Do not go overboard with exercise

Interview /Kaustubh Radkar, Ironman athlete


On March 6 last year, Kaustubh Radkar became the first Indian to complete the Ironman Triathlon for the 25th time at Lake Taupo in New Zealand. To get the Ironman tag, a participant has to swim 3.86km, pedal 180.25km and run a full marathon (42.2km) in under 17 hours. Radkar, who finished his first Ironman at Arizona in 2008, completed the race in 13 hours, 13 minutes and 40 seconds (53:57m, 6:57:08m and 5:08:32m). Radkar, who has a doctorate in health administration and rehabilitation science, coaches triathletes at his Pune-based RadStrong institute. He has also completed Ironman Triathlons on six continents. In an interview, he shared the challenges that came his way, and how he continues to remain fit at 38.

Q/ How challenging was it to finish 25 races in 12 years?

A/ I had been into sports from a very young age and the Ironman was more than just a mention on my bucket list. Once I got addicted to it, I did not want to stop at one. In 2017, I became the only Indian to compete in the Kona Ironman World Championship, the most prestigious Ironman triathlon. I trained myself for a lot of self-discipline. That I had been a national-level swimmer helped a lot. While in college, I had participated in two full marathons and so taking up the challenge of a triathlon came naturally to me.

Q/ What was your training pattern?

A/ It remained the same all throughout. I work out six days a week. I'm doing two activities minimum each day—a run and a swim or a bike and a swim, plus two days of hardcore strength training not necessarily inside the gym, and high-intensity interval training at home or my office. I also do a lot of meditation and yoga. I do between 13 to 16 hours of exercise in a week. A very simple, balanced meal is good for me. I'm not heavily into any diet per se. I only watch out for moderation and measure the calories I need on a weekly basis and try to attain it through home-cooked meals only. I have a lot of chicken and fish.

Q/ How was the lockdown for you in terms of fitness?

A/ I was running in my backyard, but it was a good time to figure out my weaknesses. So I focused a lot on strength training, which essentially means freestyle, body-weight conditioning more than using dumbbells or any other weights. I'm also fortunate that I have my indoors cycling trainer, so when I got bored I would simply take to cycling. In the lockdown, I cycled at least eight hours each week, in front of the TV.

Q/ The Ironman triathlon is gaining popularity in India, but do we have enough coaching and facilities?

A/ It is obviously great to see more and more Indians taking part in the Ironman. However, we need to improve coaching and facilities for those interested in pursuing it. Because, if we have the right infrastructure, it will make a lot of difference and will add more names to the list. In India, a lot of running has to be done in the mornings and cycling has to be done indoors because you obviously cannot go outdoors as we do not have good roads. Also, swimming is the biggest challenge for many people because of a lack of infrastructure and fear of water.

Q/ How does one improve fitness in these uncertain times?

A/ Do not go overboard. Regular workout is most important. Keep at it every day, do not miss it for anything. A jog and a bicycle ride, a run or even body-weight training are very good options requiring minimal equipment. A balanced diet should accompany the workout.