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Off Season Training

The biggest marathon season now is done but the off-season might just be the key to better performance writes Nandini Reddy.

So you have spent the last few months running your favourite marathons across the country. In a few you have achieved goal timing and in a few others you raced for the first time. Whether you ran 10k, 21k or a full marathon, you most likely had trained intensely for 4-8 weeks to achieve your goal. So now that the major marathon’s are over, how do you prepare for the next season?

The off season is one of the most critical periods for a marathoner. Here is a step wise method that you can use to be a better marathoner when the next season comes around.

Resist the urge to Run

There will be marathons throughout the year but try and resist running for a few weeks after your big race. If you want to run races then do it closer to the season for the longer distances and run short distances like 5k more often. The urge to run can be heavy but resisting it for a while will do you more good.

Take a break

All marathoners need at least 4-6 weeks of recovery time and rest in order to bring their mind and body back to its healthy state after putting them under stress for the past few months whole racing and prepping for marathons. This time will help heal injuries and also prevent mental and physical burnout. You will also have the time to analyze your previous runs and identify areas of improvement.

Set Fresh goals

Chalk up a new training plan. Your stamina and your body have changed owing to the past training sessions. You have a new level of fitness to achieve now and your timings and training modules need to change accordingly. Bring in a coach on board if you can to make your sessions more useful. Pick a specific set of big races that you want to run in the year and work your training plan leading up to those goals.

Keep Moving

This essentially means that you do not run but you keep moving by picking up another form of exercise. Pick a cross-training or strength training routine. If you need the high of exhaustion then pick a high intensity workout like zumba or pilates.

Rework your nutrition

The off-season is a good time to try a new nutrition plan. You can experiment with the help of a dietitian and see if you can find food combinations that increase your energy levels. You can also try out new recipes and find a whole new nutrition plan that will fuel your training sessions and make you a fitter runner.

Smart athletes have a training plan that will always have a built-in recovery plan. Use the beginning of the off-season to set all this in place so that when you train again you come back stronger and fitter.



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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Aging Gracefully with Running

Runners can keep going by adapting their techniques at each age milestone, says Radhika Meganathan

Age is just a number, as they all say. However, when it comes to running, the biology of aging cannot be denied, or ignored. As one ages, muscle mass decreases. Bone wear and tear over a period of years slow you down and makes you less flexible. Healing takes longer and stamina takes a hit. These are perfectly valid reasons to be vigilant and adjust one’s training and expectations from the sport.
The good news is, you can run the if you are prepared enough. At the Twin Cities Marathon in 2014, 59-year-old Christine Kennedy of triumphed with the astounding stat of 2:59:39.

Should you run when you are older?
Of course! As long as you don’t have any serious conditions that may hamper your running and you take proper care to run, running is good for all ages. Consider these pluses of running, especially if you are a senior:
1. Running can help you with a longer and healthier life.
2. Runners have less chance of suffering from clinical depression
3. Running improves blood circulation, and the brain benefits from improved circulation.
4. Running, and in general being physically active, can prevent you from cognitive decline.
5. Running reduces the chances of you getting colon or breast cancer.
6. Runners sleep better!
With all the above benefits, you are better off running!

But what about the ‘fall’ scare?

It’s a myth that you will fall and injure yourself if you run after a certain age. Injury happens to anyone who is careless or doesn’t take the necessary precautions. Age has nothing to do with it! In fact, most senior citizens experience falls in all walks of their life due to poor balance. Regular running makes muscles and bones stronger, and improves balance, which means – less chances of having a fall during running.

What if you are a senior and new to running?

Start with walking. Your neighbourhood park is the best bet, but you can walk in a quiet road too. Walk 10 minutes, and slowly jog for a couple of minutes. Alternate this until you feel slightly out of breath, and then stop. Repeat this consistently every day or every other day, progressively increasing the time to 15 and 20 minutes. Slowly venture into brisk walking, and eventually, sprinting. Set reasonable goals, look how your body’s responding and adjust your schedule accordingly. Take a companion if you are unsure attempting this alone. If you cannot run every day, aim for at least three times a week. Remember, the more you do it, the easier it will get.

What if I have a pre-existing condition?

Any sport requires a certain degree of caution when you attempt it with a pre-existing condition, and running is no different. As a starter, get your physician’s opinion. Get the right running attire, shoes and safety gear. Always have a mobile or a medical device alert with you, in case of emergencies. You can also hire a personal trainer who can help you get started with running. The advantage of professional help is that you will be under a monitored environment where you will be taught to gradually increase the level of activity.


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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Slow down to speed up

Runners tend to train too hard and too often and that may not lead to the results you want, writes Nandini Reddy.

If you have ever seen elite athletes training the first thing you might notice is that they don’t run fast. In fact if you did accompany them on their training days you might even be able to keep up. If you think it isn’t possible then you haven’t been introduced to the benefits of low intensity training for marathons.

Why do runners need to train slow?

The answer is rather simple really. Runners run a whole lot more and when its training season before marathon season then they run nearly everyday. So imagine running at your full pace capability every day – what do you think would happen? You are more likely to burnout than get a better race timing. Increasing your average weekly mileage is more important than running faster. You are also less likely to burnout or be injured if you focus on number of kilometres run rather than how fast you run.

How do you distribute the intensity of your runs?

In an ideal situation, you need to run 3 moderate paced runs, one medium intensity run and 1 high intensity run in a week. The moderate paced runs should focus on distance and you need to ensure you make most of your weekly target kms in those runs. The high intensity run is about pacing and timing. Even if you run a short distance focus on on consistent pace.

If you were to measure the intensity of a standard runner, you will see that they never do low intensity runs. Most of their runs are distributed between medium to high intensity which means you are driving yourself to fatigue rather quickly. Elite runners run at low intensity nearly 80% of their training time and only run in high intensity for 10% of their training time.

So how can you control your run intensity?

Whether you are running in a group or alone there are ample wearable devices that you can use to monitor your runs.

Find a Coach

If you are serious about becoming a strong runner then signing up with a coach till you find your flow is a good idea. They will bring in a discipline into your training plans and will hold your accountable. Technically the coach doesn’t have to run with you. You can also have a virtual relationship where you get guidelines and report back on progress with statistics.

Heart Rate based plans

Try to plan your runs according to the heart rate training zones. Any good running coach can give you the basics of how this plan works and with your wearable devices (most of which monitor heart rate to a decent degree of accuracy) you can track your training intensity.

Monitor your work

Using the wearable devices and running apps, monitor your work. You can compare your before and after using these tools effectively. Most running apps store your runs indefinitely until you choose to delete them so they make for a great way to reference you performance as you train.

So if you have been pushing yourself to achieve your goal times everyday then you need to stop and re-evaluate your training program and also rest your over-stressed muscles.



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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Take the Stairs

You can elevate your running performance if you start using stairs, says Nandini Reddy

If you are movie buff then you need to borrow one piece of training advice from Rocky – make climbing stairs as part of training. If you have a shorter training window before  marathon then training on stairs is a good way addition to your training plan. As you power your way up the stairs, you legs become stronger and your heart and lungs are taxed more from the movement thus improving your overall stamina and strength.

So how do stairs help so much?

  • When you are climbing stairs you are moving against gravity and this helps build power and strength in a runner.
  • If you are trying to reach a goal time in a marathon you will need both.
  • Stair climbing also helps you stabilize your form as you work to stay on balance.
  • Stair climbing training also reduces the risk of injury
  • Climbing stairs makes your hearth pump faster and improves your blood oxygen

How they help your legs?

Strength training is a key part of runners training schedule. Body weight training routines recommend lunges and squats to train the legs and glutes. If you do stair training then you will get the benefit of both these exercises in a single move. With your heart pumping your muscles are also more oxygenated. Both your legs get equal amount of workout during stair training.

The oxygenation advantage

During an intense exercise your heart is continuously pumping oxygen to your muscles at a grueling pace. As the intensity of the exercise increase the VO2 levels rise. Stair climbing helps improve your Vo2 max levels and the greater the VO2 level the harder you can run. A British journal published that stair climbing was known to improve the VO2 max level by nearly 17% in women.

What if I choose a natural uphill terrain?

You can choose a natural uphill terrain also to train with but stairs come with a built in difficulty that most natural terrains do not have. Stairs are built at an angle of 65 degrees, while most hills will only have about 5-10% of this gradation.

How do you start?

If you are looking to get started on the stair training routine then like any other exercise ease into it. You can tired very quickly on stairs so do not equate your running capacities to your stair climbing abilities. Start by walking up 10 floors first. If your body is taking the strain then start jogging up 10 floors. If you are able to breath comfortably then move to running. If you need a bit of a challenge, try taking two stairs at a time. You can also use the handrail to pull your body up and get a complete workout.

A Sample Training Plan

Here is a sample training plan if you are ever considering using the stair climbing work out as away to train faster for a marathon

Warm-up – Jog for 10 minutes on a flat terrain

Main Workout – 10 floors x 20 times with a recover time of 30 secs between each set. Use the elevator to come back to a start point if you are able or run down briskly while using the handrail for support.

Cool-Down – Walk down  the stairs at a slow pace and then stretch out all the muscles that you worked.

There are a few stair climbing races around the world if you ever want to consider participating in one but until then use it as the perfect routine to get your strength up for running your best race.



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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How running affects your muscles

Radhika Meganathan demystifies the relationship between running and muscle building

Runners are often associated with trim, wiry frames. Well, all that running stimulates your body to burn through your diet and the reserve fat in your body, so no wonder a typical runner burns way more calories. Most body builders, though, avoid running like the plague, accusing running to be a muscle destroyer. This claim is not entirely untrue, because running does have a huge impact on your muscles. But what if you want to build muscle yet still run?

What happens to muscles during running? During an intense cardio activity like running, the body constantly burns calories, even after you have stopped running. It not only burns the calories from your regular diet, it also burns through your reserve fat in the body. But when you run too hard or too long, your muscle will become the food if your body does not have many calorie stores of food and fat left.

Thus, if you want to build muscle mass while continuing with your running routine, you have to concentrate on two things: your calorie burning metabolism, and your running distance.

Adjust your diet

You now know why runners are advised to eat hearty! If you do not adapt your diet to your distances, it may lead to constant calorie deficit and your body will not be able to grow muscles from the limited nutrients from your diet. It’s like a vehicle trying to run on an empty tank! That’s why you must closely monitor your diet if you want to run and retain your muscles.

If your goal is to grow muscles, do not run or weight train on an empty stomach. Be especially wary of long training run, since they can deplete your energy reserves and reduce your muscle mass. After a long run, plan for additional carbs and protein. Make sure you eat a regular, balanced diet, one that has equal portions of protein (lean meat, seafood, eggs), complex carbohydrates (brown rice, bananas, sweet potatoes) and vegetables.

Adjust the distances you run

In addition to nutrition, you should pay attention to the amount of distance you cover each week. The right distance is different for everyone, but you definitely should keep in mind that longer distances (also, a more intense running schedule) will burn more calories and will ultimately start utilizing calories from muscle. But what if you love running and do not want to sacrifice either?

Do not despair! The solution is simple. In order to save your muscles, follow a training plan that gives equal importance to endurance and strength training, and also gives you adequate time for recovery.

  • Talk with an expert trainer/runner and arrive at a schedule with a safe number of training sessions per week.
  • Running shorter distances and following a moderate weight-training schedule will help you retain your muscles without sacrificing them to an intense running regime.
  • Reduce your weekly runs’ mileage.
  • Short runs and sprints are the best way forward if you are looking to build muscles.

With the right training, running can work on developing lean muscle. So get started with the right training and nutrition.



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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The relationship between sleep and running

Sleeping well and for the right amount of time can increase your running stamina, writes Nandini Reddy

We live in a hyper active culture that has us on our toes constantly. We have over committed our time an energy to a a ton of obligations. But the most important factor that needs to remain unchanged irrespective of our lifestyle is the number of hours we sleep. You have probably read that you need 8 hours of sleep but it is highly likely that you are clocking in less than 5 hours a night. As a runner, sleep is as important as nutrition and exercise.

Maybe if we understood why we need to sleep then we can be more convinced to actually give it the attention it needs.

Weight Loss

A regular sleep schedule can do wonders for your weight loss efforts. When you get less sleep your hunger hormones run haywire making you carve food at the wrong times or feeling less sated after a meal. All marathoners tend to carb load before a race but if you don’t get enough sleep then the glycogen energy reserves that you need for the race will not build up properly and you will hit the fatigue wall sooner than you expect.

Body Repairs

Distance runners need sleep to ensure that their muscles recover from their training. It was observed in a research that athletes who got enough sleep showed a marked improvement in their running performance. While you sleep, the growth hormone is released when you are in deep sleep which helps recover your body. This hormone is essential to help the body rebuild from the affects of workouts. The growth hormone also helps in converting fat to fuel and keeping your bones strong. Too little sleep means you will feel more stressed and your recovery time will also increase.

Water Re-absorption

While you sleep, the kidneys help in establishing the water balance in your body. When you run in summer and sweat a lot, there is a high risk of dehydration. Just drinking more water is not the solution to ensure your body stays hydrated. It is also important to let the kidneys do their work to balance the sodium, electrolytes and water in your body. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and muscle pain. So a good night’s sleep can do wonders to ensure that you are not dehydrated and your body electrolytes are in balance every morning.

Mental toughness

Sleep helps clear your mind and improves your concentration and helps you run with a clear mind. Sleeping better also improves your ability to analyze training plans and race day performance. A mentally tough runner can overcome every hurdle that he might encounter during tough races.

Maintaining a Schedule 

You need to set a sleep schedule. It will take you up to four weeks to get habituated to it but if you can set up a schedule then you will see that all other things will also fall into place. You will start to eat and train at a scheduled time. Sleep also helps you combat pre-race anxiety, improve your memory and decision making ability.

You might be able to get by with a few nights of bad sleep in a month but on the whole you need to have a sleep schedule that you stick to if you want to improve your running performance.



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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Improving your running form

Running can be easier and with less effort, if you strengthen you body and improve your flexibility, says Nandini Reddy

You become a great runner by taking to the trails and roads regularly but a few simple exercises before and after your run can do wonders for your running form. Smooth and efficient running is dependent on the strength and flexibility of your body. Here are a few basic pointers to remember to get the right form.

  • Take quick and short strides to avoid injury
  • Keep your knees in line with your foot when it strikes the ground
  • Keep you elbow bent at 90 degrees
  • Don’t keep your hands stiff. Relax those muscles
  • Run by pushing off from the ground and not flat thumps

There are three muscle areas that are the most important to have great form – the glutes, hips and arms. All these muscles need to be worked on before and after a run. Dynamic stretches before a run to heat up these muscles and cool down stretches after a run to ensure that these muscles are relaxed.

If you follow particular training principles you can be a better runner. During training runs try and introduce something different.

  • Gradually increase your mileage or time spent running. If you are working on interval training then reduce the walk timing and increase the run timing.
  • Give yourself enough of a break before you increase your speed or distance. Your body needs to adapt and its important not to push it beyond its limits.
  • If you are trying new strength training exercises then remember that you will have sore muscles for a few days and might not be able to run at your regular pace. Its okay to do that and it doesn’t mean that the exercise is the enemy to your running.
  • Try and get a plan that increases gradually. If you are running 5km is a good timing this week then try completing 6km in the same timing next week. Training should make you feel happy to achieve your goals and not stressed.
  • There are no single methods for running that will work for you always. Every trail and every run might offer different challenges, so remember to prepare for it.

Easy and effortless running comes with practice and dedication. Use the strengthening moves to make running more of a pleasure than a chore everyday.



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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Challenge of Running Alone

Things to keep in mind when you run solo, by Radhika Meganathan

Runners run alone for several reasons. Perhaps your life schedule requires you to run at weird, ungodly hours. You may not have runner friends, or your town may not have a running club to socialize. Or, plainly speaking, you may not want another person to disrupt your running zen state of mind.

Whatever it is, you have decided to run solo and you may be wondering whether you will run into any roadblocks in the process. That’s why we have tabulated the four key factors you have to consider while running alone.


Every runner is responsible for their own safety, and for good reason: it is best to be safe than sorry. Your running attire must consist of a bright element in it that can be easily seen from a distance. Take enough water so that you do not end up dehydrated. Always carry an id, some money and have your mobile fully-charged. install an app like BSafe which, on the command of a single button, will broadcast an SOS call with your location details to your contacts.

In case you have a set running routine and do not want to carry your mobile with you, check out Bugle, where you log in your route and how long you will be gone: if you are not back on time, it sends out an alarm to your contacts.

If you are exploring a new route, get a map; if no map is available, practice common sense and carry a portable safety kit with you that includes a torch, match sticks, a small knife or a pepper spray. And if you plan to run regularly in new places, it is a good idea to invest in self defense classes – it’s a skill that will help you not just during running but throughout your life.

Accountability and efficacy

Ah, discipline.  If you have discipline issues, running solo may prove to be your nemesis. To avoid missing runs, have a to do list where you can tick off the days you train. Having a visual list like this that you can hold in your hand, helps you to be accountable for your goals. Set a reward system for yourself, with short term consequences if you do not honour your own commitment. Slacked off on the pacing today? No dessert. Ran an extra sprint? Buy yourself a nice cuppa.

When going solo, runners usually run at a constant pace. Hence, interval training can be quickly forgotten in a solo run unless you make a conscious decision to incorporate it into your routine. Use your watch timer to run a certain distance within a specific time period.


Whether you love to run alone or with company, you should train in the way that you are most comfortable with. Even if you love your own company, running solo can get a little boring. Which is why ear phones are the best companion for solo runners!

Get a good mp3 player and load it with your fav songs and podcasts. Do not use your mobile as a ipod, it drains precious power which you may need later if you end up in a tight situation. You can even listen to the audio version of your favorite books and catch up on your reading during your run! If you can manage it, call a friend/family member and chat away to glory, it’s three birds in one stone, you get to run, be fit and keep in touch with your loved ones.



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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The Dilemma of Runner Toes

You know you are a runner when your toes look like they have been through a stampede, says Nandini Reddy

Runners toe-nails always bear the brunt of all the intensive training. As a runner you might have lost a nail, noticed blood clots on your toes, discolored nails or even had bruises in the toe area.

When you run, you hyper-extend your toes and when your foot lands on the ground, the toe hits the toe box of the shoes. Even though the shoes are soft, there is an impact on your toes. So imagine this being constantly repeated on your toes for a distance of 10km, 21km or 42km. The trauma on your toes is a form of micro-trauma that accumulates as the distance increases and results in most of the injuries on the toes.

So because your toes put up with so much stress, how can you protect them better?

Focus on the fit

A proper shoe is vital to ensure that your toes and feet stay healthy. A bad shoe can cause blisters and even numbness of your toes. Ensure your toes have enough wiggle room when you purchase them. Ensure that the toe box is wide enough so that you can avoid problems like blisters, corns, calluses and bunions. Runners need special shoes that support their arches and allow for the feet to swell while running. If the front of your foot is wider then avoid generic shoes and go for the ones you will get in specialty stores where you are likely to find a better fit.

Maintain your shoes

Once you have found the perfect shoe it is important to maintain them. Most good running shoes last anywhere between 500-800 kms. But the deterioration of shoes starts at about 200 kms. If you are running in cold and wet weather, you shoes will last for lesser periods of time because on drying up the shoes might end up shrinking. If you run everyday then it is a good idea to replace your shoes more often or at least have multiple pairs that you use. If you find that your arch support has hardened then you need to replace your shoe immediately. Soles wear out depending on the type of surface your run on. Trail runners need to replace shoes more often than runners who use roads.

Invest in good non-running footwear

In order to protect your toes, it is important that you also invest into good non-running footwear. If you wear daily shoes that are tight on your toes then you will end up damaging your toes further. Dress shoes are generally narrow in fit at the toes, so its important that you buy them in the evening when your feet are already swollen. If you wear heels then you need to understand that your toes will get damaged from the constant arch your foot will maintain.

Socks can be of assistance

Fit is important for socks as it is for shoes. Wet socks and cotton socks are the worst choice to make for running. Acrylic socks are designed for runners and are form fitting so that your toes are better protected against blisters. Invest in multiple pairs of socks and try out various brands before deciding what works for you. Different weather conditions demand different types of socks so if you like to travel and run then ensure that you are carrying the right kind of socks.

Moisturize your feet

Remember to moisturize your feet everyday. Especially before a race and after a race. When you moisturize your feet before a run, its works as a lubricant and minimizes the friction and prevents blisters and scraps. Find one that suits your skin type. There is no generic rule that you need use petroleum or non-petroleum based products. If you have dry feet, moisturizing will prevent a lot of after run aches and pains. Ensure you use the right amount of moisturizer otherwise you will end up with sticky feet which can be very irritating when you are running.

Prevent athletes foot

Athletes foot is a fungal infection that causes itchy scaling, redness and blistering on your toes and feet. In order to prevent this ensure that your feet are dry, you use antiperspirants and wear open shoes when you are not running. See a doctor for anti-fungal medicine and ensure you keep you keep your foot dry and clean at all times.

Cool down after a run

Toes and feet swell after a run, so it would be good idea to soak your feet after a run to ensure that your feet feel better. You can use Epsom salts in cold water to reduce the swelling further. If your feet are still swollen the you need to lay down and put your feet up so that you prevent blood from pooling in your toes and feet. You can also use ice to bring down the swelling but don’t use ice for more than 15 minutes to prevent any damage caused by the ice.

You can also exercise your toes on non-running days with toe raises and toe grabs to help strengthen them. Enjoying your run comes with a lot of homework for your feet. Ensure that you do all these to ensure that your feet stay healthy for every run.



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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