Seniors Comments (0) |

The Runner who talks to God

The name Fauja Singh is an inspiration to senior runners the world over, Capt Seshadri takes a look at this remarkable runner.

An 89 year old Punjabi man in London, wishing to train for a marathon, landed up at Redbridge, Essex, probably in deference to the formal attire of the country of his residence, dressed in a three piece suit, much to the bemusement of his coach. To further add to the trainer’s surprise, the bearded and turbaned old man confessed that he thought the marathon was run over 26 km and not miles. Not that it mattered at all. His training began in complete earnestness and dedication. The outcome? In 2003, at age 92, he completed the London Marathon in 6:02 and the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 5:40.

This is the saga of Fauja Singh, a name that must now be familiar to every marathon runner across every continent. This was the same person who, born on April 1, 1911, in the village of Beas near Jalandhar, the sports goods capital of India, struggled to walk on his weak and scrawny legs until the age of five. One hundred years later, the very same ‘old’ lad set eight world age group records in a single day at the Ontario Masters Association Invitational Meet: 100 m in 23:14; 200 m in 52:23; 400 m in 2:13:48; 800m in 5:32:18; 1500 m in 11:27: 18; the metric mile in 11:53:45, the 3000 m in 24:52:47 and the 5000 m in 49:57:39. A series of events that no professional athlete would dream of attempting even at the peak of his career!

Where most master athletes would take weeks to recover from such a strenuous ordeal, just three days later, on October 16, 2011, Fauja Singh scripted history as the first centenarian to complete a full 26.2 miler, running the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 8:11:06. Sadly, this amazing feat never made it to the Guinness Book of Records, since he had no birth certificate to prove his age, despite a passport confirmation of his date of birth.

Even though he was undeterred by age and never laid low through injury, this living legend decided to call it quits from competitive running after the Hong Kong Marathon on February 24, 2013, where he completed the 10K in 1:32:28, a timing which is just outside the qualifying limit of 1:30 set for the Tata World 10k, and meant for runners who would qualify as his great grandchildren! The proud moment of his running career was when he carried the Olympic torch in July 2012. The retired Fauja now runs for pleasure, health and charitable causes. Fauja Singh was honoured with the British Empire Medal in 2015, for his outstanding contribution to sports and charity.

The 52 kg, vegetarian Sikh attributes his longevity, stamina and outstanding fitness to his non-meat diet comprising roti, dal, vegetables and curd. Good hydration with plenty of water and ginger tea, early sleep, an abhorrence towards smoking and alcohol, and a professed diet of love and respect from the world around him, keep him going strong. His take on running successful marathons at such an advanced age: “The first 20 miles are not difficult. As for the last 6 miles, I run while talking to God”.

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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The day before a marathon

The best way to prepare for race day is by putting your feet up, writes Deepthi Velkur.

Running a marathon is an endurance game and requires extensive training, focus, and dedication. To be able to tackle one requires you to break it down into a three-fold process. First, make a commitment to enter and give your best to the marathon. Second, dedicate time and effort to the training involved for the grueling challenge ahead and finally enjoy the most worthwhile and gratifying phase of the marathon – the event itself.

As you get closer to race day, it is natural to have some rattling nerves and mounting questions but if you want to calm yourself down and aim to achieve your personal best, it is important to give yourself that special care during the last 24 hours before the marathon.

Follow these simple tips to better prepare yourself on the day before a marathon:

  • Hydrate well and eat clean – Fueling your body with good food and ensuring you drink a lot of water a day before the marathon is recommended. Sipping on water through the day and having a sports drink or electrolyte supplement also helps in boosting electrolyte levels in the body. Boost your food intake by eating lean protein like paneer, beans, lentils, nuts, chicken or fish and adding carbohydrate to each meal in the form of vegetables, fruits, pasta, bread or rice. Stick to foods that work well for you and do not try anything new before or on the race day.
  • Layout your running clothes and gear – Keep it all handy to avoid a last-minute rush. Some essential items to keep in mind before a marathon or to carry to the race include – race bib, GPS watch or wristwatch, comfortable running outfit, cap, shoes, socks, energy gels, sunscreen and petroleum gels to avoid chafing.
  • Keep calm and relax – Stay off your feet as much as possible. Watch a movie for extra motivation or listen to music as this is a good way to ease your mind. You can try doing a 15-20 min run on the treadmill or a short run of 3 to 4kms to loosen up your legs at best.
  • Think positive – While you have prepared well for the grueling task of running the marathon, keeping your mind sharp and staying positive is extremely crucial. The mind gives up before your body does so ward off any negativity by surrounding yourself with positive people.
  • Map your run- Familiarizing yourself with the course map and the actual course itself a day before the marathon aids in building your race strategy. Set a realistic goal and stick to it. Do check for weather conditions a day before or on the race day as this helps you prepare yourself mentally as well as physically for the race.
  •  Early rising- Keep an alarm so you’re up early and have ample time for yourself to get ready.

The above steps go a long way in ensuring your race day readiness and calming those nerves. After the marathon, it is important to savor your success, think about what worked and what didn’t and this will help you plan better for your next race.

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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When to replace your Running Shoes

A good pair of shoes can make all the difference to your run, writes Deepthi Velkur

Running is a simple sport – irrespective of the distance being run all you need are the right clothes and a good pair of running shoes. But how long do running shoes last? It’s an age-old question and unfortunately, no universal answer exists apart from the standard of 480 – 800 kms which for someone running 24 kms per week means changing your shoes every 5-6 months.

So how do you know if your running shoes need replacing? Start with looking for obvious signs of wear and tear but most importantly listen to your body.

Treads appear worse for wear and the shock absorption is shot

Start by looking at the out-sole – over time you will notice that the tread starts giving way. This is your first clue. Moving on to your mid-sole, look for signs of scrunching. If you press the center of the shoe and you find it is not “springy”, it is a clear indicator that the cushioning is done for. A washed-out running shoe like this can cause foot instability leading to ankle and knee issues.

Watch out for those niggling aches and pains

A quality pair of running shoes should leave you feeling as good as when you started with no lasting pain. If you start to experience soreness or pain in your feet, lower back and joints especially the knees, it is a sign that your running shoes are wearing out. A little twinge at the bottom of a foot could be your body’s way of telling you that your shoe is past its prime.

The mileage keeps adding up

A running shoes longevity varies between people depending on several individual factors. Seasoned runners need to replace their running shoes more often than a causal runner as the mileage covered is much higher.

Running shoes take quite a beating as we put four times our body weight and strike the ground nearly 1500 times in 10 minutes running. It is a good idea to keep a tab on the kms being run and this will give you a fair idea of when to replace your running shoes.

The terrain makes a difference

One of the biggest factors that determine if your running shoes need a replacement is a terrain you run on. If you run in tough trail conditions for example then clearly you will need to replace them faster than for someone running on a treadmill.

Looking out for these warning signs and replacing your running shoes regularly will keep you comfortable, healthy and extend your running life.

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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Five Tips to Run on a Vacation

Should you really run on a vacation? Well, yes! says Radhika Meganathan 

Running in a new place is highly recommended because one, the new scenery and running conditions give you a fresh change of scenery and challenge. Two, you want to keep breaks and time-offs from your running routine for unavoidable emergencies where it is genuinely difficult to run, and folks, a vacation is NOT an emergency. They are almost always running friendly, if you just prepare yourself a bit.

So pack your favourite running shoes, your all-weather track suit (or a spare T-shirt and shorts!) and get ready to stretch your legs in a new, exciting location. I caugh up with Srimathy Vardhan, who works at Deustche Bank, Wall Street, New York to share a few tips on how she manages to squeeze a run into her travel:

  1. Choose a hotel with a gym: A tread-mill work out is better than no work out (especially if the weather outside is in the extremes), so if it falls within your budget, opt for accommodation with a fitness center. “I am doubly excited when the hotel has a gym,” says Srimathy Vardhan. “I usually look for it when I book my trips. If there is no gym, then I will run outdoors but weather is not a deterrent for a runner unless there is a calamity.”
  2. Research ahead: Google or call your accommodation provider to get details of the trails and parks near your place of stay, so that you can plan your daily running. This step is also a good chance to identify and avoid potentially unsafe places. Minimise your chances of getting lost by downloading map of the area on your phone. Always, before running, check if your GPS is functioning.
  3. Get up early: Yes, this is a bummer, but if you don’t want your sightseeing or family time to get disturbed, you need to plan your running schedule. “Being a working mom of two young kids, I find running to be the best way to fine tune my thoughts and relax my mind. I am currently training for my marathon in October. Last week I was on holiday and I woke up early at 4:30am to run, because doing so boosts my confidence and helps me to stay focused on my training plan,” says Srimathy.
  4. Eat mindfully: While food is an exciting part of any vacation, too much of it can interfere with your goal-oriented running regimen such as for a marathon or weight loss. Consuming excess carbs, sugary treats or alcohol food also makes you sluggish, so try not to go overboard. Most hotel buffet/dinners offer huge spreads, so opt for a light lunch, such as soup or fruit. Stick to drinking a minimum of 3L of water a day, especially if you are vacationing in a hot and humid place.
  5. Consider cross training: If you know beforehand that running every day is going to be difficult in an upcoming holiday, pack a travel-size foam roller and use it for core strengthening exercises, and proceed ahead to cross train on the days when you definitely cannot run. Choose whatever is available, swimming or canoeing or biking. Just stay on the fitness wagon, instead of completely falling off it!

But what if there is no gym, the roads are slippery and it rains heavily? What if you are walking all day exploring a city or a national park, and the last thing you want to do is run?

The solution is very simple. Plan a longer or more challenging running schedule for a few weeks before your intended vacation time. Then you can consider your vacation as the required recovery time to give your body some rest, and spend your holiday truly relaxing and bonding with your near and dear. Bon voyage!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Radhika Meganathan is a published author who is an advocate for healthy living, she practices sugar-free intermittent fasting, all-terrain rambling and weight training.

 

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Stay in shape with Running

Running is an excellent way to stay healthy and be in shape for any age, writes Deepthi Velkur.

The benefits of running outweigh the risks and helps in reducing the many impacts of aging to a great extent. Seasoned runners tend to have better mobility, weight control, muscle strength, bone density and an overall sense of well-being. According to a recent Stanford university study, frequent runners tend to experience ailments such as heart disease, diabetes, neurological ailments, high blood pressure on an average 16 years later than non-runners. This makes it a great sport to take up at any age and especially for seniors its a great way to stay fit.

Here are some simple pointers to keep in mind if you want to start of your running career in your golden years:

Set realistic goals- Keep your goals small and attainable. There is a loss of muscle strength, aerobic capacity, higher recovery time and rest required as you get older; as a result, you cannot train and race at the same intensity. However, endurance runners who continue running into their older years have a much-reduced muscle loss when compared to inactive people of the same age. Adjust your expectations, pick realistic goals and continue to be active and committed to running.

Check with a professional-If your new to running or taken to running after a long break from being physically fit, checking with a doctor or a healthcare professional is a good idea and helps you build a customized training plan. Senior runners should always take the advice of a physician and the guidance of the coach before endeavoring into running.

Proper running gear- Choosing the right running gear is more important than just your comfort. With the body loosening up as you age, selecting the right type and size of clothing as well ensuring proper running shoes with adequate cushioning is imperative. You will find specialized running shoes in the market so get out and do some shopping.

Strength Training- Regular strength training helps in a slower decline of the muscle mass and this becomes very important when you are taking up an aerobic sport like running. Improved muscle mass helps the muscles to absorb more impact caused due to running and less stress on the joints. A mixed workout which includes swimming, cycling, yoga, simple leg and core exercises such as squats, planks, push-ups, and lunges help in your running performance and improves injury resistance when you are a senior runner.

Balance and flexibility- You can work on improving your balance by standing on one leg for 30 seconds or some yoga exercises like the tree and eagle pose. Legs, back, hips, and shoulders feel stiffer since they lose elasticity with time. Regular stretching and yoga especially post running improve flexibility.

Injury Prevention and proper recovery time-Slight change in body signals should not be ignored especially for senior runners and must be given immediate attention. Ensure your fitness plan includes adequate rest as it gives the body time to strengthen itself. Stretching before and after runs is equally important. Regular massages and foam rolling is also beneficial.

Follow these simple tips and you can hit the road with a calmer and focused mind as a senior runner. Running goes a long way in helping you achieve a balanced state of physical and mental well-being, so what are you waiting for – lace up those shoes and run free.

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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Barefoot running – a more natural way to run

Barefoot seems like a great way to run but you need to work your way to it, writes Deepthi Velkur.

Barefoot and minimalist shoe running is slowly but surely gaining popularity despite substantial advances in shoe technology alongside enhanced shoe features like better cushioning, motion control, and even the arrival of special fitness shoes. Running barefoot strengthens your feet, helps you feel more connected to the ground and is definitely more fun.

Barefoot running can be quite a dreadful experience at first as your feet will be weak, so taking it slow is the way to go. When your feet touch the ground, make sure you land on your mid-foot or the ball of your feet followed by the toes and then the heel touching the ground. It easily takes anywhere between several weeks to months to build up the strength necessary for faster or longer running.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind while you start out running barefoot –

  • Take baby steps– Muscles in your body take about 6 – 8 weeks to adapt to something new. For the first 4 weeks, do walk barefoot for 20 – 30 mins a day. The next 4 weeks focus on running short distances on smooth surfaces like a few laps around a park or an easy jog around a soft indoor track. Once you are more comfortable, gradually increase the distance every week and move on to running on hard surfaces. Keep a close check on how your feet are adapting to the new surface to avoid injury.
  • Maintaining a good form– When you start running barefoot, you also need to focus on training your body on how to run with a good form. Skipping, toe-up drill or the lean drill are a few exercises you could try in training. Doing these drills ensures your running efficiency, help in striking the ground properly and staying injury-free.
  • Feel the ground– By wearing protective shoes all along, your feet find it difficult in sensing the ground. Try and include ‘feel the ground activities’ such as standing on one leg while brushing your teeth, using a balance disc / pillow at the gym or bouncing on one leg on a mini trampoline a few times a week.
  • Be Flexible– You  might feel some tightness or pain in the Achilles tendon. Making the back of your leg flexible with calf stretches or foam rolling helps during the transition to barefoot running.
  • Strong Feet– By doing a lot of balancing exercises, you can strengthen your feet. This can be achieved by standing on one leg, rolling your entire body weight from the outside to the inside of the foot and back.
  • Plyometrics– Since your feet have been cushioned with shoes, feeling the impact of the ground with barefoot running becomes a challenge. Plyometrics are exercises which include hop or skip with one or two legs, side to side hops or single leg box jump are good for preparing you for barefoot running.

Using the above tips will help in a smooth transition to barefoot running by reducing the tiredness in your knees and hips after a run or workout, helps in feeling the ground during a run and increasing the joy of running barefoot.

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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Why do my Knees hurt when I Run?

The stress of running can cause irritation in the kneecaps and escalate to knee pain, so how can you counter that ask Nandini Reddy.

Running is a stressful activity for your legs. Ankles, knees and soles are the worst hit in terms of stress related injuries. Knees are the weight bearing joints of the body and help us keep our balance. Knee pain is very common for runners and generally a bit of rest can alleviate knee pain. But if a simple remedy doesn’t help then you need to get into the depths of why your knee hurts and possible causes and remedies that may need longer rest.

Understanding Knee Pain

Running is a high impact sport where knees are concerned. Soreness, inflammation and strains are common for all runners. Nearly 50% of runners face knee injuries in some form or the other. The knee is a difficult spot that is held together by four ligaments. If you do not have adequate strength then the pressure of your run falls mostly on your knees. The most important areas to strengthen to avoid knee pain are your core, glutes and hips.

If your knee wobbles when you run or if you get prolonged pain after your run then it means that your hips, core and glute muscles are not strong enough. A strong pelvis will ensure proper heel strike and will help you maintain proper form. Wrong stride strikes will result from weak hips that will not maintain form and thus finally hitting the knee with twice the impact causing high stress on the ligaments.

For the period of recover opt for low impact exercises like swimming and yoga. Squats or partial squats are a way to strengthen your knees. You can start slow and build up to a regular schedule of squats. In addition watch your stride length and pace and ensure that you are careful about getting it right until your knee doesn’t feel stressed.

How to treat it?

Ice it – If you knee is swollen after a run, ice it for 20-30 mins every 4 hours over the next 2-3 days or until the swelling completely comes down and the pain has disappeared

Bandage it – Elastic wrap bands are a great way to support the knee and prevent it from bending the wrong way. The extra support will help reduce over-usage of the knee and bring down the pain.

Elevate it – Raise your leg up using a pillow. The elevation will help drain the lactic acid accumulated and allow for fresh oxygenated blood flow to the knee, thus reducing the pain.

Strengthen it – Check with a physiotherapist about strengthening movements and stretches that you can do to relieve the pain.

If these techniques do not work then you need to consult a doctor to explore what the extent of injury and see how this needs to be resolved using medical treatment under the supervision of a doctor.

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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Quick Fixes to improve your Running

If you want to keep advancing as a marathoner then it is important to become an efficient runner, writes Nandini Reddy.

Runners are always looking to improve timing, speed and technique. The more efficient they become – the faster they progress as runners. In the recent times there have been several new innovative running techniques that have evolved and been adopted by runners across the world. But aside from extensive training schedule changes you can also look to improve your running efficiency sneaking in a few quick fixes.

Learn to Sprint

Sprinting can become a part of your training schedule with ease. You will need to add sprinting at maximum intensity to your training schedule at least 3 times a week. Why does this help? Essentially because sprinting pushes you to your limits of capacity and your energy is purely converted to speed. In the process your stride improves and thus boosts your running technique. Start with doing 5-10 sprints in 10-15 second bursts. This you can alter or vary according to your running level.

Train Barefoot

Most running shoes come with extra cushioning and are fixed with more technology than your laptops. But this extra compensation from the shoe means you don’t pay attention to your strides because your shoes compensates when you over-stride. While this might not be noticeable in the short run, you will notice that you are tiring out faster in the long run. Getting the right stride length is crucial to becoming a more efficient runner. It also reduces the risk of injury and conserves your energy. If you find barefoot too uncomfortable then opt for shoes that have less cushioning so that you can run comfortably in the right stride length.

Get Flexible

Our jobs today do not let us move around much. Most of us are sitting 90% of the time at office. This can stiffen your hip flexors and that can ruin your running efficiency. When the hip flexors are tight, it makes it hard to push off and your stride get affected and you will also consequently use more energy to generate the same thrust. So remember to stretch and work out your hips so that there is improved flexibility.

Squat it

Squats can strengthen muscle groups that are important for running. Work in at least 3 days of strength training and ensure you do squats. Strengthening the muscles means that you can run faster and remain injury free. Watch your squatting technique so that you can get the maximum effect.

Lean it

Leaning slightly forward can make a world of difference. The slight forward lean is a technique that skiers use to engage their whole body. This allows for better form and makes running slightly less tiresome. This also prevents you from sinking into your hips. The idea is the maintain a straight back and then following the skier slight forward lean is a good running form.

Simple changes can help you run faster and longer and make your runs more enjoyable.

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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Improve your running gait

If you are serious about running, and running injury-free, you should get a gait analysis, preferably from a professional trainer, writes Radhika Meganathan.

“Gait is the movement created when you move your legs and arms to run. So a gait analysis tells you what your running style is and how you can improve it for the better,” says Karthik FC, coach at The Unit strength training studio in Chennai. “No matter what your fitness level or running level is, you can change your gait to suit your goals.”
Every runner has a unique style and if yours reveal to be less than ideal, no sweat, you can easily remedy that. While revising your gait, here are some things to check for:

1. Posture: Run tall and lean slightly forward to get the right incline on your back. Old habits die hard and if you tend to

slouch, this may be hard at first, but trust us, it gets better. “As you run longer and frequently, your body will learn the right posture by practice. In fact, if you are a keen learner, it only takes a month to correct your gait,” says Karthik.

2. Core: A lot of runners underestimate the importance of breathing and core strength, so make sure you breathe the right way (your tummy should go in when you breathe out) and get your abs workout without fail. Another tip is to learn how to use your glutes to land on the ground, instead of relying on footwork alone. Strength training will help you with this.

3. Feet: Stride length and foot strike are the words you will be using a lot, when you concentrate on how your foot hits the ground when you run. Heel strike puts pressure on your knees, so your goal must be midfoot strike. As much as possible, keep your stride length short, rather than long. Train your feet to land underneath you and not in front. The closer your foot remains to your body, lesser are the chances of injuries.

4. Rhythm: Optimum and smooth cadence are the holy grail that every serious runner aspires for. Once your posture and feet strike are in sync, your rhythm will fall into place. If you are interested in biomechanical techniques to enhance your gait, ChiRunning, Evolution Running, and Stride Mechanics are some of the latest models advocated by running gurus in the world, and if you want to explore some of these techniques, you can look it up online and have a chat with your trainer (or contact these organisations directly).

5. Equipment: Yes, we are talking about shoes! Perhaps the best way to ensure mid foot strike is to pick a shoe that supports that strike. “Ideally, you should change your shoes for every 1000 kilometer you run. I know it’s tough to track the distance you run, but if you are a serious runner, you cannot use the same shoes for years, because doing so will leave damage inside your soles and will impact your gait” says Karthik. “A6 and New Balance are some shoes that are very gait-friendly. “

If you are an aspiring or new runner, it may be easier to learn a good gait at the beginning itself. That said, if you are an experienced runner, then in no time will you be able to enhance your running cadence and posture. But still, it’s worth to remember that as one ages, the body undergoes inevitable physical changes and this often means that your gait and form also gets affected. So do not be annoyed or apprehensive about constant updating requirements.

Just keep a positive outlook, look out for any changes in your body and train accordingly!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Radhika Meganathan is a published author who is an advocate for healthy living, she practices sugar-free intermittent fasting, all-terrain rambling and weight training.

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