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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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Common Mistakes New Marathoners Make

New marathoners (and sometimes even experienced ones) make these common mistakes while training for the big race, writes Nandini Reddy

Training for the big race requires dedication and consistency. Training hard and keeping the checklist on target is the way most new marathoners approach race day. But sometimes small mistakes can tumble plans for reaching goal timing or even the finish line. Check if you are making these errors that might be hampering your running.

Understand running intensity

You need to work in easy days and hard days into your training schedule. The easy days are supposed to be easy runs with slow pace and comfortable timing. You do not have to push your body on all days to achieve goal times. Consider this – on an easy day you can run a 5km training run in 45 mins as opposed to a harder training day where you run a 5km training run in 30 mins. This sort of training will help your body more than pushing unnecessary limits.

Assess your Race pace

You need to be aware of your pace before your race day. Following a race pace is very important and that is what will help you through your course. Race day excitement tends to make runners run a faster pace than they are used to and if you are unaware of what pace is right for you then you will end up tiring yourself out mid race or even cramping.

Don’t wear anything new

Every new race today gives you a T-shirt. It is a great souvenir to have to remember the race by but isn’t the best clothing to wear for race day. Using a well-worn T-shirt is more comfortable than experiencing burns because of rubbing from the new T-shirt. The same goes for shoes and socks. Shoes should never be new for a race and socks also should be ones you have run in paired with the same shoes you are running in for training.

Don’t start fast

With the loud excitement at the starting corral and announcers screaming out instructions, it is natural to have your adrenaline pumping before the start of the race. Letting this excitement create a situation where you race ahead the moment the flag drops might result in disaster. First clear away from the crowds and find  your pace. It is okay to let runners pass you in the first few minutes because you are not going to win the battle of the marathon by racing the first few kilometres.

No plan for race day

You need a pre-race plan. Most half marathoners fail their course because they don’t have a pre-race plan. They do not plan their ride to and from the course or don’t check ahead for parking zones. It is important that you arrive early enough to find a parking space and have time to find your corral. Setting up the race clothing and equipment the night before is a good idea. Use the bathroom, hydrate and get in-line early so that you are not rushing and stressing yourself out.

If these details can be ironed out then you do not have to worry about completing the race. In fact you will be all set to finish the race in goal time.

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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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.

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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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.

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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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.

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 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.

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 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.

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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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.

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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