Motivation Comments Off on When running becomes your life |

When running becomes your life

In conversation with Shiv Shankar Kosgi, an operations manager and coach with the Hyderabad Runners Society and an injury-free runner, as Deepthi Velkur discovers.

Shiv Shankar Kosgi prides himself on being an injury-free runner despite being on the road for more than 6 years now. An operations manager and a coach with the Hyderabad Runners Society (HRC) by profession, Shiv has also competed in prestigious runs across the country such as the TMM, AHM, ADHM to name a few. He enjoys his running, focuses on staying injury-free and his immediate goal is competing in the stunning Comrades Marathon 2019.

I had a chance to catch up with Shiv and listen to his story.

FM: How did you take to running? Why?

Shiv: Back in 2008, I started going to the gym to lose weight and to stay generally fit. I moved to Hyderabad from Pune in 2012. At that point, I suddenly had a fascination for running and a friend of mine Steve Nipps introduced me to the Hyderabad Runners. I ran my first half marathon that year and felt elated at the end of the run – I have not looked back ever since. Over time, I started scaling up to longer distances and I have always enjoyed running because for me it is not just about fitness or weight-loss, it gave me much more – it gave me an identity.

FM: Apart from being an avid marathoner, your inclination has always been towards understanding the science behind running and its effects on the human body? How did this interest come about?

Shiv: From the moment I picked up running, it has turned into my passion and that passion for running became my profession eventually. When I noticed the change and the positive impact it had on my physical appearance, mental fitness and the lifestyle change it had brought about, it really fascinated me to explore more about the scientific methods and my approach to training.

FM: There has been a sudden shift in people wanting to stay fit and have especially taken to running? How and why do you think is the reason behind this shift from when you started running in 2012?

Shiv: It’s really great to see a sudden shift in people wanting to lead a healthier lifestyle and the fact that humans are meant to move around and stay active rather than just sit and do a desk job. People have picked up running as a preferred form of fitness activity for various reasons as it is considered to be quite economical for everyone, an activity that can be performed individually, the euphoric feeling you get after every run, helps lose or maintain weight, a sharp mind even as you age, reduces your risk of cancer and finally running adds years to your life.

FM: You have been a coach for the Hyderabad Runners since 2014? How do you go about with your training?

Shiv: I strongly believe in discipline, determination, and dedication in terms of training, because long distance running is an endurance sport and to sustain yourself and be better each day you should follow a systematic training plan and set appropriate goals. Endurance sport is very demanding & taxing on the body. Hence one should give equal importance for recovery and nutrition and always listen to your body signals and never do too much too soon.

FM: What is your strategy to keep runners motivated and be consistent with their training?

Shiv: I have a very simple strategy – connect with trainees regularly, speak about progress and performance, correct them where necessary and make training fun for them.

FM: How do you train your runners to stay injury-free?

Shiv: As I strongly believe in a scientific training approach my recommendation is to always – set a realistic goal, put a training plan in place, follow the training plan, maintain a training log, measure performance at regular intervals, slow down and rest, give nutrition equal importance and do strength training twice a week. Follow this and you will be injury free.

FM: How have you been able to manage coaching as well as the other functions of the running club as an operations manager?

Shiv: Well it was a complete shift of career from an IT job to sports management. Hyderabad runner society (HRS) is mostly driven by volunteers and is a Non-Profit Society. I was the first full-time employee to join HRS when the trend of running was just picking up in India. As an Operations Manager, my job role was not just about coaching but included planning and conducting training programs for runners across various locations by hiring professional athletic trainers. Simultaneously, I manage the yearly events calendar in the planning and execution of events and training runs from end to end.

FM: How do you see Hyderabad runner’s society growing in the coming years?

Shiv: Hyderabad Runners Society is the first running club in India which is registered as a non-profit society and is institutionalized. Today, there are more than 6000 members on google groups and 20K plus followers on social media. Hyderabad Runners have really helped and inspired thousands of people in transforming their lives and following a healthier lifestyle. It has been a great platform for people in many ways, as it has made a positive impact on the residential communities, corporates, institutions, NGO’s etc.

In the past 5 years, the number of runners and running groups has grown dramatically – today there are more than 25 sub-groups within the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad and has runners of all age groups and all walks of life. As the trend of fitness grows globally, we will witness a growth in the number of runners and running groups as this will, directly and indirectly, have a positive impact in the society in various ways.

FM: DrPhil Maffetone was the Event Ambassador for the 2016 Hyderabad Marathon. Do you encourage your trainees to follow the Maffetone method of training? If yes, why?

 Shiv: In the current day and age, we have various methods of training to choose from, have access to training coaches and training plans. Even before we discovered Maffetone method of training, we had a mentor and coach Mr Bill Pierce, the Chairperson of Health Sciences department at Furman University, South Carolina, US. He is the author of the training program “Run Less Run Faster” and we have been following his training plans since 2010. Later on, we discovered the Maffetone method and I would encourage people to follow this training method if its suitable for them. MAF (Maximum Aerobic Function) training emphasis totally on the Aerobic training which is very good for anyone who wants to pick up running and scale up to long distances because training in aerobic zones prepares runners for the long distance while keeping the heart rates in control and don’t end up burning out.

FM: A final question – do you set yearly targets for yourself in terms of the races you will be a part of and have you been able to achieve it?

Shiv: I always choose which races to run in a calendar year and classify them as ‘A’ race and ‘B’ race. ‘B’ races are part of my training runs and ‘A’ races are the ones where I set goals and achieve my personal best. This way I have been able to achieve my targets.

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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Featured Comments Off on Do Miracles happen in Marathons? |

Do Miracles happen in Marathons?

Brijesh Gajera asks a question that is on every runner’s mind, but he is talking about more than just a Christmas miracle.

It wasn’t too long ago when I was on my usual weekend run, I bumped into a fellow runner. We said our hellos and decided to run together while we caught up on our running escapades. He has run quite a few marathons and only a few weeks ago returned from a world major marathon.

That was a big talking point for us – he mentioned that he had trained well for a sub-4-hour finish for a few months leading up to the race, but on race day disaster struck and he suffered from cramps for the last 10K of the race. Despite the setback, he managed to finish the race in 4hours and 10 minutes.

Obviously, I was curious to find out what happened and asked him about it, he told me that he turned up at the start of the race feeling fresh, confident and in the heat of the moment he decided to attempt a 3hour50minute finish!

I was stunned! “Do you believe miracles happen in marathons?” I asked him in disbelief. I guess he was equally in disbelief at my question because he asked me “What do you mean” with an amused look on his face.

I went on to explain that in my long-distance running career spanning over a decade, I have seen many a runner falling prey to the desire of wanting to push themselves higher than what they trained for. They feel fresh, confident, charged up at the start of the marathon and with the race-day euphoria surrounding them, they try and achieve more without being fully ready for it.

Now, don’t get me wrong – optimism is great, it’s what keeps us going day in and day out but to be honest, a marathon can be as punishing and as rewarding at the same time especially when you run ahead of the pace you’ve set for yourself.

Nearly all of us get to the start line full of energy (some bit of nervous energy as well) but with a spring in our step and a will to push forward. A marathon is a game to keep that energy intact for 42.195K – that is what we are supposed to achieve in our training. If you have trained yourself for a particular target for weeks and months, your muscles, tendons, joints, veins, and nerves have synchronized themselves to help you do that. All of a sudden, when you surprise them by changing the target on the D-Day, they will respond to you in the beginning, but the chances are that they will wilt as you approach the finish line.

Let me try and quantify this so that you can get a better understanding.

Let’s say, you have decided to complete the race in a time that is 10 minutes faster than your target time that you have trained for as my fellow runner did. That is roughly 14 seconds per km faster for a 42K course (and I am not even talking about the final 195 meters!). Now, you will be able to maintain this pace for a few kilometers but eventually, you will hit the wall where your legs feel like bricks. This is why coaches stress on following a tried and tested method on race day.

In my personal life, I once experienced something you could call a miracle. I ran the Mumbai Marathon aiming for a 3hour 35minute finish, but I managed to finish it in 3hours 29 minutes and 41 seconds. That translates to me running the race at approximately 7 seconds faster per km. For a large part of the race I maintained a pace which was about 2-3 seconds per km faster and only when I crossed the 36KM mark, I figured why not aim for a new target of 3hour30mins? That’s when I pushed myself harder and literally ran like the wind to achieve even lesser than my new target of 3hours and 30 mins. It felt like an absolute miracle!

A word of CAUTION though: I have run faster races since then, but I have never been able to repeat that kind of improvement over a target since. This is why it is called a M…I…R…A…C…L…E.

To aim for a miracle to happen during a marathon is wishful thinking at best and a recipe for disaster at worst. Often the decision to push yourself harder than what your body has been trained for leads to injury or underperformance and in the aftermath of such a race, it could lead to you doubting your training and even yourself. I’m sure you do not want to be in that mind space ever.

If you are still looking for miracles, what could be more wonderful than following your target plan as best as you can and then achieving the results you strived for? Isn’t it miraculous to achieve the target we’ve planned on achieving in a long time and getting our belief reaffirmed in our training and ourselves?

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Brijesh Gajera is an avid marathoner, aspiring ultra-marathoner and coach at Ashva Running Club.

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Featured Comments Off on The Latest and Best Marathon Training Method |

The Latest and Best Marathon Training Method

Coach Pramod Despande of Jayanagar Jaguars talks about the various methods that runners can consider while training for a marathon.

We have all heard of the age-old adage “practice makes perfect” and while that holds good to this day, practising and training the right way is the key to being successful. In this read, let’s have a look at some of the best training methods out there and how these can be leveraged to help amateur runners like us run better.

The latest and arguably the most successful marathon training method has to be the one developed by Patrick Sang. The evidence of that is the recently delivered World Record time of 2:01:39 (by Eliud Kipchoge at the 2018 Berlin marathon) and also an
unofficial world record of 2:00:25! Takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

To be fair, this training method isn’t suited for mere mortals like us. For that matter, we can’t sustain any of the elite marathoner’s training methods as they are exhaustive and intense – consider their weekly mileage of 200 – 225 km which is equivalent to 3 – 4 weeks of mileage for normal runners.

That leaves you wondering – what is the most suitable training method for amateur marathoners like us and what are the latest methods of training?

Before I can answer that, let’s first understand the evolution of present-day marathon training methods and the training programs.

The Earlier Methods:

Since 1896, when the first competitive marathon was run, many runners and coaches have developed various training methods for competitive elite athletes. The documented plans, however, started with the pioneering work by Arthur Lydiard of New Zealand in the ‘60s, ‘70s and its impact can be witnessed even today through the terminology coined by him e.g. “base building”, “peaking,” etc.

Lydiard’s basic idea was to develop runner’s stamina first and then work on their speed. He divided the whole year into different periods (periodization) with emphasis on specific aspects with respect to each period. The average mileage for marathon-conditioning phase(base training) is of about 160 km, then moving on to the next phases that include ample use of hill training, intervals, and speed training. He suggested the use of gymnastic exercises for the loosening and stretching of muscles but was not in favour of weight training.

Over the years, many coaches developed their methods by modifying Lydiard’s programs, while keeping in line with basic principles, whereas some successful coaches like, Gabriele Rosa, Renato Canova, etc. developed their methods in contrast to Lydiard’s training principles.

For e.g. Renato Canova’s method focusses on speed and raw power during the early phase and moving on to longer threshold/tempo runs towards race day. Gabriele Rosa, on the other hand, swapped speed work with marathon specific workouts.

That being said, the common aspect amongst the 3 programs mentioned above – all produced world-class performances.

Training Methods for Amateur Runners

After the running boom of the 70’s, a large number of amateur athletes started taking up running thus fuelling the demand for programs to train larger groups of non-elite runners to complete their first marathons and subsequently to increase their performances. This gave rise to a whole new area the “marathon training program.” The difference between this program and the elite training program was:

  • Larger group size (elite runners’ groups are very small)
  • Runners with lesser athletic abilities or experience (than elite athletes)
  • The training programs required to be tailored around the life of a runner (the other way around for elite athletes)

Many coaches, ex-runners, doctors, etc. who possessed good management and business skills started to create these programs and training methods. They combined a scientific perspective along with savvy marketing techniques.

Here is a summary of some of the popular methods:

High Mileage Training: These methods established by coaches like Hal Higdon involve a gradual and consistent increase of mileage with a goal to cover a high weekly mileage across 5 days a week.

Hansons’s method: This variation prefers giving equal importance to all runs and not dedicate one day for a long run. The overall mileage in this method tends to be on the higher side. This program also avoids activities other than running as part of the preparation.

Specific training pace method: The start of this method is mostly credited to Jack Daniels, where there is an emphasis on training at specific paces for each workout and has extensive formulas to arrive at precise paces. This method also uses long runs as an important workout with specific paces and variations.

More Intensity, Less Miles: These methods emphasize lesser overall mileage but high-intensity workouts for each session.

  1. Methods like FIRST (Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training) by Bill Pierce & Scott Murr that advocates “less is more” theory i.e. running lesser distance but with much higher speed.
  2. Also in the similar methods of CFE by Brian Mc Kenzie, gives more importance to HIIT type of high-intensity exercises and weight-bearing exercises.

Heart Rate Running method – LHR or Low-Intensity high mileage: Some methods also advocate running longer distances at lower heart rates to increase running capability at that heart rate, a prominent evangelist of this method is Dr Phil Maffetone.

The Run Walk Method: Popularized mostly by Jeff Galloway, typically for beginners but many experienced runners have achieved quite great results through this method.

All of the above methods have provided excellent results to many runners but interestingly, they all have contrasting principles and so this creates lots of confusion in a runner’s mind.

How can methods with conflicting principles give great results?

Is there a best method?

Not really – you will find that a lot of runners swear by each of these methods and an equal number doubt them. Typically, a method will be effective for a few years and then a runner’s performance will plateau. Hence, you will need to shift to another method or incorporate some aspects of another method to improve performance.

All these methods are built upon some basic principles e.g. Progress Overload principle, Principle of Specificity, Principle of Periodization, Principle of Reversibility, base mileage built up, etc. and understanding these might be a tad technical for the average runner. Also, all these methods assume a specific fitness level and preparedness. So where does the answer lie?

The answer really lies in the runner and not the method.

Each runner has unique abilities – a combination of genetic makeup, body structure, fitness levels, aerobic base, mileage base, mental makeup, etc. These factors decide which method works best for you. For example – with respect to the genetic abilities, some runners excel with slower and longer workouts, while some others respond well to speed workouts. Along with genetic ability, a runner’s development of various aspects like Aerobic Threshold, Lactic Threshold, Anaerobic Threshold, VO2 Max, etc. will decide the suitability of a method.

All of this brings us to the inevitable question of – ‘Which is the best-suited method for me’?. Again, there is no quick and clear answer and it requires you to take into consideration a lot of factors.

Initially, the best option will be to go with a coach, someone who will tailor a specific training plan for you. A coach has his own assessment about, which method(s) will suit a runner and they will use components of multiple methods to tailor a specific training plan for a runner.

But if you are trying to plan your own training please consider the following aspects before you take a decision.

  • Check the base requirement for preparedness for the plan, e.g. the basic mileage, a PB, etc. and unless you meet all the requirements, please do not start the method
  • Check the total time investment required by the method – it should fit within your lifestyle. Any plan will work only if you follow all aspects of it, including the prescribed rest
  • Figure out if you have access to complete the prescribed type of exercises. For example – if the program emphasizes a lot of hill runs and you don’t have any hills nearby, you will need to make an alternate arrangement
  • Most importantly, make sure the target pace or finish time of a program matches your own goal as each of us have our own individual goal for e.g. choosing a method/program for achieving a sub 3 marathon will not suit you if you are looking to achieve a sub 4.
  • If you have tried some other method earlier and searching for a program to switch, please make sure you ‘unlearn’ aspects from the earlier method.

After considering all the requirements, when you select a method, please consider the following:

  • Be patient with the method you’ve chosen to see progress and achieve results. Typically, a method takes around 4 to 6 months to improve the specific physiological pathway or muscles after which the required improvement is visible to you.
  • Do not switch to another method on the basis of the result of just one race, as many factors influence the result of a race.
  • Having said that, if a particular method is causing some serious injuries or health issues, do not hesitate to re-evaluate the method.
  • Monitor your performance under the method you are following to see if you are plateauing. If yes, it is probably time to move to another method.

After due consideration, irrespective of the method you select, please follow all the workouts and rest prescribed by the method diligently and enjoy your running – the results will come through in the end.

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

A reputed coach and mentor for the Jayanagar Jaguars and a technology innovation head with a leading MNC who over the past 4 years has trained more than 2500 athletes complete Half-Marathons, Full-Marathons and Ultra-Marathons

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Seniors Comments Off on The Spunky Ultramarathoner |

The Spunky Ultramarathoner

Protima Tiwary catches up with the feisty Taru Mateti, an ultramarathoner who is a powerhouse of energy even after 50. 

Feisty and well over 50, this powerhouse performer is not only playing the role of a doting mother and loving wife, but also that of a superwoman who competes in ultramarathons under record timing! We caught up with Taru Mateti for a quick chat to see what keeps her going.

What inspired you to take up running?

I have been actively involved in sports all my life. I only took up running at the age of 49 as a form of recreation. I discovered that running gave me joy and a sense of liberation. I started enjoying running enough to make it my passion, so much so that I decided to pursue it wholeheartedly by leaving my job and concentrating on training for marathons. Point being, it was a hobby that turned into a lifestyle.

How did your family react when you told them about your decision to run?

They have been super supportive! Training for an ultra-marathon is more long-term than training for a full marathon. Hence, a bigger buy-in is needed from the family. It is months of consistent and long training, with a string of no weekend outings because of long runs. Fortunately, my husband runs too and my family understands my passion. If we have family commitments, we plan our running days in a way we can set out time for both family and fitness. Deciding to run an ultra is a big commitment and one must consider all factors, the family being the most important one of them. I am grateful for their support.

You’re not just a marathoner, you’re an ultramarathoner! Could you share the greatest moments of your running career? 

The greatest moments have been at my best and worst races. Let me explain.

I had run the Bengaluru full marathon in 2014 undertrained, tired, and with some niggles. I obviously did not get a good timing and realised how important it was to get a mentor who would guide me with my training, nutrition and even recovery.  This race taught me how to be grateful.

I also remember the 100K Pune Ultramarathon where I ran through the day! I was the only woman running the event that day in the 75K/100K/100 miles combined. I finished fifth amongst all men. The runners high was one of a kind.

Another time I paced a friend in Pune Women’s Half Marathon and she got her PB. Her joy at winning reminded me of how humility and gratefulness are 2 of the most important qualities that will see you through life.

Then there was the time I paced my mentor for 61k in his 161k run, and we kept talking throughout the distance. I learnt so much in that knowledge exchange!

Then there was the Fitathon in April 2017 when I was struggling, and my husband, who had been trailing in all runs till then, was going strong. He could have gone ahead, but he ran with me until the end. This race reminded me of the power of love.

How do you deal with bad races?

It is important to go through some bad races too because you have so much to learn from them! I’ve learnt that one needs to set practical targets, and a sustainable training plan and strategy needs to be thought of to support that target. Bad races have also shown me how important it is to eat well, sleep, and go through the regular body and blood tests.

As an ultramarathoner over 50, your training and mental conditioning would be very different, isn’t it?

Definitely! And I am not just over 50 now, I started all of this only when I was 49! My lifestyle before I took up running has made me injury prone, so my recovery time is longer. I also put in fewer runs and miles than others, and keep a check on my speed. I plan my run, yoga, strength training, and rest days carefully, along with my diet and supplements.

I have stopped wearing high heels (I wore them for more than 30 years!) I have altered my eating habits and am conscious of my posture. I am finally working on my spine, hamstrings, feet, glutes, upper body and core like never before!

Could you shed more light on the challenges and advantages that being on the other side of 50 gets along?

It is great to be on the other side of 50 and running as well as working out. All the wealth in the world can’t buy us good health the way working out for fitness can. Growing old is inevitable, but we have just one body and we have to keep it in high maintenance mode.

With age, women do have to deal with a lot of changes, the main being menopause. Learning to adapt to this new way of life is a part of this lifestyle, and being fit does make things better.

Yes, there are challenges too, so it is important to know your limitations. But that doesn’t mean you should stop yourself from learning new things!

If I had to point out one disadvantage, it would be the fact that being on this side of the age scale doesn’t have too many competitors, and anything that a woman this age does is appreciated a lot. Basically, this attitude encourages mediocrity.

They say consistency is key – but how do you build this consistent pace that they talk about?

Running isn’t only about running; you need to take into consideration the consistency in terms of training, diet and recovery. I do yoga/pilates at least three times a week and strength training twice a week. Yoga is important because it helps improve mobility and breathing, while sleep, nutrition and medical health continue to be important. In order to run well, one must train to run well!

Marathons don’t always go perfectly. Any moment you’d like to share with us where you thought things were going downhill? How did you overcome that?

I do not think about how I am running during my run. I give it my best, learn and move on. But I did have a bad phase due to an injury when I couldn’t do any workouts for a month and had to visit the physiotherapist daily. It frustrated me, I remember crying! But I overcame all of it by focussing on doing the upper body exercises that I was allowed to do, and spending time at work and doing a lot of yoga.

An ultra-marathon is a combination of mental and physical strength- any tips you’d like to share with us on how to stay strong during the race? 

It all boils down to your mental health, isn’t it? Train hard, but also practice self-love. One has to be comfortable in spending time with oneself and nature because most of the runners will find themselves running those long distances alone.

I usually find myself having a conversation with well, myself. Or sometimes I sing! I also count steps, especially when there’s a fuelling stop coming up. I also draft emails, Facebook posts and workout plans in my head while running!

Remember why you started- this will see you through the race, all the way to the finish line. It is difficult to stay motivated, but visualise the goal, why you want it so bad, and be grateful for the effort you’ve put into your training.

As a runner, what is the one quality that defines you?

I will not pick one only,  and would like to say that I am dedicated, self-motivated and hardworking!

Any tips you’d like to leave us with?

It is never too late to start! I started at 49, did my first headstand and L-sits at 53, am learning pilates at the age of 54 and am now trying to master the art of a full split!

Inspirational, to say the least. How many times have we heard “we’re too old for this”? It was a pleasure interviewing Taru Mateti who at an age that people think “is too late” is charging ahead and rightfully earning the title of Marathon Podium Queen with each passing year.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

An Army kid who wishes to travel the world one wellness vacation at a time, Protima Tiwary is a freelance content writer by day and Dumbbells and Drama, a fitness blogger by night. High on love and life, she is mildly obsessed about travelling and to-do lists and loves her long gym sessions like a fat kid loves cake.

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Featured Comments Off on Road cycling National Champion – Naveen John – Part 3 |

Road cycling National Champion – Naveen John – Part 3

Deepthi Velkur continues her conversation with Naveen John about his competitive cycling career.

You must read Part1 and Part2 of this interview before this.

You play a very important leadership role at the Ciclo Racing Team – what is the main objective behind Ciclo? How has the journey been so far?

The idea behind Ciclo was to setup an aspirational project, with the goal of supporting the best athletes in the country, while also developing young athletes’ side-by-side.

In a sport like cycling or for that matter any endurance sport you need a strong team, a good coach who can show you physical progression, mentor you on how you can progress beyond the national level and the emotional support of your friends and family.

Over the years, I have tried a couple of models to figure out what works in India. In 2012-2014, I was part of a team that was based on the model where there was a manager/team director who does the fund-raising and planning of the calendar and multiple athletes who had focus solely on riding. The problem with this model is that when a sponsor backs out, the athletes are left high and dry and they haven’t really grown in those 2 years.

Later in 2016, I tried a model where I as an athlete had to learn how to setup an independent support structure and that worked for me and I achieved some good stuff – first Indian (along with Arvind Panwar) to go to the world championships and first Indian to join an international professional cycling team in Australia. Though it was a good model, I wanted to try something new and that’s when the idea of Ciclo came about.

I talked with co-founders of team – Ashish Thadani and Bachi Pullela and we came up with 3 goals:

  • Create an aspirational project: We wanted Ciclo to be model where other athletes could replicate some of our ideas and be successful.
  • Be the dominant team in India and develop young riders: This has largely been successful so far. In 2 years, our riders have won several gold medals and podiums at the nationals, podiumed or won at every local event we’ve entered, achieved several firsts at the Asian championships, and trained abroad as a team in Belgium in a 3-month training block. Our U-23 riders, riding and training beside the elite riders on the team, have gone on to win National medals and also learn how to be a professional in their mentality and actions.
  • Publicize and talk about what we do: In small sport like ours, we need to share what we do as a lot of people don’t see the little things that need to be done every day before you go on to achieve a bigger goal. The video and visual content that the team has created over the past 2 years are some of the most viewed racing/cycling content in India that sheds a light on competitive Indian Cycling.

One of the first things we did was hook up with a friend of mine and a photographer – Chenthil Mohan. It was a way to brand activate for our sponsors but also share knowledge. Considering this is the social media age, we used this medium to build reach with the younger generation. This has been fairly successful with young kids asking me a whole bunch of interesting questions at the Nationals like how to get to Belgium to train and race, advice on buying power meters (a training tool), about technical concepts in training, etc.

Cycling is huge in Belgium and they have the best system in the world. My long-term objective is to create a conduit between the 2 countries along with a consulate tie-up that would help in a sporting exchange. This would help develop the system in our country immensely.

I want to be part of the sport for a long time to come and would like to build a process that can be applied to all the future cyclists out there.

What riding events do you target to cover every year? What do you think are your biggest achievements?

In India, my target race is the National Championship. Why? Simply because at the end of the day, your value as an athlete is measured on you being a national champion, though it is by-far not the best metric.

The other events I participate in are community-level events. I build these events into my training plan and make it a hard training day. Another reason I want to be active at a community level is because I want to be part of the eco-systemic change.

On principle, I do not participate in big money races. The reason I choose not to is because I feel that I will be sacrificing a lot more than I can benefit. For me, attending a race means I lose out on my training days not to mention the potential risk of injuring myself if the conditions are terrible. I did attend some races in 2012 to understand why the system was not progressing and decided from the next year never to do it again.

Overall, I have attended 7 national championships with two 4th place finishes and four gold medals. My biggest achievement as an athlete would be being the first Indian road cyclist to ever achieve a podium finish at a Kermesse race, (Lokeren Doorselaar kermesse) in Belgium in August 2018.

Speaking about the Kermesse event, talk us through your experience at this year’s event?

It has always been my dream to perform at a high-level in Europe. Last year, I finished in the Top 20 and I set myself a goal on Top 10 this year. I trained like never before to be able to achieve that goal.

Towards the end of my trip in Belgium, I hit a purple patch – with each race before the event, I progressed from Top 18 to Top 12 and finally cracked the Top 10 at the event. Not only did I achieve a 3rd place finish, but I was only marginally behind the winner of the event, who 2 days later ended up as the runner-up at the Belgian national championships. That was a huge motivation gain for me.

You qualified for the ITT and road race at the Asian Cycling championship in Myanmar earlier this year? What was your takeaway from the race?

For me, the key takeaway is – I’m getting closer!

I have been at the Asian championships twice along with my teammate (Arvind who has been at the championships 5 times). In 2016, we finished the road race as the last bunch on the road and this year, we finished the race as the bunch right behind the winning bunch. Fairly big progress there.

My goal for now is to finish in the Top 5 hopefully next year and if I work harder than I did this year, I think it’s achievable.

You kickstarted an initiative in 2013 called “The Indian Cycling Project”. What brought about the idea and how have you seen it develop over the years?

I came up with this idea because I wanted to leverage best-in-class systems outside of the country. I want to build a system where young athletes are backed by a strong support system and are exposed to the best training and racing eco-systems available.

As I mentioned earlier, my long-term goal is to create a conduit between India and Belgium along with a consulate tie-up that would help in a sporting exchange.

One of the challenges I face is convincing parents to let their young children travel to Belgium because for the parents they see no monetary benefit or results coming out of it. I also let the parents know that their kid could probably get injured, break equipment but all that doesn’t matter as this is probably the most important thing you can do for them to succeed. This experience in Belgium teaches them to be independent, financially responsible, stay physically and mentally tough, brave harsh weather conditions and maintain a balanced diet. It gives these young athletes a view into racing at an international level.

A final question – what are your race plans for 2019?

My next event is the Tour of Nilgiris in December where I hope to enjoy just riding easy for a change, meet some friends and get a little bit of work done. For 2019 – my targets are the National championships, National Games, Asian championships and my customary 3-month training and racing in Belgium.

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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Featured Comments Off on Road cycling National Champion – Naveen John – Part 2 |

Road cycling National Champion – Naveen John – Part 2

Deepthi Velkur continues her conversation with Naveen John about his training and his move to competitive cycling in the second part of the story. 

If you haven’t read the first part then click here 

When did you move from being a recreational cyclist to a competitive cyclist?

It was a couple of years after I picked up collegiate cycling. My friends convinced me to sign up for a race and I went full on – got myself a bike, some racing gear and showed up for the race and I finished the race.

During my time racing in the US, it was never competitive. I just went out there to ride and have fun. I enjoyed the training, being part of the racing action and never went in with the mentality of winning. In 2012, when I came back to India, it all changed. I felt like I was on a mission and I decided – I want to try and be the best.

You’re a 3-time Indian Time-Trial (ITT) champion and the country’s first International pro-cyclist? What does it take for someone to achieve this?

Oh! I get asked this question a lot. Every time at the national championships, I have kids come up and ask – what must I do to become a national champion?

My response is simple – ride your age X 10,000 KM and you will give yourself a shot at becoming a national champion.

Not many like that response because it puts the onus back on them. In India, cyclists are just not doing enough work compared to cyclists abroad. I realized this for myself when in 2016 I was in Australia where I rode with a professional team and saw 18-year kids train so much more than I did. It got me thinking, “Am I putting in the kilometres”?

It’s a paradigm shift that we need here in India where the athletes need to put in a lot more work. A few years ago, you did not have to work too hard to become a national champion. If your closest competitor was doing 8,000 KM at the age of 23-24, you only need 9,000 KM to beat him. Today, however, you need at least 25,000 KM to beat me (kinda cheeky, since I lost my National title this year despite that, but always “long game”).

It’s true that the infrastructural challenges we have in our country can be blamed for the bar being so low in our sport but at the base of it – practice, kilometres in the legs and hours spent on the pedals are key.

Do you take assistance from a Coach to train yourself for nationals?

I started off on my own in 2013. I self-coached trying to figure out the answers along the way but I fell short and ended up in 4th place. One of the team supporters then recommended I get a coach.

Getting a coach can be quite a daunting proposition – all of a sudden, you are accountable to someone else and constantly graded. The thought of putting your physical readiness in someone else’s hand is quite a leap.

Fears aside, I started working with my first coach in 2014 and that changed my life and introduced me to a whole new world of scientific training. I’m a pretty adept self-learner and as I was being coached, I also upped my level of understanding of the human body, sport science and training. I have since moved on to my 2nd coach who is based out of Australia.

Training in cycling is a very objective process and working with a coach who guides your physical progression can free up time to work on other areas of improvement that you constantly need to as an athlete. So far, cyclists in India have always moaned about a lack of good coaches but that scenario is changing today.

Our concluding part can be read here.

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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Featured Comments Off on Road cycling National Champion – Naveen John – Part 1 |

Road cycling National Champion – Naveen John – Part 1

Deepthi Velkur in a three-part series has a conversation with a pro-cyclist and 4 time National Champion, Naveen John.

Naveen John has many firsts to his name as pro-cyclist. Apart from being a 4-time national champion, he was one of the first 2 Indians at the World Championships and the first Indian with a podium finish at a European event in competitive road cycling. In this conversation, he takes us through his journey so far.

So, Naveen, how did you get into cycling?

Well, about 10 years ago, during my first year in college, I had an experience that changed my outlook on the way I lived. I had just moved away from home for the first time and you know, the stress of having to make new friends, adjust to a new place and all took its toll and my weight ballooned to 98 kgs (Freshman 15 effect I guess!).

It was Thanksgiving and I was at a friend’s place when we decided to play a game of basketball. You know you’re so out of shape when your opponents are running circles around you. I was left panting and breathless at the end of it.

That was my wake-up call – I had to do something about it. I took up running (and a change in my eating habits!) with the sole focus on getting healthy. The consistency paid off and I lost 15kgs in 3 months. While pursuing my Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University, I was introduced to collegiate cycling. It was a life changing experience for me – I made friends for life! They also happened to be a bunch of cyclists who loved racing and doing weekend road trips. I enjoyed the social aspect of the rides and that got me hooked to cycling.

During the four years of your college, you clocked 15-20,000 km each year. That’s an astounding number. How did you make time?

One of the advantages of studying in the US is that you have a good balance between studies and time for yourself. That extra time gave me the freedom to pursue what I enjoyed at that time – cycling. It was a fun way to catch up with friends, stay fit and meet other passionate cyclists along the way.

You signed up for a 120-mile ride which was your first big ride. Can you tell us a little about it?

It all happened by accident, to be honest. I went to a callout (at the start of each semester, clubs pitch for students to join their club) for “Habitat for Humanity” but ended up in the wrong room and without realizing it, I signed up to do a 120-mile charity ride. When I did realize, it blew my socks off because until then, I had never done more than 10 miles at a time.

The race for me was eventful. It was my first time on a road bike and when warming up, I got knocked down by a bus. The bruises and cuts could not take away my spirit and I decided that I still want to do the ride.

Unfortunately, I did not finish the ride but the whole experience had me captivated. It made me realize that there is more to life than just running from one air-conditioned room to another. I looked around and saw all these people enjoy the ride, the outdoors and that clung to me – I wanted a piece of the outdoor life too!

Your decision to move back to India in 2012 was largely influenced by cycling. What encouraged you to make the switch and why Bangalore?

I had to consider my options given I was choosing to not complete my masters in the US and find a job which would have been the ideal way to go.

Around the time, I was considering this decision, the cycling eco-system in India was fairly nascent. There were about 200-400 racers across the country and Bangalore was at the heart of it. There was already a system in place at federation-level, state-level selection trials and national championships. I looked up some data on the CFI website and figured that I was at par with these guys and in some cases faster. I then began to do a few checks to evaluate the decision I was about to take.

  • Did I have the physical ability to do what it takes to succeed?
  • Was there an eco-system and community to support me just like I had in the US? I stumbled upon the Bangalore cycling community via blogs written by Bikey Venky and other local bike shops – this gave me a glimmer of hope.
  • What was the state of Indian competitive cycling in terms of people involved outside of the federation systems? We all hear the usual narrative of sporting infrastructure in India – blame the federation, blame the system and the athletes absolve themselves of all responsibility, but they were some folks attempting new things.

I started looking around if there were people who were actively trying to change the scenario in India and I came across cycling IQ.com and an individual who plays an important role in Indian cycling – Venkatesh Shivarama (Venky).  Venky along with Vivek Radhakrishnan were the founders of Kynkyny Wheelsports Cycling team, the first professional cycling team in India with the aim of competing at the international stage.

I took a shot and sent them a message that I’m an active cyclist and looking to return to India but the enthusiasm was met with measured advise that I’d be better off pursuing the sport outside India for the moment. Despite that, a month later, I landed in India and just showed up. They were surprised and asked me, “so you where the guy who messaged us, why did you come here and not stayed in the US and raced there”.

I could have if I wanted to but I had other plans – I was looking for signs of life, looking for people with the mindset of “be the change” vs following the herd and aspirations of one day perhaps becoming a national champion.

Before I chose which city in India, I did the usual checklist – how will I make rent? How will I make a living? How will I contribute and add value? Bangalore made perfect sense given that I had family here and it had a strong cycling community.

In the next part, we will continue to hear about his journey to the National Championship.

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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Motivation Comments Off on Getting Fit with every Run |

Getting Fit with every Run

Pinaak Pande, an investment banker by profession with Northern Trust took to running 4
years ago with a mission to get fit and he speaks to Deepthi Velkur about his journey.

 

“I may not be there yet but I’m closer than I was yesterday”.

Pinaak Pande, an investment banker by profession with Northern Trust took to running 4 years ago with a mission to get fit. He has come a long way since then and as we listen to him talk through his journey, there’s one resonating message he would like for us to focus on – patience is key.

What was the key driver to pick running as your choice of sport?

Sports was always a part of my life – I represented Karnataka and Bangalore University in Baseball and Softball for 5 years. In 2010, I got an offer with an MNC bank and had to work night shifts and sports took a backseat. The long work hours, bad eating habits and inactive lifestyle had me weighing in at 90kgs. In 2014, I ran my first 5k (majja run) at the TCS 10K event and it was hard due to my unhealthy lifestyle. That’s when it hit me – I was unfit! It was a jolt and I decided to do something about it. That’s how I joined a running group and haven’t looked back since.

Given that you have a crazy work schedule. How do you find time to run?

Where there’s a desire, you persevere – that’s my thinking!

The last 4 years was maniac – I used to wrap up my day at the office around 4 AM and then head straight for the training. Despite the madness, I always felt better after my runs and this drove me to make time for my runs.

You did the 12-hour stadium run earlier this year? How did you train for it? Did all go as per plan during the race?

This was my first ultra-run and a very memorable one too. The amount of training I went through during this phase was immense and quite challenging. I trained 7 days a week with one goal in mind – finish the race no matter what. I followed the 2 weeks of high mileage and 1 week of low mileage training plan, focusing on my strength training and cross training. I have had weeks where my weekly mileage was higher than 90kms. My weekdays were pretty much sorted with a recovery swim post the weekly runs.

You can plan everything to a T but things don’t always go as per the plan – exactly what happened to me. It kept raining all day and during the race, it poured for 8 hours making it hard to run especially with the humidity being so high. Unfortunately, I fell short by 5.6 km from the planned target (80kms), clocking 74.4kms at the end of 12 hours.

Nutrition plays a big role in every athlete’s life. How do you plan your nutrition?

I keep it very simple. I have a big bowl of seasonal fruits for my breakfast with 2 glasses of water mixed with jaggery and sattu (natural protein for the body). For lunch, I have a millet-based diet, almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds as an evening snack and millet-based food for dinner.

In the recent SPBM event, you were the pacer for the 2hr30mins bus? What has been your experience of being a pacer?

It’s always a great feeling to be a pacer as you are helping the running community achieve their goals.

In this event, I was pacing the 2hr30min bus. I started with a bunch of runners but towards the end, there were about 15 runners who completed with me. As far as I remember most of the runners were doing their debut HM and a couple of them with 3 HM’s under their belt. I completed the race in 2hr29mins7secs just within the target time. The bus I was pacing was filled with conversations around nutrition, hydration and running. It was a comfortable race and I did not face any challenges along the way.

The satisfaction you get when you help other runners achieve their respective goals is immense and hence, I would choose to pace over racing any day at any event. I believe in karma, do good and the good will come looking for you.

Do you wish to take part in a triathlon event in the near future? How are you going about your training? 

Oh yes, I would definitely take part in a triathlon event post a couple of ultra-marathons.  I do include cycling and swimming as part of my cross training workouts. It takes a lot of training to be a successful triathlete. I am strengthening my weaknesses to get better 😉

Being one of the ambassadors for Pinkathon, you obviously have a connection to the cause? Your thoughts on this? 

Pinkathon is about women empowerment and spreading awareness about how important it is to take care of one’s health. According to me, it’s very important for women to focus on their fitness apart from what they do on a given day. I want to ensure that all women take the right steps to stay healthy and fit if they haven’t already. “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live”— I believe in this mantra. I am glad that my mentor and Guruji, Milind Soman chose me to be an ambassador for Pinkathon.

You need the right physical and mental strength to run a marathon. How do you stay strong during a race?

I would say you got to be more mentally strong than physical. Running a Marathon is easy but convincing your mind is tough. The battle is between your mind and the body for those 42kms. Your mind will always want to give up after running for a certain distance but being mentally strong is the key to run marathons and ultra-marathons. I train solo most of the days and I train my mind by altering the distance just before I head out for a run. This way you are removing the mental block from your mind.

Do you train with a coach? If yes, how has that benefited you in making you a better runner today?

Yes, I do have a mentor who trains me to be a better person every day. According to me, coaches are there to guide you and without them, certain things are not achievable.

You constantly set new highs for yourself. Where does this motivation come from?

Yes, certainly. I love to push myself and set new highs all the time as I believe you got to constantly challenge yourself no matter how much you have achieved or what challenges you might face. The challenges and my past achievements keep me going and motivate me all the way until the finish line or the end of my goal.

What is the advice you have for anyone who wants to take up an endurance sport like “running”?

Get up at 5 in the morning for a month and head out for a short run/jog and see the difference it makes to your life and you will certainly see a lifestyle change.

What big races do you have insight in the coming year?

 I definitely want to do a 24-hour stadium run and a couple of ultra-marathons in the next calendar year.

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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Training Comments Off on Understand the Maffetone Method |

Understand the Maffetone Method

Deepthi Velkur looks into a popular method that runners around the world are adopting to get leaner and fitter.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit” – Aristotle.

I want to get better. I want to be fitter and leaner. I want to train right without feeling drained out or being injured. I’m sure we have all had these thoughts and questions in our head. Is there a way we can actually achieve this?

The answer is – Yes, we can! The reason for you not seeing any improvements, feeling burnt out or prone to injuries is not only a problem with your training, diet or your shoes. It could be your aerobic base or the lack of it. For an athlete to perform well and overall have good health it is important to have a solid aerobic base. This can be achieved by following the Low-Heart rate training also popularly known as the Maffetone Method.

So what is the Maffetone method?

The MAF Method is a philosophy developed over the course of 40 years by Dr Phil Maffetone which helps individuals take charge of their health and reach their performance potential.

The premise of the method says that by developing your Maximum Aerobic Function(MAF) where you improve your aerobic base, become fat adapted, improving your energy levels, losing body fat, improving athletic performance, minimizing injuries and ramp up your performance potential.

It is a style of training where one focusses mainly on their aerobic running using a heart rate formula of 180- your age. “Most people do not develop good aerobic conditioning as it takes time and one needs to be consistent. Such people end up with poor metabolism and aerobic physiology. In order to build your aerobic fitness, you need to make sure the heart rate does not exceed this threshold and by doing that you’re expending the fat for fuel and not sugar. When you run aerobically you tend to feel energized and don’t have the need to nap or require an energy gel to replenish your carb stores.

Most runners tend to use this method during their base training phase by not allowing their heart rate to spike more than this “aerobic maximum”. You can measure this using a heart rate monitor each time you run so that you don’t exceed the limit and stay 0-10 beats below it. Once the heart rate goes beyond this threshold, the aerobic muscles start to function less efficiently and the anaerobic muscles take over. It’s good to note that Aerobic muscles use body fat and oxygen for energy consumption whereas anaerobic muscles use the glycogen stores within the anaerobic muscle cells which do not last more than 2.5 or 3 mins.

Benefits of using the 180 formula

You have to train at a low heart rate in order to build your aerobic base, a relaxed pace where you are able to make easy conversation. Finding the right heart rate is an individual process. After several evaluations of many athletes, Dr Maffetone came up with this formula to determine an optimal heart rate training zone.

The main benefits of using the 180 formula are that your body is trained to burn more of the stored fat for energy consumption. It also enables you to run, cycle or do other activities much faster over a period of time without overtraining. This happens with sustained practice where your body becomes efficient over time to perform faster with better stamina while maintaining the same training heart rate.

Using the Maffetone Method to build endurance

  • Determine your Maximum Aerobic Threshold: Using the 180 formula, figure out your threshold heart rate
  • Keep a heart rate monitor handy: Get yourself a good heart rate monitor which beeps or vibrates indicating your heart rate has spiked above your aerobic threshold.
  • Train right: Phil Maffetone recommends you to run at your threshold aerobic heart rate. By doing that one trains the aerobic muscles to function at its maximum making you run more efficiently and burning the fat to fuel energy instead of having to rely on the anaerobic muscles. Over time your pace increases while keeping your heart rate below the specified threshold. The training plan should be individualized based on the years of experience as a runner. Do not train in groups as each person’s capabilities are different and vary from one person to another.
  • MAF test: It is necessary to track your progress and course correct along the way. This provides you with the required motivation to push and also to make changes were needed. Always start with a warm-up and run a distance of 5 Km at your maximum aerobic heart rate and record it. Repeat this test at the same time and route every month from now to check how you’ve progressed. You should notice a marked improvement in the MAF timings and subsequently in the race timings as well.
  • A warm-up is must: This is a definite deal breaker with respect to this method of doing a 15min warm-up. We tend to slip warm-ups but by doing that you are spiking up your heart rate and it becomes difficult to bring it down. Hence a gentle warm-up will gradually increase your heart rate and you can see good results.
  • Controlled breathing: By breathing through your nose, you can keep your pace and heart rate under control. You might find it a bit hard at the beginning, but it takes time for the results to show and over time becomes easy to run at slower paces.
  • Maintaining running form and cadence: Running at a slow pace tends to affect your posture and cadence and incorporate one or two workouts after the initial 3 months to work on this.

Challenges and pay-offs

While there are huge followers of this method, there are people who disagree with the method of training. The pace you follow in this method is excruciatingly slow leading to boredom and results take time.

Conclusion: The MAF method covers a lifestyle concept encompassing diet, nutrition, exercise and stress management. Results take about 3-4 months to show. Joining a Maffetone facebook group or a running buddy can help immensely and keeps you motivated to push on.

Be patient, repeat it and the results will follow.

You can read about Ajit Thandur‘s and Pallavi Aga‘s experience with the Maffetone Method.

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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