Set Limits to Transcend It! - Nikhil Latey

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Sports Scientist, Nikhil Latey shares with Sunayana Nair how carrying forward the competitive streak from work into play might actually induce stress rather than busting it and might be keeping you away from achieving those long-cherished fitness goals.  

People engage in sports either because it is a hobby or because they want to get fitter and lead a healthier lifestyle. Really good goals to have if one looks at it, but none of them go hand-in-hand with pain, torture and misery. A hobby should remain that – a way for you to unwind and relax. However, most problems begin when you carry your competitive streak from work into play.


Sleep is often the biggest casualty when you start pushing against physical limits of what your body can achieve to chase goals either at running or any sport while having a full-time corporate job. In fact, having insufficient rest is one of the prime reasons for most injuries. Most people are taken aback when they realize the difference those extra minutes of sleep can have over their fitness.


I have a client who has been with us for the same distance training module for the last 10 years without much variation. Recently, however, he came to me in much pain. We tried to gauge what had changed over the past 6-8 months through multiple assessments but could not find anything conclusive excepting one seemingly innocuous change.

Guess what? It turned out to be the side effects of a promotion! He had become a Partner at his firm which led into additional responsibilities translating into stress. And then, if you have got to run in this city, you have to wake up early because after that, the traffic is horrible. Needless to say, he began compromising on his sleep.

He went from sleeping six-and-a-half hours every day to averaging only five to five-and-a-half hours. So, he went from averaging 40 plus hours of sleep a week to just about 35 hours of sleep. Translate it to a monthly sleep chart and consequently for several months, the deficit just widens. Over four to six months his body gradually got sore to a point where he was in pain. My prescription to the gentleman was to get enough and more rest. He went back, paid attention to his rest and recovery and sure enough, was free from pain and raring to go. Even though it might seem like some minutes of sleep-deficit per day shouldn’t matter, it has a cumulative, cascading effect over time!


Another thing that most people seem to be obsessed about is wanting to run twelve months a year. Even elite athletes don’t train for 12 months a year! They train eight to nine months a year only. You always need an off season. I believe these are the two major mistakes that amateur runners make. One is not paying due attention to rest and recovery and the second is not taking an off season. So, that is the reason you predispose yourself to aches, pains, niggles which can progress to an injury.

If you pay heed to your rest and recovery then endurance running provides an incredible opportunity to unwind and this is one of the major reasons why it is popular with CXOs. While it is slightly painful, endurance running causes the release of certain chemicals in the body that help in relaxation. It is amazing how a little bit of running works as a good stress buster.


However, the moment you start comparing your performance with those around you and start pushing past your limits when you clearly aren’t prepared and don’t yet have that bandwidth, you are bound to land in trouble. Of course, if you are an elite athlete or training to be one, the rules change because then the sport becomes the sole focus. Even then, sleep is a very important and non-negotiable component of their training!

So, if you have hit a roadblock in achieving those fitness goals or you find yourself battling fatigue/aches and injuries all of a sudden, assess your sleeping pattern. Be self-aware of what your body is trying to tell you. It is no good to get stressed over a hobby that you are pursuing to destress! Remember – beauty sleep, as unfortunately under-rated as it is made to be, has its ways of unlocking that fiery, beasty potential.

nikhil latey

(This article is based on our conversation with Nikhil Latey, Sports Scientist at Sportsmed Activ. Nikhil is also among the top-rated physiotherapists and is the go-to-person for top performing Indian athletes when it comes to performance boosting and fitness from the likes of Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal , Gagan Narang. Click here to listen to the entire podcast.)