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Energy Gels – are you a believer or a skeptic?

Energy gels are a great source of energy that help fuel your endurance run or training. But, are they a must-have or just another fad? Deepthi Velkur explores this topic in conversation with two runners – Vijay and Brijesh.

There is one question that niggles runners especially when training for a long distance run – how do I avoid hitting the dreaded wall?

For an upcoming race or endurance event, you’ve probably thought through your fuelling strategy. Be it energy drinks, bars, natural food sources or gels, we all rely on some form of carbohydrate supplement to sustain energy levels to cover longer distances and help you get over the finish line.

With energy gels, you either are a believer or a skeptic. You usually end up a skeptic because you have probably read about the side effects such as gastro problems that these gels can cause. For a believer though, these gels hold a place on its own.

Simply speaking, energy gels are designed to replenish the carbohydrate stores that deplete while running. Sounds like these gels are a big saviour, right? Unfortunately, these energy gels do not provide a one to one replacement as the glycogen we intake through gels is not always absorbed by the working muscles. So why do we need to use them?

To understand this better, I had the opportunity to get different views from two runners, one an ardent energy gels believer while the other is largely skeptical of them.

Do read on to see what each of these runners have to say on the topic –

Vijay AM, an ultra-marathon runner says using energy gels has worked for him during marathons and long runs. According to Vijay, “Gels are the best food source you could carry on long runs as they are convenient, lightweight, no water
needed(tried and tested) and can be consumed on the go”
. You need to plan when to use them during the run-in Vijay’s case, he consumes the gel every 15kms during the run. The best source of energy for long runs are acquired from body stored carbs and fat, but Vijay’s view is that carb storage is limited and fat reserves of the body alone cannot meet the various surges in energy that you require during long runs. Also, eating during a run is challenging and can lead to some ugly after effects. As a result, gels present a good source of carbs as they burn faster and provide immediate results. That being said, gels can only complement the carbs and fat stored in the body that still remain the best source of energy.

On the other hand, Brijesh Gajera, co-founder and coach of Ashva ( running club, Bangalore) and a marathon runner himself, thinks otherwise. It’s not that Brijesh is completely against energy gels but his view is that running gels need to be used sparingly and he does not use gels much during training except a couple of times during long runs before the main event to ensure that every minute detail is taken into consideration for achieving his end goal.

Brijesh recommends that you use the gel only for marginal gains with caution and proper consideration and definitely not as a replacement for solid food. In his opinion, gels only make a 2-3% difference and are not very efficient, the remaining 97-98% comes from the actual training itself.

According to Brijesh, a lot of hype has been created on social media around using gels and its benefits, this can be very misguiding to newbies. Frequency and timing of the usage are critical factors to ensure they are effective else it could lead to stomach distress.

 

It is important that you practice the fueling strategy suited to you during your training phase so that it works the way you want it to come race day. If gels are not your thing, not to worry as you have plenty of other alternatives out there. Choose wisely!

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 (0) |

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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Everything you need to know about running gels

From diet to technique to training, we are always looking for that something new that will help us enhance our run, so Deepthi Velkur decided to look at running gels.

It’s always the season to start running – whether you want to get serious about an upcoming fun run, get faster for a more serious event or just want to refine the way you run, there are simple ways to race smarter.

Nutrition – arguably the most crucial element to consider when it comes to enhancing your performance. It wasn’t so long ago that runners solely relied on water or sports drinks as their primary supplement while running a marathon. Today, with a better understanding of sports nutrition and the advanced technology available, there are several products out there that aid and assist every aspect of a runner’s performance.

Running becomes a different proposition when you cross the 90-minute mark. One of the go-to options for many runners keen on getting through long runs in the most efficient manner possible is running gels.

What is the purpose of these gels you may ask – it’s simple; they help fuel your run.

These energy gels are a reliable form of quickly processed energy – they generally contain 20-30mg of carbs, which can be consumed easily without breaking your stride and are small enough to fit into a running belt. I would like to provide you with some insights on the benefits these gels have while also listing out a few things to watch out for.

Benefits:

  • Energy gels take immediate action on the body and are easily digested.
  • They do not contain any added protein or fat and on an average contain 100 calories.
  • Apart from carbohydrates, they also contain electrolytes which help maintain body balance and prevent it from stress or dehydration.
  • Amino acids, ginseng, vitamins and coenzyme Q10 are added to a few gels to boost performance and reduce the acid build-up and muscular damage.
  • Some gels have caffeine added to them and hence it gives you that boost you need on a long run

What you need to be aware of before using an energy gel:

  • They need to be consumed with water as it can lead to dehydration
  • In some instances, they can cause heartburn or reflux
  • Owing to the high amount of fructose, certain gels may be allergic or cause an upset stomach
  • Very important – never consume it along with a sports drink; this will lead to high sugar levels in your body
  • Look out for gels that contain ‘maltodextrin’ as it is a palatable form of carbs and are absorbed quicker than glucose.
  • Look for gels that contain smaller amounts of fructose to avoid the gel being too sweet.

Do remember that as a runner you must experiment with the use of these gels during your training period so that you understand what gel works best for you come race day.

During a run, wait for about 45 mins or 10kms to take your first gel, the next only after 45mins later. Remember to avoid taking more than one at a time because too much too soon will break your body as it tries to process the overdose of sugar.

Some recommended energy gels available today:

  •  Isotonic Gels(premixed with water): High 5 ISO Gel, SIS GO Gel
  • Glucose/ fructose 2:1 – GU Energy Gel, High 5 Energy Gel, CLIF SHOT Energy Gel, TORQ Energy Gel
  • Caffeine gels: SIS GO + Caffeine Gel, TORQ Energy Gel guarana, High % Energy Gel + caffeine.

The key to finding the right gel is through testing and sampling a wide range of flavours. Before I end, I would like to point out that energy gels are not the only way you can fuel your exercise but they can give you a real boost and have tons of benefits.

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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Do you have the right running gear?

Choosing the right running gear can improve your comfort, performance and keep you injury free, writes Nandini Reddy.

The right running gear can be the determining point between a comfortable run or a run fraught with discomfort. If you are a new runner then it is best to visit a specialist store to ensure that you get the right kind of gear. Even if you are not a serious runner investing into good gear will always make running a pleasurable experience. R

Technical Clothing

If you are running in humid weather then you need to dri-fit clothes. In cold weather ensure your wear thicker clothing or cold resistant clothing. These fabrics know how to handle sweat and adjust your body temperature. If you practice layering you can also adapt to the weather by adding or removing items of clothing.

Sunglasses

When you are running in summer or running a long trail run ensure you carry a pair of sunglasses that are light. You get frame-less options that are made for running. These prevent your eyes from getting tired and also prevent dust from irritating your eyes while you run.

Socks

Socks are very important for runners. The right socks can ensure that you have a comfortable run. Compression socks are worn by a few runners while running to enhance blood flow. You can check with your trainer before using them. Invest into a few pairs of athletic socks. Remember to buy your socks and shoes together so that you know how comfortable you are using them in combination.

Drink Belt

This belt should be multi-purpose. It should hold your bottle, keys and phone. Most of us need to carry all these items when we run so its impractical to invest into two different items for them. You will get good quality belts that can hold all these items. You can also ask experienced runners for recommendations.

Sports Bra

Choose a sports bra that has adjustable straps and can wick moisture. No female runner should run without a comfortable and supportive sports bra. You can get more recommendations based on your type of activity from www.lessbounce.com

Water Bottle

Invest into a light weight sipper style bottle. It should hold at least 500ml of water. You don’t need a bigger bottle during your training and during a race you are likely to come across water stations. Ensure that you bottle fits securely in the belt and doesn’t disturb your running flow.

Right Shoes

If you want to learn how to pick the right shoes then read our article Pick the Right Kicks

GPS Watch

Ensure you get a GPS watch with a Heart Rate Monitor so that you can check if you are working in the right heart rate zone. These watches will also help you monitor pace, distance and timing and track your progress.

Read Potential of the Running Watch to know how best you can use your running watch.

 

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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Featured Comments (1) |

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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Training Comments (1) |

Runners need Strong Arms

A strong upper body is as important as a powerful pair of legs for runners, says Nandini Reddy

When you think of running you do not worry about the strength of your upper body. You are more focused on your legs, knees, ankles and hips. Very rarely do you hear runners talking about their arms and shoulder strength. But in reality can you imagine running without using your arms? Have you tried running by sticking you arms to your sides and not moving them at all? It would be weird and uncomfortable. It is also a highly inefficient way to run. So if your arms are so important then shouldn’t you be taking care of them.

Deadlift for your upper body

Building a super strong upper body has to be a crucial part of your training as a runner. Have you noticed that when you legs get tired you tend to pump you arms more to finish that critical last mile. So its important that you develop you lateral muscles, pecs, shoulder and arms. You can include deadlift, push-ups, overhead presses and lateral rows in your weekly training sessions to strengthen your upper body. Remember that endurance runs tend to put pressure on your muscles and having strong muscles can help you immensely.

Improve your posture

An upright posture give you good running form. A stable and upright posture will improve your running performance as it has a direct positive impact on your endurance. Shoulders and lateral muscles play a big role in ensuring good posture.

Up your lung capacity

As you work your muscles better your lung capacity increases. Also during a hard run a strong upper body will not need as much oxygen to hold a good running form. When you have a stronger upper body your oxygen requirement reduces and that means you can run with more energy and possibly faster.

Improve Endurance

Building muscle endurance is the key to becoming a better runner. Getting the right stride length and number of strides is important. Often when runners are not strong on their upper body their form starts to flag mid run causing stress injuries and more pressure on the body to complete the run.

Strength training your upper body is as important and ensuring that you legs are in good running form. Don’t ignore it because it can be the one thing that determines how you progress as a runner.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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