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Your first marathon

If you started this year with a resolution to run your first marathon then here is a plan on how you can get off the couch and reach the finish line, writes Nandini Reddy

With so many friends around you running marathons, it is quite natural that you would also be bitten by the bug to run your first marathon. To begin with let us start with a half marathon and work towards finishing the 21 km mark before heading off to the 42 km chequered flag.

So how from the point you get off your couch to the crossing the finish line you wonder? Well if you train and eat in a committed fashion then you should be able to run your first half marathon in 14 weeks. It doesn’t really matter if you are new to running or you are coming back after a long break, if you have the will to stick to a training programme then you will be race-ready within a few weeks.

Getting started

Firstly, try and work out a realistic plan. You can schedule yourself to running for 4 days a week. You can start by walking first and then slowly graduate to jogging, interval training and then full-fledged running. The idea is to ease your body and mind into a training schedule that will keep you happy and not too fatigued. The idea is to build your endurance in the first 4 weeks and over-stress your body. The run/walk strategy is totally acceptable in the first few weeks. Don’t beat yourself up. Get into the mindset that you are here to finish the race and not compete for a goal time. It is your first marathon so finishing a race is vital.

Training Plans

The key to any good training is to mix-up your workouts and ensure that you stay interested and the schedule doesn’t become monotonous. You can add some strength training and cross-training also to help develop your muscles. Here are a few suggestions :

Run/Walk: This is a form of interval training where you run for 1 minute and walk for another minute. This will help you run longer. As you progress you can decrease the walking interval timing and increase the running interval timing.

Brisk Walks: In the beginning of your training programme keep a day for just brisk walking. This helps improve your fitness levels. It also boosts confidence because you won’t feel out of breath during these training days.

Cross-Training: It is vital to impact two days of cross-training. You can choose between cycling, swimming , yoga or martial arts. The idea is to build your muscles and prevent injuries from excessive stress on your body due to running. You can add body weight training to your routine as well with squats, lunges, push-ups, planks and dead-lifts.

Tempo Runs: These runs are important to build your speed. You should run these at a harder pace than normal. The idea is to push your pace a bit higher than last week. When you do your tempo runs, start off at a comfortable pace, then build up to a higher pace and then cool down with a kilometre of a running at a slow pace.

Sample Plan

Here is a suggested sample plan on how you can build up your distances for running every week.

Week 1: Try the run/walk – 3 kms

Week 2: Run/Walk – 3 kms with the addition of Cross Training

Week 3: Run/Walk or Brisk Walk – 5 kms with the addition of Body weight training

Week 4: Tempo Run – 3 – 5 kms

Week 5: Tempo Run 5- 8 kms with a 40 min Cross Training session once a week

Week 6: Tempo Run 5- 8 kms with 30 min body weight training session once a week

Week 7: Run/Walk or Brisk walk – 8 kms and Tempo Run – 5 Kms with 40 mins of Cross training/ week

Week 8: Run/Walk – 12 kms and Tempo Run – 8 kms with 40 mins of body weight training/week

Week 9: Tempo Run – 15 kms with 45 minutes of Cross Training/ week

Week 10: Tempo Run – 15 kms with 45 minutes of body weight training/ week

Week 11: Tempo Run – 16 kms and Run/ Walk – 18 kms

Week 12: Cross Training – 45 minutes and Run/Walk – 18 kms

Week 13: Tempo Run – 20 kms with 45 minutes of body weight training

Week 14: Tempo Run – 20 kms with 45 minutes of Cross Training

The training plans every week will have to include 2 days of rest.

This is just a suggestion on what you can follow. But remember that you need to listen to your body. If something hurts and doesn’t feel right you need to learn to stop, see a doctor or a coach. The idea is to train to make your body feel better and not worse.

Enjoy your training runs and look forward to the exhilaration of crossing the finish line.

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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Take a Hiatus from Running

Taking a hiatus from running can seem tough but it might be the best thing you can do for yourself, writes Nandini Reddy. 

Runners tend to get consumed by their passion. The frustration from not reaching peak performance can cause a runner to train in an extreme manner that might lead to injury. Instead if you ever feel that you are slipping then it might make more sense to take a break from running. While this suggestion might sound counter-intuitive to a runner in training, it is probably the best thing you can do for yourself.

Here are a few reasons why you should consider taking a break from running.

When should you take a break? – Once racing season is done, plan at least a 4 week break. Your body needs to rest from the constant pounding it has received during the marathons. Also there is less guilt about missing a big race. Pick you racing season for the year and once it wraps up, ensure that you put away your running shoes. It is also a good idea to take a break when running becomes too monotonous for you. Running without enthusiasm won’t lift your spirits and the break will do more good for your mood than running would at that time.

How long should your hiatus last? – Remember that muscles tend to recover during the break period. You can stay fit by doing other activities like strength training and yoga which are beneficial to build muscle strength. Ensure you take a minimum of 4 weeks off. You can extend this to more if required but don’t reduce the amount to lesser than 3 weeks if you want to enjoy the full benefits of recovery.

Most runners feel that a break from training means they will run lesser miles or that it will affect their pace. But in reality a run after a period of recovery is stronger than one where there is no proper recovery for the body. A few of the benefits of taking a hiatus include:

  1. Injuries can be dealt with and given the right amount of rest and treatment
  2. It can cure a runners burnout
  3. Mentally you will be recharged and more excited to run again
  4. It will help you refocus your goals.
  5. Work out a training plan based on experience and with a clear mind

Once you are back in training, don’t stress on pace and mileage immediately. Build up to it and you will notice that you can reach your goals faster and with less fatigue.

By no means am I suggesting that taking a break would be a joyful experience for a runner, but if you want to keep running strong for many years then it is inevitable. When you take a break you come back with a stronger performance, a more fit body and higher enthusiasm.

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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How to Train with a Running Buddy

Radhika Meganathan explores the benefits and ways of training with another runner.

Running is often thought to be a solitary activity that many miss the possibility of running as a couple. The benefits of running with a buddy are many:

  • You are accountable. Or in plain words, you are less inclined to slack off! Because you know someone else is now counting on you showing up and doing your best.
  • It is more fun! In the absence of a trainer, running with a buddy alleviates boredom and may pass the time better with some conversation.
  • In case your training schedule requires you to run outside day light hours or in less-populated areas, it is safer to run with a buddy.
  • It can be more economical if you train together, as you can split the expenses of a personal trainer, if you decide to have the same one.
  • If you are training with a relative, like a sibling or spouse, training together as running partners will bring you closer and give you regular opportunity to bond well.

Like all successful relationships, training in tandem requires proper communication, care and compromise. If you have found the right running buddy, here are ways you can go about doing it:

  1. Make sure you both have ‘The Talk’. If you show up with the latest hits of Enya plugged into your earlobes and your running partner that day was in desperate need for some motivating conversation, both of you may be in for some disappointment and frustration. When you are going to spend a couple of hours together every day, or at least every other day, it is best to discuss about your likes, dislikes and running quirks well ahead of time.
  2. Be ready to make compromises. For example, if you do like to listen to music when running, then you might want to rethink your plan of running with a buddy! But if you really like running with a partner and prefer its pros over it cons, then something’s got to give. It is necessary to make adjustments in your expectations and schedule without resentment, in order to fit your new training schedule in your life; chances are the other person also is doing the same, for the pleasure of having you as their training partner.
  3. Do not compete! It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking your running buddy for a competitor, but our advice is to not make your partnership a “Who’s the best” competition. Healthy rivalry is okay, but not outright disrespect. You both are running buddies, so don’t sprint ahead and leave your partner behind, unless you are doing a tempo run, where it’s okay to run faster in the tempo portion.
  4. Be more understanding. Just as in any relationship, you need to sometimes give more than the other person. Do not be scared of training with someone who is less fit or less accomplished than you. Sometimes your training buddy might have some personal or professional issue that has made them slip one more sessions. Talk to them, instead of getting angry or losing hope in them. This is exactly when they may need your faith and belief in them. And when it’s their turn, they will repay the same help, in spades.
  5. Be there for them outside training. Keep track of your buddy’s important milestones and cheer for them on important running-related events like a trial run, separate fitness goal or even the actual race day. As their running partner, you are uniquely qualified in knowing what their pluses and minuses are, so it may be a great boost for your running partner if you show up on their special day.

Running buddies do so much more than improving running performance. They keep your spirits high even when you want to give up. Acknowledge it, respect it and keep 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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Before the Goal Marathon

You have trained for your goal marathon, now how about running a dress rehearsal of what you can expect during the big race, asks Nandini Reddy

You have followed the training plan. You have eaten right. All the gear you need for race day is set. You have broken in your shoes and completed training runs that have set your pace. After you have been through this disciplined process, how about running a mock run to ensure that you are really prepared for the big day?

Explore the Course

If the race is in the same city that you live in then try and take a walk or a slow jog along the course. You can familiarize yourself with all the areas that might need a little more effort to complete. You can also note how you need to distribute your energy and effort. Try and run hard on a few stretches to really understand the strain you might be under on the course. Once your body is familiar with the course it will be easier for you to run the course.

Stay with the familiar

If you have been fueling your runs with a particular brand of energy bars or sports drinks then you will need to stick to the same ones during your race. Your body has adapted to these fuel foods and changing them might cause discomfort rather than help you. Remember to carry these along in your running belt during your mock run so that you can get used to the weight of belt. The idea is to decide what will help you run better so instead of loading up things on the main day, you might as well see how much you really need during your mock race day.

Get the right gear

Gear check is the most important one for any runner. Your shoes need to be comfortable from start to finish of the race. All the wearable gear like your watch, water bottle, phone holder and runners belt should not chaff your skin during the run. Clothes have to be breathable and it is important that you do not feel any discomfort while running in them. If you are wearing a sports bra then include it during your mock run and even your earlier training sessions to check for comfort. Do not try new and fresh gear on the big race day.

The idea is to reach your full potential on the big race day so it is important that you understand all the factors that might affect your run. On race day you can now just lace up and present your best self at your goal marathon.

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 after Having a Baby

Getting back to running post-partum is more about head space than physical ability, so how do you get back? Nandini Reddy has a few suggestions. 

After the marathon of being pregnant for 9 months and dealing with a new born, it is hard to find the head space to get back on a running schedule. Once you have recovered physically, you need to also find balance in your head. The journey of post-partum exercise can be a tough one. But if you have the right approach then you can get back to your running schedules faster.

The first thing you need to do is wait for six to eight weeks and then get your doctor’s clearance before you begin your exercise routine.

Body Image

Pregnancy changes your body drastically. Six to eight weeks after the delivery, when your doctor clears you for exercise – ensure that you discuss your goals with your doctor to understand your limits. Respect your body and remember that if you have been a active person before and during your pregnancy – getting back will not be a problem. Pregnancy and labour pushes your body to the extreme – emotionally, mentally and physically. Be mindful of the changes and work with a coach who is aware of this.

Involve your baby

The baby is always a priority in your life. So why not get them involved? You have yoga sessions which have mom and baby sessions. Use a stroller during your run. The added effort to push the stroller along will give you the extra resistance you need. This allows you to keep an eye on your baby and work in interval training routines or even strength training routines along with your runs.

Be flexible on time

Time is a luxury for every mother who is caring for an infant. If you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby you need to create a workout plan that takes into consideration the feeding schedule. There might even be instances where you need to feed your child mid workout or run. Don’t let that bother you too much. Prepare yourself mentally for these breaks and you will be able to achieve your fitness goals and be a good mom.

Rediscover your pace

When you start to run again after your pregnancy, you will probably find yourself putting in more effort and your pace might not be the same. It will feel like your starting all over again. You need not get into marathon’s immediately but you should train with that mindset. Work on increasing your pace and distance every week and you should be back to your pre-pregnancy running pace very quickly.

Work on your core

Your core muscles will weaken during your pregnancy. It is important to concentrate on them, otherwise you will have a future injury in your lower back, legs or hip flexors. Core strength training is extremely important. Try and work with a trainer who will be able to give you the right kind of exercises to strengthen your core. The abdominal wall needs to heal and you need to work on your breathing as well to tighten the core.

Fatigue is a given

Everything about your running style might change after the delivery. Your strides, your muscle strength and even your stamina. Even runners who have run during their pregnancy face these issues. Be cautious and work towards increasing your pace and distance slowly. You will feel fatigued. Ligaments will be more stressed as they also get expanded during the course of the pregnancy. So it is important to understand this and accept that fatigue will be a part of your training to get back.

Pick the right set of exercises

High impact exercises are not a good choice to begin with right after delivery. Running with intensity can also cause your pelvic region to weaken. The pelvic muscles are the weakest after a pregnancy and it is important to strengthen them the right way. Pay attention to this and focus your strengthening exercises on this.

The amount of trouble might seem overwhelming in the beginning. Easing back into exercise takes time and you need to give your body the respect it deserves. Find your rhythm and routine and the new you will find a way to adjust itself to a whole new exercise format.

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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How much should you run?

As a runner you need to decide how much you want to run everyday, so whether its a 10k, half or full marathon, here are a few things to remember, writes Nandini Reddy

Every runner wants to achieve his full potential but sometimes over-enthusiasm can lead to running the extra kilometre which will cause injury. So how do you decide when you have reached the optimum distance that is good for you and how do you grow on these distance challenges? Here are a few suggestions of how you can achieve your potential.

Set the goals

The first thing that you need to do is to set goals for your training. If you don’t have a coach and you need assistance then try a running app. When you plan your goals you would need to consider the following:

  1. What distance do you want to achieve?
  2. Your goal – finish a race or finish in a particular time
  3. Number of times a week that you can run
  4. Time you have to train before your big race

Once these are set, its time to set-up your training. That implies that you need to follow a few basic rules to stay injury free and also complete your goals.

Performance Goals

You need to be clear whether you want to achieve a particular performance goal or just finish a race. If you are planning to just finish a race then it really doesn’t matter how many kilometres you run before a race. If you plan to finish at a particular time then you training runs need to include this factor. So if you trying to run a 10k marathon with an aim to achieve sub 60 min timing then you need to do practice runs of at least 7-8kms that are sub 60 mins so that on race day you can achieve your goal.

Quality of the Run

The weekly runs should not be so stressful that you drive yourself to fatigue. If you do that then you are likely to find it difficult to recover. You can even try to include interval training runs so that you can improve your run quality and stamina. If you are training with a coach then try and also bring in some strength training so that your muscles are better equipped to take the stress of the run.

Right Pace

As you keep running you will find your most comfortable pace. You can hold on to this pace if you aren’t too stringent about timing. But if you want to work on timing then the pace needs to be worked on by slowly increasing it during your weekly training runs. If you are slow it doesn’t mean you are a bad runner. Most Ultra-runners take 4-5 hours to finish their races and they have a leisure pace. These runners may not increase their pace if they are asked to run a 5k or 10k because to them, the comfort of the pace is more important than distance. You just need to find your pace and stick to it.

Small Improvements

If you want to advance your distance or pace then you need to do it with caution. Give your body the time to adapt to achieve an increase in pace and distance. If you run 3 times in a week then initially increase your pace during one of these runs. Once you have adapted to the new distance you can even add more running days.

Remember that a healthy runner will finish a race so instead of driving yourself to injury, be smart about how you increase your distance and improve your pace.

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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How to Run Again after an Injury

Five things to keep mind when you start running after a break, by Radhika Meganathan

Nothing distresses a runner more than a forced break, especially if it involves long periods of pain and boredom. And returning back to running after a break is tough to say the least, because you are aware of all the lost progress and mileage. While it may well be a tough and exasperating journey, it is entirely possible to return back to your former glory, provided you are aware of the following:

1.Before you return to the track: Make sure you strength train and improve your flexibility during the time between your recuperation and your actual return. Cross training during recuperation works in two ways – it helps in burning calories and maintaining minimum cardiovascular fitness. Work on your core, hamstrings, calf muscles and glutes as you wait for the day where you can experience runner’s high again.

2.Return only after clearance: There are four variables that affect your return to running after an Injury:

  • The type of your injury
  • The severity of your injury
  • The time you took off, to recuperate
  • The quality of the treatment of your injury (and how well you adhered to it!)

As you can see, it takes more than mere desire to return back to running; you actually need to be at the right point  to be able to make it. There’s nothing worse than returning too early to practice, after an injury, because doing so will only set the path for more pain and loss. You MUST start your running routine only after explicit clearance from your medical professional

3.Get an expert’s opinion: As soon as you get your doctor’s clearance, should you head straight to the gym? No! If you are a serious runner (or if you had anything above a mild injury) you should ask for a physiotherapist’s opinion on what exercises to do during your time off. Use this break to focus on your weaknesses.

4.Don’t look at stats now: Runners are proud – rightfully so! – of their stats like mileage, speed and pacing. But when you are back from an injury, you have to temporarily forget these words. Do not aim for too much, too soon. A run/walk schedule at the beginning of your return week will gradually ease you into re-training after the injury.

5.Obey the rules: All your preparation will come to naught if you do not adhere to caution and rules as you start running again after an injury. The first few days of your return plan should simply aim to create consistency, assess any existing pain, and get your legs re-introduced to running. Here is a recommended ‘Return to Running’ plan:

  • 1st week of return: 30 to 50% of your normal mileage
  • 2nd week of return: 40 to 60% of your normal mileage
  • 3rd week of return: 80% of your normal mileage
  • 4th week of return: Your normal mileage. You can add in more challenging runs under supervision.

If you feel discomfort or pain at any point during the return week or first month, immediately stop and seek a consultation with either your trainer or the medical professional associated with your injury.

To be able to run even a mile after an injury is something to feel joy about, so look at the glass as half full, rather than feeling down about all the hard work ahead. More than anything, it’s the right attitude that will empower you to re-start the journey back to your old mileage.

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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How to avoid Running Injuries

Injury doing any form of exercise is a possibility but with the right form,  consistent training and the right equipment can help prevent common running injuries, says Nandini Reddy. 

Running injuries generally tend to happen when you push yourself beyond your limits in an unsafe manner. It is always good to test your boundaries and increase your endurance limits but that should also be done with an understanding of what harm you can do to yourself if it is not done under proper guidance.

Some of the most common running injuries are Runner’s Knee, Stress Fracture, Shin splint, Achilles tendinitis, Muscle Pull, Sprains, Blisters and temperature related injuries. Here are a few things that you can do to avoid these injuries

Warm up

You should always start you run with a warm body in order to prevent injury. Warm up the body by walking or skipping or doing jumping jacks. After your body is a bit warm then start your stretches. Stretch your muscles especially focusing on the muscles in your legs and back.

Be aware and safe

When you are running be aware of your surrounding. Choose a flat surface to run on and avoid steep hills. Try and stay in well-lit areas and keep your cell-phone handy for emergencies.

Stay hydrated

Drink water before you start running. If you are running in humid climates then you might want to carry a bottle with you. After the run hydrate again. You can even add electrolytes to your post-run nutrition. This will help replenish the nutrients you have lost because of sweat.

Ice Treatment

Ice provides relief from sore muscles. So if you feel soreness for more than a day after your run then do a cold compressed treatment until it settles. Most initial injury treatments for sprains and soreness requires ice. If the pain doesn’t go away after this then it is best to consult with your coach or doctor to ascertain if its a more serious injury.

Prep your gear

Always test new shoes before going on long runs. Wear double layer socks and use bandages to prevent shoe bites if you doing a dry run with new shoes. Break them in slowly so that you can avoid getting blisters. If you are prone to getting blisters because of your shoes then apply petroleum jelly on those areas. If you are running with bottle carriers, sunglasses and hats, remember to do short runs with them to test for comfort and to ensure you do not blister at those areas. Do not try on new gear on the day of a big run.

Dress appropriately

It is important to wear the right clothes when you are running. The clothes should let you sweat easily and should also be made of material that isn’t harsh on your skin. These will help in reducing temperature related injuries like overheating. If you are running in hot weather ensure you are protected against sunburn and similarly in a cold climate dress to protect against hypothermia. If you have thigh burns then wear a pair of cycling tights below your shorts for comfort.

Listen to your body

It is very important to listen to your body. All runners experience a bit of soreness. As long as it subsides its okay. But if you feel like you are in constant pain that is preventing you from running itself then it is important to consult a doctor to ascertain the extent of your injury.

Rest, recovery, strength training and nutrition form the main pillars on which running injuries can be avoided so try you best to ensure that you have a schedule that takes care of your body while you enjoy your 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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From Marathon to Triathlon

The first recorded triathlon was held in California on September 1974. Since then, it has become a popular sporting challenge around the world. Radhika Meganathan tells how a runner can seamlessly transition into training for a triathlon.

A Triathlon is about mastering three races in one event – running, swimming and cycling. The standard distance in triathlon, also used in the Olympics, is a 1500 metre swim, 40 kilometre bike, and 10 kilometre run. If you are already a runner looking to train for a triathlon, you will have the following questions: How do I train? Where do I start first? What if I don’t know how to swim or bike? Read on for answers.

SWIMMING
If you don’t know swimming, your training period for the triathlon just got longer. No worries, you got this. Many people have learned swimming late in their life and have mastered it as a skill and as a sport, so there is no reason why you can’t, too. Since you are going to be training in a professional level, don’t ask for lessons from your best friend! It is advisable to learn swimming from a coach or a registered swimming school in your locality. You need someone to look at your progress, and give you feedback on your form and the correct stroke mechanics.

If you are already a swimmer, now is the time to start practising in open water. Some things that you need to take in consideration are: wave condition, weather, navigation, water temperature, any wild life in the vicinity (and the water!). A wet suit is a good investment if you tend to feel the cold more, though of course you can rent them on a need basis too. If you’re doubtful about swimming in open water, then your best bet is to compete in a race that offers a pool swim. These races are beginner-friendly, and can be a perfect starter practice before you think about doing wilder triathlons.

CYCLING
Again, if you are not familiar with cycling, your training period gets even longer, but definitely it’s doable. In this case, you can ask your best friend to teach you how to cycle. Once you master the basics of balance and riding a bike, just hop on one (you don’t need to invest in a fancy bike) and practice every day. Since speed is one of the goals, you will need a helmet for safety and protection (yours and others!). Buy one that’s structurally sound and fits properly in your head.

Often, runners have difficulty adapting to the equipment of cycling. The inclination to “run” on the bike must be cured! You don’t want to wear out your legs before you get to the running part of the triathlon. The secret is to learn the art of using one set of muscles on the bike and another set for your running.

RUNNING
Yes, this is the part of the triathlon that you already are familiar with. Don’t get over confident though, you still need to practice! Run every day as per your usual routine. Three weeks to a month before D-Day, have dress rehearsals which will help you understand how Race Day is going to be. During the race simulation, concentrate on your pacing strategies and wear the entire gear what you plan to wear for the actual event.

A triathlon is comprised of all aerobic and high-cardio activities, so you may also look into eating the right way to train for it. Diet is crucial in maintaining your fitness while training and during the race, so consult your trainer or a nutritionist.

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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