This obsessive focus on The Work is our reason for being and our competitive edge.
We believe The Work is the only true measure of an agency.
Hi dear reader, I trust you’re doing A-OK. It’s been a couple of months since my last post, and I want to change that. Excuse my topless torso in your inbox – I will explain my shirtless-ness shortly.
I meant to write last night; but was not in the right state of mind, and sleep was not forthcoming either. At one point, I started thinking deeply about several topics, but when you’re bound by your own mind, things can get heady…
Which is why I write. Writing offers me the opportunity to untangle, and more importantly, weaponise my thoughts into action. As always, if I end up sparking positive change or create a shift in perspective for someone, I will be as happy as a squirrel that digs into their secret acorn stash after a harsh winter.
I hope this turns out to be the case, but I wrote this blog more for myself than anyone else, which is why I doubt it will resonate with anyone. If it did, please let me know.
Now…on the cover image. Guess who’s the owner of that glorious, sun-kissed body? Me – Karan! I’ve popped my ‘first topless photo on the Internet’ cherry with this upload, and it’s a big deal for me.
Why? Because as confident as I am, I’ve always felt insecure about my body, and I don’t quite know why.
I was fine up until the age of 8, when I used to visit Dubai’s famous Jumeirah Beach with my family.
It might have been my tweens (hello puberty!) when I started to feel awkward about taking my shirt off.
I vividly remember excusing myself from a fun day out at Wild Wadi Waterpark with my school friends when I was 12, telling them I didn’t feel comfortable in the water.
If anything, I felt more comfortable under water, than out of it.
The photo of them making a splash at the water slide is still up on Facebook. Minus me.
Skinny fat. That was my body type. I didn’t have muscle, and carried some weight around my stomach.
Still, I looked decent when I dressed up. There was only a slightly visible paunch, which didn’t faze me.
As long as I had a shirt on, life went on…
Started from rock bottom. Now we here.
Cut to 16 years later. With a pandemic thrown in for good measure. (Which I survived, in case you were wondering. If your heart is still beating, type ‘Life is as good as you make it.’ in the comments.)
God, it’s good to be alive.
I am still amazed at how much I’ve physically changed in the last 6 months.
Although this photo is probably not the best indicator, because I’m comparing myself from one of my lower points in 2020 – when my depression had returned – and I turned to (junk) food and (overindulged in) sex to cope. I packed on the pounds quicker than I could demolish a Big Tasty, and that’s saying something.
Even so, those cheeks are impressive – I could probably host a village of Smurfs on each one. Ah, and the cute double chin.
A combo of gluttony with a lack of physical exercise and a side of excessive masturbation got me to this stage.
It wasn’t pretty, but I never considered myself a pretty boy. Handsome? Under the right conditions, yes.
Burn, baby, burn: boxing, HIIT, and getting fit.
The photo from February 2022 is when I was a month into boxing.
I was hooked (punch me for that silly pun – I can take it) after the first class.
But here’s the thing: I never intended to get into shape. I merely fell in love with the sport.
I’ve always been a high-energy guy, and boxing was the perfect outlet to channel my excessive energy.
After the initial shock and subsequent struggle, my body adapted to the demands of each class, and I felt myself getting fitter.
Apart from the varied classes (HIIT classes, technical classes, and strength and conditioning classes) I took up weight-training and powerlifting to become stronger.
Naturally, I didn’t want to undo the hard work by pigging out. I just upped my protein, regulated my carbs, and slept well.
For better or for worse, when you lose a drastic amount of weight in a short period of time, people notice.
And people love to talk. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for it – I love stimulating conversation.
But to make a comment for the sake of making a comment? That vexes me.
“You’ve lost weight, Karan. Is everything ok? You’re looking thin, Karan.”
I’ve been working hard since January 2022. I attended two boxing classes every day, 4 days a week, every week.
One at 6:30 in the AM, and one at 6:45 in the evening. Sometimes, I’d stick around to spar at 8 PM.
And ooh boy, 6 minutes in the ring will leave you gassed!
I’d slip in a powerlifting/weight training session on the fifth and sixth day, and rest for one.
I was burning upwards of 800 calories per class. That’s about 1600 calories per day.
Which meant all that subcutaneous fat disappeared. Fast.
Oh, and in case you didn’t know, I’m Indian. Now, what has that got to do with anything?
Culturally speaking, in olden times, having a pot belly was viewed as a sign of prosperity.
Since I’m Indian and work in the construction sector in Dubai, I interact with many Indians. Some of whom get needlessly personal.
And most of whom have a traditional mindset. Who do not question the world. Who are content living in their bubbles, doing the same thing, day in, day out.
Like suave, well-dressed monkeys, hitting keyboards.
Which inevitably led to some variation of the question above. It was fine the first few times…
But the fiftieth? Give it a rest, man.
What really got my goat, however, was hearing I’ve become weak. People had no idea.
Yes, I look lean. But I’m the strongest I’ve been all my life, and I’m only just getting started.
There is a difference between looking muscular à la the classic bodybuilder look versus putting on lean muscle yet becoming strong i.e. a professional athlete (think gymnasts, basketball players, football players, etc.)
Have you heard how a wolf does not lose sleep over the opinions of sheep? This is not to say I’m a wolf.
Oh, no. I’m a God damn lion. After pushing the envelope for the last half year, I’ve realized I can do anything if I apply myself.
People start to treat you differently when you take care of your appearance. Numerous studies have proved how attractive people earn more, are thrust into leadership positions, are trusted more, and generally do better at life than, say, average-looking people.
On a related note, it is a strange feeling to have unknown men nod at you as they pass. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it is amusing how women throw themselves at you in social situations.
Pardon me if this sounds masturbatory. It is the truth. I’ve always written the truth. And will continue to do so, until my last breath.
Speaking of death, I am keenly aware of how I could die, or get seriously injured at a moment’s notice.
It may not even be my fault. Picture the most horrific car accident you’ve seen.
What if you were caught in the crossfire? Collateral damage ensues – you lose your vision, or maybe a limb?
What if you were to become paraplegic? And had to use disabled toilets, and park in ‘reserved’ spots for the rest of your pathetic, miserable life?
I have an Indian-American cousin who’s a year older than me. We’re similar in many ways, yet the key difference between us is our egos. Not the size of them, mind you.
We’ve both got egos the size of Mount Everest, but what differentiates us is how I know I am nothing in the grand scheme of things.
I could get punched, bleed internally, and die next Thursday whilst sparring a Mexican in my boxing gym.
Which is why I am filled with nothing but love for people, wanting the best for everyone, whilst my cousin can be self-centred, violent, and arrogant.
At the same time, what else can I offer this world but my self? Sure, I may look different now, but whatever happens, I will never let go of my inner child that lusts for novelty, craves adventure, and loves bringing joy to those around me.
Sleep was a foreign concept to me last night. I instead stared at myself in the mirror, thinking of how far I’ve come.
Thinking of how I held my own against bigger men in the ring. Thinking of how much money I’ve made. Thinking of my recent European holiday. Thinking of how much fun I had dancing in the sun by myself. Thinking of all the women who wanted nothing more than to fuck me. Thinking of how I climbed mountains no-one dared climb. Thinking of the new friends I made. Thinking of the old ones I reunited with.
(I also thought of this woman I like, and how I want her to become the woman she once was, even if we will never be together.)
I’ve grown more in the past 9 months than I have in the past 3 years.
But the work cannot stop. It does not stop. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
There’s immense work to be done. On this blog. On my YouTube channel. On my t-shirt project. On my boxing. On my relationships. On my business.
But every once in a while, it’s okay to pause. To watch yourself in the mirror, wide-eyed.
Admire the person you’re becoming.
And thank them for being there, every step of the way. Because nobody, (are you listening to me!?) nobody – except for you – did those push-ups. Even when no-one was watching.
It’s scary, yet liberating to be by yourself at 3 AM. With nothing but your thoughts for company.
I’m proud of you, Karan. Thank you for being there for me when no-one else was.
But we’ve got a long way to go. I hope you’re ready for what lies ahead.
(Before you begin reading, you should know I have a YouTube channel where I vlog my life. I vlogged part of my run, and I’d appreciate it if you watched. I am excited to explore the creative opportunities that YouTube offers. If you enjoyed watching – please subscribe. For now, I hope you enjoy the blog.)
It is 4:34 PM, 27th March 2022 as I’ve started typing this. I am proud to have completed my first 10K yesterday; the Expo 2020 Dubai: Run 3.
Going into this run, I was sure of 2 things:
My lower body would curse me for signing up for this run a mere week ago, and
I would cry after crossing the finish line
One of those things happened yesterday.
My right hip was stiff, my knees protested with every step as I climbed the stairs to my room, my calves had grown into bulls, and I had developed an angry-looking blister on the underside of my left foot.
Number 2 happened this morning. (Ha, number 2 happens every morning!)
I woke up at 7:07 AM, went to my balcony, plugged my earphones in, started listening to this euphoric electronic house track, exhaled about 30 seconds in, and felt a surge of emotion overwhelm me.
Before I knew it, tears had welled up. I let them roll slowly, eventually raising my right forefinger under my left eye to dab my face, and brought it to my tongue.
Surprisingly, it didn’t taste salty. “Good, I hydrated sufficiently last night.”, I thought to myself.
I then went on to unceremoniously perform number 2. I’ll spare you the finer details…but I will say it was the performance of a lifetime. I’m kidding, of course.
It was, however, the best performance of my day, so I’ll chalk it up as a win.
Emotions running high.
I’m not surprised I cried this morning – I’ve cried countless times these past few months. Most times in the car when listening to music (that’s when it hits me the hardest); sometimes when failing to dead-hang from the pull-up bar in my community; and there was the one time I vividly remember getting emotional after I’d finished performing lunges at Spartans, my boxing gym, whilst listening to Mall Grab’s ravey, yet nostalgic club-ready anthem.
I rushed to the washroom to ensure no one would spot me, and ask what was wrong.
I splashed water on my face, stared at myself in the mirror, mentally berated myself for letting my emotions get the better of me, and then walked out as if nothing had happened, hurriedly leaving the gym.
I’ve analysed why I cry in my journals. This is what the most insightful entry in Google Keep reveals:
Pay attention to, “I thought of The Lion King, and was probably overwhelmed by knowing the time has come to earn my rightful place in life. And that I’m only just getting started on my journey. It is both exciting and scary.”
To unravel this requires its own blog, and I want to focus on my run in this one.
But to sum up this ‘journey’…I got into a relationship in September 2021 and knew if I wanted to make time and care for someone I loved, I had to first ensure my life was in order.
(If you’re reading this, you’ve probably flown in an airplane.
A brilliant way of viewing the idea of self-care is by pondering on the phrase heard some 30,000 feet in the air,
“In the event of a sudden drop in pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from above. Secure your own mask first before assisting others.”)
You cannot help anyone else unless you first help yourself.
Which is why I made a conscious decision to start taking care of myself, began fixing 8-year-old gym injuries, and proceeded to shoulder more responsibilities, and wrest control of my life; after the 2020 shitshow left me directionless.
I cannot gloss over the facts the woman I briefly dated asked we become exclusive, then cheated on me, broke up with me over text (coward!), and decided to up and leave the country after promising we had a future.
I rarely, if ever, wish ill on anyone, but I did not wish my ex-girlfriend the best in her future, either.
As much as I love connecting with people, want them to achieve their full potential, and want the best for everyone in general, I can cut people out of my life at the drop of a hat should they cross me.
And my ex wronged me. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
Having said this, I was not seeking vengeance. But after that abrupt break-up, I decided to focus on improving myself with renewed vigour, and vowed to myself I would never put anyone else’s needs above mine.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
To this end, I’ve started prioritizing my health. You can read about it here:
Taking on the challenge of running my first 10K was right up my alley, and fit into my plan of pushing myself physically and mentally in order to grow.
A 10K is ideal for experienced runners who are seeking a greater challenge.
It is the kind of run anyone with moderate fitness levels should be able to complete with ease.
Funnily enough, I am not an experienced runner. The last time I’d run was in school (16 years ago, to be specific). And my knees aren’t in the best shape, either.
Understandably, on the eve of run, I was a nervous wreck. You can watch how I felt here.
Beware the spoiler: l filmed myself after finishing the run and edited it into the clip, and I felt fantastic.
On the flip side, my fitness levels have considerably improved ever since I started boxing, and implementing HIIT into my workout routine.
This is why I decided against introducing anything new into my routine, and didn’t run even once in the weeks leading up to D-Day. I decided to wake up, rock up, and run like I’d never run before…
26th March 2022: up and running at 4 AM.
I only managed to sleep for about 5 hours the previous night. Partly because of excitement, and partly because I’d worked out my arms to steady my nerves, which had the opposite effect of rejuvenating me.
After breaking bread with a peanut butter sandwich, banana, and mug of black coffee, I donned my bright yellow Expo 2020 Dubai: Run 3 t-shirt; and drove to the Expo site, which was only 20 minutes away.
The 10K was scheduled to start at 6:30 AM. I had received a lengthy email briefing on 21st March, in which runners were told to arrive one hour prior to their race, which meant I had to arrive at 5:30 AM.
I pulled up into the Mobility Parking at roughly 5:45 AM and was pleased to see a crowd of over a thousand strong people, walking towards the Mobility Plaza.
So when I came across the Expo 2020 sculpture and wanted a photo, I asked a fellow 10K runner named Suraj to click one with his phone and send it to me over WhatsApp.
I started chatting with Suraj and his friend, and he told me he was from Bombay – I love Bombay people – I find them interesting.
This wasn’t his first rodeo: he was an experienced runner. I asked him for tips, and he told me to find my rhythm, have fun, and remember to breathe.
Remember to breathe.Got it, Karan?
I thanked him for his tips. We’d arrived at the security gate, wished each other a good run, and said goodbye. I placed my Expo bag on the conveyor belt, walked through the metal detectors, and stepped foot into the Expo site for the first time since it opened.
I always thought I’d go…but in-between work, being a social butterfly, my fitness goals, and creative work…I never did.
On my way to the start line, I learned of the 3 Expo passes I’d received, I could only use the other two the same day (one pass counted against my entry). Which I was not too pleased about, because I was sure I’d be knackered afterward.
It didn’t matter; my thoughts were focused on the run. After dropping my bag at the Festival Garden, I passed by the stage where an MC was urging runners to take their place at the start line, his energetic voice ringing clear on this brilliant Saturday morning.
I was texting my best friend, who was getting snapped (she’s a model and actor) in the desert as the sun rose, and she told me to kill it. I appreciated her words.
I limbered up, focusing on my calves and hips. They are tight because of fat-pad impingement in my knees – a long-standing injury I’m only just starting to fix.
I got another photo clicked at the start line from someone named Tejes, who asked I click one of him in return; I happily obliged.
Formalities out of the way, I crossed the line and began to jog.
The clock had begun to tick. The tag I sported on my shirt served two purposes:
It would record my finish time since the tag had a chip attached to it.
It would help identify me in photos clicked by official Expo 2020 Dubai: Run 3 photographers.
On the path of truth.
Before I describe my run, I’d like to tell you about a Yugoslavian proverb that just came to mind, “Tell the truth, and run.” I read this in Hey Whipple, Squeeze This, an excellent book I recommend for anyone looking to break into the advertising industry, learn how to make great ads, or improve as a copywriter – which is what I used to do prior to what I’m doing now.
I’ve always been an honest guy; my parents raised me well, and I have a loving family. But I bring up the concept of truth because as I’ve started working towards becoming the best version of myself, I’ve had to kill a past self: one that indulged in pleasure, was lazy, and did not live up to his potential.
And as I’ve dug deep into what my core values are, I’ve realised honesty is paramount amongst them.
I want to live an honest life. And whilst I never lied to anyone, I used to lie to myself. Frequently.
I made promises but failed to honour them.
They were little things. Like telling myself, “Karan, you will not smoke a cigarette today.” Or, “Karan, you will not indulge in so-and-so vice today because you have to make it to work on time tomorrow.”
When I made these commitments to myself but didn’t follow through, my unwavering moral compass – my conscience – scolded me. I knew in my heart of hearts what I was doing was wrong, but didn’t take corrective action.
I watched myself repeating the same mistakes from the outside when I’d journal.
I hated failing, and felt frustrated.
Until one day, I’d had enough. I decided to be better. The aforementioned break-up also played a role in shaking me up.
As I’ve started walking the path of righteousness, I’ve met people who – either by virtue of their nature or the kind of communities they’re
a part of – have helped broaden my horizons, and experience new things.
So, as I started to pick up the pace on my run, I was not surprised to hear Dani – my boxing coach at Spartans Boxing Club – call my name in the distance.
I never would have run this 10K, let alone know about this if it weren’t for her.
She told me about it towards the end of February after one of our classes. And now, 1 month later, there I was, running alongside her and vlogging it.
Thoughts in motion.
Thoughts into action.
I decided against vlogging my run. With my back camera not working properly, I’d have to use my front camera. As handsome as I am, I didn’t want people watching my sweaty face for the majority of the vlog.
I marvelled at the grand architecture of the pavilions around me, thinking of the time, effort, and collaboration of numerous people it must have taken to construct them.
I continued to run.
I looked around, watching men and women running alongside me. Some older, some younger. I noticed one girl had switched to walking within the first 500 meters. She was recording herself, “Man, I can’t believe I’m tired already. I’m sweating so much, I should have…” her voice trailed off as I looked back, smiled at her, and continued running.
Over the next 500 meters, I slowed down, as I realized how much further I had to go. Considering my lack of preparation and stimulated state of mind, I estimated finishing in roughly an hour, which meant it wasn’t sustainable to continue at the pace I did. I started to slow, but not quite jog. It was somewhere in between. I had found my pace.
Suraj’s words resonated with me.
My breathing was steady. Now, all I needed were my tunes. I plugged in, and…
I continued to run.
I breezed past some people, who had stopped to take photos. I, of course, had no idea why they were running, but personally, I was there to run to my heart’s content, no matter how long I took to finish.
By this point, the electronic music had taken over, invigorating me with every step.
I had hit my stride.
I turned a corner. The sun was shining bright, bathing us in its joyous light.
It was a glorious day, and I was ecstatic I’d decided to take part.
I continued to run.
Around this point, I was sweating. Profusely. Up ahead and to my right, I noticed a table with water bottles on them. A friendly person was handing them out to runners as they passed.
I drifted to the side, and slowed down, right hand at the ready. Without missing a beat, the man at the table handed me a bottle. I thanked him, and
I continued to run.
I slowed down to open the bottle, take a few gulps, and assessed how my body felt.
My feet had started to get sore. My calves felt tight. I’d probably been running for about 4.5 km now, and the unwelcome thought of if I’d be able to complete this run crossed my mind.
I thought of that thought for a few seconds. And dissected it.
The reason why that thought came to my head is because my body was tired, and it told my brain I should stop running.
But it was just a thought. Must we pay attention to every thought that comes to our head?
Must we act on the thoughts that come to us? Yes, but only if they’re good thoughts.
Thoughts that inspire us to enact positive change.
If our thoughts do us more harm than good, it is best
We determine what led to the thought in the first place
Become aware of how our body responds to the thought – do we feel stressed? Anxious? Angry?
And consequently take corrective measures – which could include writing for yourself to identify negative thought patterns, and remedy them by any means necessary.
So I banished the thought of not being able to complete the run, and instead visualised how I’d feel after crossing the finish line. The pain in my legs slowly started to seem insignificant.
“Mind over matter, Karan.” I thought to myself, with a smile.
I continued to run.
I picked up the pace and slowed down when needed. I was mostly looking straight ahead, occasionally looking to my side to see someone overtake me with a burst of speed.
A few minutes later…I overtook them, as they had slowed down.
Thousands of people. Hailing from different countries. With varied economic backgrounds. Possessing different fitness levels.
There we were. On that sunny Saturday.
Running as fast as our bodies would allow. No matter where we came from – or at what stage of life we were in – we were united by a common goal that day: finishing a race.
How long it took us to finish was irrelevant.
We were going at our pace, putting our best foot forward.
Knowing this, a strong sense of love for all those runners started to develop within me.
I felt connected to everybody.
As these pure thoughts washed over me, I felt a surge of energy rush through my body, which emanated from my nether regions. (TMI? I’m nothing if not honest in my writing.)
I felt a chill in my forearms. I looked at them, noticing I’d got goosebumps. I stretched my arms backward and grinned in delight.
The time had come to unleash my secret weapon…
Runner’s high, calculated.
I knew there would come a point during my run when I would all-out sprint.
That would probably happen as I neared the finish line, but considering I was currently experiencing this powerful, electric energy coursing through my body, I decided to leverage it – and see how far I could push myself – coasting along pure energy, boosted by the perfect track.
I switched from Spotify to SoundCloud, typed the words ‘Janeret Equinoxe’, hit play, and felt the first notes of the energetic kick-drum vibrating in my ear canal.
I pushed my earphones in, creating as tight a vacuum as possible.
Janeret had introduced the bassline, and it teased me, goading me to pick up the pace.
Not yet, I thought to myself.
I was now a minute into this gorgeous track, and it continued building up to a bouncy crescendo.
Which is when I started to increase my speed. I put one foot in front of the other, trying to time each step with every clap in the track, going faster with every step.
God, I love house music.
I was 2 minutes in, and the opportune moment was nearly upon me. Any second now…
2:15. There was a moment’s pause before the drop. Until it dropped. Karan, we have lift-off!
I sprinted. With the sun bearing down on my sweaty face.
With the morning breeze welcoming me like an old friend.
Suddenly, I felt like I was 11 again, when I discovered I had pace. When I realized my skinny legs could generate raw power, and I could run. Fast.
I was beaming from ear to ear and felt as lithe as a gazelle and as free as a bird as I continued to run, leaving people in the dust.
I continued my all-out dash, my heels barely making contact with the ground before I felt them touching, faster this time.
I had reached an all-too-familiar state of euphoria. I’d also run about 200 meters.
My breathing was already laboured, and my heart was pumping wildly, moving oxygenated blood to my muscles and brain.
I started to slow down. And just like that, I returned to baseline speed…
Until I spotted people on the sidelines starting to cheer. I wasn’t sure what was going on. I looked at my watch – I had been running for about an hour.
A smattering of yellow and pink t-shirts lay ahead. Although my music had created a personal bubble of thoughts and emotions – there seemed to be a shift in excitement levels amongst the runners and onlookers – which pierced through this bubble.
Intrigued, I took out my earphones and listened to what the cheerleaders were saying over the megaphone.
They were saying something to the effect of, “Runners, you’re almost there!”
And then it hit me: I was nearing the finish line!
The end of a journey, or the start of a new one?
I tempered my pace, until I completely stopped in my tracks, about a kilometer away from completing my first 10K.
The clock continued to tick, but I didn’t care. I looked into the distance and exhaled.
Not out of breathlessness. I was awestruck.
Over the course of this hour, I didn’t stop running even once. Simultaneously, my mind had travelled to several places – which I chose not to write about.
Although I will mention one memory, which was brought back by listening to one upbeat house track as I ran.
It was the memory of the girl I liked. And how, when she left with no prior warning, I felt heartbreak.
Or something close to it. I’m not sure what it was. But I felt a strange sadness I had never felt before.
To get over her, like I mentioned earlier, I started focussing on myself. Oh, and I partied. Hard.
And how I loved someone unconditionally, expecting nothing in return, putting their needs above mine.
Sacrificing my growth to help them grow.
That will never happen again. Unless I find the right person.
As I stared at the runners up ahead, turning a corner, about to finish their 10K, I thought back to how far I’ve come since I started taking ownership of my life. When I decided to be better.
When I decided to become my best physical, mental, creative, and spiritual self.
“God, it’s been a ride.”
the thought came to me, seemingly out of nowhere.
And I smiled a wide smile. Probably the widest one over the course of these 10 kilometers.
I looked around, wide-eyed, in amazement. I was as happy as a sunflower on a midsummer’s day, and it showed.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a photographer quickly raise his DSLR to capture my look of pure joy, as I surveyed the scene, turning to face the crowd of new runners, gearing up for their 3K.
I do not know if that man published that shot. If he did, I’d love to see it.
With that, I started running again. As I approached the finish line, I took out my earphones and vlogged as I crossed it.
I had just finished my first 10K! This was my first run since my early teenage years.
I didn’t train for this.
I have bad knees and a weak lower body. Which I’m fixing.
Let me repeat to myself: I finished my first 10K with that figurative weight on my shoulders.
And I finished it in an hour.
Not too shabby, Karan.
If that is how I performed with no preparation – to have fun and wing it – how would I do if I practiced?
If I fixed my lower body?
I’d kill it, that’s what would happen. I’d cut my time to under 50 minutes.
The run done and dusted, I stretched. Expansively. I knew the pain would come later, and I had to do my best to combat delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
I collected my finisher’s medal and hung out with Dani for a bit, who clicked some winning photos of me.
I then basked in the sun like a proud lion, waiting to collect my bag, which I’d dropped earlier at the Festival Garden.
It was there I got talking to a friendly Filipino called Johndel. He was an excellent listener; I was excited to tell him how I’d run my first 10K with no preparation, and how I’d expanded my comfort zone by taking part.
On his part, he told me how he’d been reading The 5AM Club by Robin Sharma, and enjoyed it.
I haven’t read it, and probably won’t, because I’ve been waking up no later than 5:30 ever since I decided to be better. It’s been paying off handsomely – I have more time for my goals.
Johndel also told me how he’d visited Armenia, his first holiday in far too long. It gave him a fresh perspective on life, helping him break out of his routine.
As someone who had developed tunnel vision around work and had forgotten to live in 2020, I could empathize.
We continued chatting until I had to leave. I collected my bag and headed to the nearest bus stop, which would drop me close to where my car was parked.
Whilst waiting for the bus, I struck up a conversation with a man, asking him how we’d find our results.
It is 9:45 PM, 22nd March 2022 as I’ve begun typing this from my office. I just exhaled.
And again. I’m on top of the world, even if – just two hours ago – my family jewels were swinging gleefully in Dubai’s not-quite-summer, not-quite-winter evening breeze as I walked with purpose to collect my Expo 2020 Dubai: Run 3 goodie bag, because I didn’t have any underpants on.
I pause to laugh. Did you actually write that, Karan? I suppose explanations are in order, folks…
Before I get into the gory details of my family jewels, allow me to recap my day.
Although I’d set an alarm for 5:30 AM, I struggled to rouse myself because I’d worked out my arms yesterday late at night, and the task of going for a run to prep for my first upcoming 10K (and first ever public run) was daunting.
I switched off the alarm, and turned off the next four, set to ring within the next 10 minutes, and shut my groggy eyes.
I then awoke at 7:45, and rushed to the office to prepare for a meeting with my accountant who was coming in at 9:30.
Not the best start. And that, unfortunately, set the tone for the next 7 hours of my day.
Irrespective of how my week looks, I love getting a morning workout in, because that simultaneously leaves me feeling rejuvenated, and satisfied that I have taken another step towards becoming a stronger person than I was yesterday.
My morning workout could consist of:
A 6:30 AM HIIT boxing, or an all-levels boxing class at Spartans Boxing Club, which I joined in January this year.
An arm workout in front of my dresser, usually performed topless and in my boxers, because hey – I can’t be the only one who likes watching themself work out close to naked, right? My arm workout includes dips, curls (for the girls), push-ups, tricep extensions, a farmer’s walk, and a couple of simple, yet effective exercises involving resistance bands. I also use the resistance bands as part of rehabilitation for my left tricep, which I injured in 2019 but never got around to fixing. I then finish off by performing dead hangs on the bar in my community, which has been a godsend for my shoulders, and back. I used to suffer from a 7-year-old shoulder impingement injury in both my shoulders, until I saw a brilliant osteopath by the name of Kris Rai who recommended I dead hang. The benefits are many, and I will probably get into them in another blog.
A leg workout involving squats, lunges, an elliptical run and some more rehab exercises involving pushing down on a foam roller to strengthen my quadriceps, to treat fat pad impingement in both my knees, which I injured in the gym in 2015.
An ab workout – which I usually dread – that hits different parts of my core.
Although variety is undoubtedly the spice of life, I focus on a few exercises, aiming to perfect, and perform them everyday.
I feel a sense of calm when I execute the same motions repeatedly, and love as I gradually feel myself becoming stronger and growing into the healthy person I used to be. Conversely, when I find my routine gets too monotonous, I soothe my nerves and keep on keeping on by remembering the Zen Buddhist phrase, “Chop wood, carry water”.
Chaos, followed by order.
Right. Back to my day. Which was chaotic. I could not strike the big things off my to-do list because ad-hoc tasks kept popping up. I tried to bring some sense to matters by fully focusing on one job at a time, but to no avail.
Like I mentioned; I didn’t start my day right, so couldn’t give my all to each task. I got easily distracted and even made mistakes, further compounding the time taken to successfully finish each job.
But, all that was to change at 5:30 PM today. I had booked a strength and conditioning class at Spartans, and was raring to go. It had been over 1 week since I had set foot in the gym, and God, I missed it.
Prior to booking a class, I take stock of how my day is looking, and then go ahead and book. By way of this, I make a commitment to myself that I must show up, and hone my boxing skills, or improve my fitness levels. This means that I have to maximize productivity, and get my work done on time.
Simon was setting things up as I walked in, and he greeted me with his usual cheery and amicable self. I told him I was going to run my first 10K on Saturday, and he mentioned how completing it was a mental hurdle as opposed to physical. It was all in the head. I agreed. And couldn’t argue. After all, Simon said it! (I am an endless supply of dad jokes, sue me.)
Joining the class were Sam, a boxing coach at Spartans; Violette, who oversees things in the gym; and Sonal, who I hadn’t met before (I’m not sure if she is a member, or was in for a trial).
After Simon shared what gruelling circuits we’d be in for today, we stretched, and got down to working out to the best of our respective abilities…
The next 55 minutes proved instrumental in transforming my physical and mental state for the next 6 hours.
Because as I performed the exercises, I knew – without a reasonable doubt – that the only person I was competing with in that space was myself.
Nobody knows the extent of my injuries. Nobody knows what body part I’d worked out that day – or the day prior. Nobody knows if I’d had a physically exhausting day at a construction site. Or, conversely, a lethargic 7 hours spent working on my desk.
Nobody knows any of that. Except for me. Which is a sobering reality.
I know that I must work hard, yet smart. I know that I must push myself, whilst constrained by my body’s current limitations.
In sum: I know I must continually raise the bar, but lower it when needed.
As the session raged on, and I lunged forward on one knee, and lunged backward on the other; (to one of Whitney Houston’s most popular tracks – Simon has good taste) I stared at myself in the mirror, and noticed the lack of muscle on my quadriceps.
Whilst I previously would have looked at myself in repulsion, I now view myself with a healthy intrigue.
I briefly thought about how far I’ve come (I am now able to stand for long periods without pain in my knees, which is an achievement in and of itself) and how much further I have got to go.
There’s a long road ahead until I reach where I want to be physically, but it’s a journey worth undertaking – blood, sweat, and tears be damned.
And before I knew it, the class was over. I had become better. Over the course of 60-whirlwind-minutes.
No boxers at a boxing gym? Poetic.
With endorphins flowing, my mental state uplifted, and body buzzing with energy, I headed into the changing room to shower.
But upon hanging my change of clothes on the shower railing, I realized with dismay…I hadn’t brought a change of boxers. (My late start clearly still making me pay.)
There was no way I was going to wear the same pair I had just sweated buckets in. So I decided to go commando, and headed to Ibn Battuta Mall to collect my welcome pack for Saturday’s 10K.
Of course, nobody knew I went commando. And truth be told, it felt great.
I may or may not do this again…
Run Karan, run.
I learnt about the Expo Run 3 from Dani, a coach at Spartans Boxing Club who specializes in cardiovascular fitness. She also relishes punishing me with intense HIIT workouts, but you didn’t hear this from me.
She told me about the run in February. I could have chosen between the 3K, 5K, and 10K. But I delayed registering until last week, by which point only a slot for the 10K was available.
I signed up without hesitation, because I have decent fitness levels. But there’s the small matter of my knees not being in tip-top shape. Plus, I haven’t run in years.
Out of curiosity, I did some cursory research on Monday during my lunch-break to know what to expect when running a 10K for the first time.
I won’t lie; reading that people usually train for 3 – 4 weeks to prepare for a 10K gave me a slight jolt. Several articles confirmed this, giving me the butterflies.
But what put me at ease was learning that – as is usually the case – other people have faced the same dilemma in the past.
And what should they do but type their problem into the search bar, hoping for a solution that only good old Google can provide?
I was a decent short-distance runner in school (often finishing 3rd or 4th) but, if memory serves me correctly, I used to finish 6th or 7th in the long-distance runs.
Apart from the occasional jog, or less-than-occasional sprint, I haven’t run properly in over a decade. Mostly due to my knees.
But when I used to, I remember running with my earphones in until I experienced runner’s high. I loved that.
It remains to be seen how well I do on the day. What is crucial is not to get buoyed by the energy of the other runners, and run too fast, too soon, and exhaust myself.
I am not looking to set a PR. I should have fun, and enjoy the run. Go at my pace, and bear in mind that I will be running alongside those who have practised for this run for weeks, months, even.
As is the case: the only man I will attempt to best is myself. But all things considered, I will take it easy.
I’m on the quest to become my best. Physically. Mentally. Creatively. Professionally. Spiritually.
I’ve always had a soft spot for contact sports (yes, that pun is as intentional just as the grass is green).
And I’m not quite sure why.
It might have been that one late night as I was on holiday in New Delhi, when I was 19 years young. I was lazily channel-surfing after a delightful dinner; Delhi’s fresh vegetables have nothing on the imported produce you get in Dubai.
I decided to check out what was going on in the world of sport. Until I stopped short, and my eyes started to widen. Slowly.
I had come across GSP absolutely mauling some poor nameless chap in The Octagon.
I do not remember the match, or its significance in that year’s UFC title championship.
All I remember is how he utterly dominated those few minutes. He stamped his authority on the judges’ scorecards, left the other guy bloody, and left an indelible mark on my impressionable teenage brain.
I’m not a violent guy. Far from it. But just as I’ve been endlessly striving to become the best version of myself, I’ve also been practicing an arcane ritual accessible only to men, which has not only made me more resilient, and eloquent, but highly emotional, creative, and aggressive too.
And I cannot think of a better avenue to channel raw, masculine energy than by practising a martial art. It humbles you. It disciplines you. It strengthens you.
I’ve been boxing for just under 3 months now. I even picked up a TFCC tear on my left wrist in the first month, which was unfortunate, but not entirely unexpected given the circumstances.
But hindsight is a blessing, and in the time I couldn’t use my left wrist to its full ability, I built muscle in my lower body, which is something I must continue to focus on.
Every time I step into Spartans for a class, I push myself. I want to learn. I want to grow.
But boxing is both, one thing, and many things at the same time.
Boxing is a skill. Boxing is an art. Boxing is a sport. Boxing is self-defence. Boxing is a full-body workout. Boxing is a science.
And each time I don my gloves, I become acutely aware of how much I have to learn in this sphere.
I’ve accepted the fact that life is difficult, so the fact that life is difficult is irrelevant.
Ever since, I’ve been shouldering responsibility and expanding my comfort zone.
Funnily enough, when you decide to take matters into your own hands and journey into the unknown, you meet people.
People who seemingly magically waltz into your life. People who want the best for you. People who mentor you.
Like some of my coaches at Spartans. I’ve already mentioned Simon, who teaches the strength and conditioning class.
Simon has seriously great dad energy. By which I mean that he looks out for you. And pushes you to work harder. As described earlier, I like his taste in music. He also comes armed and ready with a great dad joke or two. (Or ten). And I, for one, am a massive advocate for an infallible dad joke.
Yet another coach I have come to greatly respect is Jalal, who joined recently. I had him saved as ‘Coach Jalal’ on my phone because that is how everybody referred to him as.
And it only took a couple of classes to see why. If there was anyone who’s earned the title of ‘Coach’, it’s him.
I keep it real. And I love people who do. Without pulling any punches, Jalal is a solid coach because he knows his shit. And gives a damn. Oh, and he does a decent moonwalk too.
That’s the first time I’ve cussed on my blog. I can’t quite brush aside the clichéd ‘there’s a first time for everything’, because it makes for the perfect segue as I conclude…
I’m going to run my first 10K in a few sleeps. On 26th March 2022. Is my body ready?
Hell, no! But just as I enrolled into a boxing gym on a whim, and found how it brought order to other areas of my life, I am sure this run will teach me a lesson or two on my journey of self-development.
So long as I take calculated risks on the grounds of the Expo 2020 Dubai, come Saturday morning.
I loved writing this blog – more so than usual. I hope you enjoyed reading. I am happy with the state of my writing and am excited to continue publishing. I will write about some of the positive effects boxing has had on my life in another blog. Until then, I will catch you in the next one.