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The Olympic task of Cross-Country Skiing

Cross Country Skiing is a sport that is given little attention in India, yet during the Winter Olympics 2018 we had an athlete who took up the challenge, writes Nandini Reddy.

Early this year one lone Indian qualified to participate in the Winter Olympics Cross-Country Skiing Event. Jagdish Singh competed in the Men’s 15km freestyle cross-country skiing event. Finishing in 43 minutes, Singh placed a 103rd but opened a lot of minds to the possibilities of the sport.

One of the founding sports of the Winter Olympic Games which originated in the Nordic nation, has two styles that are adopted by various athletes – classic and skating. Today cross-country skiing is considered one of the best full body workouts. While the sport hasn’t seen much patronage in India, it is a great one to consider if you are an avid endurance athlete.

The major benefits of this high endurance sport include:

  • Full body workout: Skiing combines both lower and upper body and requires you to constantly push and pull your muscles. You create movement to move through the terrain and you require every muscle to be actively involved in order to maintain balance and coordination.
  • High Calorie Burner: This is the only exercise format in which you can burn more than 1000 calories in an hour.
  • Functional training: The movements that are required to be made for cross country skiing improve the normal functionality of your body. This will help you gain more mobility during everyday work.
  • Endurance builder: It is an aerobic fitness exercise that boosts your endurance limits. Skiers are 40% fitter than the other physically fit individuals. The uniqueness to their fitness and endurance levels is because of the full body workout from the activity.
  • Relieves Stress: The entire sport is in the outdoors in beautiful terrain. The tranquility from watching the landscapes slip by as you navigate through the course is incomparable.
  • Cardiovascular health: Skiers hearts pump blood more efficiently owing to the nature of the workout. Many skiers have reported lower resting heart rates when they are training for cross country skiing events. The Olympians have reported a resting heart rate of 40, as compared to a normal individual whose heart rate would average around 65.
  • Faster Metabolism: Skiing improves your metabolic rate and thus help you burn more calories. Moving the whole body to move across the course increases the energy consumed and also quicken the metabolic rate of the body.
  • Low Impact activity: Since the exercise is more poised on balance, you are engaging your core and not over-stressing any one part of your body. Thus, it doesn’t hurt the joints and muscles.
  • Reduces Lactic Acid: During any strenuous physical activity lactic acid builds up in the muscles and can result in severe cramping. But cross-country skiing helps prep the body to take on strenuous exercise by reducing the lactic acid build-up in the muscles.

Lastly this is a great way to connect with nature and if you enjoy the outdoors then it’s a perfect sport for you to try.

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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HIIT – Is it right for you?

The newest darling of fitness enthusiasts, HIIT, is it beneficial or not for your fitness regime, asks Deepthi Velkur

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) a term that has been thrown around by fitness enthusiasts over the past few years. Essentially, it involves repetitions of short bursts of intense, ‘maximum effort’ exercise, like sprinting. The periods of burst activity last from anywhere between 20 to 40 seconds.

Why you should try HIIT?

As fit individuals, we all strive to be healthier and be fitter. When it comes to getting fitter, factors like cardiovascular ability, core strength and fat loss are crucial elements.

  • Cardiovascular ability refers to strength of your heart. It is very important for reaching and maximizing your fitness potential.
  • Core strength helps in having better balance, keeps the body aligned and helps to recover from injury faster.
  • Low body fat means you have peak performance in running, flexibility and agility.

Just doing cardio helps to achieve cardiovascular strengthening, fat loss as well as better core strength. But doing only cardio can lead to muscle loss. For those of you who have done cardio, it only gets repetitive and boring over time. The alternative to this is HIIT. It aids in bettering cardiovascular strengthening, assist in fat loss and bolster core strength without compromising muscle mass, and not taking up a lot of your time. For runners, cyclists, triathletes and other endurance athletes it is important to maintain muscle strength and mass as it supports them during long distance events.

How does HIIT build endurance?

If you want to build endurance in a short period of time, then you need to consider the following:

1) Heart rate (how many times your heart beats per minute)

2) Stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped per heartbeat)

3) Heart contractility (the forcefulness of each actual contraction of your heart muscle)

While the terms might sound a bit technical, these are the ones that determines your overall endurance. As each of these variables increase, your blood gets more oxygenated and your muscles also receive more oxygen. So, the heart is the primary component for building endurance through HIIT.

Sculpting your physique and increasing metabolic rate is a fabulous effect of internal training. By working out at your top level of exertion, you burn more calories in a short space of time than other workouts. Sound’s simple? Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as it sounds!

If you are an absolute beginner to exercising, then this high intensity method might not be suitable. You need to put in at least 3 weeks of proper training before graduating to interval training to avoid injury.

The Benefits

  • Increased Metabolism and Stamina
  • Time saver sessions – 3 sessions/week of 15-20 mins is sufficient.
  • Anywhere – HIIT sessions use your own body weight and hence can be done at any convenient place.
  • Preserves muscle mass and leads to an increase in cardiovascular efficiency as well as increased tolerance to the build-up of lactic acid.
  • Improved performance and endurance.

HIIT Routines

Designing the right interval training routine can be sophisticated or casual. Elite athletes can choose to visit sports performance labs to have blood lactate and exercise metabolism tests done to determine the best interval training routine. Remember that interval training is extremely demanding on the heart, lungs and muscles, and it’s important to have an OK from your physician before you start. It is recommended that you consult an athletic trainer, coach or personal trainer to get a HIIT program designed to meet your fitness goals.

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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Running in an Indian Summer

The biggest marathon races in India are scheduled during the autumn and winter season because the Indian summers can be draining, says Nandini Reddy. 

Summer a big dampener for marathon runners in India. The soaring temperatures play spoilsport for runners to train or run marathons during the summer season. High temperatures and humidity levels hurt running performance. But if you still do not want to completely give up on your training during the summers then there are a few precautions you need to take to ensure that you stay healthy as the temperature soars.

The one big advantage will be that if you train successfully during the summer, you will ace your autumn marathons.

Understanding Heat

Running in summer means you need to understand how your body is affected by the high temperature, humidity and exposure to the sun. The high temperature will raise your core temperature quickly and you will get exhausted faster. High humidity levels will prevent your body from cooling down faster because sweat doesn’t evapourate easily under humid conditions. Even if the weather is dry it is harmful because it will lead to dehydration. While these may sound a bit discouraging, one can overcome these issues by just running a it slower.

Risks of summer running

Running in summer comes with its own set of risks. Feeling nauseous and getting headaches is normal when you run in hot weather but aside from this there are a few serious conditions that you might have to be cautious about, such as

Dehydration

If you are feeling dizzy, fatigued or disoriented then you might be experiencing dehydration. The first symptom will be a dry mouth and a thirst you cannot quench. Ensure you always hydrate before a run and ensure you carry a bottle of water while you run. But if the symptoms persist then get inside and, rest and rehydrate.

Exhaustion

A high body core temperature of nearly 104F combined with dehydration is what causes exhaustion. Nausea and headaches are the first symptoms. If you feel any of these conditions then you need to stop immediately. Get out of the sun, cool your body and drink plenty of water and electrolytes.

Cramps

You loose fluids faster in summer and this can lead to muscle spasms. You may not feel anything while you run but are likely to experience cramps after your run. The idea of stay hydrated and replenish lost electrolytes and nutrients.

Stroke

The most serious medical condition you will encounter is the heat stroke. This is the condition after heat exhaustion and is coupled with symptoms of confusion, poor balance and clumsiness. You body core temperature would have crossed 105F in this case and an ice bath is essential. Seeking medical attention immediately is paramount.

How to train in Summer?

  • Try and run in shaded paths if you are running late mornings or early evenings
  • Do not try to best your timings as you need to train slower
  • Wear dri-fit clothes and lighter shades
  • Hydrate before you run and after you run. Carry a bottle of water if you are running longer than 60 mins.
  • Try and run at dawn which is the coolest time of the day
  • Understand your body’s effort during summer and do not focus on pace
  • Listen to your body and stop running if you are uncomfortable

Despite the disadvantages, running in summer will make you a more efficient runner. You learn to adapt to extreme conditions and you perform better in cooler weather.

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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Summer Running

As the temperature rises, its important for runners to learn to stay cool so that they can keep running during the hot summer months, writes Nandini Reddy.

Summer is a great time to run but it can also be a huge challenge. Sweating and hydration are the key factors most runners need to watch out for. Dehydration is a danger that runners in tropical climates need to watch out for. Walking in the sun might seem like a challenge if you live in coastal cities because the humidity spikes during the summer months. But if you do want to keep running and not loose your running grove then here are a few tips to help you run during summer.

Water, Water and more Water

You have to up your fluid intake during the summer months. You need to hydrate before you run, carry a bottle while you run and then hydrate again after you finish your run. The sweating might need you to replenish your body with electrolytes post the run. If you don’t like carrying water bottles then you can chart a circuitous route and keep a couple of bottles at different points.

Early mornings are best

This is the coolest time during summer. Even the evenings can be stuffy so the morning is the best time to run. Since the sun rises early, becoming a morning runner will not interfere with the rest of your day. You can also enjoy the outdoors without having to fight off the ill effects of heat.

Run in the shade

If you can find a path that is shaded with trees or near a water source, it would make for a great running course as a trail will be less hotter. If you can avoid running on a road you should because asphalt heats up fast. Find a park or a trail, or if you live near a beach then its the best place to run.

Wear thinner clothes

Cotton might seem better for the summer, but it won’t help while you run. Breathable synthetic athletic wear is a better choice to keep you cool while you run. Choose light colours and not dark ones that will absorb more heat. Reflective colours are the best as they will keep you cooler.

Cool Down well

After you finish you run, try to cool down with water and ice. You can also consider cooling your body before you start the run because it will help you improve your running performance. If you cool down before you run during summer, it takes longer for your core temperature to rise and thus helps in improving your running performance.

Sunscreen & Hats

Remember to wear hats and put on the sunscreen because it won’t make much sense to enjoy a run and not worry about sun damage. You can burnt if you are not careful and if you cover your head, you will feel less fatigued. Use visor hats that are made from breathable mesh rather than skull caps that will make you feel hotter.

You do not have to stay indoors just because its summer. If you choose the right time, right gear and drink water, summer can be a very enjoyable month for running.

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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Runners need Strong Arms

A strong upper body is as important as a powerful pair of legs for runners, says Nandini Reddy

When you think of running you do not worry about the strength of your upper body. You are more focused on your legs, knees, ankles and hips. Very rarely do you hear runners talking about their arms and shoulder strength. But in reality can you imagine running without using your arms? Have you tried running by sticking you arms to your sides and not moving them at all? It would be weird and uncomfortable. It is also a highly inefficient way to run. So if your arms are so important then shouldn’t you be taking care of them.

Deadlift for your upper body

Building a super strong upper body has to be a crucial part of your training as a runner. Have you noticed that when you legs get tired you tend to pump you arms more to finish that critical last mile. So its important that you develop you lateral muscles, pecs, shoulder and arms. You can include deadlift, push-ups, overhead presses and lateral rows in your weekly training sessions to strengthen your upper body. Remember that endurance runs tend to put pressure on your muscles and having strong muscles can help you immensely.

Improve your posture

An upright posture give you good running form. A stable and upright posture will improve your running performance as it has a direct positive impact on your endurance. Shoulders and lateral muscles play a big role in ensuring good posture.

Up your lung capacity

As you work your muscles better your lung capacity increases. Also during a hard run a strong upper body will not need as much oxygen to hold a good running form. When you have a stronger upper body your oxygen requirement reduces and that means you can run with more energy and possibly faster.

Improve Endurance

Building muscle endurance is the key to becoming a better runner. Getting the right stride length and number of strides is important. Often when runners are not strong on their upper body their form starts to flag mid run causing stress injuries and more pressure on the body to complete the run.

Strength training your upper body is as important and ensuring that you legs are in good running form. Don’t ignore it because it can be the one thing that determines how you progress as a 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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Hip health for Runners

Pain-free and healthy hips are a requirement for a smooth running experience, says Nandini Reddy.

When you love to run you will also have to deal with injuries. While avoiding an injury might seem ideal, we sometimes need to deal with the fact that certain injuries need more attention. Any injury, even if its a minor pain should be dealt with immediately more so if it is related to the hip.

Most runners have dealt with ankle and knee injuries, ligament pulls and tears and muscle strains but unlike most of these injuries the hip is critical. So if you feel pain in your hip during or after a run, you need to seek medical advice. This is one pain that should never be ignored and certainly don’t self medicate.

Understanding the Pain

There are a variety of causes why your hip can get hurt. First identify the point of pain and what the pain feels like (sharp, dull, deep, etc). This will determine the cause of the pain as well and you can also avoid hurting yourself again. A doctor will eliminate the guesswork so it is always better to consult one if you find yourself in pain.

Remember that stretching and running with a warmed-up body is one of the most basic ways to avoid injuries. Minor hip injuries can be treated with rest but if you ignore the initial pain and continue to run then you risk complicating the damage from the injury. The most common hip pain comes from overuse – that means you run too much. The overuse of your muscles can cause a burning or rubbing sensation on the outside of your hips. This is the first sign for you to take a break. The inflammation will come down in about a week and if you use a cold compress on your hips and rest, you should be good to go.

Complex Hips Injuries

Now all injuries cannot be resolved with ice packs and rest periods. Another major injury is strength imbalance. This occurs because almost everyone has one leg slightly longer than the other. This makes one leg stronger than the other. While that is totally normal and probably how nature intended it, it doesn’t help when you run long distances. Weird running conditions on trail runs and old injuries can aggravate this condition. So avoid hill runs or running on slopes sideways if you have this issue. es. It can also be the result of an old injury or weird running conditions. Try not to run sideways across hills. That’s a bit strange in general, but it’s also hard on your hips. If you suspect strength imbalance get a professional to evaluate you. You might need to change your exercise differently to ensure that both legs are equally strong.

If you hear a clicking sound or feel a catch in your hips when you run, then you most likely have torn a cartilage.This is a serious injury that needs a professional opinion and adequate rest. If left unattended then it might even require surgery.

If you notice a pain inside your hip then its mostly likely due to a stress fracture. Running on roads and hard surfaces is a major cause for stress fractures. If you don’t get it looked at it can lead to limping because the pain can be intense. It needs the same attention any fracture is given that means 6-8 weeks of rest. Don’t attempt other forms of exercise unless recommended by your doctor and even then try and do them under supervision of a coach or physical therapist.

What can you do to ease the pain?

Never walk it off. That is ill advice for hip injuries and should never be followed. Good posture is an important aspect of running. Try and keep you shoulders square and your chin up and maintain a proper and comfortable stride. This will eliminate a host of reasons why you could get injured.

While you are in recovery you can consider swimming. It is an amazing exercise to prevent stress injuries and also helps strengthen your muscles without putting pressure on your bones. If you are injured then you must see a professional. This is the fastest way to get fit again.

Taking a few days off won’t make you a bad runner. But having to give up running because of an ignored injury is an unpleasant situation to put yourself in. Hips are vital for your running and you need to give them the respect they deserve.

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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Recovery for Senior Runners

Senior runners often battle fatigue more often than their younger counterparts, so what kind of recovery can help, asks Nandini Reddy.

For any runner if the body is allowed ample rest and nutrition then it recovers more effectively. Older runners will experience greater damage to their muscles when they have finished a half or full marathon. The extended recovery time should be accounted for in the training itself.

The Rest Period

The rule of thumb for senior runners is 1 week of recovery for every 10k run. For a full marathon it is important to get a full 4 weeks of recovery with little or no strain on the body. The light recovery exercises can include stretches, body weight training and walking. If you have run a full or half marathon, try not to do any sort of exercise for the first week. After that you can start working on light exercises that utilize your body weight and are low intensity. After the recovery period is finished you can also consider adding weight training to ensure that your muscles are strengthened.

The Nutrition Factor

There can be no recovery without nutrition. In the early recovery phase, pay more attention to carbohydrates and proteins. These will help you recover faster as the glycogen is required for your muscles to rebuild and repair damage.

Sleep Factor

Sleep is an important recovery component and getting at least 6 hours of sleep is mandatory if you are in the recovery period. Your muscles have the maximum recovery while you sleep and your body recovery tends to slow down if you do not sleep well. So remember getting that shut eye might just be the one factor that you are missing in your recovery routine.

Use a Coach

Sometimes our ambition might get ahead of us so it is important to have a coach who can monitor progress and give suggestions of exercises and running schedules that are suitable for your age and body condition. Even if you have run world famous marathons, the idea is to re-adapt your training to your current body and age. So its important to have a coach or at least be part of group so that you get tips on recovery and training runs.

While these are broad guidelines to recovery for senior runners, you need to remember that you should always listen to your body. If you need more time than your running partner then take it. There is no wisdom in causing further damage because of inadequate recovery.

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 pregnancy

Is it advisable to run when you are carrying? Radhika Meganathan looks for the right answer to this important question.

Runners , especially passionate runners, do not like to be restricted from practising their favourite sport, but there comes a time when it may become necessary to at least tone down a bit, if not give it up temporarily. Injury is one reason for doing so. Another happier reason would be pregnancy.

When you are expecting, your body undergoes a lot of physical and hormonal changes, which may require you to alter your running schedule. But first of all, can you run at this time? Is it safe?

The answer is not black and white. It all depends on your body condition, your pregnancy scans and your doctor’s approval.

– If tests and scans reveal any issues with your pregnancy, you cannot run or do any kind of exercise during this time
– If you are healthy but not a runner, then it is generally not recommended to start running at this time. However, if you are keen to, you can do so under supervision.
– If you are healthy and already an experienced runner, then you can run
Dr Parimalam Ramanathan, Gynecologist at London Harley Street Women and Fertility Centre, Perungudi (www.lhschennai.com) says: “If the pregnant woman is already an experienced runner, then she can keep running, provided she follows some extra caution. Pregnant women are recommended at least 20-30 minutes of daily exercise. However, I wouldn’t recommend running as a daily activity for women in their last trimester, simply because it might give them more discomfort. Gait and balance becomes more difficult as girth increases, and the spine takes the weight of the growing baby, so it is best not to run when you are in the third trimester of your pregnancy.”

She explains further: “Sometimes, even in the first three months of pregnancy it may be a risk to do intense cardio; if the runner slips or falls, it might pose unnecessary stress on both the baby and the mother to be. Best to wait until and after delivery to start a new sport or fitness regime! Walking is gentler and safer during these months, especially if you have high blood pressure or gestational diabetes.”

Dr Parimalam encourages women who are actively trying to get pregnant, either naturally or through methods like IVF, to keep running. “In fact, a body made fit and supple through exercise is more prepared for the experience of pregnancy and delivery, so women who are trying to conceive can benefit from running as a cardio exercise,” she added.
Pregnant and want to run? Follow these steps:

1. If you are new to running, start gently. Warm up by stretching for 10 min, walk for 5 minutes, then jog slowly for 5 minutes, and cool down by walking for 5-10 minutes.
2. Even if you are an experienced runner, at this time, do not run in a new route. Stick to your familiar routes. If you are vacationing, it is okay to run in a new route as long as it is safe.
3. Avoid hilly terrains or routes with swift bends and turns. Parks are best during your pregnancy, as they have even ground and are crowded.
4. Avoid running in isolated areas. Run with a partner, as much as possible. Always carry a fully charged mobile with you.
5. Pregnant women overheat easily, so avoid running in hot or humid weather. Do not forget to take a water bottle with you. Keep sipping before, during and after your run.
6. Dress appropriately in loose, comfortable clothes. Pregnancy often results in swollen feet, so wear the right size shoes. Opt for adjustable sports bra that can accommodate your increasing breasts.
7. If you experience dizziness, pain or bleeding, stop immediately and seek help.

Running is a wonderful fitness activity and great to control stress, so enjoy your runs as along as you are comfortable.

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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When Does Running get Easier?

Running is an easy sport to get into but is incredibly demanding, so when will you fall in love with running, asks Nandini Reddy

Running is a rewarding cardiovascular activity that is easy to take up. That is a the reason that so many people give running a shot at least once in their lives. There are marathons scheduled, practically every weekend and each of them sees nearly 50% of new runners registering just so that they can also experience what their runner friends have been talking about. But many beginners become disenchanted very quickly because they feel running is a lot harder to do than they anticipated. We need to remember that like all physical activity, running is demanding and requires consistency. You are more likely to feel miserable in the first few weeks of running than experiencing running highs. What new runners also need to consider is that running highs do not happen all the time even for experienced runners, even they are likely to feel miserable after a run.

So how long does it really take before you feel good about running?

Each runner is unique and when running starts to feel good for you depends on the point your started. Here are a few question you need to answer first

  • Are you overweight and did you start running to lose weight?
  • How fit were you when you started running?
  • Did you have your doctor’s approval before you started running?
  • At what age did you start running?
  • How consistent have you been while running?

A relatively active person should be able to adapt to the rigor of running fairly quickly. A sedentary runner shouldn’t expect to become Mo Farah after 10 runs. If you are in your 20s or 30s and at a healthy weight then within 3 weeks you will find your running high based on the fact that you are consistent. If you are starting after your 40s you will take longer to adapt and you need more time to orient your body to the stress of running. Overweight runners will also need more time because there is more to lift and each strike puts more pressure on your knees and ankles.

So if you want to stick to running and get good at it, then you need to follow a few rules,

Be Realistic – Remember that you are starting a high impact exercise and your body needs time to adapt. As you train it will get easier. You also need time to run faster and cover more distance so give yourself the time you need to increase your strength and stamina.

Start Slow – Try and get a coach to give you a training plan. Digital coaches will also work, so you can start by following app based training programs. Try and include cross training into your routine so that your muscles will be better prepared to handle the strain of running. Try interval training methods like a run-walk routine to begin with.

Always Warm-up – Never run cold. You should always warm up before you start you run. This helps prevent injury and will also make it easier to run. Once your heart rate is elevated and your muscles are warmed up, you will feel more comfortable during your run.

Remember to Cool Down – Make it a habit to cool down. Stretch or walk to ensure that you muscles relax and the lactic acid that has built up, dissipates. It is also good for recovery and new runners should make it a habit to cool down irrespective of the the distance they have run.

Find an experienced partner – Tagging along with an experienced runner with give you motivation and incentive to stick to your training programme. You may not run as fast or as long as they can but you will get some very useful tips on pacing that will help you run more comfortably.

The idea is to be consistent and motivate to stick it out for the first few weeks that it takes to cross the threshold to become comfortable as a 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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