That’s Why I Run – Abbas Bhimji

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My name is Abbas Bhimji. I am a business analyst by profession specialising in providing adhoc services within Adults and Children social care directorates for local authorities based in London. I am also a keen fitness enthusiast, enjoy participating in community sports and being part of the SJ fitness core team for the 2017-19 tenure was an honour to serve my community. With the blessings of Allah (s.w.t) I have continued to constantly engage and help people in our community to achieve their fitness goals.

  1. How did you get into running?

Growing up in our community back in East Africa, running was not a popular sport, it was a tick box exercise for the annual school sports day. Running 400m once every year was the only running I did as a teenager. Just like everyone else my main sports were football and cricket alongside squash and tennis occasionally.

It wasn’t until 2011 when one gloomy evening I fully ruptured my left knee Anterior Cruciate Ligament playing football. Having not learnt a lesson, a few years later I followed up with another meniscus tear, this time on my right knee.

Recovering from these nasty and lengthy injuries was my toughest period both mentally and physically. I gained weight rapidly and with no sports and being inactive I was not feeling my best. The Physiotherapist advised me to strengthen my leg muscles if I wanted to continue playing any sports in the future. I slowly introduced light treadmill jogging and running for 2-3km as part of my post gym workout routine.

Fast forward to 2017 and I got introduced to SJ Fitness and the High Intensity Interval Training sessions (HIIT). I realised this was something different to the strength training I was doing, the significance of these exercises and the feel-good factor had a different feeling. Suddenly, my Cardio levels were rising and the post recovery after every run was not as bad.

I also came across different individuals from different sporting backgrounds whose main sport was outdoor running, especially amongst the elderly with some of them on the verge of accomplishing 100 ParkRuns. I was fascinated and found this very inspiring. I gradually moved from treadmill running to outdoor running. As a result, I started to enjoy my runs as a sport. Taking different routes on a weekly basis meant I got to enjoy the beautiful nature and the bounties of Allah (s.w.t.).

  1. What do you enjoy about running?

I enjoy running because it has given me more than just improving my overall fitness and achieving my goals. I find the “me time” from the busy work and family life. It gives me the ability to run through my thoughts and emotions refocusing my mind in the process.

I prefer the early morning runs and the prospect of discovering a new route or location is something that I always look forward to. The “runners high” feeling at the end of completing every run is next level, you must experience this. The rest of the day is full of energy. Running also compliments my strength training, helps me sleep well and reduces the risk of injuries.

  1. What are the challenges you find with running?

Being asthmatic and running is challenging for me especially during winter times. Over the years I have tried to overcome this by using a simple nasal breathing technique (use nose to inhale and exhale) for casual runs. If I am aiming to complete a certain distance within a specific time, I inhale through my nose and exhale from my mouth, breathing rhythmically allowing myself to take in more oxygen and put less stress on my body. Alhamdulillah with the grace of the All Mighty Allah (s.w.t) this has worked well for me bringing consistency and longevity to my runs.

However, the most challenging aspect of running I find is to maintain motivation. The hardest part is to step out of the door and get started, being it on a bright sunny morning or frosty winter evening. Once I have managed to step out, the rest just follows suit. I believe it must become a habit in our life, just like all other priorities. At SJ Running we are blessed with individuals like Ali Momin and Ariff Sidik, alongside groups of regular runners. When I feel like my running is losing steam, I join the SJ group runs. You’ll be surprised by how well these group runs create a positive momentum.

  1. Advice for aspiring runners?

If you are thinking of starting running, for whatever your reasons, be it a change of lifestyle; better physical and mental health, I would advise don’t procrastinate and wait for tomorrow. It is time to lace up your trainers and get started. First and foremost, invest in the right pair of shoes and get your gait analysis done by visiting a running shop. SJ Running are affiliated with Runners World in Eastcote.

Set a main goal for your run, for example you want to complete a 5km run, set mini goals to achieve your main goal, these can be distance goals or you may want to run for 1 or 2 miles or you can set a time goal you may want to run for 20 mins and see how much distance you can cover. “Couch to 5km” is a good starting point and guidance to follow for beginners. Don’t worry about your pace and distance at this stage.

Track your progress by using one of the many fitness apps available. Strava is popular and a good social network for athletes allowing you to track your performances, providing detailed analysis. You can also add your friends and track their progress to keep you motivated.

Lastly, my advice is to learn how to distract yourself and love the sport. Running may seem to be a monotonous form of exercise, however, you can always make it enjoyable and satisfying by turning your thoughts to other things; by pondering on solutions to your daily problems, listening to a podcast, book, or a playlist. The lack of focus on the task can allow the body what it is trained to do.

Once you start feeling confident and making progress you will love the sport, running will be less like a chore and more like a reward. I always ponder on this quote “If you are running, then you’re lapping anyone who’s sitting on the couch.” New approaches may feel uncomfortable or unnatural. Over time, you’ll get used to the adjustments and be able to optimise your potential to make your runs more enjoyable.

  1. What is your proudest running moment?

I have a few running moments that I cherish, as I try to continue establishing myself as a regular runner over the years by challenging myself in different categories. Firstly, completing 5km in sub-22, 10km in sub-47 and a half marathon in sub-1:52, are my best effort’s time wise. In comparison to where I was at the beginning of my journey I never thought I would be achieving these numbers.

Out of the many half marathons I have ran across the last 3 years the one that is special to me was my first one I ran back in November 2019. This was a trail run through the woods in Leigthon Buzzard. I ran this with our own Ali Momin, Safder Dhirani, Furqan Ismail, Sameer Harji and Muntazir Bhimji. It remains one of my most special occasions.

Lastly, completing 30km in under 3 hours earlier this year was another long-term target that I achieved Alhamdulillah, with the grace of All Mighty Allah (s.w.t.) I have also completed 1000km for the third year running. I can only thank all my family, friends and community members for supporting and inspiring me throughout my journey, most importantly Allah (s.w.t) for giving me the strength and blessing me with this opportunity. Inshallah, my next goal is to run a Marathon, I look forward to achieving this with my fellow brothers at SJ. I believe with discipline, motivation, dedication, and perseverance anything is possible.