Born 9.9 ounces, I stayed chubby pretty much all through my formative years. At 15 years, I weighed 75 kilograms . “Motu” was much more than a form of endearment – it defined how people viewed me – my overtly aggressive tomboyish exterior was as much in self defence, as it was to keep the chatter down to a minimum .
Come 16, junior college happened, where there were boys who didn't care much for large girls. Walking, swimming and dieting decreased weight, but couldn't do much about the lard I had accumulated over time. Plastic surgery or tummy tucks, said well meaning friends and someone said weight training can result in toning - so off I went.
From fat to fit, slowly I saw the change - in my body, mind, the manner in which people perceived me and above all in my self confidence. I still hated pink but loved my short dresses and strappy sandals. Equally comfortable in my track pants and chappals as I was in my LBD and big black heels - I had a spring in my stride. The attention was an ego boost- ‘Motu’ had metamorphed into Juhi Mehta and life was suddenly good.
Running, gyming, swimming, - while I enjoyed them all, I found 'love' on the bike - an MTB was gifted to me on my 40th birthday.
Taking on a new sport at 40 is no mean task . My maiden ride of 20 km left me breathless and exhausted. Not one to say die easy, slowly I gained strength - from 20 to 50-75 and finally 100 km rides became the norm. I was now addicted.
Asthmatic by birth, building base took time. The more I rode, my lung power increased and I got faster and stronger. I got my SR (Super Randonneur) by selecting the most challenging routes.
Cycling strengthens the heart and brain, wards of illnesses, helps lose weight and makes one look younger. While I don’t want to pass off as a 25 year old, I want take one on in a competitive environment and be able to hold my own.
These attributes extend to my work life. I clock in before others and adhere to a strict schedule. I'm punctual, rarely have my inbox full or unattended. I keep pace with a rather young team and not only know their music and lingo, but I speak it too. (urban dictionary) I eat healthy, maintain good hygiene and set high standards on work ethics and respecting co-workers - all of which group riding has taught me.
My teenager thinks no end of me, as her friends think I'm rather cool. That is courtesy landing up at a PTA meet on my bike in my spandex. Recently voted head of PTA committee for grade 9, the kids feel I get them. 2 teenagers have gotten bicycles for themselves post my interactions with them, which makes me smile.
5 am alarms don’t bother me - always willing to give up a late night for an early morning. The workout gives me a high and prepares me for the day ahead. I feel fit, look years younger, can keep pace with my 15 year old daughter and 22 year old colleagues at work.
While most others my age (now 44+) check their lipid profiles, I'm working towards improving my FTP (functional threshold power) I want to ride faster, climb better and keep pace with the best cyclists in town, as I aspire to do a triathlon next year. All this while attempting to hold a day job, be a single mother to a demanding teenager, run a household and have a social life. Yes, it requires support from the family - my mother makes a few sacrifices, but I have never felt better, looked fitter and been healthier - in mind and body.
The road ahead: Cycling has given me a lot and now is pay back time. Be it donating cycles for underprivileged girls or holding small sessions for female cyclists on bike handling and maintenance, I try and stay active in the community. My dream is to see several lady cyclists leading from the front at the next competitive event. I share my experiences and learnings through some blogs I write - #ramblingsofacrankaddict.
She has been on the management team of Vinati Organics Limited since 2006 and balances the technical/manufacturing execution with her marketing abilities combined with new age aggression.