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Too Much Too Soon

Our Guest Columnist, Tarun Walecha, shares his thoughts on staying injury free.

Running is the new golf as they say, and it certainly is as it has reached the corridors of corporate power today. But not before having made its impact on society, in general. The reason to this is simple, running isn’t all about power, or networking. It is far more than that, it touches you in many ways, be that your lifestyle, your ability to analyse and understand day to day situation, self-discipline, strong will and much more…so much more. One of the prime benefits which we start it all with, our fitness, that later becomes just a collateral. I’m carefully using the word collateral which by no measure means insignificant. There’s still more that running brings into ones life, new friends for one (and hoard of them, actually), lot’s running gear(mostly free 😊), a bit of travel for the events, not to miss the adulation (PBs et al) and the least preferred of them all….Injuries.

Is it all too much too soon?

Well, there can be a write up on each one of the issues, but we shall focus on injuries this time. Most of us who start running do not have a great history of sports. Well I said most, cause most often those with some sports background also fall in this category as they restart this regime after a fair amount of downtime. Those who restart this journey after a gap in the sporting activities, and for someone to start altogether fresh, running does expose us to certain amount of risk of injuries. Having said that, I can very confidently say that it’s not running that is the cause of the injuries though it does become the medium. It is like blaming a car for an accident and absolving or ignoring the role of the one who drives it. Let us understand what’s the reason for the injuries….and let’s understand when is it too much, too soon.

Roadblocks we encounter

One starts running with an aim of staying fit, and the limited available knowledge is a natural course of things to unfold. As we chart this journey, we encounter various roadblocks, inability to improve the speed, or cover longer distance, lack of disciplined routine and of course, a schedule to follow. While we seek these answers through various friends, runners, running coaches, online portals etc what we also start learning about is PBs, Podium finishes, and everything else that comes with it.  This is exactly where the “Too much Too soon” syndrome sets in. What started as a hobby, breaks through the realm of passion and before we realise it becomes an obsession. Suddenly learning takes a back seat, improving becomes the main criteria! Running for fitness seems basic, and getting a podium finish becomes the main driver. It’s this shift of focus that makes us ignore our limitations and push beyond the boundaries. Having said that what is life within the confines of limitations, and who would get better if one does not push the boundaries. But there’s a thin line there, a very thin line which only we can define for ourselves.

Misjudging your boundaries

There will always be a friend egging you to run faster, or a coach pushing you for a stiff target, and at times even a runner who silently is clocking better time than you but becomes the cynosure of your eyes and all you wanna do is get ahead of him/her. In a situation like this, more often than not, we misjudge ourselves, our training, our strength and our weakness. And even when we maintain our sanity, running as a regime does have its own wear and tear on our body. Our muscles are going to tire, our mind and body is going to get fatigued. But let’s not forget, no two individuals can be alike and this is a scientific fact. What we deal with is something similar, but beyond the biological or physical sphere. With a given physical and biological background, an individual still have too many variables to deal with, such as, a day job, daily routine, personal stress, amount of rest, one’s own willingness, mental strength and the list goes on. What we need to understand is that each one of these variables has a role to play for the way we perform. So, before we begin to compete with someone, we need to look within and know what’s good for us. It is this ignorance which leads to pushing the boundaries beyond the realm of reality and becomes the main reason for injuries.

Lessons Learnt

I started running about 8 years back with hardly any friends in running and bare minimum social media exposure. I consider this a blessing in disguise, cause the learning came in slow, but that slow did good to me. I won’t say I didn’t have my tryst with injuries, it’s a given as all the pounding is bound to show up some way or the other. Fortunately for me it has just been stress accumulation, incorrect or over training which lead to what one may define as pre-injury state. Each time it left a lesson behind, a sign to know if it was too much for me.

What we all need to understand is how to deal with it, but before that we must know, when to push further and when to back out. Only when you dive into a deep sea you will get pearls but where to dive and how to dive is the key. Of course, there’s a recourse through medical intervention, physiotherapy, proper guidance, etc. if one does fall into the trap or gets injured, but those we can deal in another article at another time. For now if I was to sum up my intent for this blog, I would say the following.

  1. Know your limits, make incremental changes and remember how Rome was built…😊.
  2. Understand your strength, and seek guidance when needed.
  3. Push your boundaries, but don’t be over ambitious.
  4. It’s important to understand your muscular anatomy and what it takes to run.
  5. Learn it the right way, correct form is the key to injury free and efficient running.
  6. Last but not the least, You are your own competitor, no one else.

Don’t let someone else becomes your bench mark… an inspiration, yes… a competitor, no. Learn to do this for yourself and not for others, let’s not fall in the trap and succumb to “Too Much Too Soon”.

GUEST COLUMNIST 

An architect by profession, Tarun Walecha enjoys amateur photography, travelling and is a sports enthusiast. He has been a sportsperson all his life and discovered running at the age of 40 and has since become his fitness mantra. In his 7 year running career he has completed 30 Half Marathons, 4 Full Marathon, and 5 Trail/Ultra Runs. He is also a Pinkathon ambassador and has founded the running group, RunXtreme.

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Run long, live short?

Do long distance runners have a shorter life? Capt Seshadri attempts to explore this theory, based on research and experiments and from dialogues with doctors with experience in accompanying marathon runners in major events.

In the fall season of the year 490 BC, Pheidippides, a Greek messenger, ran a distance of 26 miles non-stop from Marathon to Athens, to announce the defeat of the Persians at the battle of Marathon, in which he himself had just fought. Having shouted out “nenikēkamen”, (we have won), he collapsed and died on the spot.

Centuries later, the death of Jim Fixx, author of “The complete book of running”, probably triggered the debate on the issue of health versus harm. Reports from across the world state that till date, 36 marathon runners have suffered a fate similar to that of the ancient Greek. The age range was between 18 and 70, thus averaging close to 44. Almost half of these deaths occurred either during the run or within 24 hours of the event. So, is there a connection between long distance running and heart attacks? The arguments for and against, both purportedly with solid data to back them, are conflicting but hardly convincing.

Heart + Running

It is a universally established fact that the cause of coronary failure is a build up of plaque in the arteries. So, does distance running help build up plaque, or prevent it? Argument # 1 suggests that extreme distance running can harm rather than protect the heart. This is based on a study of 8 runners over a period of 140 days, running a daily cross country stretch of 42 km, with a one day break each week. After the first 24 hours, the runners were subjected to tests to determine plaque build up. At the end of the race, it was found that their systolic blood pressure, (the number on the top) had decreased and the ‘good cholesterol’ was higher. However, having checked their previous medical records, for those with a history of heart issues, the plaque build up was higher. These findings seem to suggest that distance running is not necessarily protective but could even be harmful in the long run. Conflicting, or confusing?

Marathon runners of all ages around the globe, participate enthusiastically, quite often either ignoring or not being aware of previous cardiovascular deterioration. On the flip side, it would be silly to assume that all marathon runners are physically fit and are therefore immune to cardiac disease.

Understanding the heart

Argument # 2 takes a somewhat different pitch. It says: If we sampled 50 men running 3,510 marathons over the course of three decades, will their heart health suffer or improve? These were experienced runners, most of them with over a quarter of a century of training, with some even having run for half a century. The mix was eclectic, with some having commenced running from school days and others trying to work out the effects of sedentary lifestyles, smoking and indulging in junk food. On an average, they ran around 50 km a week. When these 50 were scanned, 30% had no sign of plaque, 40% had mild amounts and the remaining 20% were the worrisome lot.

The findings were quite chaotic to say the least. More marathons did not mean more plaque, as did less running not indicating any difference. This led to the conclusion that extreme running had little or no impact on heart disease, but reinforced the fact that a history of smoking and cholesterol led to greater plaque deposits even after years of running.

Added to this is a third dimension. According to recent studies, different versions of atherosclerosis, the technical name for plaque build up, could be benign or harmful, and could affect active and sedentary people, thus debunking both negative and positive schools of thought on distance running and heart disease. This ‘halfway home’ theory seems to suggest that long years of distance running neither improves nor deteriorates heart health. There is no clinching evidence to prove that running causes any direct changes in the heart. The conclusion would probably be that all kinds of running would help keep arteries clear of harmful matter. However, running does not provide immunity to those with a history of bad lifestyle, especially smoking and junk food. In the words of Dr Roberts, an experienced researcher, “You can’t just outrun your past”!

So, run to your heart’s content. Run for your lives.

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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Taming the Beast

Marathoner, Tarun Walecha, takes another look at the grit, determination and madness it takes to finish marathons.

All that can go wrong at a marathon which I didn’t know about…

A year before when I wrote the prelude to this blog, I had thought to myself that I have learnt all I needed to, made my set of mistakes, even wrote a blog about the same which was well appreciated, and now it would be my year of redemption. As it turns out, I was certainly being overly ambitious.

Having finished five full marathons so far, somehow, I still feel I’m yet to run my first. Last week I was at the starting line again, but this time I was better equipped, better trained, (at least, I thought so) and little bit more confident for sure. I say a little bit because this time I was aiming higher and didn’t want to be complacent. I had ticked all the boxes from the learning last year, be that diet, training schedule, staying injury free and included newer aspects like on course nutrition, flexibility etc.

Unlike last time where I was aiming to finish the run on a moderate pace, this time I was greedy. I had trained harder and had all the reasons to back myself, one of my longest run on Dec 31 which came after 6 days of consecutive half marathon runs under my initiative, ‘Share and Care’ was comfortable and surprisingly speedy. The 28K run on Trail-A-Thon, which I ran a controlled pace but yet was my fastest so far on the course too. I believed that the glory beckoned me and nothing could go wrong, so so I thought.

 

The race day twists and turns…

On the morning of February 25, a 4:30 start meant I didn’t have much time to sleep the night before. I therefore took it easy the previous day in anticipation and was up at 2:30 am without feeling sleep deprived. As I walked toward the stadium from the parking lot, my mind was only filled with positive thoughts and trust in myself, just a hint of anxiety, nothing nerve wrecking. After a quick chat-up with everyone around, handshakes and wishes exchanged; it was going as per the familiar course. So much that an unannounced staggered start didn’t flutter me a bit, and at 4:35 we trotted across the timing mat.

As I started off, I had the plan distinctively clear in my mind, pace chart, nutrition chart, hydration – all ticking off in my mind. Normally, I run as per my effort and only check later how am I doing and it wasn’t going to be any different this time as well. Moving along I felt comfortable, staying focused on myself I could sense I’m doing well. At 10K mark when I checked, I was 1 min 32 sec ahead of my target time. I felt good as there were no signs of over exertion, stride was good and breathing was in control. I decided to hold on to the effort till my next target. As expected at 20K I was 3 min and 40 sec ahead, which was invigorating as I felt no sign of fatigue or mental exhaustion. When I turned around for my second loop, I didn’t want to let go and wanted to seize the advantage. Trotting along, at 30K mark I was doing well, heart rate in check, pace was descent and now I was 4 min and 9 sec ahead of scheduled time.

Quickly running through calculations in back of my mind like always, I ascertained that even if I was to run the rest of the race at 6:00 min pace I would be home with a Sub 4 finish, and I was immensely thrilled with that outcome.

But the best laid plans always come to naught…

As I reached the 32k mark, I started feeling sluggish. My pace had dropped to 5:55. Going back to my calculations, and accommodating for tiring body I told myself to stick to sub 6 pace. As I moved along I felt my stride getting shorter and every KM mark I could see the pace sliding down. At 38K mark when my Garmin showed 6:19 lap pace with a total time 3:34:53, my mind quickly computed that my desired calculation of Sub 4 wasn’t possible now. With 4.2KM of minimum distance to be run, I would have had to really push myself against the odds. Suddenly the hamstring niggle which surfaced slightly earlier filled my legs with lead and my left leg refused to move. I decided to give it a break and stretch a little before moving on, but as luck would have, I found it tough to get back in rhythm. Was it my body which was breaking, or did my mind gave up on me, I’m yet to figure that out. Slowly I watched each runner whom I had left behind passing by, some acknowledged and egged me but I could only cheer them back and asked to them to move on. This was my battle, and I had to fight it on my terms. I hopped along for next 4k, and somehow gathered strength to run for the last half a km to keep my head high. Timing clock at the finishers gate showed that I was nearly 11 min over 4 hrs as I crossed over and moved towards the holding area. Friends, other finishers, each one of them welcomed me with high fives, hugs and smiles, but somehow I in my heart carried a shade of disappointment.

Will I ever understand how to conquer it?

The race was over, I did fairly well as per many, timing wasn’t that bad either, but what left me unhappy was those last 4 kilometer. I wasn’t supposed to struggle, I was there to run. So what went wrong, that is my biggest mystery. Did I not train enough, or did I give up on myself too soon? In the days to come, pondering over each of the issue, I tried to pinpoint at various probabilities, and evaluated them against myself.

  1. Inadequate training: Going by my training year before where I struggled with niggles now and then, I induced more strength workout in my schedule. One of the reason my hamstring started jarring could yet be due to relatively lesser strength training.
  2. Aggressive target: From my target last year to finish a moderate paced FM to running an aggressive Sub 4, might sound a big leap but my training runs backed me up and somewhere I was hopeful of cracking it.
  3. Over-Nutrition on the course : I had planned to take gels in a tapering pattern of 9k, 8k, 8k, 7k, 7k considering the higher needs as one tires out. Energy boost after first one lured me to change it to 7k from second gel onward. At 30K I did feel nauseated and over fed, so much that I couldn’t have my fifth gel.
  4. Lack of salt intake: Gel at shorter intervals meant lesser time in between, and the first causality of time management was salt caps which I didn’t have after my first 2, and in all had only 3.
  5. Less water consumption: Though my earlier experiences had alarmed me about this, having trained in pleasant weather failed me on understanding my body’s water requirement on the race day.
  6. Rise in temperature: It was an odd situation, adding to the above point, the entire training was done in winters with running the race in spring. The week before the race saw a sudden rise in temperature which showed the damage it can do to your hydro-logical balance.
  7. Running faster than the plan: Since I’ve always run by the effort, on the race day I landed up running a shade faster than the planned pace, was it my undoing? Can’t say yet as my heart rate remained in the control zone and barely touched Zone 5.
  8. Lack of focus: That’s something that may not be the root cause , but can certainly be a reason to deflate the overall effort. To be in ‘the zone’ for 42 km, is something that still has a long way to go, perhaps.
  9. Lack of flexibility: This was another aspect which I targeted after last year’s debacle, worked extensively and consciously, but the awareness only highlighted gray areas; certainly more work needed.
  10. Lack of guidance /knowledge: How much is enough??? I certainly can never judge.

Mind over body…

While this can be your strength, but can work against you as well. For everything that you may cover, this could be a blanket loss. If I did not falter on any of the above, then it has to be this. Was this the reason that I stumbled? Did that one look at my watch at 38K which showed 3:34:53 blow it up? One little back hand calculation and I knew I had practically lost my chance for a Sub 4, and suddenly it didn’t matter anymore.

The mystery that I wished to unravel this time, to decode what it takes to run a marathon, still remains a mystery. After 34 Half marathons, many more equivalent distance runs and 5 attempts at FM, I still have to know what it takes. Lest I forget, I need to reiterate to myself, it is not just two half marathons, it is not just another long run. I don’t know what it is yet, but I will soon.

The beast still stares at me, with a little smirk on its face, but I know we are friendlier now and it’s just a matter of time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

An architect by profession, Tarun Walecha enjoys amateur photography, travelling and is a sports enthusiast. He has been a sportsperson all his life and discovered running at the age of 40 and has since become his fitness mantra. In his 7 year running career he has completed 30 Half Marathons, 4 Full Marathon, and 5 Trail/Ultra Runs. He is also a Pinkathon ambassador and has founded the running group, RunXtreme.

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Eating Right for runners

Marathoner, Dharminder Sharma, talks about the kind of food that is good and bad for the Indian runner.

You can eat whatever you want to, because you are a distance runner so you can digest everything – how many times have we heard this advice from the so-called experts to newly christened long distance runners!

Another statement often heard is that I run long distances so that I can eat whatever I want.

There cannot be two worse statements about diet than these!

Eating right is as important for a long distance runner as it is for anybody else. One can never overstate the importance of eating the right kind of food and food supplements to ensure a life-long injury free running experience. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats take up a major part of our daily diet although fibre, vitamins, minerals and water are also indispensable.

What are carbs?

In India, carbs are generally considered to be wheat and rice and most do not know much about what other foods contain carbs. Fruits, salads, vegetables, nuts, sweets and legumes (daals) all contain carbs.

What are simple and complex carbs?

A general advice given by Dietitians to health conscious individuals and runners is to go for complex carbs rather than simple ones. Without going into the science of the advantages of complex carbs and the disadvantages of the other, a simple listing of the items would help a runner or a fitness enthusiast choose the right diet. The common examples of simple carbs that a runner should avoid or restrict in quantity are white breads, sugar and sugary products like candies, toffees, chocolates (except a small piece of dark chocolate) and mithhai (traditional Indian sweets), fruit juices (especially canned ones), white rice, most bakery products, potato chips and cold drinks, this list is, however, not exhaustive.

The complex and healthy carbs that one should prefer are whole grain breads, chapatis made of whole wheat, Bajra, Ragi and other coarse grains/millet, brown rice, beans, nuts, oats and oatmeal, quinoa, fruits especially less sugary ones like guava, papaya and pineapple, sweet potatoes and leafy greens.

What about protein in diet?

When it comes to proteins, there is a popular myth that only the body builders or hard core gym enthusiasts need to consume proteins. That is not true because our body needs proteins to build muscles that provide the necessary support during runs. Proteins help build the muscles and they are required to recover the muscles after a long strenuous run. Therefore, a runner’s diet requires proteins in good quantities.

A long distance runner under training should have at least 0.8 gm of protein per kg of body weight per day in order to stay injury free. Some of the protein rich ‘foods’ that one can add in daily diet are chicken breast, fish, sunflower seed, almond, quinoa, egg white, low fat cottage cheese (paneer), chick pea (chana), whole lentils (chhilka daal), oat, beans, soya milk, broccoli, brown rice and peas, to name a few.

How do fats help?

Besides, the carbohydrates and proteins, fats take another major part of human diet. We often hear of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats – good are the ones that should be more in quantity. However, often when people get their lipid (fat) profiles checked through blood tests and come across technical terminology, it is little difficult for them to correlate in the laboratory reports as to what are the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ fats. Even if they are able to make out what these are, they often do not have an idea as to how to increase or decrease their levels in our bodies. The best way to increase good fats is to eat the food that naturally contains large quantities of ‘good’ fats.  Some of the ‘foods’ that contain high to very high quantities of these ‘good fats’ are almond, walnut, flaxseed, olive, canola, chia seed, pistachio, fish oil especially cod liver oil.

Never forget the Vitamins & Minerals

One can never over-emphasize the importance of flaxseeds in the daily diet. They are a rich source of natural omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B1 and B6 and are one of the most nutrient rich foods that also contain protein, dietary fibre, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and selenium. Flaxseeds are low in carbs and therefore, very useful for someone looking to shed weight. They are also good for cardiac health as they lower cholesterol levels and the antioxidants in them slow down the process of aging.

How much fibre is enough?

We often ignore the importance of another ‘food’ in our diet and that is dietary fibre. Some of the above-mentioned foods do contain dietary fibres in large quantities and should form a part of the daily diet no matter whether the person is training or is in the midst of an event. I say this because a lot of literature on the internet advises against eating fibre and protein rich diet the day before the event and in fact advises eating pasta. Since most of the literature is from the perspective of the West, this advice may hold well in that context but my advice to an Indian runner would be to go for the same diet that one is used to eating which may be Roti, Idli, rice, Dosa, etc.

The night before the big race

If you are used to eating Daal, Roti, Kheera, rice and Dahi as your regular diet, there is absolutely no harm eating it the night before the event. There is absolutely no sense going on a hunt the evening before an event for a restaurant that serves pasta if you have gone to a new city to run in an event. Just stick to familiar foods that have worked for you during the training, if they have worked for you so far they would surely work now. Remember, the day before the event or a marathon is not the right time to try a new food in a new city! In fact, eating familiar food will actually prevent the constipation on the morning of your event and save you precious time to enable you to reach the event fresh and in time.

Fitness and a healthy eating has to be a continuous journey and not a time bound target for a runner or a fitness person. I would conclude by giving another important advice – spicy and oily foods the day before the event whether or not you are used to eating them, are an absolute ‘No’!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dharminder Sharma is an Indian Forest Service Officer (IFS) who has been running long distances for more than ten years. He has attended most of the major marathons in India and a few abroad. He has also started many running clubs in the Northern Indian region and organising quality runs for runners is one of his many passions

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Overdoing Health Tracking

Wearable devices, fitness apps and a dozen more ways in which you can monitor your health, but when does it all become too much, ask Nandini Reddy.

So did you strap on your wearable device the moment you jumped out of bed? Logging in hours slept, monitoring water intake, counting steps, tracking heart rate, calculating calories and walking the extra mile to meal goals sets. Ever since wearable devices became a fitness trend. All of us have been guilty of doing this – even me! But when does it become too much?

I am not against the FitBits and Garmins of the world and I do know that they are a great way to track your health but when tracking becomes obsessions and if you are getting more upset than happy using the device then it cannot be a good thing right?

The Dark Side of Health Trackers

Have you ever run a marathon and used a different app to track your run. I did that once and noticed that even though both of us started and stopped at the same point, I had run 9.7kms and my friend had run 10.2kms. My app didn’t congratulate me on reaching the 10k mark and felt more than a little deflated. But it didn’t make sense because we had run the same track and in the same time and yet we didn’t achieve the same encouragement from the health apps.

The next victim of tracking was my sleep. I was so intent on getting the right curve and the congratulatory note for achieving the right amount of sleep that I couldn’t have slept worse. The stress of sleeping right overwhelmed me and if I slept deep woke up refreshed with 5 hours before, now I was feeling worse for the wear with 7 hours of shut eye.

Heart rate tracking became another obsession ever since I read that interval training can work wonders when you want to lose weight. But that meant constantly interrupting a perfectly good workout to check if my heart rate hit the goal mark.

How do you use them better?

Health tracking is not all bad if you know how to use them properly. They do help you get fit if you use them right. So instead of letting it rule you, make it a way to change habits.

  • Forget the calorie counting – Trackers have approximated calories and most may not store all the food options that you consume based on your local preferences.Also they never take into count that with regular movement you will be losing calories but they never get accounted for. So instead of counting calories set nutrition goals that you want to meet in terms of protein, carbs and fibre for the day.
  • Adjust daily goals –Do not use the preset goals. Your lifestyle may require different goals. Compare each week to see if you have found the right mix. It may take a while before you finalized on the set of daily goals that works for you, until then its perfectly find to make tweaks and adjustments.
  • Focus on movement – Avoiding being sedentary is more important than counting steps. Most of us have desk jobs that require us to sit for hours. So try and make it a habit to do desk stretches or just stand up and take a walk to water cooler every hour. The idea is to move for 5 mins every hour and your health tracker can be set to prompt you to do the same.
  • Work with small challenges – The fitness tracker should be used to create new habits that are good for your fitness regime. If you want to really make a change then instead of concentrating on recording everything try and set challenges for yourself. It may be about walking or running 10k three times a week. You can even set targets like the number of floors you will walk up every day.
  • Find a friend – Health apps generally allow you to train and track progress with friends. When you know others are watching your progress you tend to be less lazy. It also works as encouragement when they congratulate you when you achieve set goals.

Health trackers themselves are improving so it all works to syncing the device to your fitness requirements instead of the other way round

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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Going Non-Diary

Lactose Intolerance or becoming vegan, whatever your reason, non-diary products are making their way into your daily diet, says Nandini Reddy.

The diary market has faced many lows since early 2011 because of contamination and accusations of chemical enhancers in cattle feed. This has lead to a wave of people switching to alternative forms of milk including nut milk, grain milk and bean based milk. Fitness enthusiasts looking for alternatives without the fat content of milk and people switching to vegan diets have been the biggest adopters of the alternative milk trend.

Like every good food it is important to understand why their alternative milk forms are good and bad for us. Let us consider the various factors that you would need to weigh in before switching over to a particular milk alternative.

Nutrient Value

Nut milks are power houses of nutrients such as Vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, zinc, pottassium, phosphorous and calcium. They also contain flavonoids which are lower the levels of bad cholesterol.  On the downside nut milk and rice milk are low in protein and calcium and lack Vitamin D and B12 which are essentially found in animal milk.  Soy and Rice milk are also great sources of nutrients and have no saturated fats. They have have anti-oxidants that help in supporting the immune system.

Flavour 

Nut milk definitely taste better than any other milk even diary. Rice milk is bland so it blends well as it does not affect the taste. Soya milk has a specific taste that will grow on you. These milks can be added to most breakfast cereals and can also be had alone. For cooking, coconut milk has always been the favourite but almond and cashew milks are also finding their way into desserts as great alternative to cow milk.

Health Benefits

Alternative milks all have the right nutrient values to promote cardio-vascular health. Blood pressure and cholesterol are lowered because of the magnesium rich composition of these milks. Rice milk helps increase iron and copper in your blood thus boosting red blood cell production, and giving you better oxygenation and vitality. Soy is a good alternative if you want to add more protein but its continued use isn’t recommended for women because of its high phytoestrogen content. Rice milks are very starchy and are not suitable for diabetics.

Cost

Alternative milks are more expensive than cow’s milk. Most of them retail at nearly twice or thrice the cost. Most of them are hard to find and are generally available at specialty stores in big cities. Using online sources and buying in bulk might prove more economical in the long run as the shelf life of sealed packages is from 6 months to one year.

Whether its change in lifestyle or beat an allergy or just for overall health, alternative milks do have a space in our diets.

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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The Challenge of being Healthy

From being engrossed in her books to winning cycling and duathlon events, Dr Sruti Chandrasekaran has come a long way in her fitness journey. She shares her story with us.

The Early Days

I was never a fitness person during my years in school. I was the class nerd who would only study and participate in academic competitions. Any kind of sports was my arch enemy! I abhorred Physical Training period and also skipped assembly if there was anything related to sports happening then. My entire lack of interest in any sort of sport related activity was because of the physical effort it involved. I was so unfit in my school and college days but I topped my tests and joined medical college. That was the the first time I walked on a regular basis.

My college was in Kilpauk (KMC) and I used to get down at Chetpet and walk for 800m to college. Those 800m were an incredible physical challenge for me. Apart from that I had no exercise during my 5 1/2 years of medical school. My books took up all my attention and energy. I always was on the chubby side ( to put it in a nice way!) with a BMI that was in the overweight range. Yet it never bothered me and after my graduation I moved to USA for my medical training. It was during my first pregnancy that I gained another 30kg. I was 25 yrs old, weighing in at a 100kg after my pregnancy and looking at everyone around me who were super active.

My Epiphany

My professor of medicine used to cycle to work and another female professor used to run 3 to 4 times a week after having 4 children. That is when it hit me. I now decided that I have to take care of my health and stop ruining my body. Fortunately despite my lack of exercise, incredible weight gain and erratic eating habits I did not have diabetes or other metabolic problems like PCOS/PCOD.

So after assigning the back seat to my health until the age of 26, I had finally decided to take control and for the first time I started exercising. Naturally the first few weeks were terrible. My body was ridden with aches and pains and I gave up many times. It took me 6 months to get into a routine and start regularly hitting the gym with cardio and weight training.

The Runner in Me

The road running obsession began 4 years later when I turned 30. That was probably the best birthday gift that I IMG-20171115-WA0020gave myself. My first 10k run at 30 yrs and then came the second pregnancy and a break in between. I took 6 months break after my C-section and then resumed exercising again and since then have done 10k and half marathons regularly. For the past 1 1/2 yrs I have also taken up road biking as my husband is an avid biker who bikes to work. I instantly fell in love with cycling as it was fast, the effort you put in cycling was very different and I lapped up the constantly changing scenery. I began to realize that with proper training one can definitely do well with any sports that you choose.

On the Podium

My recent podium finish at the Duathlon and Datri cycle ride proved to me that it is always better late than never.  I started exercising very late and I do feel bad for not taking up sports during school and college days. As an endocrinologist who manages diabetes, PCOS, dyslipidemia and other metabolic problems, I do emphasize the importance of exercise to my patients. Now instead of just giving advice I would like to set an example to them and also to my daughter. Seeing the rise in lifestyle related diseases like diabetes I want to be a healthy woman, healthy mom and raise healthy children. Running and Cycling has been a great way for me to sustain this healthy lifestyle and inspire others to start their journey of good health.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

srutichandrasekhar

 

Dr Sruti Chandrashekar is an avid runner and cyclist who went from being a bookworm to a fitness enthusiast. A doctor by profession and a passionate runner and cyclist, today Sruti wants to lead by example.

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