 65 to 15 training under him. He has students who earn 5000 Rs per month to a student who owns a Harley davidson.  One of the richest and the strongest guys  in the gym once told me, ” You know Aditi, I have my own gym at my place. But I keep coming back to this guy. Till I don’t hear his nagging my day just doesn’t pass by. When I was younger I would waste time doing all the wrong things. My parents forced me to join him and he made a GOOD MAN out of me. I dont believe in GOD but I believe in TIKHE SIR.” A gym is not just about the machines its about the man who teaches you to use them.

I love to hear stories of people.  Discovering people is one of my favourite hobbies, and having people like Tikhe Sir around always brings a smile on my face.