Featured Comments Off on Strength Training for Runners with Coach Zareen |

Strength Training for Runners with Coach Zareen

Reebok certified core fitness coach, Zareen Siddique demonstrates a few workouts for runners to Protima Tiwary. 

“I am running, why should I be thinking about strength training?” Have you ever found yourself asking this question as a runner? Well, strength training for runners is super important because not only does it help build stronger muscles which are involved in running, but also prevents injuries and helps improve posture, form and eventually, your running performance.

But here’s the thing- runners need a different strength training program than regular gym-goers. Instead of pushing movements like bicep curls, bench press and leg extensions, runners need to focus on building strength in particular muscles that help in maintaining balance and posture, like core and glutes.

I asked Functional Fitness Master Trainer, Yoga and Body Weight Trainer and Diet Coach Zareen Siddique, the face of fitness we have all come to know as @fitwithzareen on Instagram, to tell us some of the important strength building exercises that runners can benefit from. Here is what she had to say.

What got you started on your journey as a professional fitness coach? 

I was always a sports buff, constantly trying out new workouts and working out to be stronger. I took up fitness professionally 5 years ago. I realised it was time to take things to the next level and share the knowledge that I had gathered over the years.

Are you a runner yourself?

I love the outdoors early morning, but I do complete a long run once a week (mostly on weekends) I also practice yoga, callisthenics and free body movements 5 days a week where I clock in 40minutes of a good workout.

 How do you recommend runners should train?

As far as runners are concerned, they need to focus on the core, glutes and back. Here are some exercises I suggest which can be done with light weights.

  1. For the shoulders
  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your arm at the elbow.
  • Keeping your arm bent, move your hand from your shoulder, as if you are marching with your arms bent.
  • Hold weights in your hand to increase resistance.
  1. For the glutes
  • Lie on a mat with your feet on top of a bench. Your feet should be hip to shoulder width apart.
  • Tighten your core and initiate the glute bridge, i.e., push your hips up through the heel while squeezing your glutes. Do not arch your lower back.
  • The top position should have your shoulders and knees in a straight line.
  • Hold for 10 seconds before lowering it. Squeeze your glutes while lowering yourself.
  • Make sure that your core is tightened at all points of this exercise.
  1. For hamstrings
  • Stand with your feet slightly apart. Hold a kettlebell in each hand.
  • Take one leg back and balance yourself on one leg
  • Now bend down (on one leg) without bending your knee. You should feel the stretch on your hamstring.
  1. For the calves and ankles
  • Stand with your feet slightly apart. Now balance yourself on your toes.
  • Squat down without leaning forward, while on your toes.
  • Stand with your feet slight apart.
  • Move your body weight on to your heels and walk.
  • Similarly, move your body weight to your toes and walk.
  1. For the quads (and arms)
  • Stand with your at feet shoulder width
  • Hold a kettlebell in both your hands.
  • Bend down in a squat while holding the kettlebell.
  • While coming up, pull up the kettlebell with both your arms, and bring it to your chest.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

An Army kid who wishes to travel the world one wellness vacation at a time, Protima Tiwary is a freelance content writer by day and Dumbbells and Drama, a fitness blogger by night. High on love and life, she is mildly obsessed about travelling and to-do lists and loves her long gym sessions like a fat kid loves cake.

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Featured Comments Off on Do Miracles happen in Marathons? |

Do Miracles happen in Marathons?

Brijesh Gajera asks a question that is on every runner’s mind, but he is talking about more than just a Christmas miracle.

It wasn’t too long ago when I was on my usual weekend run, I bumped into a fellow runner. We said our hellos and decided to run together while we caught up on our running escapades. He has run quite a few marathons and only a few weeks ago returned from a world major marathon.

That was a big talking point for us – he mentioned that he had trained well for a sub-4-hour finish for a few months leading up to the race, but on race day disaster struck and he suffered from cramps for the last 10K of the race. Despite the setback, he managed to finish the race in 4hours and 10 minutes.

Obviously, I was curious to find out what happened and asked him about it, he told me that he turned up at the start of the race feeling fresh, confident and in the heat of the moment he decided to attempt a 3hour50minute finish!

I was stunned! “Do you believe miracles happen in marathons?” I asked him in disbelief. I guess he was equally in disbelief at my question because he asked me “What do you mean” with an amused look on his face.

I went on to explain that in my long-distance running career spanning over a decade, I have seen many a runner falling prey to the desire of wanting to push themselves higher than what they trained for. They feel fresh, confident, charged up at the start of the marathon and with the race-day euphoria surrounding them, they try and achieve more without being fully ready for it.

Now, don’t get me wrong – optimism is great, it’s what keeps us going day in and day out but to be honest, a marathon can be as punishing and as rewarding at the same time especially when you run ahead of the pace you’ve set for yourself.

Nearly all of us get to the start line full of energy (some bit of nervous energy as well) but with a spring in our step and a will to push forward. A marathon is a game to keep that energy intact for 42.195K – that is what we are supposed to achieve in our training. If you have trained yourself for a particular target for weeks and months, your muscles, tendons, joints, veins, and nerves have synchronized themselves to help you do that. All of a sudden, when you surprise them by changing the target on the D-Day, they will respond to you in the beginning, but the chances are that they will wilt as you approach the finish line.

Let me try and quantify this so that you can get a better understanding.

Let’s say, you have decided to complete the race in a time that is 10 minutes faster than your target time that you have trained for as my fellow runner did. That is roughly 14 seconds per km faster for a 42K course (and I am not even talking about the final 195 meters!). Now, you will be able to maintain this pace for a few kilometers but eventually, you will hit the wall where your legs feel like bricks. This is why coaches stress on following a tried and tested method on race day.

In my personal life, I once experienced something you could call a miracle. I ran the Mumbai Marathon aiming for a 3hour 35minute finish, but I managed to finish it in 3hours 29 minutes and 41 seconds. That translates to me running the race at approximately 7 seconds faster per km. For a large part of the race I maintained a pace which was about 2-3 seconds per km faster and only when I crossed the 36KM mark, I figured why not aim for a new target of 3hour30mins? That’s when I pushed myself harder and literally ran like the wind to achieve even lesser than my new target of 3hours and 30 mins. It felt like an absolute miracle!

A word of CAUTION though: I have run faster races since then, but I have never been able to repeat that kind of improvement over a target since. This is why it is called a M…I…R…A…C…L…E.

To aim for a miracle to happen during a marathon is wishful thinking at best and a recipe for disaster at worst. Often the decision to push yourself harder than what your body has been trained for leads to injury or underperformance and in the aftermath of such a race, it could lead to you doubting your training and even yourself. I’m sure you do not want to be in that mind space ever.

If you are still looking for miracles, what could be more wonderful than following your target plan as best as you can and then achieving the results you strived for? Isn’t it miraculous to achieve the target we’ve planned on achieving in a long time and getting our belief reaffirmed in our training and ourselves?

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Brijesh Gajera is an avid marathoner, aspiring ultra-marathoner and coach at Ashva Running Club.

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Featured Comments Off on The Latest and Best Marathon Training Method |

The Latest and Best Marathon Training Method

Coach Pramod Despande of Jayanagar Jaguars talks about the various methods that runners can consider while training for a marathon.

We have all heard of the age-old adage “practice makes perfect” and while that holds good to this day, practising and training the right way is the key to being successful. In this read, let’s have a look at some of the best training methods out there and how these can be leveraged to help amateur runners like us run better.

The latest and arguably the most successful marathon training method has to be the one developed by Patrick Sang. The evidence of that is the recently delivered World Record time of 2:01:39 (by Eliud Kipchoge at the 2018 Berlin marathon) and also an
unofficial world record of 2:00:25! Takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

To be fair, this training method isn’t suited for mere mortals like us. For that matter, we can’t sustain any of the elite marathoner’s training methods as they are exhaustive and intense – consider their weekly mileage of 200 – 225 km which is equivalent to 3 – 4 weeks of mileage for normal runners.

That leaves you wondering – what is the most suitable training method for amateur marathoners like us and what are the latest methods of training?

Before I can answer that, let’s first understand the evolution of present-day marathon training methods and the training programs.

The Earlier Methods:

Since 1896, when the first competitive marathon was run, many runners and coaches have developed various training methods for competitive elite athletes. The documented plans, however, started with the pioneering work by Arthur Lydiard of New Zealand in the ‘60s, ‘70s and its impact can be witnessed even today through the terminology coined by him e.g. “base building”, “peaking,” etc.

Lydiard’s basic idea was to develop runner’s stamina first and then work on their speed. He divided the whole year into different periods (periodization) with emphasis on specific aspects with respect to each period. The average mileage for marathon-conditioning phase(base training) is of about 160 km, then moving on to the next phases that include ample use of hill training, intervals, and speed training. He suggested the use of gymnastic exercises for the loosening and stretching of muscles but was not in favour of weight training.

Over the years, many coaches developed their methods by modifying Lydiard’s programs, while keeping in line with basic principles, whereas some successful coaches like, Gabriele Rosa, Renato Canova, etc. developed their methods in contrast to Lydiard’s training principles.

For e.g. Renato Canova’s method focusses on speed and raw power during the early phase and moving on to longer threshold/tempo runs towards race day. Gabriele Rosa, on the other hand, swapped speed work with marathon specific workouts.

That being said, the common aspect amongst the 3 programs mentioned above – all produced world-class performances.

Training Methods for Amateur Runners

After the running boom of the 70’s, a large number of amateur athletes started taking up running thus fuelling the demand for programs to train larger groups of non-elite runners to complete their first marathons and subsequently to increase their performances. This gave rise to a whole new area the “marathon training program.” The difference between this program and the elite training program was:

  • Larger group size (elite runners’ groups are very small)
  • Runners with lesser athletic abilities or experience (than elite athletes)
  • The training programs required to be tailored around the life of a runner (the other way around for elite athletes)

Many coaches, ex-runners, doctors, etc. who possessed good management and business skills started to create these programs and training methods. They combined a scientific perspective along with savvy marketing techniques.

Here is a summary of some of the popular methods:

High Mileage Training: These methods established by coaches like Hal Higdon involve a gradual and consistent increase of mileage with a goal to cover a high weekly mileage across 5 days a week.

Hansons’s method: This variation prefers giving equal importance to all runs and not dedicate one day for a long run. The overall mileage in this method tends to be on the higher side. This program also avoids activities other than running as part of the preparation.

Specific training pace method: The start of this method is mostly credited to Jack Daniels, where there is an emphasis on training at specific paces for each workout and has extensive formulas to arrive at precise paces. This method also uses long runs as an important workout with specific paces and variations.

More Intensity, Less Miles: These methods emphasize lesser overall mileage but high-intensity workouts for each session.

  1. Methods like FIRST (Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training) by Bill Pierce & Scott Murr that advocates “less is more” theory i.e. running lesser distance but with much higher speed.
  2. Also in the similar methods of CFE by Brian Mc Kenzie, gives more importance to HIIT type of high-intensity exercises and weight-bearing exercises.

Heart Rate Running method – LHR or Low-Intensity high mileage: Some methods also advocate running longer distances at lower heart rates to increase running capability at that heart rate, a prominent evangelist of this method is Dr Phil Maffetone.

The Run Walk Method: Popularized mostly by Jeff Galloway, typically for beginners but many experienced runners have achieved quite great results through this method.

All of the above methods have provided excellent results to many runners but interestingly, they all have contrasting principles and so this creates lots of confusion in a runner’s mind.

How can methods with conflicting principles give great results?

Is there a best method?

Not really – you will find that a lot of runners swear by each of these methods and an equal number doubt them. Typically, a method will be effective for a few years and then a runner’s performance will plateau. Hence, you will need to shift to another method or incorporate some aspects of another method to improve performance.

All these methods are built upon some basic principles e.g. Progress Overload principle, Principle of Specificity, Principle of Periodization, Principle of Reversibility, base mileage built up, etc. and understanding these might be a tad technical for the average runner. Also, all these methods assume a specific fitness level and preparedness. So where does the answer lie?

The answer really lies in the runner and not the method.

Each runner has unique abilities – a combination of genetic makeup, body structure, fitness levels, aerobic base, mileage base, mental makeup, etc. These factors decide which method works best for you. For example – with respect to the genetic abilities, some runners excel with slower and longer workouts, while some others respond well to speed workouts. Along with genetic ability, a runner’s development of various aspects like Aerobic Threshold, Lactic Threshold, Anaerobic Threshold, VO2 Max, etc. will decide the suitability of a method.

All of this brings us to the inevitable question of – ‘Which is the best-suited method for me’?. Again, there is no quick and clear answer and it requires you to take into consideration a lot of factors.

Initially, the best option will be to go with a coach, someone who will tailor a specific training plan for you. A coach has his own assessment about, which method(s) will suit a runner and they will use components of multiple methods to tailor a specific training plan for a runner.

But if you are trying to plan your own training please consider the following aspects before you take a decision.

  • Check the base requirement for preparedness for the plan, e.g. the basic mileage, a PB, etc. and unless you meet all the requirements, please do not start the method
  • Check the total time investment required by the method – it should fit within your lifestyle. Any plan will work only if you follow all aspects of it, including the prescribed rest
  • Figure out if you have access to complete the prescribed type of exercises. For example – if the program emphasizes a lot of hill runs and you don’t have any hills nearby, you will need to make an alternate arrangement
  • Most importantly, make sure the target pace or finish time of a program matches your own goal as each of us have our own individual goal for e.g. choosing a method/program for achieving a sub 3 marathon will not suit you if you are looking to achieve a sub 4.
  • If you have tried some other method earlier and searching for a program to switch, please make sure you ‘unlearn’ aspects from the earlier method.

After considering all the requirements, when you select a method, please consider the following:

  • Be patient with the method you’ve chosen to see progress and achieve results. Typically, a method takes around 4 to 6 months to improve the specific physiological pathway or muscles after which the required improvement is visible to you.
  • Do not switch to another method on the basis of the result of just one race, as many factors influence the result of a race.
  • Having said that, if a particular method is causing some serious injuries or health issues, do not hesitate to re-evaluate the method.
  • Monitor your performance under the method you are following to see if you are plateauing. If yes, it is probably time to move to another method.

After due consideration, irrespective of the method you select, please follow all the workouts and rest prescribed by the method diligently and enjoy your running – the results will come through in the end.

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

A reputed coach and mentor for the Jayanagar Jaguars and a technology innovation head with a leading MNC who over the past 4 years has trained more than 2500 athletes complete Half-Marathons, Full-Marathons and Ultra-Marathons

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Featured Comments Off on Road cycling National Champion – Naveen John – Part 3 |

Road cycling National Champion – Naveen John – Part 3

Deepthi Velkur continues her conversation with Naveen John about his competitive cycling career.

You must read Part1 and Part2 of this interview before this.

You play a very important leadership role at the Ciclo Racing Team – what is the main objective behind Ciclo? How has the journey been so far?

The idea behind Ciclo was to setup an aspirational project, with the goal of supporting the best athletes in the country, while also developing young athletes’ side-by-side.

In a sport like cycling or for that matter any endurance sport you need a strong team, a good coach who can show you physical progression, mentor you on how you can progress beyond the national level and the emotional support of your friends and family.

Over the years, I have tried a couple of models to figure out what works in India. In 2012-2014, I was part of a team that was based on the model where there was a manager/team director who does the fund-raising and planning of the calendar and multiple athletes who had focus solely on riding. The problem with this model is that when a sponsor backs out, the athletes are left high and dry and they haven’t really grown in those 2 years.

Later in 2016, I tried a model where I as an athlete had to learn how to setup an independent support structure and that worked for me and I achieved some good stuff – first Indian (along with Arvind Panwar) to go to the world championships and first Indian to join an international professional cycling team in Australia. Though it was a good model, I wanted to try something new and that’s when the idea of Ciclo came about.

I talked with co-founders of team – Ashish Thadani and Bachi Pullela and we came up with 3 goals:

  • Create an aspirational project: We wanted Ciclo to be model where other athletes could replicate some of our ideas and be successful.
  • Be the dominant team in India and develop young riders: This has largely been successful so far. In 2 years, our riders have won several gold medals and podiums at the nationals, podiumed or won at every local event we’ve entered, achieved several firsts at the Asian championships, and trained abroad as a team in Belgium in a 3-month training block. Our U-23 riders, riding and training beside the elite riders on the team, have gone on to win National medals and also learn how to be a professional in their mentality and actions.
  • Publicize and talk about what we do: In small sport like ours, we need to share what we do as a lot of people don’t see the little things that need to be done every day before you go on to achieve a bigger goal. The video and visual content that the team has created over the past 2 years are some of the most viewed racing/cycling content in India that sheds a light on competitive Indian Cycling.

One of the first things we did was hook up with a friend of mine and a photographer – Chenthil Mohan. It was a way to brand activate for our sponsors but also share knowledge. Considering this is the social media age, we used this medium to build reach with the younger generation. This has been fairly successful with young kids asking me a whole bunch of interesting questions at the Nationals like how to get to Belgium to train and race, advice on buying power meters (a training tool), about technical concepts in training, etc.

Cycling is huge in Belgium and they have the best system in the world. My long-term objective is to create a conduit between the 2 countries along with a consulate tie-up that would help in a sporting exchange. This would help develop the system in our country immensely.

I want to be part of the sport for a long time to come and would like to build a process that can be applied to all the future cyclists out there.

What riding events do you target to cover every year? What do you think are your biggest achievements?

In India, my target race is the National Championship. Why? Simply because at the end of the day, your value as an athlete is measured on you being a national champion, though it is by-far not the best metric.

The other events I participate in are community-level events. I build these events into my training plan and make it a hard training day. Another reason I want to be active at a community level is because I want to be part of the eco-systemic change.

On principle, I do not participate in big money races. The reason I choose not to is because I feel that I will be sacrificing a lot more than I can benefit. For me, attending a race means I lose out on my training days not to mention the potential risk of injuring myself if the conditions are terrible. I did attend some races in 2012 to understand why the system was not progressing and decided from the next year never to do it again.

Overall, I have attended 7 national championships with two 4th place finishes and four gold medals. My biggest achievement as an athlete would be being the first Indian road cyclist to ever achieve a podium finish at a Kermesse race, (Lokeren Doorselaar kermesse) in Belgium in August 2018.

Speaking about the Kermesse event, talk us through your experience at this year’s event?

It has always been my dream to perform at a high-level in Europe. Last year, I finished in the Top 20 and I set myself a goal on Top 10 this year. I trained like never before to be able to achieve that goal.

Towards the end of my trip in Belgium, I hit a purple patch – with each race before the event, I progressed from Top 18 to Top 12 and finally cracked the Top 10 at the event. Not only did I achieve a 3rd place finish, but I was only marginally behind the winner of the event, who 2 days later ended up as the runner-up at the Belgian national championships. That was a huge motivation gain for me.

You qualified for the ITT and road race at the Asian Cycling championship in Myanmar earlier this year? What was your takeaway from the race?

For me, the key takeaway is – I’m getting closer!

I have been at the Asian championships twice along with my teammate (Arvind who has been at the championships 5 times). In 2016, we finished the road race as the last bunch on the road and this year, we finished the race as the bunch right behind the winning bunch. Fairly big progress there.

My goal for now is to finish in the Top 5 hopefully next year and if I work harder than I did this year, I think it’s achievable.

You kickstarted an initiative in 2013 called “The Indian Cycling Project”. What brought about the idea and how have you seen it develop over the years?

I came up with this idea because I wanted to leverage best-in-class systems outside of the country. I want to build a system where young athletes are backed by a strong support system and are exposed to the best training and racing eco-systems available.

As I mentioned earlier, my long-term goal is to create a conduit between India and Belgium along with a consulate tie-up that would help in a sporting exchange.

One of the challenges I face is convincing parents to let their young children travel to Belgium because for the parents they see no monetary benefit or results coming out of it. I also let the parents know that their kid could probably get injured, break equipment but all that doesn’t matter as this is probably the most important thing you can do for them to succeed. This experience in Belgium teaches them to be independent, financially responsible, stay physically and mentally tough, brave harsh weather conditions and maintain a balanced diet. It gives these young athletes a view into racing at an international level.

A final question – what are your race plans for 2019?

My next event is the Tour of Nilgiris in December where I hope to enjoy just riding easy for a change, meet some friends and get a little bit of work done. For 2019 – my targets are the National championships, National Games, Asian championships and my customary 3-month training and racing in Belgium.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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Featured Comments Off on Road cycling National Champion – Naveen John – Part 2 |

Road cycling National Champion – Naveen John – Part 2

Deepthi Velkur continues her conversation with Naveen John about his training and his move to competitive cycling in the second part of the story. 

If you haven’t read the first part then click here 

When did you move from being a recreational cyclist to a competitive cyclist?

It was a couple of years after I picked up collegiate cycling. My friends convinced me to sign up for a race and I went full on – got myself a bike, some racing gear and showed up for the race and I finished the race.

During my time racing in the US, it was never competitive. I just went out there to ride and have fun. I enjoyed the training, being part of the racing action and never went in with the mentality of winning. In 2012, when I came back to India, it all changed. I felt like I was on a mission and I decided – I want to try and be the best.

You’re a 3-time Indian Time-Trial (ITT) champion and the country’s first International pro-cyclist? What does it take for someone to achieve this?

Oh! I get asked this question a lot. Every time at the national championships, I have kids come up and ask – what must I do to become a national champion?

My response is simple – ride your age X 10,000 KM and you will give yourself a shot at becoming a national champion.

Not many like that response because it puts the onus back on them. In India, cyclists are just not doing enough work compared to cyclists abroad. I realized this for myself when in 2016 I was in Australia where I rode with a professional team and saw 18-year kids train so much more than I did. It got me thinking, “Am I putting in the kilometres”?

It’s a paradigm shift that we need here in India where the athletes need to put in a lot more work. A few years ago, you did not have to work too hard to become a national champion. If your closest competitor was doing 8,000 KM at the age of 23-24, you only need 9,000 KM to beat him. Today, however, you need at least 25,000 KM to beat me (kinda cheeky, since I lost my National title this year despite that, but always “long game”).

It’s true that the infrastructural challenges we have in our country can be blamed for the bar being so low in our sport but at the base of it – practice, kilometres in the legs and hours spent on the pedals are key.

Do you take assistance from a Coach to train yourself for nationals?

I started off on my own in 2013. I self-coached trying to figure out the answers along the way but I fell short and ended up in 4th place. One of the team supporters then recommended I get a coach.

Getting a coach can be quite a daunting proposition – all of a sudden, you are accountable to someone else and constantly graded. The thought of putting your physical readiness in someone else’s hand is quite a leap.

Fears aside, I started working with my first coach in 2014 and that changed my life and introduced me to a whole new world of scientific training. I’m a pretty adept self-learner and as I was being coached, I also upped my level of understanding of the human body, sport science and training. I have since moved on to my 2nd coach who is based out of Australia.

Training in cycling is a very objective process and working with a coach who guides your physical progression can free up time to work on other areas of improvement that you constantly need to as an athlete. So far, cyclists in India have always moaned about a lack of good coaches but that scenario is changing today.

Our concluding part can be read here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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Featured Comments Off on Running and Yoga |

Running and Yoga

Guest Columnist, Pallavi Aga talks about how runners need to do yoga to marry constant movement with eternal calm!

Runners are typically ‘Type A’ personalities (ambitious and highly competitive) and are very conscientious about their personal and professional lives. Perfection and discipline are their second nature. Running is a high adrenaline driven activity and causes an adrenaline rush also known as “The Runner’s high”, which though beneficial at times, does cause stress on the body.

We live in an environment where we are constantly bombarded with signals that keep our sympathetic nervous system (it stimulates the body’s fight-or-flight response) activated. Runners may face a heightened response to this stress, especially when preparing for an event. Terri Guillemets (an author from Arizona) once said, “Give stress wings and let it fly away”.

Yoga has the magical power to reduce stress and activate the parasympathetic nervous system which promotes healing and emotional health. It adds the Yang to the Yin element always found in a runner’s life.

Introducing Yoga into your life.

Runners are initially sceptical of yoga as it’s difficult for them to sit still for prolonged periods as they are used to the constant movement. When I took up running, I was not interested in yoga myself. It was only later on that I realized that the constant use of running muscles led to stiffness and lack of flexibility which was the harbinger of injuries. It was at that point I understood the importance of yoga and decided on practising it. On further thinking, it hit me – yoga is the key to improving flexibility, calming the nervous system and distressing as its effects extended beyond the realm of the physical body.

Yoga has benefited me in so many ways – improving my flexibility, balance, body toning, strengthening my core and improving my breathing technique which in turn has calmed me down immensely.  Today, I continue to practice yoga under the guidance of my guru Umesh Ji.

Why yoga

Flexibility 

Yoga helps in stretching the stiff, tight muscles and lubricates the joints. The increased flexibility leads to ease of movement which is essential in preventing injury and reducing soreness. For example – the reclining and standing pigeon pose is excellent to stretch the iliotibial tract and the deep muscle pyriformis which are common causes of knee and hip pain in runners. The standing pigeon pose also helps in a deep hip stretch as well as adds to the balance and strength. The frog pose is important for a deep groin stretch. The only word of caution here is that never try to force extreme flexibility on yourself because as a runner this can be counterproductive too.

 Warm up

Surya Namaskar can be used as an excellent form of warm up before a long run. It has to be performed dynamically as pre-run static long stretches are not beneficial.

Balance and Proprioception (sometimes described as the ‘6th sense’)

Balance and Proprioception are very important for runners. A body imbalance increases your chances of stumbles and injuries. Having a balanced posture increases strength and also enhances your proprioception abilities. Standing postures like the Tree posture with eyes closed also increase the proprioception and reflexes.

Strength

Yoga is very helpful to build up the strength of unused muscles in the body.  The muscles which are stiff and inflexible become weak and need to be relaxed and lengthened. Eccentric contraction of these muscles builds strength and stability.

Yoga also aids in building the upper body and core strength which is extremely beneficial for runners. Body weight postures utilize the whole body and not only the legs thereby strengthening the upper torso, arms and shoulders. It also increases the muscle tone causing less fatigue and less weight impact on the legs. A simple pose like Downward dog pose utilizes different muscle groups at the same time.

Breathing technique

Yoga involves full command over your breath and breath with movement being an integral part. It promotes deep belly breathing which is beneficial when used during running prevents you from feeling breathlessness. Yogic techniques focus a lot on correct breathing and prevent the rapid, shallow breathing which can lead to oxygen depletion and toxin accumulation.

Complete body workout

Yoga poses involve all muscles and joints of the body in one pose alone. For e.g. the Toes pose stretches the Toes and the plantar fascia helping in the prevention of plantar fasciitis and foot pain.

The deep intrinsic fascia also gets stretched in long static holds which cause structural benefits to the joints. Chakrasana is one such pose which stretches the whole body.

Endocrine and nervous system

Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system calms down the nervous system and brings down the cortisol level. High cortisol levels can cause breakdown of immunity and extreme fatigue and insomnia. Yoga practice makes a runner more mindful of this effect which in turn helps them to be productive in their runs.

Finding your edge

Runners should add yoga to their cross-training practice and they will observe a lot of benefits with the development of a healthy mind and body connection. It’s all about finding your edge and gently pushing into it so as to enjoy the sport rather than causing injuries and stress.

Combining yoga as an element to balance out your running will transform the way you feel, make you more agile and enjoy your running in a whole new way – with so many benefits to boot, it becomes important to include it as part of your cross-training!

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Pallavi Aga is a doctor by profession and an avid follower of eating clean and green with a holistic approach to health and diet. She is actively helping the society towards walking down the path of health through Facebook live events and also with media groups like India Today, Dainik Jagran and Pinkathon.

 

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Featured Comments Off on Road cycling National Champion – Naveen John – Part 1 |

Road cycling National Champion – Naveen John – Part 1

Deepthi Velkur in a three-part series has a conversation with a pro-cyclist and 4 time National Champion, Naveen John.

Naveen John has many firsts to his name as pro-cyclist. Apart from being a 4-time national champion, he was one of the first 2 Indians at the World Championships and the first Indian with a podium finish at a European event in competitive road cycling. In this conversation, he takes us through his journey so far.

So, Naveen, how did you get into cycling?

Well, about 10 years ago, during my first year in college, I had an experience that changed my outlook on the way I lived. I had just moved away from home for the first time and you know, the stress of having to make new friends, adjust to a new place and all took its toll and my weight ballooned to 98 kgs (Freshman 15 effect I guess!).

It was Thanksgiving and I was at a friend’s place when we decided to play a game of basketball. You know you’re so out of shape when your opponents are running circles around you. I was left panting and breathless at the end of it.

That was my wake-up call – I had to do something about it. I took up running (and a change in my eating habits!) with the sole focus on getting healthy. The consistency paid off and I lost 15kgs in 3 months. While pursuing my Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University, I was introduced to collegiate cycling. It was a life changing experience for me – I made friends for life! They also happened to be a bunch of cyclists who loved racing and doing weekend road trips. I enjoyed the social aspect of the rides and that got me hooked to cycling.

During the four years of your college, you clocked 15-20,000 km each year. That’s an astounding number. How did you make time?

One of the advantages of studying in the US is that you have a good balance between studies and time for yourself. That extra time gave me the freedom to pursue what I enjoyed at that time – cycling. It was a fun way to catch up with friends, stay fit and meet other passionate cyclists along the way.

You signed up for a 120-mile ride which was your first big ride. Can you tell us a little about it?

It all happened by accident, to be honest. I went to a callout (at the start of each semester, clubs pitch for students to join their club) for “Habitat for Humanity” but ended up in the wrong room and without realizing it, I signed up to do a 120-mile charity ride. When I did realize, it blew my socks off because until then, I had never done more than 10 miles at a time.

The race for me was eventful. It was my first time on a road bike and when warming up, I got knocked down by a bus. The bruises and cuts could not take away my spirit and I decided that I still want to do the ride.

Unfortunately, I did not finish the ride but the whole experience had me captivated. It made me realize that there is more to life than just running from one air-conditioned room to another. I looked around and saw all these people enjoy the ride, the outdoors and that clung to me – I wanted a piece of the outdoor life too!

Your decision to move back to India in 2012 was largely influenced by cycling. What encouraged you to make the switch and why Bangalore?

I had to consider my options given I was choosing to not complete my masters in the US and find a job which would have been the ideal way to go.

Around the time, I was considering this decision, the cycling eco-system in India was fairly nascent. There were about 200-400 racers across the country and Bangalore was at the heart of it. There was already a system in place at federation-level, state-level selection trials and national championships. I looked up some data on the CFI website and figured that I was at par with these guys and in some cases faster. I then began to do a few checks to evaluate the decision I was about to take.

  • Did I have the physical ability to do what it takes to succeed?
  • Was there an eco-system and community to support me just like I had in the US? I stumbled upon the Bangalore cycling community via blogs written by Bikey Venky and other local bike shops – this gave me a glimmer of hope.
  • What was the state of Indian competitive cycling in terms of people involved outside of the federation systems? We all hear the usual narrative of sporting infrastructure in India – blame the federation, blame the system and the athletes absolve themselves of all responsibility, but they were some folks attempting new things.

I started looking around if there were people who were actively trying to change the scenario in India and I came across cycling IQ.com and an individual who plays an important role in Indian cycling – Venkatesh Shivarama (Venky).  Venky along with Vivek Radhakrishnan were the founders of Kynkyny Wheelsports Cycling team, the first professional cycling team in India with the aim of competing at the international stage.

I took a shot and sent them a message that I’m an active cyclist and looking to return to India but the enthusiasm was met with measured advise that I’d be better off pursuing the sport outside India for the moment. Despite that, a month later, I landed in India and just showed up. They were surprised and asked me, “so you where the guy who messaged us, why did you come here and not stayed in the US and raced there”.

I could have if I wanted to but I had other plans – I was looking for signs of life, looking for people with the mindset of “be the change” vs following the herd and aspirations of one day perhaps becoming a national champion.

Before I chose which city in India, I did the usual checklist – how will I make rent? How will I make a living? How will I contribute and add value? Bangalore made perfect sense given that I had family here and it had a strong cycling community.

In the next part, we will continue to hear about his journey to the National Championship.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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Featured, Training Comments Off on My experiences with the Maffetone method |

My experiences with the Maffetone method

Pallavi Aga is a Doctor, a Nutritionist and a Lifestyle Management Consultant and the Founder of Mind-Body Wellness Clinic, discussing her experience with the MAF method.

At present, I am pursuing preventive health in the form of nutritional counselling for sports as well as lifestyle diseases. I strongly believe that we should focus on the right nutrition as opposed to dieting fads.

I always considered myself a tad invincible (given that I am a doctor and all) but ever since I crossed 40, I have had a few health scares.

Initially, it was weight issues that bogged me down and then I became borderline diabetic and hypertensive. I obviously did not want to live a life dependent on medications so I took up running in 2015 to get healthy and stay fit.

As time went on, running no longer was just a means to stay fit but it became a passion and started participating in a lot of races. Though my pace had improved, I had low energy levels, injuries started creeping up on me and my weight-loss plan reached a plateau.

Combining my training with medical knowledge

I started reading a lot of research articles in order to see where I went wrong and that was when I came across the Maffetone method. Dr Phil Maffetone recommended a unique method of training in which the aerobic base has to be increased using the formula “180-age”. The more I read about it, the more I was convinced about the integrity of the method. I decided to give it a shot and see if it helped me reach my goal.

The MAF method documents that the major part of your running should be in the MAF heart rate zone and as the body gets adapted, the pace will go up at the same heart rate. As running at this zone utilizes fats as fuel hence the need for carbohydrates will reduce and the muscles will work more efficiently.  This method requires a lot of patience as results take time but I used the slowing of the pace to lay the emphasis on posture and cadence.

Implementing the MAF method

I decided to go with this method 2 years ago and assumed it to be easy. I was so wrong. I realized that my heart rate was reaching levels of 160 and above as opposed to 135 (my recommended Maffetone Heart Rate).

I had to make a few changes like incorporating walk breaks into my run, training on fasting, reduction in my intake of carbohydrates, grains, dairy products and adding good fats in the form of seeds and nuts to my nutrition plan.

The journey

It wasn’t easy getting used to this method. I had to run alone with no music so that I could focus on my cadence and correct my stance into a mid-foot strike. My earlier heel strike led to disturbed posterior chain kinetics which had resulted in a bad hamstring sprain.

Despite not many people believing in this strategy and asking me to run faster and add the pre-run carbs back, I never gave in and carried on with the plan. My biggest challenge was ‘fasted running’ as it made me very giddy and nauseous. During the summer, I worked on this area and trained harder keeping my electrolyte balance and hydration in check.

The effects of the MAF method

This method really worked well for me and I saw an increase in my energy levels. My weight dropped and I felt fitter and full of life. The feeling of totally being drained out went away and I started really enjoying my runs. It was exhilarating to feel free and one with nature. Gradually my pace picked up and I was back to my previous pace with the heart rate under control. My MAF pace is 6:15 now. I hope to improve it further with more dedication.

My experiments

A couple of months before my ADHM event, I wanted to increase my pace. So, I did an experiment of training at a higher pace and adding pre-run carbs before interval, tempo and long runs.

I realized that in less than a month, my immunity levels dropped, I felt bloated and I was tired all the time. My pace went up temporarily but I started falling sick, took me longer to recover and my old hamstring injury started acting up again. Ultimately, I suffered a total set back in my running and lost out on the fun of my runs.

I decided to change back to the MAF method and all was good again. I completed the ADHM with a time of 1hr52mins which was 3mins shy of my PB (1hr49mins) last year. I was able to manage this because I moved back to my low heart rate training 15 days prior. I did a day of pre-marathon carb loading and managed to finish the race comfortably despite my health issues.

The current status

Currently, I do all my training runs at a MAF pace and always keep my heart rate in check. Also, I do all my runs including the long runs (2+ hours) while fasting and I don’t really feel the need to eat immediately. I ensure I stock up on complex carbs and most of my calories come from protein and fat. With my energy levels up, I feel like it’s reversed my ageing.

I don’t participate in a lot of events because for me running is my meditation and I like to do only a few events as the competitive nature stresses me out.

In conclusion, I feel the Maffetone method has been a blessing in my life and has helped me reclaim my health. With the knowledge, I have of this method I am confident that I will run injury free for a long time.

My mantra to life was always “Say No to Medicines”!!

Learn more about the Maffetone Method here.

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Pallavi Aga is a doctor by profession and an avid follower of eating clean and green with a holistic approach to health and diet. She is actively helping the society towards walking down the path of health through Facebook live events and also with media groups like India Today, Dainik Jagran and Pinkathon.

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Featured Comments Off on Fit Girl India |

Fit Girl India

Meet Ayesha Billimoria, athlete, the new age fitness icon and one of the leading fitness and nutrition influencers, who speaks to Nandini Reddy about her fitness philosophy.

Ayesha Billimoria is a track athlete, captain of the Adidas Runners in Mumbai and is leading a project, Fitgirl to empower women in athletic sports. Billimoria coaches runners for marathons and this three-time 400m national champion has been keeping her dream alive of running for India in the Olympics for over 15 years.

Ayesha Billimoria’s relationship with sports and fitness started at the age of 11 and from age 14 she has been a professional athlete. Her influence can be seen on the popular social image sharing site, Instagram, where Ayesha commands a formidable following. Here are a few excerpts from the interview.

How young were you when you fell in love with fitness?

I don’t believe in falling in love. Because those who fall in, fall out very quickly. I have enjoyed growing in love with athletics since the age of 11.

You are a powerful fitness influencer, what are the pros and cons of this responsibility

The pros of being a fitness influencer are that we get to touch thousands of hearts in a positive way. Cons – everyone likes to pounce on us for the slightest of tiniest of mistakes.

How have you overcome struggles like injuries? I ask because these are the points were people get most demotivated?

Yes, tons of injuries in my entire 22 years of running professionally and as an amateur. It depends from person to person and what their motivation is. For me it is mega, and that makes me want to wake up every single day with the same passion and energy.

What are your hoping to achieve with Fit Girl India?

A stronger and fitter society. mentally, emotionally and physically.

Do you feel running is empowering as a sport?

100% I think the best gift one can give a child is the gift of running. It not only gives you the confidence but the courage to think for yourself.

Nutrition is the most important factor in fitness. Do you believe that and what is your nutrition mantra?

New age comes with new drama. but no doubts there that good healthy food is essential for good performance and injury recovery. Nonetheless, we still won national medals with basic home food 🙂

How important is it to work with a coach? Is it only for the elites or do amateurs also need them?

MOST IMPORTANT! Just how we need a doctor when we are ill. The same goes for running. Those who try to do it on their own, often fail. I am the best example of that.

You had participated in the 100 days of running challenge – is such a task advisable or is it an extreme form of fitness?

I did not participate in the 100 days of running, I only represent the company that partners with this initiative. It is misguided information on the internet. And no I do not recommend this to anyone. Absurdity in the name of running, is driving this country crazy.

What is your ultimate dream as an athlete

It always and will be to represent India at the Olympic games.

Your words of advice to anyone getting into fitness

Relax and Enjoy it. Life is not a race. Breathe every moment and enjoy the process of physical and mental evolution.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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