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Endurance and the Indian runner

Seasoned runner Ajit Thandur, talks about endurance sports in India and how the love for them has evolved.

Endurance sport in India, especially in the realm of amateurs or recreational runners/bikers/swimmers started out really small in terms of numbers nearly about two decades ago. But this scenario has drastically changed in current times as we have witnessed a surge in the number of people that are taking to endurance sport.

I was amazed looking at the statistics of the first edition of the Mumbai Marathon in 2004 – there were only 17 women and 99 men finishers in the Full Marathon race. 13 years later, in 2017, that number has grown exponentially to 400 women and 4250 men finishers. While the percentage growth itself is quite mind-numbing, what is even more amazing is that the number of amateur or recreational runners has really shot up as well, as people put a lot more focus on good health and fitness.

Activities such as these have over the years continuously influenced more and more people to take on some form of physical activity to improve their overall well-being and good health.

For a beginner, it can get quite daunting at first – this is where a running club or a group helps. By joining one of these clubs, a beginner can get the right level of support, better training, encouraged to push themselves further and to develop their stamina and endurance more efficiently.

It’s only a matter of time before the beginner starts thinking of competing in races – peer pressure plays a large part here. Suddenly, you find yourself losing sight of the actual purpose you started the activity for but instead you now focus on comparing yourself with fellow runners and pushing yourself to improve distance, speed and with it your timing. Now, while improvement itself is good, the urge to be as good or better than someone else especially for an amateur sportsperson is not a healthy trend.

Most of us amateur endurance sports enthusiasts would in most cases have taken to endurance sports to shed a few extra kilos. As a consequence, we would have followed a very commonly touted advice of “eat less, burn more”. It is very essential at this stage for an amateur to understand that each individual is made differently and we all have different physical, metabolic and genetic capabilities.

First, the term “eat less, burn more” is very misleading. While burn more refers to exercise, eat less is a very ambiguous expression. The key here is to figure what to eat less of – I will cover this piece in my next article on nutrition.

Keeping in mind our end goal of “weight-loss” and looking for fast results, a lot of amateurs push themselves to the limit and inevitably fall into the “speed” trap. I have seen enthusiasts push themselves during their practice runs instead of doing so only on race days.

This begs the question – is pushing yourself to the limit wrong? Well, the truth is, for an amateur endurance sports person, it can be very wrong.

I would like to draw attention to Dr. Philip Maffetone’s, 180 Formula. https://philmaffetone.com/180-formula/.

I urge each one of you reading this article to visit the link above and understand the importance of doing all your endurance workouts at a heart rate of 180 – (your age). I shall briefly touch upon the principle and science behind it here.

There are aerobic muscles (called so because these muscles use oxygen and your own body fat for energy) and anaerobic muscles (called so because they don’t use oxygen but only glycogen (sugar) stored in your liver and muscle cells).

Logically thinking about it, we should be using more of our aerobic muscles, right? Because they use your own body fat for energy and that is what you desire.

It is important to understand that aerobic muscles work most efficiently at lower heart rates and is calculated as 180 – (your age). For example, if you are 40 years of age it will be 180 – 40 = 140 Beats per Minute (BPM).

At heart rates beyond this threshold, your aerobic muscles function less efficiently and the anaerobic muscles take over. Therefore, it is important to function at your optimum heart rate level so that you expend the fat in your body and not use the anaerobic muscles. The glycogen stores in the anaerobic muscles last no more than 2 and a half minutes at heart rates higher than the threshold aerobic heart rate.

Another advantage of aerobic training is that over a period of time (this may be anywhere from 3 months to a whole year depending on the individual) your pace, speed and performance efficiency improve at that same threshold aerobic heart rate. This helps your body become fat adapted and it starts to use and rely on your body fat and not sugars to generate energy for that activity. Excess sugars or carbohydrates is what made us fat in the first place and that is exactly what we need to avoid.

Let me reiterate that just one read of what I have written here isn’t enough for you understand the principle behind this thoroughly. I urge you all to read the link I have provided above on the 180 Formula and also listen to this wonderful interview on Heart Rate Training, Nutrition and Recovery (https://youtu.be/_TPrenWWK9U) between Dr. Philip Maffetone and marathoner (Floris Gierman) who completed the Boston Marathon in 2 hours and 44 mins.

Enjoy your sport, stay injury free and achieve your goals, but in the process be mindful of overtraining and burning out.

GUEST COLUMNIST

Ajit Thandur is an entrepreneur and amateur endurance runner/swimmer based in Mysuru taking a keen interest in injury-free training and nutrition. He also conducts Thonnur Swimathon, Tri Thonnur and a run race Chamundi Hill Challenge in Mysuru.

 

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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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Running your first 10k – Part 1

Are you considering endurance running as a serious fitness activity? If yes, great decision!, writes Coach Pramod Deshpande. In this two part article learn how you can achieve this dream.

As someone who enjoys running himself, I have to say that endurance running will bring about an extremely positive change in your life while making it an enjoyable and fulfilling journey.

No matter the reason – an influential social media post, well thought out decision to correct some fitness parameters or just the curiosity to try something new, this is an activity for everyone and learning a few aspects of it will help a long way in preparing for it.

Let us start with some basics – the 3 fundamental truths of Endurance running:

  • Current fitness level – Fitness is not like a positive bank balance that you can draw upon at any time. You have to start from the baseline of your current fitness level. All your glory day medals and trophies are of little use if you have not been active in the recent past. We all have that friend who cannot stop talking about his sporting achievements in school and college and we often wonder – if he/she is healthier than I am? Fear, not my dear friends, if he/she has been as inactive as you in the recent past, he/she has very little advantage over you when this journey begins.
  • Patience is name of the game – “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time” – Leo Tolstoy.
    You may be in hurry to post a pic on social media of you taking a bite of the finisher medal of your next big race but your body is going to take its time to prepare itself to cover that distance. So please give enough time for preparation.
  • Perseverance and discipline – You might run fast for the first couple of weeks but that is short lived as your body will start complaining as weeks go by. Do not focus on speed at this juncture but your emphasis should be more on getting out and putting in the mileage day after day as per your training schedule.

Preparation before the start of your journey

Before you get down to training, there are a few things to sort out:

  • Clear your calendar – This is going to be a dedicated preparation and will require changes to your daily routine. Keep aside 90 minutes of your dedicated time (preferably in the mornings) for training minimum thrice a week for the next 10 weeks from the start of this journey.
  • Make a commitment to yourself – You can always find ample reasons to miss that training – but if you stay committed, you can always spare those 90 minutes no matter what the situation might be.
  • Prepare for lifestyle changes: You will see a lot of positive changes in your nutritional discipline, proper sleep and rest patterns – open your arms and embrace it, you’re becoming a healthier version of you!
  • Select a target event – It becomes easier to achieve your goal if you have in mind an event to participate in such as a 10k, to begin with. To give yourself enough time for preparation, choose an event 10 weeks away and always choose a reputed event as the support on the course and other facilities are better.
  • Guidance for preparation – Running is natural to all of us, however, serious preparation for such an event requires proper guidance and monitoring. One of the options where you could receive this guidance would be to join a running club as they have well-designed training modules, the services of an experienced coach and group running is fun. While the other option you have is to select an online program but these programs typically lack personalization, monitoring, and most importantly encouragement when you’re feeling low. A note of caution here, an advice from some runner friend, knowledge nuggets from ‘Google University’ are not really effective ways to prepare and can have serious drawbacks. Be wise in your selection.
  • Running gear – Having the right gear is motivation in itself – always have a dry fit t-shirt, comfortable, light and flexible running shoes, water bottle and exercise mat before you start.
  • Health Checkup – It is always recommended to get a health checkup and get your doctor’s opinion before you start this journey.

Nutrition Discipline

Nutrition planning is more an individual aspect and therefore instead of getting into specific food aspects, let’s talk about ‘Nutrition discipline’, which is essential for endurance running. Doing a lot of trial and error during this training phase will help you find out what suits you best. Here are a few pointers:

Regularity in food intake: Endurance running is a long duration activity and gastric distress (running on an empty stomach) is an important aspect especially during early morning runs. Regular food intake and the right quantity play a major role in setting your body clock for this long duration activity.

  • Fixed time for food intake: Set a timetable for food intake based on your daily routine and stick to it. Have an early dinner so that you digest your food properly and are ready for the morning run.
  • Smaller quantities: Train your body to eat meals every 3 hours as this helps to reduce the quantity of each meal without compromising on nutrition and absorption.

Before the Run: Typically, the training begins in the morning and with an 8-hour gap from your last meal, it is important to eat a snack rich in carbohydrates like a banana or slice of bread with peanut butter as the body will need the energy to run.

During the Run: For workouts that last more than an hour, carry small qualities of some carb-rich snack e.g. couple of groundnut bars, glucose biscuits, dates, jaggery, energy gels etc. It is important to get used to eating during the run.

After the Run: Eating a protein and carb snack within 20 minutes of your exercise gives you the maximum benefit. Carrying your post-run snack with you is best as eating after you get home or after 45 mins is not ideal. You can carry boiled eggs, protein shake, protein bar, an idly with lots of sambar etc.

Hydration: Your general hydration requirement will increase as you will be sweating a lot. Keep a water bottle handy. You can also get hydration from buttermilk, fruit juices, fruits, coconut water etc.

  • Before your run ensure you have water at least half an hour prior to the run.
  • During the run drink whenever you feel thirsty. It is all a matter of practice and you should not worry about the loss of pace due to water stops as dehydration at a later stage will slow you down even more. Adding carbs & salt supplements to the water e.g. Fast & Up, Enerzal, Gatorade or a homemade mix of sugar, salt & lime is a good option.
  • After your run, remember to drink water or water plus supplements immediately after the run. However, you need to continuously hydrate yourself in the first hour of completing the run.

In the next part we have a training plan and much more. Keep reading!

GUEST COLUMNIST

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

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Healthy eating during your rest days

How you spend your rest days is equally important as how you would spend your training days – especially when it comes to eating, asks Deepthi Velkur.

In order to achieve optimal results, planning your meals around your workouts is essential and on your rest days, fuelling your body with the required nutrients needed for repair and muscle growth is paramount. How and what you eat has a huge impact on your overall recovery from the previous day’s work out and also impacts your performance on training the next day.

There are more ways than one to achieve this and it mostly comes down to individual goals, but following a few key principles helps:

Do not cut back on calorie intake: While many think they need to watch their calorie intake during rest days, it is not necessarily so. A proper intake of nutrients is essential as this is the time when the most recovery and adaptation happen.

A steady supply of calories through the day: People usually tend to start their day with a light breakfast followed by lunch and end with a heavy dinner. This does no good because energy depletes as the day progresses making us more susceptible to a breakdown. Hence, spacing out your calorie intake through the day is the best approach. Additionally, eating fresh fruit and some nuts in between meals will balance it out.

Balance your macros: For a strong recovery, you need macronutrients such as protein, fibre, and carbs and micronutrients such as vitamin D, calcium, and iron. Intake of whole foods like your meat, vegetables, and fruits are also essential in replenishing your body. Ensure you fill half your plate up with fresh veggies, fruits, and whole grains to bring a balance in your meal. A serving of high quality-protein topped with un-saturated fat ensures you are getting fatty acids which also aids in the recovery process.

No to eating junk food: You probably thought you will finish that leftover slice of pizza for breakfast but remember all that saturated fat will do you no good in your recovery process. A rest day does not mean you overindulge in your favourite cheat food.
Food rich in lean protein, complex carbs and healthy fats should be your go-to food options on these days.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate: You may notice that you do not feel as thirsty as compared to your training days. However, it is important to be mindful of your water intake to prevent dehydration.

Choose anti-inflammatory foods: While you’re giving your muscles and joints time to heal on your off days, filling up on anti-oxidant rich food such as pecans, blueberries, cranberries and maybe even dark chocolate help your body gear up for the next day’s work out as they all have anti-inflammatory properties.

If you’re serious about staying fit and seeing results from your training days, eating right matters. Additionally, monitor your results and make dietary changes from time to time to derive the best out of your workouts.

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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What to eat when training for a marathon

Wondering what to eat during your marathon training cycle? Getting your training diet spot on will help you go that extra mile says our Guest Columnist, Shailja Sridhar.

The commitment needed to train for a marathon usually means that you will be running a lot more regularly and the mileage increasing with each run. It also means that you need extra rest and nutrition to recover from all that training you undergo.

Achieving your Ideal Race weight

Most often, you are not at an ideal racing weight and it becomes all the more important to watch what you eat and how much you consume during the training cycle so you get that optimum balance and do not gain weight.

Losing too much weight has an adverse effect on your ability to manage your training runs. It is good to have a fair idea of the weight you want to lose and build a training plan and the nutrition required to achieve your goal. At first, check your current weight and calculate the ideal racing weight you want to be at. This helps in tracking how many calories you burn during your workouts to get a daily minimum calorie count. One should realize that creating too much of a calorie deficit can harm the performance and recovery.

Fulfilling your nutrition needs during training

There are some general guidelines you need to keep in mind during the training cycle to ensure you fulfill your nutrition needs and also feel energized for the training sessions. Now is the best time to try out different foods and other supplements to understand how your body adapts to new foods and plan accordingly for the race day.

A high protein breakfast with some carbs on the days of training would be a good start. That third slice of toast might be good on the long run days but should be avoided as part of your regular diet as carbohydrates tend to get stored as fat in our body if not utilized properly.

There are various sources of protein which could be a part of your diet. Eggs, amaranth, peanuts and oats are all good sources of protein. Adding a handful of nuts and seeds (like chia, hemp, sunflower or flax) to the bowl of oats or amaranth porridge is a good way to increase the protein intake. The best way is to closely watch your diet and plan the meals right from the start of your training cycle so it becomes a becomes a habit eventually.

 

It can be very tempting to indulge in junk food cravings especially after a run but one should realize that it is not really a good idea to do that very often. You don’t really burn that many calories while running because your body gets efficient over time.

An average runner burns about 100 calories per mile of running and it does not depend on the speed of the run. It can vary a little depending on the current weight but not too much. The empty calories in junk food will neither help in recovery nor will they be good for you in the long run.

Timing your food intake

Another essential part of training is to time your food intake and most people tend to ignore it. There is a 30-minute window after a workout when your body is very receptive to replenishment of its glycogen reserves and consuming some simple carbs and proteins will aid recovery for your next workout. The electrolytes we lose during the workout also need to be replaced else you end up getting a headache or experience excessive fatigue. I have often suffered dehydration headaches as I failed to replenish my body with lost electrolytes post my workout session. You experience this more in cooler climates where you don’t feel the exhaustion after a run or aware of the extent of the loss.

A healthy diet with lots of green vegetables and fruits is necessary for our long-term goals. We need good fats and enough protein to aid muscle recovery and carbs to fuel our long runs.

The use of commercial products is not necessary but certainly more convenient to manage the post workout nutrition and recovery. There are various options available with varying levels of protein and carbs but choosing one that suits your needs is important. It is always good to be picky when choosing supplements. We should always be picky about things we are putting in our bodies. Eating high-quality real food is essential and do not only rely on sports nutrition supplements to fulfill your dietary requirements. Nuts, seeds, grains, fruits, and veggies are better for us as they are a part of a complete wholesome meal plan which keeps us feeling full for longer and reduces hunger pangs and food cravings.

My personal diet plan

Fruits with seeds and strawberry yogurt

Mixed Greens tossed with apples, nuts, olives with lemon honey dressing

 

Chicken, veggies, greens and millets.

 

 

 

My food habits are not the best but I try to eat clean most of the time. My breakfast is usually two or three egg omelette with some peanut butter toast or a ragi dosa with chutney and fruits. Oats/lentils savoury pancakes is another regular favourite breakfast item. Sometimes I like a nice hot oats porridge with nuts, berries and pomegranate seeds to sweeten it. I eat a huge bowl of seasonal fruits with my breakfast without fail. Hot cooked breakfast is usually a given for me.

I have a few different recipes of salads that I make regularly for my between the meals snack and they contain a good mixture of soaked, occasionally sprouted and boiled lentils, and lots of fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds to add taste. I am constantly hungry and it is important to fill myself with something that I like which satisfies my hunger cravings and provides the nutrition I need. Carrot and cucumber sticks are another regular snack with some dip or hummus or cream cheese if want to indulgence a little.

Half my plate is usually veggies or salad during mealtimes and it wasn’t easy when I started but it has become a habit with time. Veggies, salads, lentils, soup and some meat occasionally are my main meals while training for a marathon.

Few pointers to keep in mind while training for a marathon:

  • Make a plan for nutrition along with the training plan and stick to it. Please remember that good nutritious meals are an essential part of training.
  • Check your weight regularly and keep track of the changes. Get a blood test done to ensure that there are no deficiencies.
  • Fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, lentils, and grains usually have everything we need to fulfill our body’s requirements.
  • Use sports nutrition during the training to get the body used to it for the race day. Good idea to experiment in the training stages so that there are no nasty surprises later.
  • Protein and carbs are essential for recovery and the ratio depends on the weight and the goals of training. High protein diet is good for muscle recovery but a good store for carbohydrates is necessary for the endurance runs.
  • Junk food has to be strictly controlled and monitored. An occasional treat is acceptable but as long as the calories are taken into account when planning your meals.
  • Use sports drinks and electrolyte-rich drinks after a workout to recover quickly for the next day. There are lots of options available in the market and it is good to check the nutritional information on the label in detail before consuming them.

Fuelling options a day before and on race day

I usually have a very sensitive stomach so I keep it very simple before the marathon. I try to stay extra hydrated for a few days before the run. Heavy breakfast on the day before the race, a carb-rich lunch (usually bland pasta) and a light dinner consisting of soup and a light salad or just a dinner roll work best for me. Not everyone is the same and I have runner friends who eat a proper carb-rich meal for dinner too and manage pretty well. Marathon day breakfast is a bagel or toast with some peanut butter and some black coffee. I carry a banana to the start line to eat about half an hour before the run starts.

Wholesome natural meals are always a good idea and mindfulness helps in several ways. The rules of good nutrition remain the same for everyone and it makes a big difference in the way your body responds to the increased training load. Having a constant check on your weight and paying attention to your meals helps us see those changes you want to see in your body.

It is always good to start slow and make gradual changes to move towards the kind of diet you need and soon eating healthier meals becomes a habit. Try not to compare with others because each person is different and there is no single ideal diet you could follow. It might seem difficult to keep track of so many things at first and follow the training plan but it gets a lot easier with practice.

GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Shailja is a mother of 2 kids and a part time model for a sustainable brand close to her heart called www.kinche.com. She’s either running after the kids or running to stay sane.

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12 weeks to stronger cycling

Getting better at cycling takes time, effort and planning, so how can you become a stronger cyclist asks Nandini Reddy.

Becoming a better cyclist means you need to get better at communicating with your muscles. Cyclists who are able to perfect the link between their brain and their muscles are the strongest ones. Training will increase the voluntary actions of your muscles and make cycling easier for you. There will be greater muscle activation and improved endurance and you will find yourself cycling easily over long distances.

Sustained cycling is an activity that doesn’t come naturally so it’s important that you train your muscles to be activated during this process. You can maintain speed over a longer period of time before fatigue hits your muscles.

Practice Practice Practice

A beginner cyclist will be able to activate about 30-50% of his muscles during the first few weeks of training. The idea is to increase the number of muscles activated in order to improve your endurance. A world-class cyclist will be able to activate anywhere between 80-90% of his muscles. Even if you don’t reach that high number a good range to aim for is 50-70%.

The best way to start activating your muscles is to do quick up-hill rides. The duration should be between 30-45 seconds. This sort of demand on your muscles will require you to utilize maximum power and you will start activating your dormant muscles as well.

As you practice more these hill rides will become easier and then you can move to increasing the duration in order to enhance your endurance. The idea is to develop your muscles to endure the long distance rides.

12 weeks to power cycling

The idea of following a 12 week programme is to ensure that your muscle fibres are activated. The activated muscles should also be strengthened. The intensity of the workout should be balanced with duration to ensure endurance during the long race.

Before you start any ride ensure you are adequately warmed up. The idea is to start intense and slowly reduce the intensity, recover and restart the cycle for a longer duration. This would prepare you to become a more powerful cyclist by the end of the training period.

Week 1 – 30 sec sprint rides uphill – 2 min active recovery – 4 times

Week 2 – 30 sec sprint rides uphill – 1 min active recovery – 4 times

Week 3 – 30 sec sprint rides uphill  – 1 min active recovery – 6 times

Week 4 – Active recovery – Flat surface cycling

Week 5 – 1 min sprint rides uphill – 2 min active recovery – 6 times

Week 6 –  1 min sprint rides uphill – 2 min active recovery – 8 times

Week 7 –  1 min sprint rides uphill – 1 min active recovery – 8 times

Week 8 – Active recovery – Flat surface cycling or 1 min hill rides

Week 9 – 3 min intense rides uphill – 3 min active recovery – 3 times

Week 10 –  3 min intense rides uphill – 3 min active recovery – 4 times

Week 11 –  3 min intense rides uphill – 3 min active recovery – 6 times

Week 12 –  3 min comfortable rides uphill – 3 min active recovery – 3 times

After the 12th week you can change the intensity and duration to improve your endurance. Have fun riding.

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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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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Foods Runners should Avoid

If you want to improve your running performance there are certain foods that you need to exclude from your diet, writes Nandini Reddy.

Food is the fuel that helps us achieve our running goals. Then we need to have only high quality fuel in order to get the best performance. The right food promotes better recovery and provides the right kind of energy to improve running performance.

There are certain foods that we eat without considering the effect they might have on our body. The wrong food means inadequate repair and longer recovery periods. It could also mean that you would get certain muscle related injuries. If you are looking to achieve the best performance while you run then here are certain foods that you should keep out of your diet.

High Sugar Foods

High sugar foods are never healthy. You may feel that it is necessary to boost your energy but you can avoid the cakes and cookies. Energy need not come directly from eating high sugar foods. You can get energy even from complex carbohydrates like whole grains.

Oily & Fried Foods

Fried food is a definite no-no when it comes to a good diet. Another thing to remember is many of us consume too much oil without realising that our regular food. If oil can be seen in the food you cooked even at home, it means its not healthy for you. Use oil prudently and you will be able to enjoy your food always. Fried foods and oily foods also take longer to digest and can create gastrointestinal distress.

Sugary Sodas

Caramel coloured bubbly sodas may be momentarily satisfying but can also lead to dehydration and increased sugar cravings. They do not really satisfy your thirst. These can be hard on your stomach and can derail your training energy. So for these drinks instead of moderation, you can just clean avoid them.

Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose need to be strictly avoided. They can lead to dehydration and increase sugar cravings. These sweeteners are also known to cause weight gain. These sweeteners also tend to confuse the body signals about insulin and it is never a good idea to do that.

Full fat Diary

Full fat diary is a good consideration if you want to grain weight. If you want to lose weight and feel lighter then its not a great option to include in your diet. If you like your glass of milk then look for those that are 3% fat or less. You can also choose alternatives like rice milk and nut milk.

Alcohol

With alcohol its not about elimination but moderation. Having too much can cause slowed reaction times and dehydration and thus leading to decrease in performance. But before the race you need to definitely avoid alcohol of any sort including beer. You can consider beer for a celebratory drink after your finish the big race.

White grains

White grains are not high in fibre. If you consume whole grains along with the carbohydrates you will also receive adequate fibre. A healthy gut is important to ensure that you are a good runner. White grains also tend to raise your insulin levels and that can cause your energy to plummet. Whole grains give you more lasting energy.

Processed Meat

Processed meat is high in nitrates. Increasing their intake also carried other health risks such as colon cancer but most importantly it doesn’t do anything for improving your running performance. It might seem easier to reach for a cold cut of meat instead of cooking fresh but by doing so you are severely jeopardizing you nutrition.

The key to a healthy running career is a healthy diet, so limiting or avoiding these foods will do you a whole lot of good.

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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What do Elite Runners eat?

Elite runners have perfected the optimal diet to ensure the best running performance, writes Nandini Reddy.

Eating like an elite runner doesn’t mean you have to be on a special diet. Although several experts and websites will tell you that they eat special food, in most cases they would be eating local cuisine and nothing exotic. A recent research also found that very few elite runners are on a special diet.

You are more likely to find world class runners eating a normal diet. Their experience helps them determine which foods work to improve their performance and which foods to avoid. If you look at the diet of African runners you will find that they eat a lot of cornmeal and European runners do not eat any corn.  But that doesn’t mean cornmeal is ideal for all runners. Japanese runners eat more fish. Essentially this means that eating like the elite means eating right for your body and not only a certain type of food.

Instead of trying to copy and elite runners exact diet, you need to learn a few best practices that they use to ensure that their body is at peak performance. Here are a few guidelines

Eat the Food Pyramid

There are six categories of food you need to eat including protein, vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and diary. Based on where you come from these options can be combined any way possible. An elite runner would ideally include all these meals in their diet everyday. Proteins and vegetables with whole grains are the most important inclusions in every meal. Do not eliminate any category unless it is based on medical advice.

Focus on Quality of Food

You can get the same category of foods in the natural or processed format. If you are eating refined and processed foods then you are not getting the right kind of nutrition. Elite athletes keep the consumption of these kind of foods to the minimum. You need to ensure that you never fall into the trap of ‘any food works’. All foods are not equal so it is important to have a high quality diet.

Don’t avoid Carbs

New runners tend to lower their carb intake and up their protein intake as a way to get higher performance. But this is an erroneous move. In fact lower your carbs will reduce your energy and could also have the affect of making you feel fatigued. Carbohydrate intake has a clear connection with endurance performance as established by Ahlborg in the 1960s. When you reduce carb intake there is a greater stress on your body and your performance will dip. This has been studied across various runners and research doesn’t recommend that you go for a low carb diet. You can get the right carbs from whole grains and high quality foods instead of opting for bad carbs from fast foods and refined foods.

Fill your Stomach

You cannot perform on an elite level on an empty or half-full stomach. Cutting calories will drastically reduce your running performance. This means along with high quality food you also need to eat enough quantity. It is fine to eat a bit extra rather than pinching the calories and ending up being fatigued. Less calories doesn’t mean you will become a lean running machine. You might end up damaging your running career and health. If you want to judge the right quantity for yourself ensure that you are eating enough at first to fuel your runs. After that you can adjust the quantity if you feel it is excessive and affecting your running weight.

Personalize your Diet

Diet history, food preferences, regional food habits and body’s fuel needs should dictate your diet. It is important to personalize your diet because there is not diet that follows the one size fits all. Every individual needs to eat according to their body, needs and normal diet history. A few runners may eat wheat, a few may be vegetarian or vegan and a few might like sugary treats.

If you are getting advice to eat Paleo diets or gluten free diets then it might just be a fad and nothing more because the elites follow a simple diet of local produce and foods instead of exotic 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.

Read more