‘My Story’ shares the experiences of an Indian living in Switzerland. Meet Indranil Bhattacharya – a scientist, a fitness enthusiast and a lifestyle consultant who’s been living in Switzerland for the last 13 years. He tells us more about his fitness regime, his fitness association -‘Write Your Own Prescription’ (WYOP) and his startup – Indirun.
Tell us a little about yourself
I love outdoors and running long distances. I like humor and clear communication. I also love bright colors and I can sleep anywhere – which can be quite a feat in itself. I’m grateful to have friends and people who care for me. And what shocks them most about me – is the fact that I turned vegetarian two years ago. No fish for a Bengali is hard to believe! But that’s how it is. And, as a scientist in the University Hospital of Zurich, I love experimenting with cells.
I believe each of our lives has a start and an end line – just like in a marathon, with some breaths in-between. It is up to us what we make of these breaths between the two lines.
What do you do?
Primarily, as I mentioned, I work as a scientist in the University Hospital of Zurich. For the last 15 years, I have been working in the area of adipocyte research, I’ve been studying how fat cells function. My present research focuses on understanding how fat and bone cells interact. Just working in the laboratory was not enough for me. I wanted a way to interact with people. So for the last two years, I work as a lifestyle consultant/ trainer and I completely enjoy it. Based on my research and my own transformation, I help/ guide others to adopt a healthy lifestyle. I train one-on-one, in groups. I also train families.
I am also associated with a few social organizations. One organization close to heart is Asha for Education. Actually, many things including my running endeavor are because of this association. I have been associated with Asha since 2004 when I was in Munich.
In 2013, my very good friend and running partner Anindya and I founded ‘Write Your Own Prescription’ (WYOP). Later, two other good buddies, Sachin and Rajesh joined in. The idea behind WYOP is to create awareness that we all are responsible for our own health. This year on September 2, we had the 5th edition of the annual WYOP Run. This running/ walking event is for everyone – from individuals to families. The funds raised from this event are being used to support Namita Pathania, a 19 year very talented badminton player from Delhi. Our dream is to support more such talented players in India.
Where do you live and what brought you here to Switzerland?
I am based in Zurich, but often move between Zurich and Winterthur. It was work that brought me here in 2005.
Tell us about your journey to fitness
Even though, I was studying in the field of fat research. I was overweight or rather borderline obese. I hardly did any sports and lead quite a sedentary lifestyle. Until 2009, I used to smoke as well. Even as a kid, I wasn’t sporty.
2012 was my year of transformation. It was the first time that Asha Zurich took part in Zurich marathon. I was there to cheer our runners. It was the first time that I was witnessing a 42km-long marathon. I saw the old people and even the not-so-able-bodied individuals running and crossing the finish line. I looked at myself and felt a bit useless. A week later, I went for a 2 km jog. Then came Anindya’s crazy idea of running the Greifensee half marathon.
I took a few days to think about it. Finally, I agreed and trained for it. After 10 km into the race, I had an excruciating pain near my left knee. I could hardly move. After spending some time in a first aid station, I tried to walk slowly. I moved on – for the next 2 hours – and finally crossed the finish line. I was probably the last one, but I made it. It was then that I realized, I need to do something. I needed to shed some weight as I wanted to run more.
Tell us more about your company IndiRun
Last year, I floated a small startup – IndiRun. Indi is my short first name and Run is connected to my love for running. IndiRun is about promoting a healthy lifestyle. It is still very new. I am not sure if you can call it a company, because at the moment it is only me.
It involves personal training, weight loss and fitness programs, and the product IndiRun Aloe Vera juice. Right now, this juice is available in 9 shops in Zurich and Winterthur and in India.
Take us through a day of your fitness regime
If I have a marathon coming up, I stick to my training plan no matter what. Normally, I train 4 times a week. Weekends are generally for longer training sessions.
I enjoy fresh air and outdoor training sessions. I incorporate the high-intensity training and stretching. I do not use external weights; rather I use my own body weight to train. Good breathing is the core of all my training. Good rest and proper nutrition is also a part of my fitness regime. At my workplace, I keep a pair of running shoes. So if I haven’t trained in the morning, I use the lunchtime or the evening after work to run back home. My best training time is early morning on empty stomach. And I also recommend it.
Being a scientist to a being lifestyle trainer, tell us more about the transformation at work and your lifestyle
Actually, I have never switched from being a scientist to a lifestyle trainer. I play both the roles and I love this combination.
50 marathons in 10 years – give us an insight into this challenge.
I had a rough patch in my life. I needed something meaningful that would lift me up and keep me going. My first marathon (42 km) was in 2015 in Zurich. Till now, I have done 19 marathons. This year, I have two more marathons coming up. So you see, I am well on my target.
I started with the idea of running only 42 km distances, but I‘ve already done twice 90 km ultra-marathons (anything more than marathon distance is an ultramarathon). Next year, I will train for some more challenging races. One or two 100 km mountain races. I just need to stay fit, keep training and listen to my body.
In addition, through my marathons for the last 3 years, we are financially supporting the education of 5 girls in the town of Almora, India. Four of these girls are in University this year. The idea is it to support them until they get jobs.
What is your five-day cleansing program all about?
This programme revolves around a 5 day-20 day-5 day model. It is all about de-wiring the present lifestyle and re-wiring it with a self-chosen lifestyle that’s healthy and sustainable.
Most of those who approach me want to lose weight. But losing weight sounds very serious. And, if it doesn’t happen, life can be very frustrating. So, I try to shift their focus from just weight loss to something else – like running a 5-10 km race in the next 6 months… Some of my clients who never believed that they could run 1 km have done 10 km races.
What works is something that’s sustainable and self-chosen. I allow the person to discover what works for her or him. I just egg them on to try this or that. It takes time and this ‘egging on’ is done during these 5 days. During the next 20 days, that person is on her/his own. However, during these 20 days, some basic things have to be done on part of the client: like sending daily step count, ensure proper hydration and so on. My job is to follow up.
On a personal note, do you like it here? What do you love and what would you change?
I really like it here. I have lots of friends and do lots of activities. My daughter is 10 years old. With her, I have learned the German language and now I can communicate with the locals about my work and my product in German. That makes me feel good. I also love the fact that I can go for a run anytime I want. This is difficult in India. Also, there is a value attached to human life in this part of the world. I changed my lifestyle and I believe that if I can, so can anyone. That’s the change, I want to see and if I could help someone to make that change then I am glad to support and help.