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Preparing for the marathon season? Here’s some advice

Deepthi Velkur had a chance to talk to a few runners on how you could prepare for the marathon season. 

For many runners, the desire to run a marathon is all about achieving a personal goal. For others, it could be the desire to push the envelope and see how far they can go with their bodies. Perhaps, a friend talked you into it, or you want to get fitter, or you’re running for a noble cause such as building awareness for a local charity.

Whatever the reason, you need to hold on to it and constantly remind yourself of it often during the months leading up to the marathon season.

Each marathon is a new adventure in itself! Making that overwhelming and sometimes breath-taking decision to run the traditional 42.195 km can not only be quite uplifting but it can also give you the much-needed energy to kick-start your training.

Whether it is your first time preparing for a marathon or one of many, a good overall approach to your mental and physical training is as important as a specific running plan, which can help you be at your best on marathon day.

To help us better understand how you can go about this, we spoke to a few professionals and here’s what they had to say.

Kothandapani KC (fondly called Coach Pani), is a running coach with the PaceMakers running club and a marathon runner himself.

He recommends that for a first-time marathoner, the focus should be on completing the distance comfortably and not worry about speed or timing.

For a seasoned runner though, someone with at least two years of running experience and multiple 10Ks and half-marathons, Coach Panihe recommends the following:

  • Build a training plan 6 months ahead and work backward i.e. 24 weeks, 23 weeks and so on.
  • Run at least 4-5 days a week focussing on one speed workout, one strength workout like uphill runs, one long run, and two easy runs in between.
  • Run your long runs 60-90 secs slower than your target marathon pace and increase your long runs by not more than 10%.
  • Every fourth week cut back your total mileage to 50% to avoid overtraining.
  • Break-down the 6 Months into three parts – base building, converting the base building into speed endurance and race-specific workouts.
  • During long runs, prepare yourself as if you are going to run on race day such as getting your gear ready, waking up early, hydration strategy, pre-snacks etc.
  • Ensure you follow a proper nutrition plan and adequate rest to overcome both physical and mental stress.
  • Always listen to your body. Do not over train – helps minimize the risk of injury. To track this, check your resting heart rate and if it’s on the rise, ease off on the training for a bit.
  • Race at least two Half Marathons during your training period, trying to improve each time so that you get an indication of your progress in training
  • Taper down your training in the last two weeks. Be careful to not fall sick or catch a cold
  • Plan your race day strategy such as at what pace you want to run, hydration points, when to use gels etc. Note: don’t try anything new on race day – stick to the plan!
  • Finally, believe in yourself, believe in your training and think positive. Start the race slow and build the pace gradually. Aim for negative splits.

Sandeep CR, an Ultra-marathon runner and is part of the Mysoorrunners running club shares his advice:

  • Prioritise your races in terms of which race is of top priority, where you want to do well and train accordingly.
  • Build your training slowly. Keep a weekly mileage of 45-55kms which will help you to build endurance.
  • Go on long runs as you need to get used to being on your feet for long hours.
  • Run a few tune-up races before the main race to know where you stand and where you could improve.
  • Keep a close watch on your nutrition intake and give yourself time to recover.
  • 80% of your runs should be at an easy pace and 20% should be tempo or speed work.
  • Slow down your training in the last 2-3 weeks as overtraining will lead to injuries.

Shahana Zuberi, an amateur runner who has run a few half marathons and is part of the Bangalore Fitnesskool running club feels to run a marathon, one should have:

  • Great inner strength.
  • Eating right during the training phase.
  • Focus on building endurance rather than speed.
  • Plan your training well ahead of the race and do not rush into overtraining due to lack of time as that might lead you to injuries.
  • Patience and perseverance will help you achieve your end goal.
  • For running a half marathon in specific, you can work on building speed during the interval and tempo runs and
  • Finally, rest well as your body needs to recover from all the hard training.

So, there you go – you’ve heard it straight from some of the experts – train well, eat right, rest enough and be patient.

These key steps will help you develop a healthier way to run making it more fun, with better results for body, mind, and soul.

I end this article with quite a quote by Paula Radcliffe (three-time London and New York marathon winner) – “In long-distance events, the importance of your mental state in determining the outcome of a race can’t be overestimated.

Something for all of us to reflect on.

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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The exciting times of Running

An IT professional who found his passion in running, Deepthi Velkur talks to ultra-marathoner, Sandeep CR. 

Sandeep CR, a software professional has had a lifelong fascination with sport and in specific running. He is associated with the running club “Mysoorunners” for the past 4 years and shares his experiences. From a very young age, he has been an active sports enthusiast and has represented both school and college across multiple sporting events. Over the past 10 years, Sandeep has trained his focus on long-distance running graduating from 10K runs to Half-Marathons to Full-Marathons and eventually covering Ultra-Marathons as well.

Just looking at Sandeep’s running achievements is motivation enough for someone like me to get going and notch a few marathons myself. A snapshot of his running credits are: the 80K Malnad Ultra, the 80K Vagamon Ultra, the 60K Ooty Ultra, the 50K Javadhu Hills Ultra, 8 Full-Marathons, 25+ Half-Marathons and not to mention the countless 10K runs – wow! What an impressive running resume.

For Sandeep though, running is just one of his areas of interest. In his pursuit of staying fit, he also dabbles in cycling, swimming and bouldering. A keen reader and an avid wildlife enthusiast, Sandeep volunteers his time with a few NGOs with the aim of conserving wildlife.

My conversation with Sandeep was extremely interesting and I just had to share some excerpts from that discussion.

How long have been into long-distance running and did it happen by chance or was it something you’ve always wanted to do?

As with most things in life, we all need some motivation to kickstart a new habit. For me, it was the realization that I was gaining weight pretty fast. Early in my professional career (about 8 years ago), my weight had jumped up from 68kgs to 78kgs in just about 24 months. This had me worried and pushed me to take up long-distance running. I’m used to doing shorter distances during my time at school and college, but never beyond a 10K.

Having taken the decision, I gathered the courage to run a Half-Marathon in 2010 and haven’t looked back since.

Which has been your best race for you personally in terms of timing and personal achievement?

I have done a few half-marathons under 1hr:40mins and a few full-marathons too in good time; but, the most gratifying experience in terms of running was the Malnad Ultra in 2017, which was my first 80K run.

Why was I pleased with it, you ask?Well, the entire process of training for it, training right and executing it on race day is something that gave me a lot of pleasure. Timing-wise, I finished my run in 11 hours which is pretty slow by any standards, but, the experience is what I cherish.

Do you set targets of how many races you would run at the start of the year and do you set out in accomplishing them?

I don’t race often enough. I do a maximum of three races a year. I have my races spaced out months apart so I get enough time to recover, train and then race again. My partner and myself run around 75 to 80km per week almost all through the year. The level of intensity differs as we get closer to the race day. 

How does your typical training day look like and where and how many days in a week do you train?

I train for about 5 days a week. I have been an ardent follower of the Maffetone method for the past 3 years. So all my runs are within the MAF heart rate which is 180- age. It has helped stay injury free and run longer. 

Could you give us some insight into the running group you are associated with -Mysoorunners? How did you become a part of this group and when? 

Mysoorunners is a fun-filled group. We have people from all walks of life associated with the group. The group was formed in 2014 by Ajit Thandur to get all runners from Mysore in one place and I have been a member since its inception. The best thing about this group is that it is non-competitive and it doesn’t matter what distance you run, you can be an absolute beginner or an experienced runner – we share the feeling of belongingness and treat everybody as one and enjoy great camaraderie.

Mysoorunners are the hospitality partners for the Tri Thonnur event. How has your association been with them?

I have been associated with Tri Thonnur as a volunteer/participant since its inception in 2013. It’s been great to see the event grow from being an outing for few like-minded folks to being one of the sought after races in the triathlon circuit across India. Typically we volunteer to ensure proper crowd management.

Which has been your latest run and the upcoming event your training for currently? Could you please share your experience\learnings from running the event and what changes would you like to incorporate in your upcoming run?

My last event was the Ooty Ultra, a road race of 60K which I managed to finish in 9 hours. There were occasions during the race where I sort of got into a negative mindset which resulted in spending a lot of time at aid stations and walking when I could have run. I realized I wasted close to half an hour with these distractions. I would like to be mindful of these things in my future races. 

How do you better yourself as a runner and motivate yourself and people around you?

It takes a lot of hours of running for someone to become an average runner as it is a continuous learning process. That in itself is a great motivating factor for me as you strive to get better each day.

What plans do you have for the future?

We are living in exciting times. The ultra-marathon scene in India is just starting out and I am sure there will be great races coming up in the future. Personally, I would like to run a 100 miler before I turn 35 which is 5 years from now. Also, I hope to complete the ‘Comrades Ultra’ something in the near future.

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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Run Mumbai Run! – Running Clubs In Mumbai For A Fitter You

Running alone has its perks! But if you want to be a better version of you, a fun way to do it is to explore joining a club, writes Protima Tiwary.

Marathon season is upon us! This can only mean one thing- it’s time to get those sneakers out of their shoe closets, wipe off the dust, tie up those laces and hit the track! Getting ready to run a marathon might seem like a daunting task, especially now that it’s festival season and all that you see around you is excuses. Everyone needs a partner to help balance the chaos of city life, but sometimes even a running buddy doesn’t make the cut. It is precisely for this reason that city-based running clubs are now overfull with enthusiastic members, looking forward to getting fit for the season.

Are you looking to join a running club in the city of Mumbai? Whether it’s enjoying a scenic view of the city skyline on Marine Drive, or making your way through the lanes of Bandra, Mumbai has a running club for you.

Here are some options that can help you on your journey to the finish line.

MUMBAI RUNNERS

What started off as an Instagram community has not only turned into motivation for many, but also into a full fledged website that inspires so many Mumbaikars to join the crew on a weekly basis. This running group meets on Thursdays and Sundays, in different locations around the city. Join them on Instagram here.

https://www.instagram.com/mumbairunners/?hl=en

ADIDAS RUNNERS

Adidas hosts running clubs in Marine Drive and Bandra, and is largely targeted towards the youth of the city. Hosted by Ayesha Billimoria, these morning sessions take you through warm ups, a run and cooling down techniques. Adidas Runners also supports a lot of environmental causes through their runs, and this running club encourages participation from all Mumbaikars. To know more about their running schedule, check out their website here- https://www.adidas.co.in/adidasrunners/

STRIDERS

Striders believes in combating the ill effects of the sedentary corporate life through running. This running club aimed at the regular job-goer targets the corporate lifestyle, and aims at promoting the benefits of running and exercising, especially when a large part of the day is being spent sitting. Other than marathon training and running programs, they also have a fitness training routine which you can sign up for. You can find them all over Mumbai.

https://www.striders.in/

MUMBAI ROAD RUNNERS

A non profit venture, this running group is about having fun while aiming to stay fit. Not only do they organize runs, but also award nights, rock climbing, beach football and a whole bunch of other fun activities that promote emotional health. They organize a half marathon and 10K run on the 1stSunday of every month and a 10 miler on the last Sunday of every month. This group is open to all.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/mumbairunners/about/

RUN INDIA RUN

No matter how old you are, or how busy your schedule is, Run India Run is here to help all those who have found their true calling in running. They organize marathon training sessions all around Mumbai, and are the leading running community in India that also focuses on mental, emotional and spiritual health. This running club takes the help of experts to design training sessions.

http://runindiarun.org.in/

Ready to lace up and get social?

 

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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For the love of running

In conversation with Brijesh Gajera, co-founder of the Ashva Running Club, talks to Deepthi Velkur about his love for running. 

Why do we love to run? It’s tough, it hurts – yet more and more people every day are taking to the roads. I had a chance to talk with Brijesh Gajera and listening to him gave me an insight into the enormous pleasure running can bring – it is, after all, a natural thing to do.

Brijesh is a software engineer by profession and an outdoor enthusiast by passion. In his professional avatar, Brijesh works with Cisco India where he tackles next generation Enterprise Networking Solutions in the hope of building predictability, adaptability, and protection for businesses worldwide.

But, that’s just one side of him – a self-proclaimed outdoor enthusiast, Brijesh is a long-distance runner, cyclist, and trekker. He has participated in multiple marathons over the last 10 years, most notable of which is the prestigious Boston Marathon 2018. He has taken part in multi-day cycling tours in the Western Ghats in South India, Indian Himalayas, and Europe. He loves the Himalayas and keeps visiting them for hiking, cycling, and running which, he calls his annual pilgrimages.

As if that wasn’t enough, Brijesh enjoys mentoring and coaching amateur long-distance runners. He is the co-founder and one of the coaches of Ashva Running Club where he trains runners to help them achieve their goals – be it their first 5K/10K/Marathon or specific targets.

“The two important things I did learn were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be and that the most difficult part of any endeavor is taking the first step, making the first decision” – Robyn Davidson.

Let’s read through Brijesh’s first steps as a runner and what influenced him to go from recreational runner to running club co-founder.

Was running a big part of your life growing up?

Actually, no. I used to do the occasional (not more than a couple of times a year maybe) run around the school ground with a friend of mine but that was to get a competitive high as both of us were the toppers in the class and running was our way of settling the debate of who is better J

From the moment I started following athletics in my high school years, I became a huge fan of Haile Gebrselassie. Actually, who is not a fan of his? I always admired his running and that was my regular connection to running in growing up years.

What was the trigger to pick up running and do it so well?

After I moved to Bangalore for work, I used to volunteer for an NGO called Parikrma. When the inaugural Bangalore 10K happened in the year 2008, Parikrma asked its volunteers to run in the event to show solidarity to their cause. I liked the idea and registered for the event. I truly enjoyed training for and running my first 10K. The joy of running took a hold on me. What was supposed to be a one-time affair became a lifetime passion after that event.

Soon 10K was followed by Half and Full Marathons. The haphazard training was replaced by a structured program and all my travel plans started revolving around running.

You have competed in several marathons over the years – did you always plan on it being competitive?

Well, nothing was planned as such and things happened on their own. I generally get driven by a goal or an idea – of experiencing a particular marathon, achieving a target time or volunteering for a cause. Once I choose to run an event, I plan my training and focus on it whole-heartedly.

In the early days of my running, my aim was to simply build endurance and run in various places. Once I was satisfied with my endurance level, I decided to target a particular finish time and worked on speed. When I was reasonably close to the Boston Marathon qualification, I decided to train for it.

In short, my competitive knack comes from the targets I set for myself.

How many races have you participated so far and which has been the most memorable one?

There are a plenty! I have lost the count, or rather never kept it. All my race medals go in an antique trunk in my living room. Roughly there are more than 25 marathon or longer distance races I have participated in till date.

Choosing the most memorable race from so many is quite a task! Of course, my first marathon always tops the list. It was an idyllic setting in Auroville and what I experienced and learned that day about human endurance, psychology and never-say-die spirit is irreplaceable.

Then there is Ladakh Marathon 2017 for the experience and love of mountains, the Boston Marathon 2018 for the weather and sea of runners, The Big Sur Marathon 2018 for the natural beauty and scores of Mumbai Marathons for the crowd support.

 

You are the co-founder and one of the coaches of the running group Ashva, how did this group come into being and how many runners do you have currently?

Somewhere along my personal running journey, I felt that I could share my experience with fellow runners and guide them. My dear friend, Murthy R K, also wanted to get into coaching runners around the same time. In fact, he was already coaching school kids by then. Together we decided to form “Ashva Running Club”.

It’s been more than 2 years now and we have about 75 runners in 3 different locations (Lalbagh, Whitefield, Kanakapura Road) in Bangalore. Apart from that, we also train people remotely.

Do you think joining a running club enriches a runner’s experience? If yes, why?

Totally. Joining a running group has helped my running immensely.

First of all, the camaraderie of a group is a great motivation to get up and go for a run. It helps one to be regular and disciplined. There is also what I call “Running Rituals”, the warm-up and cool-down, which are essentials for injury-free and enjoyable runs. If it is left to our choice, we may avoid these rituals at times and eventually omit it all together, but when you are part of a group, these are religiously followed.

In addition to that, a sensible group can also help you avoid the excesses – too much or too less of training.

Describe the training process that you follow at Ashva?

Everything revolves around the trainee, to begin with. Every person comes with a particular goal in mind and we try to understand the goal and help the person to be on a path to achieve it.

We focus on injury prevention, strengthening, and conditioning. We maintain a healthy mix of speed, tempo and long runs in our training program.

What we try to strive at Ashva is BALANCE, not just in your running in particular but in your life in general. Balance in your physical and mental states, balance in your professional and personal life, balance in your running and non-running worlds. We encourage and help people to achieve the balance of exercise, nutrition and rest. We, in fact, urge our runners to take breaks from running from time to time for rejuvenation.

We believe all these elements come together to build a healthy runner and human being.

How do keep your runners motivated?

By a mix of continuity and variety. The continuity keeps one connected, the variety keeps one excited. Running Rituals, I talked about earlier are a permanent part of our training. We do not compromise on them. We go to different locations to train to give them a different look and feel. We also encourage them to participate in new events and explore new places on their own.

What are the top three things you do to prevent running injury-free?

Warm-up and Cool-down: No two ways about this – it is a must every time you decide to take a run.

Yoga: We believe that yoga is a fun and engaging way to work on flexibility and strength and we have regular sessions of yoga in our training.

Cross-Training and Breaks: Cycling and Swimming are effective ways to avoid injuries and burn-out. And so are breaks – in fact, frequent and small breaks are rarely understood and a highly underrated device for injury-prevention!

You participated in the Mera Terah Run last year and completed 13 half-marathons in 13 days – can you please describe the emotions before, during and after this most challenging event?

I have been participating in the Mera Terah Run (MTR) for last 4 years, and it is going to be 5th this year.

Though the thought of running 13 marathons in 13 days in 13 different places with overnight travel sounds daunting, one thing we must understand is that running is just a medium for MTR to achieve their mission. The cause we choose for MTR is the utmost priority. Running is in fact lot of fun in MTR because there is no pressure to finish under a certain time, there is no finish line and medal or certificate per se and you get to meet so many different people and run with them that it feels like a festival.

Before the MTR starts, we spend a lot of time planning the logistics and coordinating with our friends in various places to make sure we have good experience traveling and running in those places. The last 3-4 runs of the whole campaign are slightly difficult given the accumulated fatigue of running and travel. But the group bonhomie and the collective purpose keep us all excited for the whole duration of the yatra as we call it.

Being a passionate traveler as well, I am sure you have run in some exotic locations – can you please name a few?

My heart always goes with the Himalayas, Pedong/Kalimpong in Darjeeling, Leh in Ladakh, Manali Solang in Himachal, Garhwal in Uttarakhand – these are my personal favorites. Another favorite is Western Ghats – Malnad, Mahabaleshwar, and Ooty.

Diu on West Coast of India also makes to my list. Outside India, I loved the Big Sur Marathon route a lot.

What are the future goals for Ashva and yourself?

We would like to see Ashva Running Club building a healthy and active community. I read somewhere once that running makes people smarter. If that is true, I would like to see our trainees achieve the balance and also be able to coach themselves eventually and help their fellow runners with their knowledge.

For myself, I would like to see Ashva achieve its goal J That is my biggest goal. Of course, I would like to continue running. As of now, I am focusing on training for a 90KM trail marathon early next year. I plan to focus on ultra-marathons for some time and also visit exotic places in the process.

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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The little things that make a big difference

All the fancy running gear, world class sneakers or latest gadgets are not the only things that will help you burn kilometres on the road. To make all of these come together and make you competitive, you need to accessorise! 

Running is considered as being one of the most accessible forms of aerobic activity. The best thing about running is that you could possibly do it anywhere without needing any expensive equipment or a gym membership. It is just you and the open road.

Running becomes so much more convenient when you are least distracted or working with uncomfortable running gear.

To make life that tad bit easier, here are a few small running accessories that are quite beneficial for runners:

Running Armbands:It is a useful piece of accessory for anyone spending time running, walking or jogging. An armband that comes with pockets and water resistant makes for a convenient accessory as it can hold your smartphone as well as other personal items such as your keys, money, and credit cards tucking them away safely while you enjoy a hands-free run, walk or jog. Many armbands come with the additional safety feature of being reflective or an LED light which is useful and helps improve visibility to motorists/drivers especially on your early morning or late evening runs. Most armbands take the one size fits all approach while others come with a wide variety of arm sizes. The armbands also have a protective touchscreen compatible case and usually lightweight. Most popular armbands are Tribe water resistant, Trianium, and Tune belt.

Running belts\Water bottle holders: Most runners have a hydration routine that is followed before, during and after a run. Having a handheld water bottle, hydro sleeve or fuel belts make water easily accessible during an exercise routine. Portability is now easy with collapsible bottles which can fold, few come with specialized valves that make sipping of water easy and avoid leakage. For those of you who prefer running hands-free, running belts with pockets to hold your bottles and loops for your jacket and gels are also available. CamelBak and Trek and Ride are a couple of good options out there that might suit your hydration needs.

Running Cap: This is one of the most useful accessories during a run as it helps to protect you from the scorching sun. Some of the best running caps provide you with UV protection, adjustable velcro straps to give you a proper fit, moisture-wicking in-built sweatband that absorbs sweat and proper ventilation. The options for running caps are endless as they are quite popular amongst runners. Nike, Puma, TrailHeads, 2XU run visor to name a few top brands.

Sunglasses: Runners who run for long durations understand the need for a good pair of sunglasses. Many protect themselves from the sun by wearing protective clothing or wearing sunscreen but neglect protecting their eyes. The sun tends to limit your visibility and also has a harmful effect on your eyes. Look for sunglasses that provide UV protection giving you a snug feel, resistant to slippage when you’re bouncing around. Under Armour, Oakley radar, Julbo Aerolite, Nike Vaporwing Elite.

As a parting note – buying good quality running-specific accessories will not only last but will also enhance your running enjoyment. With the right kit, you are now ready to rule the roads and have fun doing it.

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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Making running a habit

Do you have a really hard time waking up, or finding that motivation to run consistently? In this article, Kavita Rajith Nair tells you how she overcame these hurdles and went on to become a morning person!

It only takes 21 continuous days to form a habit – says Stephen Covey in his book – 7 Habits of the Highly Effective People. But how do you get through those 21 days? Is motivation the only factor? How about the habits we have to break first? Not having case studies and with only my experience to go by, I’ll avoid generalities and stick to my tale.

‘SHOWING UP! Is the theme that worked for me’ – making every single session consistently for the next 21 days.

That’s all it takes to make anything a habit be it running, cycling, boxing, music, hitting the gym, sleeping early, waking up early. Literally anything!

Running is the newest habit I have cultivated, which I have sustained for over 2 years now and is no longer considered a habit, as it has become an inseparable part of my life.

Bangalore is a runner’s paradise with easy access to broad traffic-free roads early in the mornings and beautiful weather almost all around the year – it’s no wonder you see runners across the city roads quite frequently. That’s how running became a natural choice for me.

When I decided to give running a shot, it wasn’t because I was a couch potato – I had

Ballroom Dancing, Kickboxing and CrossFit training going on and this helped me shed 7 Kgs. However, despite all of this I just couldn’t get my weight to budge south of 75 kilos. In hindsight, I think just dabbling in each of them and not doing enough of them consistently didn’t help my cause.

Running requires you to be an early morning person. I was someone who would hit the bed late and wake up late as well. As old habits would have it, mornings found be tucked comfortably in bed, until Jayanagar Jaguars (running club) opened up their branch in HSR Layout, just about 500mts from my house.

One morning I mustered enough motivation to SHOW UP on the ground at 5:20 AM. The routine was simple – some warm-up exercises, a couple of kms brisk walk, few drills after returning to the ground, cool down stretches, few core strengthening exercises and wind up. It was done and dusted by 7:00 AM and I was home by 7:05 AM. I still had an hour to go before my alarm would ring on a usual day otherwise and I just earned 60mins additional time to do my stuff – ME TIME!!! I thought I had already started liking it, but yes not a habit yet, as it was just the first day. The strangest thing happened that night, I started yawning at around 8:00 PM and despite my hard attempts to stay awake, I eventually hit the bed at 9:00 PM. That was by far the earliest time ever I had gone off to sleep, probably did it last as a kid.

The next day was a rest day, but despite that, I woke up earlier than usual and slept early too. Then came the running day, I was eager to be on the grounds on time and I SHOWED UP again. After a week, I pulled in my spouse to join me for a trial session, he was sulking initially to wake up, but our welcoming Location Lead, gave us proper guidance for absolute amateur runners like my spouse and myself and also the camaraderie of the warm co-runners, some experienced and some new to the sport like us, drew us to the ground for the next few sessions regularly. And that way, without realising I SHOWED UP again and again until today. It’s been 2 years and 3 months and I SIMPLY SHOW UP, be it at the grounds if in Bangalore or if traveling, I AM UP AND ABOUT on the roads on the scheduled days. To be very candid here, I am not sure when that turned into a habit, as I stopped counting after a few days I think to the extent that even for emergency reasons if I had to miss my running, I was on a complete guilt trip.

Looking back, here are the few things that probably helped me build ‘Running as a habit’:

  1. Decision: Awareness that you need to cultivate a habit is a big thing in itself. 10% of your work is done here.
  2. Choice:The next big thing is to decide what is it that you want to do. This could take a while as you may have to do a bit of introspection to arrive at this, or just go with what your heart tells you one fine morning, or what your best friend suggests, it is an experimentation anyway. Another 5% is done here.
  3. Enjoy: You should like what you have chosen and thoroughly enjoy it. Might be a taste you have to develop but that you should be aware of in the early days as it will most likely make you happier, content, energetic through the day to pull your daily chores and office routines without any additional effort- this gets you to the 40% mark.
  4. Partner-In: Rope in a friend/ family member/ partner/ spouse/ colleague.For me, this was an important step, especially in the initial days one pushes the other and unknowingly you have crossed a week without missing a single session. This takes you to a 50% mark.

The next 50% is the tricky bit, here come the cliched big words like regularity, consistency, determination, persistence and so on. I can share what helped me to bridge the gap of the next 50%.

  1. Note down the changes the new habit has brought in you. E.g. ease of waking up early, longer days for self, more Me-time, less grumpy, sustain more energy through the day and help me have a positive outlook on life itself.
  2. Talk about it to as many as possible.Of course, you risk shooing people away at the very sight of you from afar, but your well-wishers will stick around for you, noticing the change in you and to support you. Talking about your new habit only reassures that you are liking it, you are spreading a word about it, and in a minute way, influencing the people you are speaking to. That in itself is a big motivation.
  3. Set goals. This could be tough, as you are new to the habit, and may be unaware of what goals to set, you can either use our google mom to read blogs and research good articles or pester your coach/ mentor/ guide to help you here. I did the latter of course 🙂
  4. Measure yourself. This could be basis your goals for the habit you chose, but as it’s said, “only if you measure, can you change/control it” so measure! I defined performance for myself in running and then started measuring it. Needless to say, my original obsession with weight was also being measured, but along with it started measuring more meaningful yet simple aspects like BMI, fat%, skeletal mass, water content etc. And trust me, any of these moving in the positive direction is a huge stimulus.
  5. Share your success stories. While your successes will be evident to yourself and people around you, you can choose to share on social media if you are a social media friendly person, or even just talk about them. But having said that, consciously remember to have your head fixed right on your shoulders and not have the successes get to your head. In simple words, ‘Always Be Humble!’

Parting Message: Don’t get overwhelmed by the words Consistency, Dedication, Introspection, which I have used to describe my journey, believe me, this looked scary to me as well, but just remember #21Days and you will enjoy the journey. In our multifaceted daily life as a mother, father, child, caregiver, employee, manager, wife, husband and so on, never forget YOURSELF. Before I say Adieu, I would say have some time to live for yourself.

As an amateur runner, I have shared what helped me to ‘SHOW UP’ on all mornings of the run days and eventually cultivate ‘Running as a Habit’. Am eager to hear from you what helped you!

GUEST COLUMNIST

Kavita, employed with an International Bank had taken up running to stay fit in summer of 2016. Her leisure running has now developed into her passion. She fondly inspires people around her with her enthusiasm, infectious energy and love for running

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Running at 46

How this Fit Mom, Smita Kulkarni is inspiring young ones to get fit, writes Protima Tiwary.

At a very early age, Smita Kulkarni faced the unpleasant shock of menopause. Not prepared to deal with this at the young age of 37, it took her a lot of mental strength to overcome the body changes that would follow. Hereditary conditions and family history also had her testing for other health scares. Today, at the young age of 46, Smita Kulkarni runs half and full marathons with ease and is a source of inspiration to so many young women all around her.

We sat down for a little tête-à-tête and found out how fitness changed the life of this leggy beauty.

Was fitness a major part of your childhood?
I come from a family of foodies, but active ones at that. Everyone I knew was either playing a sport, or practicing yoga, or was involved in an outdoor activity. As a child I would play a lot of cricket with the boys, kabaddi and volleyball in school and practice yoga with my father which I won’t deny,  I used to detest back then.

How did fitness become such a major part of your lifestyle?

Fitness became a part of my lifestyle only in 1999. I had gained a few unwanted pounds while traveling with my husband on a ship, and I knew it was time to get in shape. I started walking a lot and started with basic bodyweight training exercises. I used to read a lot about fitness too and started doing the HIIT workouts at home.

My son was born in 2003, and I got back to training soon after. I concentrated on weight training and was really enjoying the journey when in 2009 the unthinkable happened. I had hit premature menopause at the age of 37.

It was hereditary, and I was put on Hormone Replacement Therapy to avoid the side effects of menopause (osteoporosis, strokes, weight gain) But now we had another problem- it’s a well-known fact that HRT is known to cause certain types of cancer (breasts and ovarian) and there was a history of breast cancer in my family (my mother is a survivor) I had to discontinue HRT, and that is when I put in all my energy, both physical and mental, into fitness. I started running, and soon got addicted to this “me-time.”

Smita Kulkarni- a mother, a runner, a baker, a wife, a homemaker- how has your ecosystem adapted to your fit lifestyle?

My family and loved ones have been a great support. I am extremely blessed to have a husband who is very supportive of my running and other fitness activities, and it’s an added bonus that he believes in staying fit too. My son is a football player and has accompanied me for a lot of runs and has also done a couple of 10K races with me. We are a food-loving family but everything is done in moderation.

What is your nutrition like today? How do you train? 

I do a couple of Full Marathons, a few Half Marathons and 10k races throughout the year. For this, I train with Dr. Kaustubh Radkar who is a 20-time Ironman. We train 3-4 times a week, and two days are dedicated to the gym for strength and functional training. I also practice yoga every day.

As far as the diet is concerned, I have never believed in any of the fad diets, I’m too much of a foodie for that!

I just believe in eating in moderation and I try to stay off junk food, aerated water, and sweets as much as possible. And even if I do indulge I see to it that I burn it off the next day. Only if I am training for a specific race do I take extra care of what I am eating.

What has been your best race in terms of performance?

No one race comes to mind because there are so many! But if I had to pick, I’d choose the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2014 where at the age of 42 I finished in 2 hours 4 minutes WITHOUT any training. Then came the sub 2 hours half marathon at ADHM (Delhi), then the Full Marathon at IDBI Delhi. Lastly, my first international World Major Marathon in Berlin was extremely enjoyable, and of course, memorable.

How do you keep yourself motivated to continue training and running?

I have my Radstrong team and my PuneRoadrunners group to thank for all the inspiration and motivation that they have provided me with. Plus knowing that there are others who are supporting my journey and getting inspired by what I do, I am motivated to wake up each day and train even harder.

How has running shaped you up as a person?

Running has shaped my life for the better, without any doubt. There has been a physical, mental and emotional transformation. I have become so much more disciplined, I think that has been the biggest change which has affected everything else in my life. I wake up at 4:00 am and go to sleep by 10:00 pm! I have a schedule in place, I have wonderful people who support each other and I have made amazing friends on this journey. I also think I am better equipped to deal with stress now. My perfect stress buster involves me lacing up and going out for a run!

Are there any races that are close to your heart?

So many of them, but I guess it’s a tough one between the Berlin and Delhi Marathons where I ran a steady, strong race with consistent splits throughout, with no walking at all.

Could you share any myths that you’d like to bust when it comes to fitness?

Yes, there are a couple that comes to mind, the first one being that running is bad for your knees. Honestly, as long as you do a total body strength workout at least twice a week you will reduce your chances of getting injured and will enhance your running experience.

The second one is that doing crunches will get you a flat tummy. No, it’s the planks, a good core workout and sensible eating that will get you flat abs.

She sits calmly as she answers our questions, that image of perfection with her dark, curly hair, kohl-lined eyes and red pout, with no idea of the extent to which she has inspired us today. Here is a woman who shows how age is just a number, and if you believe in love, there is nothing that will bring you down. More power to you Smita! Keep inspiring.

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 traveling and to-do lists and loves her long gym sessions like a fat kid loves cake.

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The Indian Blade Runner

Capt Seshadri writes about a Major in the Indian Army who despite his physical challenge has gone on to achieve personal goals and live life on his own terms.

It is very easy to QUIT… majority does so… I, however would like to TRY till last breath, even if I fail. I know it is hard but then I am chosen by God himself for these challenges so why should I bother. Let HIM only worry about result. Jai Hind.

The Indian Army is a voluminous storybook of heroes. In fighting for the safety and security of their countrymen, that they may live in peace, many are martyred, several live on maimed for life, and a few take their disabilities as part of destiny and turn them into a motivation to live life on their own terms.

One such is a veteran of Kargil, hit almost directly by mortar fire, given up for dead, but who literally rose from the ashes like the legendary phoenix, to prove to mankind and more so to the world of runners, that nothing can keep a good man down. Eighteen marathons under his belt which covers what is barely left of his intestines, and fitted with a prosthetic leg, this indefatigable braveheart continues to be the embodiment of the ‘never say die’ spirit. Not without justification has he made his mark as India’s only ‘blade runner’.

Major Devender Pal Singh, born on September 13, 1973, in the north Indian town of Jagadhri, was commissioned into the 7thBattalion of the Dogra Regiment of the Indian Army, on December 6, 1997, graduating from the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. Called to action for Operation Vijay in Kargil in July 1999, Maj Singh was deployed at the LOC in the Akhnoor sector. One fateful night, he was barely 80 metres from a Pakistani Army post when a mortar shell landed and exploded barely five feet away. Shrapnel from the blast tore into him, injuring several internal organs and almost blowing his right leg away.

Brought to the nearest Field Hospital, Maj Singh was declared dead and his torn and bleeding body was consigned to the makeshift mortuary. Fortune must certainly favour the brave, for an army surgeon, inspecting the bodies at the morgue, found signs of life and immediately commenced an emergency operation to remove a portion of his intestines. A part of his right leg, which by then had developed gangrene,  also had to be amputated. Maj Singh, never ready to die, was now determined not just to live, but to do so on his terms. A year in hospital and none believed he would ever walk again; none but himself. He thought: Why just walk? I want to run!

In his own words: “When I learnt I lost my leg, I told myself that this would be yet another challenge in my life. I just couldn’t get used to the sympathetic glances I used to get from people. After a while, I was desperate to change that”.Maj Singh’s foray into running and his astounding achievement of becoming the ‘Indian Blade Runner’ was never a quick affair. In fact, apart from the regular training in the Army, he had never been a runner in the true sense of the term. His internal injuries and the amputation made him push himself beyond the boundaries of perseverance and pain. He never gave up, opting to fall, get up and continue running, rather than crawl. A few agonising marathons later, along with a stroke of luck, a team of prosthetics specialists from the Hanger Clinic, Oklahoma, chancing on a video clip of Maj Singh, called him over and fitted him with a prosthetic that would allow him greater flexibility and more comfort. Naturally, more marathons followed.

In 2002, Maj D P Singh converted to the Army Ordnance Corps, for a more sedentary career. However, in 2007, ten years after being commissioned, he retired to manage a support group called ‘The Challenging Ones’, to instill confidence in similarly challenged people. As a motivational speaker, he travels across India, inspiring amputees break through the chains of dependency and overcome fears of immobility.

 

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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Do runners slow down with age?

Age seems to slow down many runners, Nandini Reddy explores if its just age or are their other factors.

Young runners seem to be faster. Some believe that it is because younger runners use their leg muscles differently. But is it only age that causes this change in gait and running speed? While most of us accept this logic that as we age our speed would diminish there is little to prove that this true. Today senior marathoners are flooding the marathon corrals. They even clock better timings than their younger counterparts, so what then what is it that slows us down?

A study states that muscles can be reinvigorated to perform at peak levels at any age if the person follows the right type of strength training. As we grow older our aerobic capacity decreases and with each passing decade it reduces by a further 10%. So while an octagenarian runner might have better aerobic capacity than a sedentary 40-year-old, there is still an amount of training that needs to be done to ensure that the body is in tune.

Strengthen the Muscles

So what is it that really slows us down as we age. With regular exercise, aerobic capacity can be improved or maintained – so that means you can keep up your pace. There is evidence that shows that muscles in the lower legs age earlier than others. That means that without adequate care the muscles will start losing strength and subsequently lead to injury. The two most important muscles that should be focussed on are the ankle and calf muscles. If these muscles are not strong enough then the chances of Achilles tendon and calf injuries tend to increase.

Weight

Another reason why we tend to run slower is our weight. As we grow older our metabolism slows down and the ability to lose weight reduces. Fit people who eat slowly, include protein and vegetables in their meals and watch their junk food intake will not have this issue. But if you don’t watch your food quality and quantity then maintaining a healthy weight becomes an issue. Running when you are overweight comes with its own range of injuries.

Motivation

One of the biggest reasons people slow down as runners when they grow older is actually the lack of motivation. One starts to become more conscious and careful to avoid injury and in the process, they stop doing the exercises which would help them avoid those injuries. Changing your mindset is the best way to stay active at any age.

Take the time to smell the roses but keep running because age doesn’t slow you down only your mind does.

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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