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Training On The Go

How do you train for a race if you’re always on the go? Here are some hotel room workouts that do not require any equipment and will keep you on track, by Protima Tiwary.

Fitness isn’t a seasonal hobby, it is not something you can put away when you’re traveling, or taking a vacation or neck deep in work. Fitness is a lifestyle that trains your mind to accept commitment and discipline before laziness and excuses, it shows you the way towards great physical, mental and emotional health. Being fit isn’t only about looking good. It’s about the focus to be committed towards your fitness routine.

So how does one stick to a regime when they’re stressed with deadlines, or traveling, or on vacation? How does one stick to a plan when they realise their makeshift gym has dumbbells that weigh *gulp* not more than 10kgs?

Athletes all over the world are faced with this dilemma, and it’s after years of trying and testing exercises and fitness regimes, the experts have come up with a list of basic exercises that are all that an athlete needs when he is traveling. If a hotel room is all that you’ve got, here is how you make use of it to give you the best possible workout. You don’t need TRX bands or dumbbells- these bodyweight exercises will see you through.

Jumping Jacks

Easy, light and super convenient, 100 of these should be enough to get your heart pumping. This is just the beginning. Don’t forget to turn off the fan, you might hit your head if you jump up too high!

Burpees

If you’re an athlete, at some point in your training career you might have done these as a punishment. Yes, burpees are those dreaded exercises that have the best of us huffing and puffing by the end of round 1. Guess what? It is now time to embrace them with open arms because burpees are one of the best ways to kickstart your body and get yourselves warmed up!

Squats                 

Once your body is warmed up, nothing better to get your core and glutes activated than with some squats. Open up your leg muscles and get the blood flowing to your quads and inner thighs with different variations of squats – regular squats, wide legged squats and sumo squats.

If you have weights in the room, nothing like it. Maybe hold your traveling bag and do some front squats?

Bulgarian Split Squats

Are you missing leg day at the gym? No need to fret, because you can get in a leg workout in a hotel room, without using any machines! Place one foot on the chair, and go down in a squat. Hold a bag or a lightweight to increase resistance. You will feel the burn on your quads soon, and end up having a killer indoor leg workout!

Push Up

Get your upper body ready with some basic push-ups. Best part? You can always try variations to improve your upper body strength, even on normal training days! Got the hang of the regular push up? How about trying the diamond push up next? Or how about adding a bag on your back and then going in for a quick set? Have you tried the decline push ups yet? Keep your legs on the chair and try your luck!

Tricep Dips

Get creative with furniture! You might not always get a cable or dumbbells to do any tricep curls or overhead extensions, but you can always use that chair at the study table or kitchenette to do those Tricep dips and get your tricep muscles popping.

Plank

Easiest exercise to do practically anywhere and one of the most effective exercises that get major muscle groups activated and working. Your core is of utmost importance no matter what sport you play. Nothing better to train your core than to get a few minutes of planks daily, isn’t it?

De-stress with hotel room yoga

Cool down after a rough day and killer workout with some of your favorite stretches, right in your hotel room! Legs up the wall pose, hip flexor stretch, downward dog, cat-cow pose, spinal twists are all stretches that will help you relax at the end of the workout.

 How many reps should I be doing?

The answer to this depends on your fitness levels. If you want a good strength training and cardio workout, experts recommend going in for a large number of repetitions. If you’re just about starting your fitness routine and do not wish to miss a workout, you can go easy on the reps.

Full body workouts are usually possible without any equipment, even on days when you’re traveling. Don’t let that worry you- ask your trainer to design specific routines based on these simple exercises, and you’ll see how you can enjoy a workout as good as one in the gym.

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 traveling and to-do lists and loves her long gym sessions like a fat kid loves cake.

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Learning from Coach Pramod Deshpande

What can the chief coach and mentor of the largest running group in Bengaluru teach you about how to train and prepare for your next marathon? The short answer—absolutely everything! discovers Deepthi Velkur. 

In this interview, we’re going to pick the brain of Mr. Pramod Deshpande, 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.

Apart from coaching, he has also managed multiple running events as Race Director notably the Oracle run and in his spare time addresses corporate forums in the city on motivation and staying competitive.

Pramod shares with us his running story and transition from sprinting into a marathon, and how a coach could help achieve your running goal.

To get us started, can you please share with us a little about your personal running background?

My early running life was that of a sprinter and not a long distance runner. I took to running in my school and college days back in Pune. I was a competitive athlete specializing in the 100m sprint in the 80’s all the way through to 1990. Post that until 1994-95, I did a fair share of coaching people for track and field events.

Later on, life happened and I went on to build the professional career that kept me away from competitive sport and coaching. It was in 2010 that I finally got back to running with Jayanagar Jaguars but this time moved on from sprint to covering longer distances – half, full and ultra-marathons.

When I started with Jayanagar Jaguars, it was more of a social running group of 8-10 people with no structured training in place. Fast forward 8 years and today we are a group of 700 runners located across 10 centres in the city all following a standard training program.

Sprinting to marathons – those are the extreme ends of the running spectrum. How did you make that transition?

I’m not a marathon runner per se. Even though my passion lay in sprinting, I had to make a call at some point. As you grow older, sprinting is not a sport you want to associate yourself with as your pace slows down drastically and it takes a significant toll on your mental and physical health. Also, there is only one sprinting event a year for veterans so continuity is a challenge.

In long-distance running, you can still maintain and manage your pace. Given the numerous races across a year, it helps you participate more and therefore be more consistent. From 2010 – 2014, I took part in several marathons being a podium finisher in 3 runs and also won the best debutant award in the city. Having won my fair share of accolades, I moved into full-time coaching in 2014.

When did you first decide to begin coaching?

I started coaching with Jayanagar Jaguars in the year 2014 on my own accord. When I started, we were only around 20-25 people. I was responsible for restructuring the club and putting in place a more formal and structured training program and the results are there for all to see. Today, we see more and more runners wanting to be a part of this club.

Our standardized model is now in place and followed across all our 10 locations in the city. Every individual is given an overall brief about the training program and the training schedule is shared with them right before they kick-start their workout. Additionally, we use our mobile app to handle all our communication around workout and training schedules.

What’s the hardest part about being a running coach?

Honestly, I do not find anything hard being a coach. I like what I do and enjoy the challenges that the job brings.

Your running club has people from a varied age group, different individual goals and varied levels of strength? How is your training plan built to cater to this?

The overall program is obviously customized keeping in mind certain parameters such as strength levels, amateur or seasoned runner as well as individual goals. We typically break down the runners into 7-8 categories (count could vary based on the program need) and we then allocate captains who have been directly trained under my guidance in the ratio of 30:1.

A senior group would typically have 30 members while slower groups are much larger (100 – 150 runners). Each category of runners will have a customized training schedule built for them. I am responsible for training the group captains who in turn will train their respective groups. I create a training schedule and communicate this to the group captains who implement the plan and follow the schedule.

Given the 2 styles of running are different – what elements from your sprinting days have you brought into the world of marathon running?

While sprinting and long distance running are two completely different styles of running, the one constant is how an athlete trains. Parameters such as off-season, on-season and types of workout changes but the overall structure remain the same for both.

The type of workout performed by a sprinter will, of course, vary to that of a marathon runner. A sprinter does not run more than a 5k and requires a little more strength training while a long distance runner is focused on distance and endurance.

Everyone talks about the importance of strength and weight training. What specific workouts do you think help improve marathon running?

There are a few elite runners who do not need strength training but this is few and far between. Majority of us are leisure runners and definitely need to go to a gym to do some strength training. Looking at off or on season as well as which part of the training schedule the runners are in, they will undergo 1-2 days of strength training at the gym.

Apart from the gym-based training, we conduct a twice a year on-ground strength training for runners program that lasts for 2 months. A typical training period will be 90 mins at the most considering time constraints that the most of the runners face. The training day routine will involve running exercises, strength training exercises such as Plyometrics as well as flexibility exercises.

Do you think it is important for a serious runner to have a coach? If yes, what are the benefits of having a coach?

The outside perspective is very important to your running life. Everybody needs a coach to take care of your workout and to build discipline. Look at leading sportsmen around the world, Roger Federer for instance – we all need a coach!

What’s your coaching philosophy?

Trying to get the best out of a person’s ability is what a coach must do. Apart from coaching someone to be the best runner there is, I also try to imbibe the spirit of being a good and responsible citizen.

I would like to take this opportunity to put to rest a misconception that the coach is everything – NO, a coach cannot be a nutritionist, a physiotherapist or a doctor. These are three distinct roles and every athlete needs to have access to them as well.

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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A General, a gentleman and an Ironman

Vikram Dogra embodies the true spirit of an officer and a gentleman and Capt Seshadri looks at this next rung of achievement in becoming an ironman.

Father, aged 96, a former Northern India boxing champion of the 1930s, who still walks for fitness every single evening. Wife, who has successfully completed several half marathons over the past two years. Two fit and sporty sons who are now keen to become Ironmen. An inspiration that spans three generations, and in the process, creating the only Major General in any army in the world to successfully complete an Ironman, that too well inside the qualifying timings.

Vikram Dogra. An officer and a gentleman of the Indian Army, who embodies the joy of physical fitness, through the sporting activities of cycling, swimming and running. In his words: “The Ironman triathlon is the most gruelling one-day event in the world. It is a test of physical endurance and mental strength. In order to accomplish this, a person needs to be committed, focused, passionate and disciplined. It is a realization of the heights of what we can achieve when we push ourselves beyond our physical limits. The training and preparation include both mental and physical conditioning, though the former precedes the latter. Training needs include aerobic performance, body and core strengthening, flexibility and nutrition. You must remain focused and committed; so, finally anything is actually possible.”

Austria, a country more famous for its contribution to art and culture, was the venue for the Ironman event. Maj Gen Vikram, a virtual greenhorn, found himself both overawed and intimidated even before the start, right from the registration desk. Says he: “It was a cauldron of people of different ages and nationalities. There were experienced athletes who had participated in numerous Ironman events before.” On the morning of race day, the entire city of Klagenfurt seemed to have come alive. All of seventeen hours, the official time limit for completion, was filled with cheering supporters, egging on every single participant, irrespective of where he came from, with a carnival-like atmosphere, music and more.

The finish line was even more electrifying, with loud music, cheerleaders and people lining the streets, giving that final impetus to the finishers. Recalls Maj Gen Vikram: “The feeling was ecstatic when my wife and some friends who were waiting for me, shouted out my name. My wife handed me the national flag and I ran the last 200 metres proudly holding it aloft. My feelings were mixed, but the outstanding emotion was the pride at showing off my country, combined with satisfaction, relief, and humility. Adding to all this was the voice of the MC proclaiming: Vikram, you are an Ironman.”

Congratulatory messages poured in from family and friends. For him, it was a dream come true; a culmination of untiring effort and ceaseless toil, inexpressible in vocal terms. Talking about the rigorous preparation, Maj Gen Vikram elucidates: “Training and preparation include both mental and physical conditioning, though mental conditioning precedes the physical preparation. Thereafter, you need to be physically trained to complete the event within 17 hours. This took me the better part of two years. Initially, I focused on core strengthening and overall conditioning, building aerobic capacity and flexibility. It was only around four months earlier that I commenced specific Ironman training. I found that the three disciplines need both individual and sequential training to strengthen the different set of muscles needed for each. Diet, forming a very important part of training, had to cater for a daily intake of over 5,000 calories, comprising the right mix of proteins, carbs, and vitamins.”

As a soldier and a General, the demands of work could not be ignored, obviously with Ironman training eating in. On being asked about time management, Maj Gen Dogra responded: “Training for the Ironman had to be undertaken by me in the evening after I returned from work. I would typically run from 7 to 10 at night 2 to 3 times a week. Weekdays were utilised for swimming while weekends were reserved for cycling since that needed almost 6 to 7 hours to complete.” Secrecy was key here too, with none except family and close friends knowing of his training and participation. Which meant that there was no official time off to train, leaving him only after office hours at night, and on weekends.

Maj Gen Vikram Dogra sums up his extraordinary achievement thus: “I am indeed lucky to have a family that supported my eccentric training routine without once questioning my sanity. It goes to the credit of my wife, Supriya, that she tolerated my waking up at 1 am and going off to cycle on the expressway and returning at 8 am, or taking off after office to run 20 kms and coming home by 10 pm. I had stopped all socializing but she never once protested.”

Much to sacrifice indeed. Far beyond one’s call for duty to the country.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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Conquering the Mumbai Marathon

The 15 time Mumbai Full Marathon finisher Girish Mallya talks to Protima Tiwary about what it takes to tackle the most prestigious marathon circuit in the country. 

When you meet Girish Mallya, you see a jovial, humble and super fit man, all of 42, with the energy that will put a 25-year-old to shame. We sit down to talk to him about his passion- running- because it is no secret that running to him is as important as breathing air. In fact, he has run the Mumbai Marathon 15 times till date! Aside from being a professional runner, Girish works in the publishing industry, and is fondly known to many as a mentor and friend. Finisher Magazine caught up with Girish Mallya to know more about the science of running, with the aim to inspire all those who’re gearing up for marathon season.

When did you run your first marathon?

My first race ever was the full marathon, in the first edition of the Mumbai Marathon in 2004.

What made you take up running professionally?

I have been running since the age of 15. My earliest recollection of running would be of completing 3km-5km runs thrice a week on a jogging track in Colaba Woods (Mumbai) This inspired me to take part in all the long distance races in India that were being held back then (sadly not too many) I also took part in adventure marathons. I slowly moved on to ultra-marathons but the game changer was the Marathon Des Sables, arguably one the toughest foot races on earth. The transition from being an amateur runner to a professional one happened in 2013 when I was preparing for the Marathon Des Sables Race and hoping to be the first Indian national to successfully complete this race.

This placed me in a professional category, and I received the support of many corporate firms who sponsored my runs, and I also diversified into giving motivational and fitness related talks at Corporate firms.

What has been the highlight of your marathon career?

It most definitely has to be the Marathon Des Sables (MDS) race in Morocco in 2013.

As a runner, what is the one quality that defines you?

It’s the ability to keep charging ahead, to never give up. Even if I am having a bad run day during a race, I power on and end up surprising myself. Giving up is never an option, not in a race, not in life.

What have you learnt from your best and worst races?

Best races teach you so much, but it is the bad ones that teach you even more. Best races will show you how strong you really are, and how to maximise your strengths. Bad races are important too. I have learnt an important life lesson in my bad races, and it is that failure is important. Bad races have taught me how to deal with failure. They have shown me how failure is a stepping stone towards success, and you need to keep on charging ahead to rebuild yourself. Running teaches you to believe in yourself.

 You’ve been running the Mumbai Marathon since its inception. You have now completed it 15 times! How has this marathon changed in the last few years?

It’s improved with each passing year! Initially, it used to start at 7:30 am, and today for the non-elite runners it starts at 5:40 am. I think that is a huge improvement. Even the size of the marathon has grown. From three-digit number of finishers to over 3000 finishers today, the participants have increased exponentially. It speaks volumes about the quality and management of the race.

Has your training changed in the last 15 years?

For me running is pure pleasure. I really do not run scientifically or train specifically. You’ll find me running an average of 50km per week, with 4 runs a week, all year round. Running is my stress buster, it calms me down when I am angry, and it makes me feel positive and invincible. I actually have withdrawals symptoms if I miss out on my run even for a week.

They say consistency is key. But how do you maintain this consistent pace throughout a run?

In running, a consistent pace is more about discipline than anything else. It’s about not pushing unreasonably and maintaining heart rate consistency, throughout your training runs. So that you can train your body to run better without pushing your HR. That is true endurance for me. You need to train at getting disciplined. You might have the energy to run fast, but you need the discipline to keep the energy in control in order to finish the race. This comes with practice of course.

What are the other training methods that you use to stay fit?

Strength building and core conditioning are important for a runner. I rely on free hand exercises and cross training to keep up overall strength levels.

How do you suggest training for the upcoming Mumbai Marathon?

I recommend you start with choosing your races carefully. You must aim at gradual improvement and distance and time. Choose from 10k, 21k or 42k and then start training with a certified trainer, a running group or even enroll for an online training program if that suits you because professional training will give you an insight into the technicalities that are required to run a marathon. With the help of certified experts, you can build a training program that suits your fitness levels.  If budget is a constraint, check out marathon training with Halhigdon that provides various training programs based on your fitness levels and timing goals.

How does one manage training in this corporate world, with “lack of time” bringing us all down? Where do we find the motivation from?

If it is important to you, you will be able to manage time for training! Just like you have time to eat or sleep, you need time for exercise too, it isn’t optional at all! Of course, schedules can get hectic and it isn’t always possible to enjoy a long run or intense gym session, but there are simple things that can make life easier. For example, choose a gym that’s close to your house. That way distance won’t get you lazy! Also, use public transport instead of personal transport (only if it is a practical option) as this ensures you walk around a small distance daily.  If budget isn’t a constraint, get a personal trainer who motivates you to get to the gym daily! Join a running group to stay motivated. Also, enjoy a workout that you like. Don’t join a gym because that’s the only way of getting fit. Do something that you love, and you will see that it is easier for you to motivate yourself. Try your hand at swimming, cycling, or try your hand at a sport like badminton, tennis, cricket etc. Experiment, and find something that doesn’t seem like you’re making an extra effort.

What’s your favorite track to run on?

I am an urban commuter, and urban roads are my favourite tracks.

How do you overcome negative thoughts while running a race?

Marathons don’t always go perfectly well, and negative thoughts do cross your mind once in a while. When the going gets tough, I usually find that the challenges have made the run interesting. I thrive on adversities, I take it one kilometre at a time but I complete the race. Never give up!

A marathon is a combination of mental and physical strength- any tips you’d like to share with us on how to stay strong during the race?

If you train hard and smart, that is more than half the job done. Before the race, sit down to review your strength and limitations, and mentally plan how to run the race (set your time, set distance milestones on your tracker) Also have a backup plan ready if in case things don’t go right; you might suffer a cramp or weather might not suit you, etc.  Go prepared, that’s all.

Leaves you inspired, doesn’t he? Follow @girishmallya on Twitter to know more about his experiences with life, the corporate world and running.

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 traveling and to-do lists and loves her long gym sessions like a fat kid loves cake.

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Run and bare it

Capt Seshadri looks at Barefoot world champion athletes who have made barefoot running a trend that has made a powerful comeback.

When it comes to a choice between shoes and no shoes, barefoot runners over the years have given their shod competitors a run for their money. In Rome, in 1960, a long distance runner, finding that the official footwear supplier had run out of shoes of his size and that those supplied to him were too tight for comfort, decided to run the marathon without them. And hit pay dirt. Four years later, in Tokyo, Abebe Bikila, the legendary Ethiopian athlete, successfully defended his title, this time running in shoes, and in the process, set a new world record.

Barely four months ago, on April 28, 2018, the world bid adieu to another barefoot running legend, Michael ‘Bruce’ Tulloh. In the early ‘60s, Bruce was a sensation, regularly winning European and international cross-country championships. Two decades later, his twin teenaged daughters set age records for running. Naturally, they also ran barefoot. Tulloh, who turned later in life to teaching biology, ran a grueling 4,600 km across North America, from LA to NY, in just 64 days. He appeared to have counted his paces since this arduous run was captured in his book titled ‘Four Million Footsteps’.

Bihar, in India, produces sportspersons from as varied disciplines as athletics, hockey and archery, but there is one great long-distance runner who represented the country in the ’76 Montreal Olympics, running the marathon barefoot in a surprising time of 2:15:58. His best marathon effort though was in 1978 in Jalandhar, where he timed 2:12:00, a national record unbroken to this day. In the 42.2 at Montreal, Shivnath Singh was in the van for 32 km, ahead of legends like Bill Rodgers and Lasse Viren. Finally, his finish at # 11 out of 72 participants, was an extremely credible performance at the time for an Indian athlete.

Barefoot running is not the exclusive preserve of the male. As a school student at the age of seven, Tegla Loroupe, born in the rift valley area of Kenya, ran 10 km to school and back every day. This early training led to her winning several half and full marathons while garnering gold in the 10,000 metres in the Goodwill Games in 1994 and 1998. Tegla, after retirement, was selected to champion the cause of ‘refugee athletes’ as the organiser of the Refugee Team for the Rio Olympics in 2016.

One of the most famous barefoot women athletes gained notoriety for a different reason, although subsequent investigations absolved her of all fault. Zola Budd, born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, migrated to England to escape the apartheid ban, driven by the fact that her world record of 15:01:83 in the 5,000 metres at age 17 went unrecognised. A year later, representing Great Britain, Zola erased her record with a performance of 14:48:07. Her claim to infamy came with her multiple collisions with Mary Decker, leaving Mary out of the competition and a tearful Zola finishing seventh.

While 27,000 km of running, including 50 + marathons qualifies Rick Roeber as one of the most prominent barefoot runners of this era, the real ‘godfather’ of the unshod foot is Ken Bob Saxton of Seattle, who has a century and more of marathons under his soles. And, running barefoot for charity, Ms. Rae Heim covered over 3,000 km across America to raise funds to provide shoes to needy children under the banner of Soles4Souls.

Ultimately, it’s a long road to run on. Whether for glory or for a cause.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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Running and Giving

Guest Columnist Tarun Walecha talks about how running introduced him to sharing his passion with others and supporting them. 

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”…Winston Churchill

Our lives are a constant evolution driven by our experiences and our passion. Our circumstances drive us, and our intent keeps firing up the desire to evolve into the individual we see ourselves as. Running happened to me in the similar course of life, though I must admit I had no clue of where it would take me eventually. An extension of fitness regime would go on to become a pivoted gear of my thought process and being, was something I could not even fathom even in my most lateral imagination.

RUNXTREME: The beginning

When I started running in 2011, often I was left for the want of company. Therefore, either I had to run solo or drive up long distance for a tiny run that I could manage. Facebook groups weren’t as prevalent, and those available weren’t as active. Four years of hopping around, running with various groups and partners I wasn’t able to find a steady, bankable and invigorating company. That is when, along with some like minded running buddies I thought of forming a running group of our own, we called it RUNXTREME and we wanted it to be the first source of any running related information a new runner may need. We wanted it to be easily reachable source for every aspiring runner… for all the hand holding they may need,  abate their anxieties, run along when they need and share all one can, so they could move up the ladder fast and not meander in the path.

RUNXTREME is in its fourth year already, needless to say I’m more that happy about the way it has evolved as a group. Not just for others, but it has also been instrumental in giving me a direction of where I want my life to be, and how running can be a driving force for the same. In 2016, while I was going through a turbulent phase, embroiled in the labyrinth of my thoughts, trying to find a purposeful headway with running.

Share & Care

I discovered Share & Care. As a part of that initiative, I decided to run 7 Half Marathons distance runs, on 7 consecutive days, in different parts of Delhi NCR. The aim was not to prove my physical prowess, but to create awareness for fitness and raise support for budding athletes from marginalised section of society. The support I got from the entire running community was overwhelming and only compelled me to repeat the same in 2017 in a bigger way. While that journey continues to be evolved as does my search for the way forward, a chance encounter with kids cycling on a Sunday morning, incited the thought of pushing the envelope. Instead of waiting for an annual extravaganza I wanted to do this year long.

A little bit of prodding my own thoughts and looking around took me to NAZ FOUNDATION (INDIA) TRUST, where I got to spend some time with the children they train, not only to become sports person but better, confident and self-assured individual through the medium of sports. What matters is that it doesn’t just end at a park game for the kids, over period of time NAZ FOUNDATION has actually formed a national level league for these kids. A Net Ball tournament which happens at district level, then state and eventually culminates into a national level competition. This entire journey from playing in their backyards to the expanse of a sports arena can itself widen their perspective to life, let alone the confidence and trust in themselves that they gain. Whether they turn up to be national sports champions or not becomes secondary against the new life that this entire process opens up to them. This seemed to be a logical progression where our group could foresee an integration and join them to be a part of this inspiring journey.

Running Charity

With the support of my fellow team mates, and the entire RUNXTRME community, we have decided to make their dream ours, and support NAZ FAOUNDATION in this endeavour. As we head into the running season, with the biggest run of the country ADHM approaching us, we would be raising funds for them so that could move ahead on this path unencumbered. With the help of friends and acquaintances, whom we shall urge to contribute towards this, it’s not the money that we will be offering…it’s a belief that we will reinstate, it’s courage to dream that we will instill.

I wish, hope and believe, this step towards supporting NAZ FOUNDATION at ADHM would only be a beginning of many more dreams to be realized.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

An architect by profession, Tarun Walecha enjoys amateur photography, travelling and is a sports enthusiast. He has been a sportsperson all his life and discovered running at the age of 40 and has since become his fitness mantra. In his 7 year running career he has completed 30 Half Marathons, 4 Full Marathon, and 5 Trail/Ultra Runs. He is also a Pinkathon ambassador and has founded the running group, RunXtreme.

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Going the distance with Sagar Baheti

A visual impairment hasn’t slowed down Sagar Baheti’s ambitions to complete the toughest marathon course, writes Deepthi Velkur.

The things we are able to accomplish with a little mind-over-matter is astonishing. Case in point: Sagar Baheti. A 31-year old Bengalurean who runs a successful import and export stone business and in 2017 was the first ever visually impaired runner from India to successfully complete the Boston marathon. In a chat with Sagar recently, I was fascinated by his tale of perseverance, hard work and fortitude. This is what he had to say:

You’ve always been a sporting enthusiast, especially cricket – what brought about the switch to running?

Truth be told, I took to running in 2013 purely because my options were fairly limited given my condition. Cricket has always fascinated me in my early days all the way through to zonal and university levels. After issues with my vision which surfaced 5 years ago, I took up running and as they say, the rest is history.

With the company of a few good friends, I did the midnight run in Bengaluru and that fueled my interest. My first serious run was the Coorg Escapade in 2013 for which I trained a fair bit and the sheer joy of participating in such a run was immense.

What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about running, especially long-distance running?

The feeling of accomplishment is what is most rewarding. When I signed up for the Coorg run (which is a beautiful trail run), it was meant to be a fun weekend activity because I had no idea if I was even capable of finishing it, but at the end of the 12K run, I felt amazing. In many ways the Coorg run was the catalyst for me getting into serious running – I have never looked back since.

You successfully completed the Boston marathon in 2017 – a watershed moment in Indian sport. Can you please describe your feeling at the finish line?

Relief and sense of achievement! There was a lot of build up to the run given that this is one of the most iconic races on the running calendar so as I got to the finish line, I felt a sense of pride in myself for completing the race. Little did I know that I was the first ever visually impaired runner from India to have completed the historic race covering the distance of 42 kms in a little over four hours – it made me glad that I was able to make a mark for myself

Out of curiosity – why the Boston marathon and not someplace else?

Well, after I started running seriously, I covered pretty much every run in India from Bangalore to Mumbai to Delhi and even Ladakh. During this time, I was chatting with a friend in Boston and she suggested I take part in the Boston marathon. Being such a popular race, I was definitely interested so I signed up, managed to qualify for the race and in 2017 successfully completed the run.

One of your goals post the Boston marathon was to raise $10,000 for MABVI – were you successful in raising that funding?

My friend and I have always been involved in fund-raising and she gave me this idea of raising funds for MABVI (Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired) an association based in Boston that she works with closely and I was more than happy to be part of the initiative.

The objective was to serve two purposes – raise funds and create awareness for MABVI. We started off a crowd-funding page highlighting the visually impairment condition and we successfully raised $7,600.

How did you prepare yourself physically and mentally for the Boston marathon? Is it a similar training program to your other runs?

The Boston marathon was bigger than anything I have done before so I really wanted to be well prepared. Overall, I stuck with my training routine that I followed for my runs in India but put more focus on mental strength as the pressure on this run was higher. The circuit itself is considered to be of medium-toughness given the gradient levels and course challenges, so my training program was slightly modified to suit this.

It must have been extremely tough for you and your parents when you were diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease – what drove you on to achieve what you have today? 

Yes it was a tough time – being diagnosed with such a condition really sets you back in your ways because it forces you to make lifestyle changes and increase your dependency on others. I consider myself very fortunate to have family and friends who were very supportive and have helped me along the way. This support is what has driven me to where I am today and helped me in setting goals that put me in the right path to achieve them.

Running a business is not a small task – how do you find the time to train and stay in shape?

The first year post my diagnosis was slow as I had to figure new ways of doing simple things such as reading and writing. With the love and support from family and friends plus using aids such as voice and magnifiers, I got through the tough phase and focused on getting physically active. This support has given me the time I need to train and stay in shape.

For your next run – where and when. Is that all planned out?

As is life, there is always a bit of drama! During a business trip in Spain last year, I went skydiving and ended up having a crash. I suffered a serious cervical spine injury that required emergency surgery and follow-up corrective surgery as well. What followed was a 4-month rehab program that slowly got me to my feet and back into running.

I did run the Mumbai marathon  in Jan 2018 to get my confidence back but my body wasn’t ready yet. During this time, I met a friend who trains with Bengaluru-based running club- Jayanagar Jaguars who encouraged me to join the group. At that point, I thought running as a group will give me more motivation than training alone. There, I met some good runners who understood my needs and now we run as a group. I am back into full-fledged training as I prepare for my next run – the 50k Malnad Ultra run on October 13th and 14th, 2018.
Apart from running, what other sporting activity has kept you busy?

I have always being a cycling enthusiast and though I cannot cycle long distances yet, I am hopeful  to do so once my shoulders and neck feel strong enough. One of my best cycling memories is the 2015 Tour of Nilgiris which is a 850km circuit spready across 7 days. I did the same tour the following year as well.

As with anything these days, I can’t help but think of what Sagar’s experience can teach us all. Very briefly, we will achieve only through practice and hard work.

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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Online vs live coaching – which is better?

A lot of accomplished runners have opted for online coaching. But would that work for everyone? Radhika Meganathan speaks to trainer and marathoner RAGHUL TREKKER about its pros and cons.

If you had thought that ‘live’ is always better than ‘long distance’, think again! Raghul Trekker is in a unique position to speak about the advantages of online coaching, since not only he has a long distance coach who trains him from her home in South Africa, he himself is a long distance coach for over 70 runners spread across the world.

“I met my trainer Lucie Zelenkova, a prolific athlete, in Malaysia in 2015. Since then, she has designed my workout schedule which I follow every day,” says Raghul. They have weekly skype sessions, in which they exchange discussions about his goals and progress reports. His coach sends him regularly customised workouts and diet charts and is available for a call or a skype session I whenever he needs her advice.

After winning Ironman Sri Lanka and other races, Raghul started training aspiring runners. “The website I use is Training Peaks (https://www.trainingpeaks.com) which acts as a platform between users and trainers. The process is very simple. Each runner first has to talk to me by phone so that I understand their goals and expectations, and can make a decision whether I am the right trainer for them. Once I decide to take them on, they will have to create a profile and the training begins.”

Usually runners should have a goal to train for, say, Ironman or an upcoming marathon, because otherwise Raghul cannot draft a fitness schedule to help them become better than their current level. “You can be a newbie or a seasoned athlete, and you can come to me just for a season like 3 months or 6 months training (and many do, which is great, there is no hard and fast rule that you have to train forever!), but you cannot come to me blank. Have a vision and help me help you,” he says.

What are his tips for runners who want to look for the right online coach? “Look up for one who specialises in the event that you’d like to conquer,” says Raghul. “If you are aiming for a triathlon, go for coaches who have experience in that. Make sure your coach is going to design your training schedule specifically for you every week, based on your lifestyle and stats, rather than expecting you to fit yourself in some readymade and generic template. A good coach should be able to know you as a person, not just a runner, and design your workout accordingly.”

Raghul’s customised plans for his runners always include diets, mental preparation tips and terrain tips, among the usual workouts aimed at physical mastery. Some of the things he takes into consideration while designing workouts, are: Current fitness level, past fitness level, past achievements, time they have to commit to workouts every day, every week and their willingness to strive for tougher workouts on an escalating basis. “I log these data regularly, religiously, in every runner’s profile and keep track of their progress. This way, even if the runner has a break and comes back for more training after a few months, or even years, I don’t have any hiccups.”

So, for the million dollar question, what is his opinion about Live vs Long Distance?

“Live coaching can be exciting if you have found a good trainer in your locality, but it is restricted by geographical boundaries,” says Raghul. In live coaching, your trainer cannot be with you all the time, week after week, or oversee your stats and progress every day. Not all trainers are tech savvy and may have to rely on you to feed information and progress reports to them in a tricky verbal or handwritten format, which may or may not be always accurate. And not every town in the world is going to have a great trainer. But almost every town these days does have an internet connection.

“That way, I’d say online coaching is great because one, you get to train under some truly exceptional athletes in the world even if they don’t live in your neck of the woods, and that can be a tremendous confidence booster, not mention a rare and fantastic opportunity. Two, all the stats are recorded, updated and stored online in each runner’s profile and I will have that information in my finger tips to help my students without having to rely on memory or having to start from scratch,” Raghul delivers the verdict.

If you’d like to be trained by Raghul, you can contact him through the website of his fitness studio, TRI CRASH ‘n’ BURN, at http://www.tricrashnburn.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Radhika Meganathan is a published author who is an advocate for healthy living, she practices sugar-free intermittent fasting, all-terrain rambling and weight training.

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Running: An enduring act of empowerment

Our guest columnist, Anjana Mohan talks about how running is a tool of empowerment for women.

Empowerment means the ability to make decisions for yourself; to own your choices regarding how you act, dress, conduct yourself, hold your body or define your role in society. Running is a sport that offers empowerment at multiple levels, addressing every one of these choices.

Although societal limitations affect both genders (men are emasculated when they show emotion, for example) women face significantly robust, damaging, internalized and intersectional limitations on a massive scale that manifests in some form in every run.

Women are celebrated as caregivers who create and sustain domestic spaces for their families. A runner takes time for herself regularly and justifies the time away from these demands by actively practicing the belief that she is worth it. Women’s bodies are sexualized and critiqued. Even when allowed fitness, Indian women are expected to keep their moving muscles indoors or safely hidden behind flowing fabric. The outdoor runner takes conscious charge of her own body. With her every appearance in dry-fit leggings, sports bra, or salwar kameez, she creates subtle changes in her own mind and those in her network.

Competition is considered un-ladylike, and femininity associated with grace, poise, and self-control. The runner must engage with her body beyond these expectations. Her determination must manifest in her muscles. The athlete’s sense of internal competition must be cultivated rather than surrendered to graciousness. In her sport, she can be human first: free from femininity, free to sweat, free to grimace, free to cry from the dopamine delight of her own fatigue.

Every run is a rebellion, every step an act of micro-activism, setting new norms for herself and everyone she encounters. Her training is far beyond the miles on her feet. She nurtures and develops her own dignity when she learns to ignore the oglers. She owns her choice on keeping or removing her mangal sutra to avoid a sweat rash. She determines her destiny in deciding to wear shorts despite unwaxed legs. She elevates her own worth in being willing to ask for help packing lunch boxes after her workout.

Men who run alongside women unconsciously offer their own freedoms. Is she running for a personal best or the Ladhak half, they inquire. She was running just to be fit or escape her chores, but new realms of possibilities open. “Improvement in time”, she owns her answer. Neither her smaller lungs, smaller heart, lower hemoglobin count or VO2Max, less efficient hip width, muscle density or muscle building capacity nor shorter stride length matter. She and her male running buddies are on equal footing with respect to the mental capacity they must manifest to conquer endurance.

The woman runner is re-shaping what it means to be a woman. In every decision associated with the sport, she changes herself and society along with her.  Somewhere between the start and the finish line we stop celebrating a woman’s superior ability to conform to society’s stereotypes and celebrate instead her ability to break them.

GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Anjana started running in the U.S. in 2007 and has helped mentor many from couch to half marathon. She is passionate about empowering women through running and now runs in Bangalore with Jayanagar Jaguars

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