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Is Running Good for Children?

If your kid loves to run, or if you want to encourage your child to be a runner, read on to know about safe running practices for kids, says Radhika Meganathan

There is no doubt that regular exercise and an active lifestyle is good for kids. It’s easier for them to learn good habits when they are young, and what’s more, kids are natural runners. Running fortifies bones, musculo-lumbar co-ordination, and toughens muscles and tendons. Most importantly, it is fun. So little wonder that your little one loves to run!

Still, we should not forget that children’s bodies are not fully developed and they need special attention if they want to indulge in running as a dedicated sport. The Journal of Athletic Training mentions in one of its articles that:

  1. Children absorb the impact of running less effectively than adults. Less absorption means bigger impact to bones, joints, and soft tissue – all pointing to higher risk of injury.
  2. Kids bodies’ have not learned to acclimatize or climate control, so they won’t take to running in extreme heat or cold as well as adults do.
  3. Kids lumbar and hand-eye co-ordination is not as well developed as adults, especially in the beginning of their running phase.

So – should you train the little champ in your life? Or is it too risky? If your kid is already an enthusiastic runner, how much training is good for them? And what if they lose interest as they reach teenage or adulthood?

In general, medical opinion seems to be that runners under the age of 16 should not participate in any event longer than a 10K. That actually leaves plenty of distance for those little feet to cover! When young kids are concerned, the focus should be on enjoyment, rather than rigor or intensity. Here are some tips to get your kid run without missing all the fun:

  1. Get your child involved in running-related games, rather that straight line running. Opt for speed training, which will help them well into adulthood.
  2. Vary the running. Get your kid to sprint, hurdle, do track work and even cross country! This way, they will develop as an all-round runner.
  3. One size does not fit all. Some kids are active in the day, some in the evening, some can get going for hours while some get tired very easily. Figure out what works for your kid and let them practice around that.
  4. Kids being kids, might not remember to do the right warming up exercises, or drink enough water during running. Make sure they get trained in these pre- and post-run techniques as well.
  5. If there is a running club in their school, get your kid enrolled in the program. Your kid will get to run with his friends, under the supervision of the school coach who will make sure your kid follow the right running routines.

In case you really find a winning spark in your kid and they are also equally passionate about running, the best way forward would be to let them train under a qualified Athletics coach.

Can your child race?

For most marathons, the minimum age is usually between 16 -18. If your kid is younger, the you can include them in the fun runs or family run categories that range from 1km to 5km. There is also the option of introducing them to marathons through kid events like – Kidathons. If your child is just starting off but if a decent runner then use this reference guidelines to plan your races.

Under 4 years old – 400 m

Age 5-6 – 800 m

Age 7-8 – 1-3 km

Age 9-15 – 3- 5 km

Age 16+ – 5- 10km

Do not worry that your kid might lose interest later in running. The main objective now must be to imbibe in your kid the habit of physical activity a regular routine, giving them a solid foundation that they carry it well into their adult life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

A published author and an avid rambler, Radhika Meganathan is a recent keto convert who may or may not be having a complicated relationship with bacon and butter.

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Overdoing Health Tracking

Wearable devices, fitness apps and a dozen more ways in which you can monitor your health, but when does it all become too much, ask Nandini Reddy.

So did you strap on your wearable device the moment you jumped out of bed? Logging in hours slept, monitoring water intake, counting steps, tracking heart rate, calculating calories and walking the extra mile to meal goals sets. Ever since wearable devices became a fitness trend. All of us have been guilty of doing this – even me! But when does it become too much?

I am not against the FitBits and Garmins of the world and I do know that they are a great way to track your health but when tracking becomes obsessions and if you are getting more upset than happy using the device then it cannot be a good thing right?

The Dark Side of Health Trackers

Have you ever run a marathon and used a different app to track your run. I did that once and noticed that even though both of us started and stopped at the same point, I had run 9.7kms and my friend had run 10.2kms. My app didn’t congratulate me on reaching the 10k mark and felt more than a little deflated. But it didn’t make sense because we had run the same track and in the same time and yet we didn’t achieve the same encouragement from the health apps.

The next victim of tracking was my sleep. I was so intent on getting the right curve and the congratulatory note for achieving the right amount of sleep that I couldn’t have slept worse. The stress of sleeping right overwhelmed me and if I slept deep woke up refreshed with 5 hours before, now I was feeling worse for the wear with 7 hours of shut eye.

Heart rate tracking became another obsession ever since I read that interval training can work wonders when you want to lose weight. But that meant constantly interrupting a perfectly good workout to check if my heart rate hit the goal mark.

How do you use them better?

Health tracking is not all bad if you know how to use them properly. They do help you get fit if you use them right. So instead of letting it rule you, make it a way to change habits.

  • Forget the calorie counting – Trackers have approximated calories and most may not store all the food options that you consume based on your local preferences.Also they never take into count that with regular movement you will be losing calories but they never get accounted for. So instead of counting calories set nutrition goals that you want to meet in terms of protein, carbs and fibre for the day.
  • Adjust daily goals –Do not use the preset goals. Your lifestyle may require different goals. Compare each week to see if you have found the right mix. It may take a while before you finalized on the set of daily goals that works for you, until then its perfectly find to make tweaks and adjustments.
  • Focus on movement – Avoiding being sedentary is more important than counting steps. Most of us have desk jobs that require us to sit for hours. So try and make it a habit to do desk stretches or just stand up and take a walk to water cooler every hour. The idea is to move for 5 mins every hour and your health tracker can be set to prompt you to do the same.
  • Work with small challenges – The fitness tracker should be used to create new habits that are good for your fitness regime. If you want to really make a change then instead of concentrating on recording everything try and set challenges for yourself. It may be about walking or running 10k three times a week. You can even set targets like the number of floors you will walk up every day.
  • Find a friend – Health apps generally allow you to train and track progress with friends. When you know others are watching your progress you tend to be less lazy. It also works as encouragement when they congratulate you when you achieve set goals.

Health trackers themselves are improving so it all works to syncing the device to your fitness requirements instead of the other way round

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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Reasons to join a Running Group

There are running groups on every street today and irrespective of your running goals, here’s why you need to consider joining a running group, writes Nandini Reddy. 

There are running groups for every type of runner today. There are the ones are specific to your place of residence and there are the ones that are specific to type of training you want to do. There are even groups of runners who train together for the purpose of achieving goal times in particular races. So whatever running goals you might have, there will be a running group out there for you.

Solo running may seem convenient. You plan your runs around your schedule, commitments and moods while running groups have their own schedules. While it might seem difficult to follow, it will the most disciplined manner in which you can improve your running form, timing and pace. Running groups combine running and hanging out with friends. So while flying solo might have been the way you started, it just maybe time to join a running group this year.

Here a few compelling reasons why you should consider signing up with a running group

Explore a New World

When you run solo you follow known routes and run at a pace that you are comfortable with and you might even that special playlist lined up. Group running gives you partners with whom you can converse about a variety of topics. Also you are more likely to explore new routes thus making your runs more interesting.

Get Faster

Running with others automatically helps you work on your pace. You might just be getting faster and not even realizing it. There is plenty of research that suggests that runners who train with groups tend to be faster than runners who train solo. Group influence always tends to spur you try a bit harder, move faster and even get over roadblocks that you might have faced as a solo runner.

No excuses 

If you are planning to just turn off the alarm and go back to bed, its easy to do as a solo runner but when you are in a group and you know they are waiting for you – then you are most likely to not miss training days. When you train as group, you are more likely to actually follow a training plan.

Perfect for newbies

Most running groups offer coaching for newbie runners. You will get to meet experienced runners who can correct and coach you as you run along with them. You will get tips on nutrition and even strength training because most serious runners always follow a strict fitness regime.

Help you reach a goal

If you are hoping to reach a goal timing, pace or complete a difficult trail run course then a running group can help you achieve that. Having a group to train with will ensure you stay motivated for the training period and that you also stick you a training plan.

The idea of joining a running club can be intimidating. There will be a lot of questions running through your mind but you should know that running groups always welcome new runners with high enthusiasm. So don’t let fear get in the way of you starting a new experience.

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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When you stop running

Nandini Reddy explores what happens to your fitness and body when you stop running. 

There are many reasons as to why you had to take a break from your running. It could be because of an injury, family commitment, work schedules or just mental fatigue after you have finished your goal marathon. This is perfectly normal for even the most committed runner, a niggling question that stays in your head is about how long you can take this break.

So there are a lot of researchers who decided to study about how long does fitness last once you stop training. The short answer is within a few weeks your lungs and heart show the affects of not training.

What happens to your body

So once you stop cold turkey after being an avid runner then the first two weeks are bliss. Your muscles recover, you feel more relaxes and you still have all the benefits of the training. Once you hit the four week mark the blood volume drops significantly which means your heart is working less harder now. Runners heart are generally working overtime to continuously supply oxygen to those muscles that are constantly under stress. In another four weeks, muscles are all recovered and any minor tissue stress is also rectified. The lungs and heart are working lesser and if you were to even run on a treadmill now you will notice a change in the time it takes for you to be exhausted. Sustaining a hard pace will be a bit difficult and an easy pace will be what you can achieve. Researchers estimated that endurance performance decreases by nearly 25% after four weeks of no exercise.

What happens to your mind

The first two weeks are good for your mental health because you get to recoup from the punishing training schedules and your body also starts to feel more energetic. The niggling aches and pains will disappear over a four week period. But what happens to your mind after that? Running helps in keeping you happy. In fact any form of exercise has the power to increase positivism. When there is a break the first few weeks seem alright but slowly the anxiety starts to set in. Many runners who took long breaks have described as having signs of depression even. A few weeks off running has a positive effect but a prolonged break seems to have only negative effects on the mind.

So can you restart?

The first thing to remember is that you cannot pick up where you left off. Your body has changed and this has to be taken into consideration while drawing up your training plans. If you try to hit the same statistics with a vengeance you run the risk of injury. The first step is to adjust your mind and ease back into a schedule that is low stress. For the first week keep it easy. Do short runs in terms of distance and time. If all is well then go ahead and plan longer runs in the next week. Build up your pace and distance endurance over the next four weeks.

You can stop running. Sometimes you just need a break but remember that when you restart again, it is important that you respect the fact that you took a break and are now ready to begin anew.

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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Running during your periods

Have you ever wondered how that time of the month affects your (or your loved one’s) running? Radhika Meganathan talks about running and the menstrual cycle.

The discomfort, the mood swings… yes, periods can be a pain, but here’s the more important question: does it have a negative effect on your running performance?

Menstrual cycle, explained

Most women have a 28-day menstrual cycle which is split into two halves. The first half is known as the follicular phase, characterized by increasing levels of Estrogen. Day 1 is when your period starts. Ovulation, or the release of a fertile egg, happens around day 14, give or take a couple of days.

The second half of a typical menstrual cycle is the luteal phase, when the lining of the womb (endometrium) thickens, to prepare the body for pregnancy. Progesterone levels and body temperature increase during this second phase.

If the egg is not fertilized on time, then all the hormones levels fall over the next few days, triggering your next menstrual cycle. Rinse and repeat until pregnancy or menopause occurs; sometimes, severe physical and/or mental trauma can also delay your periods and throw you off your regular cycle.

Timing your training

Often, the best time for any kind of physical training is during the follicular phase. This is when your body temperature is lower, and all stored energy and regular fuel are broken down rapidly without the interference of hormones; thus, this is the best time for short, high-intensity workouts.

After Day 14, when your body temperature increases, it may not be an ideal time for intense workouts. But this time if perfect for endurance training, as many runners have found out.

Now we come to the dreaded week before Day 1; technically, the last week of your menstrual cycle. This is when most woman feel bloated, lethargic and restless. The scientific explanation is this is when your body realizes your egg is not fertilized that month and progesterone and oestrogen levels fall sharply. Your best running performance may not happen during these few days, but the good news is you can still do gentle runs on Week 4.

Running during your period

Some women hardly feel their periods, but some are so adversely affected that they take time off from their work. One size does not fit all when it comes to menstrual symptoms, so you are the best judge on how you want to draft your running schedule around your periods.

If you have heavy periods with painful cramps, you may be tired and anemic. You may also be feeling dizzy (some women report fainting) and have concerns about leakage. At this time, we advise gentle runs, good hydration and a sensible approach to training and diet. After the first two days, everything is good, and you can resume your normal running schedule during this awesome follicular phase.

Finding your best running days

Keep a menstrual cycle diary for a few months. Jot down the quality of your run during certain days, and note your energy and mood level. This will help you to identify your best days and schedule your training. Use the ‘bad days’ to concentrate on core work, cross training.

But what is you get your periods during a race? What if D-day falls on the first two days? Well, Uta Pippig, winner of Boston marathon in 1996, crossed the finish line with red-streaked knees and shanks. Clearly, her periods didn’t stop her from her win, so don’t be stressed about it. Just make your body work for you!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

A published author and an avid rambler, Radhika Meganathan is a recent keto convert who may or may not be having a complicated relationship with bacon and butter.

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Become an Eco-friendly Runner

If you love living a sustainable lifestyle then you should probably include it as a practice in your running too, says Nandini Reddy

It always feels wonderful to give back to environment and if you can get fit while doing what you love, then that’s a double advantage. Running can be made sustainable by just following a few simple practices.

Running Clothes

The material of your running wear makes all the difference. Look for a brand that uses sustainable materials and practices to produce their clothing. Organic cotton and hemp are great materials to choose for running wear. There are a few firms that are recycling plastic info fibre to make clothes that are suitable for running. All these clothes are easy to wash and also air dry quickly.

Clean Trails

Whenever you participate in a big race ensure that if you are disposing trash you use a bin and not litter. If you feel that the organiser may not have adequate bins then carry a convenient trash pouch so that you do not litter along the way. You can also volunteer to clean-up the trail post run. If the race venue is far away then try and use public transport systems , car pool or ride a bike. Riding a bike has the added advantage that you can warm-up before your race.

Reusable Equipment

Use reusable bags, bottles and packets while packing your snacks for the run. If you buy packaged energy drinks then ensure you buy from companies that pack in recyclable bottles. If you can use homemade energy bars or granola bars you can reduce the wrapper waste. If you aren’t too keen on making your own energy bars or drinks then look for companies that use sustainable practices to produce and package their products. Carry your own water bottle so that you can avoid using one time use bottles and cups during the race.

Green Training

If you live in a city with a flat terrain and plan to run and out of city marathon that has steep terrains then consider changing your training plan in the same place rather than travel to train. You can use stairways and also find challenging running routes that you can repeatedly use for training. If you need to drive to reach a training location then consider riding a bike instead.

Follow the 3 Rs

Reduce your energy expenditures and material consumption wherever you can. Reuse things as much as possible. Recycle your old gear. Most runs offer their own signature T-shirts and if you have run enough marathons it is likely that your cupboard will be overflowing with the souvenir T-shirts. If you have the option of avoiding the T-shirt then please consider it, you will always have the finisher medal as a souvenir. If you can find a local retailer who will accept and recycle your old clothes and shoes then it is best to give it away to him rather than dump the lot as they are not easily degradable.

Outdoor running has the lowest environmental impact, so if you can make tweaks to the way you run – then you can easily become a sustainable runner.

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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Is Running for Everyone?

Radhika Meganathan on why running may not work for everyone and how you can still run despite all your misgivings.

Here’s the bad news. Running is not for everyone.

It’s not for those who just don’t to do the hard work. Running requires a certain passion and dedication, and if you are not willing to put in the effort, running is not for you.

It’s not for those who lead such hectic lives that they find it too much troublesome to plan a regular training schedule.

And, regrettably, running may not for those who have a physical ailment like severe joint issues, respiratory problems or heart disease.

The good news is, most people can run if they can make time and space for it in their lives. A lot of amateur runners have some fears about taking up running for the first time. In this article, we will debunk certain myths and misconceptions related to running:

I am too sore after running: One of the common mistakes beginner runners do is to go too fast in their eagerness to master the sport. Often, they take up running after decades long sedentary behavior, forgetting that it will take our body a minimum of three months to even up to a year to get used to a fitness sport like running. Hence, soreness should not be a reason to quit running! You need to work with the idea that it will get better with time. Take rest days as much as you need. At least in beginning, run on softer surfaces. Warm up and cool down longer but within two minutes of running. Take care of your soreness by soaking your feet in Epson salt bath or placing ice packs on your sore joints.

I have stiff joints and I’m scared running will damage my knees. This is a common misconception. Running does NOT wear out your knees. In fact, research has proven that runners have less risk of hip and knee problems, mostly because of their lower body weight. Running also helps cartilage to grow, not wear it out, and actually can protect you from arthritis. If you have any doubts, talk to a qualified physiotherapist in your locality.

I cannot afford high end running gear. You don’t need to have fancy or state of the art gear to start running! Running is one of the most affordable sport and all you need is a pair of good (not branded or expensive) shoes to get started.

I don’t have a good running track or park in my neighbourhood. This is where the treadmill comes into play – you can run on it within the comfort of your home or closest gym. You can also try running in the streets during early hours of the day. And if you are serious about running, we highly recommend you put in that extra effort a few times a week, get up a little early and travel via your own or public transportation to the locality that does have a good running track or park.

I am too old to run. No, you are not. Fauja Singh used to run in his early age but had quit it. After moving to UK, he started running again – after a break of 65 years. He first took part in the London marathon at age 90, and he again ran the same marathon at age 101 and finished in 7 hours 49 minutes! You are restricted by only your attitude and your fears, so work on them and you can start running.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

A published author and an avid rambler, Radhika Meganathan is a recent keto convert who may or may not be having a complicated relationship with bacon and butter.

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Fueling the running fever

Runners around the world are motivated by different things. Here are the top reasons that push runners to continuously train for marathons and travel around the country or even the world to participate in them, writes Nandini Reddy.

Running is one of the most strenuous experiences your body can have. Reaching the finish line at the 42 kms mark is a strain on both your body and mind. Despite the hardships thousands of runners gather at the starting line of every marathon around the world. There are different motivations that drive novice and experienced athletes around the world . Here is recounting three of the most popular reason people gave for running marathons.

Love of Travel 

Running a 42 km race in new cities means you get to explore the city through its best streets. In a single race, you are likely to pass by the best monuments and also gain a bit of historical understanding of the city. Many runners travel to multi-locations to participate in marathons for this reason. A day before or a day after the marathon gives them time to explore the city thus allowing them to visit different places while pursing their passion for running. It might be an expensive hobby to have but if you budget your trips and plan your marathon season for the year then you will find great deals in every city that you visit. Travelling also gives runners the experience of running in different weather conditions. Running in windy weather, wet weather, dry weather and even arid deserts comes with its own challenges. This also challenges their training and adaptability to new terrains thus improving their skills as a runner.

Running for a Cause

Nearly all marathons dedicate their proceeds to certain causes. The bigger the marathon the more causes get supported. From education to old age support, medical research to environment affairs – marathon’s dedicate their earnings to supporting the good work of NGOs and small organisations. As an individual raising funds that can make a difference is a tough task but doing it through a marathon has more chances of success. The ambitious marathoner would encourage everyone to run for a cause they’re passionate about by indulging in a hobby they love.

The Fitness Freak

There are many who have taken up running as a way to get fit. The regular training session, joining running groups and the exhilaration of crossing finish lines motivate runners to do better with each marathon.  Any fitness routine puts one out of their comfort zone and running requires excessive mental grit. But it also gives you a different high every time you clock a goal timing on a race day. The most amazing part about running is that it is one of the few fitness routines that can be followed by anyone at anytime and in any place.

Running a marathon is one of the largest physical challenges you can set for yourself. So whatever your motivation behind running a marathon remember that you have achieved a task that most people count as impossible.

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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Should you follow the pacer?

So a niggling doubt for many runners is if they should match the pacer during a marathon in order to reach their goal time, lets talk about why you should and shouldn’t with Nandini Reddy

To begin with let us understand what pacing means – Pacing is an average running pace associated with a particular event time goal. For example if you want to complete a full marathon in 3 hrs and 45 mins then you need to target a pace of 5.25 minutes per km.

At every marathon you are likely to meet the pacers with times scrawled behind their shirts or on the balloons tied to their waists. You also see a huge number of numbers tailing them even before the start point. The popularity of pace groups has increased over the past few years as more runners find it easier to follow a pacer. The promise of reaching the finish line in  goal time, is what has most runners hanging on to pacer groups.

Having said that there are still a few pros and cons that should be considered before you decide to latch on to a pacer during a marathon.

Crowding

One of the biggest cons for running in pace groups is that there are too many people crowded around you. This chaos stays with you through the race, even at water stations. It is difficult to navigate and find a comfortable rhythm when you are running in a crowd. This leads to increased frustration and tempers and also many runners miss water stations because of the sheer number of people crowding the station from the groups. Missing a hydration interval can be detrimental to your pace when you are running a full marathon.

Pacing on terrains

Flat surface runs with pacers is fairly simpler because all runners can see the pacer and follow him at an even pace. When terrains are peppered with uphill, curves and twists in the trail then it becomes very difficult to follow a pacer because their pace will also keep fluctuating. A novice runner may not be prepared to deal with this and it might end up demotivating them to finish the race in a given time.

Trying to keep up

Every runner doesn’t train with a group. There are many runners who train individually and when they latch on to a pacer, they try to adopt the rhythm of the pacer. This means that after training for weeks to find you own rhythm, you are now trying to imitate another runner’s rhythm on race day. That definitely cannot work in your favour! When runners begin their race with pacers they also tend to run too fast in the first few kilometres and get fatigued quickly.

Stalking a pace group

If you feel that you cannot handle the crowd and the fluctuating pace when you want to follow a pacer then you can follow a different strategy. Most pacers will either run in bright T-shirts or with helium balloons attached to them. Even if you are not in the middle of the pacing group, you can certainly see the pacer. You can stalk the pacing group from a distance so that you are comfortable with your running style and still get the advantage of having a reference on your timing.

Group Motivation

Have you ever noticed that even when you train for a particular timing, on race day you always seem to do better? That happens a lot because of watching other runners around you. If you are a runner who thrives on group motivation then pacing groups are the place to be. The cheering from other runners will keep your spirits up and will constantly motivate you to finish the race.

Runners who train alone may not want to be in pace groups but running groups seem to prefer them more. It doesn’t matter what another runner does or recommends, go with your gut when it comes to finishing in goal timing.

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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