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Speed for Runners

Guest Columnist and runner, Anjana Mohan, talks about how you must consider building your running goals keeping in mind other facets of your life.

Chasing a time target presents fantastic opportunities to push oneself to new limits, train muscles to work hard and sustain mental effort. Improvements in speed offer immense satisfaction and accomplishment. It can become addictive and spawn a pursuit of personal bests (measured as timing). These self-evolutionary goals undoubtedly bring joy and benefits. However, I submit that the pursuit of speed is fundamentally competitive (even if it is only with oneself) and therefore poses great risks.

The simplest manifestation is the effect of both achievement and failure. The goal-driven nature of speed creates an obligatory ending once the target is achieved, or sometimes when it has failed. Continuity has to be artificially created. The endorphin high of success can only be sustained by setting new competitive goals, which will plateau over time to cause frustrations, or injury when ambition reaches past ability.

Culture of Speed

The culture of speed is ignorant of the unique nature of individual bodies, minds, and lives. We compete against others or the clock as absolutes. We consider performance in isolation rather than placing it in balance within the context of our daily lives, physiology, emotions, and efforts. We superficially correlate speed with mental fortitude disregarding many factors.

Even when a runner “competes with oneself” they are ultimately dialoguing with their own ego. Competition can bring out one’s best but also insidiously normalizes feeding and sustaining some vanity. This spiritual corrosion restrains runners from discovering their depth. The fastest runs lose the meditative beauty of time collapsing to yield to the aliveness and energy of every moment. Interval training is sweatily self-absorbed. Bob Marley said, “Some people feel the rain and some just get wet”. Running offers room for both and its best value is when it can be woven into the network of the various facets of your life.

Although both competition and goals can be set iteratively and repeatedly over the life of a leisure athlete, they are fragile and vulnerable to many fatal forces.  Running endures maturely when balanced to fold into a fitness strategy for one’s life. While speed may be a useful measure of how well you are pushing yourself, letting it dominate your running can destroy its own fundamental foundations. Consider balancing effort and pleasure. Redefine a new personal best “joy” within the changing context of your life.

Timings and medals are easy metrics. There aren’t easy ways to measure success by the criteria of whether or not a habit will sustain over a human lifetime. We are conditioned to seek bursts of brilliance or intermediate intensities (endorphins and dopamine). But long-distance running’s most powerful lesson is the opposite ‐ the slow, sustained spirit. Serotonin and oxytocin associated with falling in love can come from running, enjoying the trail and company. The meditative aliveness that becomes a part of your personality has more to offer your spiritual growth than any podium, PB time or prize. The seduction of speed should remain subservient to the enduring desire to keep on running.

*The views expressed herewith reflect her personal views and do not necessarily represent the views of any group*

GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Anjana started running in the U.S. in 2007 and has helped mentor many from the couch to half marathon. She is passionate about empowering women through running and now runs in Bangalore with Jayanagar Jaguars

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How to Choose a Running Coach

So what do you have to look for while shopping for a running coach? Radhika Meganathan demystifies the process.

You are excited because you’ve finally decided to up your game and hire a running coach. You have made inquiries at your gym, trawled through reviews online and on social media, and have also listed to recommendations from your friends /running buddies. And now, you have a name. Only, you are not sure how to know if they are the right one for you.

Fear not, we at the Finisher have compiled a template of questions just for you, that you can ask to your shortlisted choices before choosing one of them as your running coach.

BACKGROUND CHECK: What makes them great? What are their qualifications, credentials, accreditation? Are they still running? A non-running profile is not really an issue, a lot of retired athletes and runners offer terrific coaching, but you should be aware of where your coach currently stands in the sport, and whether they have relevance experience training for any specific marathon you are training for.

MODE / NATURE OF COACHING: Is it live, or virtual? If it is an online coaching option, would that work for you? What is your preference, and are you willing to go out of your comfort zone and experiment, or would that be too distracting? Are they willing to connect with you organically, and customise a plan just for you, or will they be selling a pre-packaged regimen to you?

FREQUENCY OF COACHING: Daily, weekly, fortnightly? What about breaks? What if you have to travel or forced to take days off from the coaching? Will they adjust to the changes in your schedule and redraft your training plan accordingly?

VENUE AND ACCESSIBILITY: Does the trainer come to your neighbourhood track, or do you have to go to him? If it’s the latter, do you have to spend on a long commute each time you meet with your coach? It can get surprisingly difficult to make use of a coach when their hours or location is not ideal for you, and if you have a busy lifestyle and cannot find the bandwidth to make it work.

COMMUNICATION STYLE: Did you have a chance to talk with them, either on phone or face to face? This step is important because first impressions are important. How does the person come across to you? Are they encouraging, positive, inspirational?

COACHING PHILOSHOPY: Ask them about their coaching MO, philosophy and ethics. How does it strike you? What do they think of their own coaching, and how do they articulate their ideas and plans for you, and for the sport in general. Do you see yourself being led by them for the next few months, years?

COST OF COACHING: How does the coaching cost? Is it an amount that you can comfortably afford for at least the coming two years? Is the coach clear on what training will be included with the rates? Is it all done with a proper binding contract?

After all the questions given above, comes the most important step: ask for references. A reference who is not your friend (or theirs!) can give you far more objective information. Do the references highlight and demonstrate the magic that you need, from the coach? Is your coach completely aligned to what your specific goals and talents are, and can they be focused enough to get from amateur to amazing?

No matter how highly the coach comes recommended to you, make an effort to talk to their past and current clients, mentees and trainees, and drop in for a trial session before committing to a contract. This will help you in taking a real time decision without blindly relying on your guts or a glowing reference.

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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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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Meet Anjali Saraogi

Capt Seshadri speaks to Anjali Saraogi, the youngest Indian woman to complete the oldest marathon in the world

“Women usually undermine themselves. In my opinion, our fears are our greatest limitations. And we should spend more time living with our dreams than our fears.”

A teenaged girl, on the corner of adulthood at age 18, persuaded her mother to participate in a local marathon. The reluctant mother, who felt that she was too old for any kind of strenuous physical activity, let alone run 42 km, finally conceded and, to the surprise of all, finished first. And so began a career in long distance running for Anjali Saraogi, now aged 43 who, with just two years’ running behind her, has set records for herself and become a model for aspiring young runners to follow. At an age when most runners would be hanging their boots on a peg, this wonder woman was firmly tying up her laces.

As a kid, the plump young Anjali did not appear to be running material. While her initiation into running dispelled all her inhibitions and insecurities, the result was a shattering of records. A win at Delhi and a podium finish at the Mumbai Marathons were but baby steps to her astonishing achievements on the world scene. A temporary setback occurred when she was injured while preparing for the Chicago Marathon. Her doctors said: “you will never run again”. A dear friend gifted her a book by Amit Seth titled ‘Dare to Run’. This was to change Anjali’s running mindset forever. Amit, incidentally, was the first Indian to complete the Comrades Marathon, possibly the world’s most gruelling run, in 2009. Quite naturally, there was serious concern about her wellbeing from her husband and her father, but her determination and consistency won their admiration and support.

42.2 km was but a small start for this amazing athlete. All of 43 years, Anjali put everyone’s apprehensions behind as she toiled to complete the 89 km Comrades Marathon, the world’s oldest annual ultra-marathon that is run between Durban and Pietermaritzburg in South Africa; the ultimate dream of every marathoner. For her stupendous effort, as the first Indian woman to have achieved this feat, she won the Bill Rowden medal. Her next goal is to improve on her timing and finish the downhill race in the next Comrades Marathon and even to get her daughter to run with her.

The run of Comrades

It was race day 2017 at the Comrades. Anjali had set herself a target of 8:30. On that morning, even as early as 5.30, it was a warm day, with most of the runners being South Africans. By 11 am, with no shade and little breeze and with water points located only every 2.5 km, dehydration began setting in. 70 km done and still 12 to 13 minutes to go before the next water point, Anjali was on the verge of collapse, knowing that only a miracle could come to her aid.

And then it happened. A South African runner, probably as exhausted as she, was running alongside, with a water sachet in hand. He saw her eyes locked on the sachet, and despite his own dire need, passed it on to her to share the life reviving water. A little sporting gesture which, at that moment, transcended every border of nationality, race or gender. Comrades indeed! At 2:08 in the sweltering afternoon, Anjali crossed the finish line in a time of 8:38:23. In an interview, she states: “Mentally embracing that pain before the start is the toughest moment for me. Running the race is easy. The physicality of it has been taken care of in my gruelling training sessions — it’s the psychological aspect of it that really needs to be addressed.”

Anjali draws from her experience to advise other runners. She exhorts them to have belief in their abilities and faith in training. Pushing one’s body to the limits, she says, is paramount, but it must be supplemented with a respect for recovery and sensible nutrition and hydration. Age is never a limiting factor; confidence and faith are what matters. The need for an athletic body to run  successfully, she says, is a myth. In her words, patience, training and focus towards achieving one’s goals are all that are needed.

At Comrades, Anjali Saraogi holds the second best timing among all Indians till date.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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