31 Aug 2013

Anju Khosla: Among The Firsts

Anju Khosla never imagined that some day she would find her calling as a pioneer woman cyclist. An Army kid, her school years at TAFS were focussed on being a career woman and her academic inclinations were amply evident as a JMC pass out with B.Com. Hons and a Masters in Business Economics from DU. With an internship at NIIT under her belt, she set out on a career path in the financial sector and as destiny would have it, that's where she met her future husband, Yogen. Marriage followed shortly and Yogen being a sports enthusiast lost little time in introducing Anju to the many joys of sports. In fact, her first pair of running shoes were bought while on their honeymoon at Goa, soon followed by forays into golf.

Early Years 
Cycling happened to Anju in 2006 when Gagan Khosla, her brother-in-law, inspired by a solo cyclist doing the Leh-Manali route, went on to do the same with a few friends. Upon his return to Delhi, he started the cycling group, GKB with five members, Anju being one of them. It didn't take long for her to graduate from the short rides around Nehru Park on a borrowed bike to pedalling off for her first long ride from Manesar to Jaipur, the first of many as the endurance cycling bug bit her.

Memorable Ride
The Manali to Leh ride in 2010 has been the most memorable one she feels as it tested her limits and pushed her to the wall. The challenges ranged from increment weather conditions, inhospitable terrain, altitude sickness to having the thought, "god! another 8 hours of cycling today" flit across her mind. But all of that paled into the inconsequential realm when compared to the experience of being at one with nature, riding through the grand expanses of Leh and the unique bonding and camaraderie with fellow riders that comes about in such tough situations.

Toughest Ride
Anju cites her very first 200 km Brevet as the toughest ride, The first 70 km came by comfortably as she kept pace with a bunch of riders but at the 100 km mark the fatigue started to creep in, forcing  her to slow down. The remaining 100 km were done with sheer will power and buddy spirit with fellow rider, Vijay, stopping to take a break virtually every 10 km, motivating each other, they went on to complete the Brevet together. The takeaways from this ride were the importance of keeping an easy pace, ensuring that the heart rate should not be too high; replenishing salt and water levels; and eating on time.

Challenging Ride 
Desert 500 from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer in 2012, proved to be very challenging as Anju started to cramp after the first 100 km itself. At the 125 km mark, the cramps got worse and the thought of stopping to take a break, even giving up had to be brushed aside as she decided to keep going the best she could. Fortunately, relief came after she ate and rested at the Time Station, and the next 250 km went by comfortably. As she approached the end of her ride at the 500 km mark, she felt the euphoria of wanting to continue riding on for longer.

Being a pioneer in the cycling fraternity, Anju is always willing to step out to motivate others to take up cycling. As a matter of fact, many women have taken up the sport on seeing her. She believes that if she can do it, anyone can. Her biggest motivation is the response of her children, as their sense of awe at her achievements give her immense satisfaction.

Cycling Partner
Anju and Yogen are the first couple of cycling and complement each other perfectly. They provide each other with the much needed push whenever the other person is down and are a source of constant support and company to each other on the rides. Downtime is spent on planning weekly rides and out station cycling trips with their group.

Cycling Means
Cycling to Anju means the spark that keeps her buzzing. It gives her a sense of the extraordinary in an ordinary life. Her week is divided into the 'up days' when she cycles and the 'something is missing' days when she doesn't.

As A Woman Cyclist 
Not having other women to ride with has been a downside with regard to the social aspect of cycling. There are times she would have enjoyed riding in female company as men tend to have a more competitive streak. Therefore, on occasions when she doesn't want to feel guilty of holding anyone back, she ends up cycling by herself.

Cycling Scenario
People are more cycling friendly than was the case 7 years ago when Anju started out, though the insensitivity towards cyclists on the roads remains as bad. There's a lot that needs to be done with regard to the road conditions and traffic situation. A glimmer of hope comes with initiatives like dedicated cycling lanes but there's a long way to go still.

Tips For Nutrition While Riding
To neutralise the effect of burning about 600 cal/hour, an intake of 350-400 cal/hour is recommended.
Nimbu pani with electral and salt; Gaitorade are effective for keeping hydrated.
Banana; dates; jam sandwich; energy bars are good options while on the saddle.
Eat every half an hour, even if it's just a bite.

Advice For Beginners
Don't be in a hurry to get competitive.
Train over a period of time to test your body for long, fast distances.
Keep an intelligent pace.
Night riding needs a lot of caution.
Interval training helps a lot.

Cheers all!!


  1. Thanks, really appreciate your comments folks n a salute' to you Anju : ) I myself drew inspiration from Anju when I first met her after the Leh ride...it was her encouragement and enthusiasm that were instrumental in motivating me to take up cycling.