The Running Sari

Published On  July 6, 2016 By

Actor, supermodel, film producer, fitness promoter. Most importantly, Milind Soman is the ambassador for Pinkathon, India’s largest women’s marathon. A way of making women understand that they’re empowered, Pinkathon does its best to be all-inclusive. And one such attempt is Milind’s introduction of the running sari. Prekash Malu’s article tells you more about the work that’s going into helping traditionally garbed women run as comfortably as possible.

If clothes are something that keep you away from exercise, Milind Soman is going to eliminate those excuses one at a time. Winner of the Ironman title, actor/model, fitness enthusiast, swimmer and more, Soman has vowed to elevate the Pinkathon every year, and this year he plants to launch the ‘Running Saree’, a saree meant for exercise. Soman, who kick-started this year’s edition of the Pinkathon, touted as one India’s biggest women’s marathon, is working with a designer to create an exercise outfit that will motivate more women to focus on their fitness.

In an interview to Delhi Times, Soman said, “most Indian women are not comfortable running in conventional shorts. So, we want to give them a special sari, which is lighter and has less volume of cloth, so that they can feel comfortable running while wearing it. Indian women have saris to go to the market, weddings, kitty parties and even sit at home, but they don’t have a sari to run in or exercise in. So, whether women want to do yoga or exercise, we want them to feel comfortable. The look has to incorporate the famous weaving styles that we already have – like Banarasi or the Ikat. It should be recognizable. Women should be able to say ‘I want a running Banarasi or Chanderi.”

When we managed to track him down for ourselves, Soman told us that running as a fitness activity has become a trend only in the last 50 years and the clothing has evolved along with it. “A lot of dry fabric has been developed into sportswear because people sweat and need that issue addressed. In every edition of the Pinkathon, we have 60% new participants. I have seen women running the 3kms or 5kms marathons in sarees and when we were in Chennai, women ran in loose shirts and baggy pants that they may have borrowed from their husbands. We want to build comfort and utility while keeping the beauty of the saree intact. Women should be comfortable cycling, trekking, exercising or doing yoga and not be limited by clothes that make them conscious. They are not used to wearing tights, shorts, tank tops and the likes and I don’t want that to be a reason to evade their own health and fitness,” he said.

05_-Pinkathon

Trying to incorporate different weaves and drapes, Soman said that they are trying to cut down the yards of the saree to make it light. Working on the design for the last few months, he said the first look will be ready by December, just in time for the Mumbai Pinkathon. “We will make it stylish and fashionable but have utility with beauty. If anyone wants to begin the journey of getting healthy, usually they buy new shoes which might be a motivating factor in their lives. I want the same thing with the saree,” he said.

The idea of mixing traditional clothing with exercise came as a necessity for Soman. “In Shivaji Park, Dadar where I live, I often see these two ladies dressed in Burkhas and jogging atleast 5 kms of the park. I spoke to them and asked them if they feel comfortable running this way. Their answer stumped me. Nobody was forcing them to wear a burkha. They loved wearing it and felt comfortable in it. Despite what people said, they were running because they liked it and took time out for their health. I understood then, that no matter what your situation, you can make the best out of it,” he said.

He believes that if we are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to encouraging physical fitness by all means necessary, why not factor in every aspect that makes it so. “As long as something like this keeps the conversation going, let’s pull out all the stops. Women find time for their families, careers, children and work; they must find time for themselves and their health. When a woman makes a point to be healthy, the entire family atmosphere begins to change. We are focusing on making the coming generations healthier and we have to start somewhere. Women can influence their families with their own examples,” he said.

Although the Running saree hasn’t made an appearance yet, Soman is working on another excuse women give to not exercise. “There is myth and misconception among women that their breasts will sag because of running. Forget good sports bras in our country, you don’t find good ones abroad either. We want to work on making good sports bras or research on older traditions if there are any and incorporate them in our designs, anything that enables women to run better,” he said.

Ultimately, whether or not the design proves to be the catalyst for more women to take up running remains to be seen but everything else Soman says rings true. As if to wrap it all up in a neat bow, he signs of with this. “If you can’t make time for health, you will have to make time for sickness.”

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