Featured Comments Off on Do Miracles happen in Marathons? |

Do Miracles happen in Marathons?

Brijesh Gajera asks a question that is on every runner’s mind, but he is talking about more than just a Christmas miracle.

It wasn’t too long ago when I was on my usual weekend run, I bumped into a fellow runner. We said our hellos and decided to run together while we caught up on our running escapades. He has run quite a few marathons and only a few weeks ago returned from a world major marathon.

That was a big talking point for us – he mentioned that he had trained well for a sub-4-hour finish for a few months leading up to the race, but on race day disaster struck and he suffered from cramps for the last 10K of the race. Despite the setback, he managed to finish the race in 4hours and 10 minutes.

Obviously, I was curious to find out what happened and asked him about it, he told me that he turned up at the start of the race feeling fresh, confident and in the heat of the moment he decided to attempt a 3hour50minute finish!

I was stunned! “Do you believe miracles happen in marathons?” I asked him in disbelief. I guess he was equally in disbelief at my question because he asked me “What do you mean” with an amused look on his face.

I went on to explain that in my long-distance running career spanning over a decade, I have seen many a runner falling prey to the desire of wanting to push themselves higher than what they trained for. They feel fresh, confident, charged up at the start of the marathon and with the race-day euphoria surrounding them, they try and achieve more without being fully ready for it.

Now, don’t get me wrong – optimism is great, it’s what keeps us going day in and day out but to be honest, a marathon can be as punishing and as rewarding at the same time especially when you run ahead of the pace you’ve set for yourself.

Nearly all of us get to the start line full of energy (some bit of nervous energy as well) but with a spring in our step and a will to push forward. A marathon is a game to keep that energy intact for 42.195K – that is what we are supposed to achieve in our training. If you have trained yourself for a particular target for weeks and months, your muscles, tendons, joints, veins, and nerves have synchronized themselves to help you do that. All of a sudden, when you surprise them by changing the target on the D-Day, they will respond to you in the beginning, but the chances are that they will wilt as you approach the finish line.

Let me try and quantify this so that you can get a better understanding.

Let’s say, you have decided to complete the race in a time that is 10 minutes faster than your target time that you have trained for as my fellow runner did. That is roughly 14 seconds per km faster for a 42K course (and I am not even talking about the final 195 meters!). Now, you will be able to maintain this pace for a few kilometers but eventually, you will hit the wall where your legs feel like bricks. This is why coaches stress on following a tried and tested method on race day.

In my personal life, I once experienced something you could call a miracle. I ran the Mumbai Marathon aiming for a 3hour 35minute finish, but I managed to finish it in 3hours 29 minutes and 41 seconds. That translates to me running the race at approximately 7 seconds faster per km. For a large part of the race I maintained a pace which was about 2-3 seconds per km faster and only when I crossed the 36KM mark, I figured why not aim for a new target of 3hour30mins? That’s when I pushed myself harder and literally ran like the wind to achieve even lesser than my new target of 3hours and 30 mins. It felt like an absolute miracle!

A word of CAUTION though: I have run faster races since then, but I have never been able to repeat that kind of improvement over a target since. This is why it is called a M…I…R…A…C…L…E.

To aim for a miracle to happen during a marathon is wishful thinking at best and a recipe for disaster at worst. Often the decision to push yourself harder than what your body has been trained for leads to injury or underperformance and in the aftermath of such a race, it could lead to you doubting your training and even yourself. I’m sure you do not want to be in that mind space ever.

If you are still looking for miracles, what could be more wonderful than following your target plan as best as you can and then achieving the results you strived for? Isn’t it miraculous to achieve the target we’ve planned on achieving in a long time and getting our belief reaffirmed in our training and ourselves?

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Brijesh Gajera is an avid marathoner, aspiring ultra-marathoner and coach at Ashva Running Club.

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Seniors Comments Off on The Spunky Ultramarathoner |

The Spunky Ultramarathoner

Protima Tiwary catches up with the feisty Taru Mateti, an ultramarathoner who is a powerhouse of energy even after 50. 

Feisty and well over 50, this powerhouse performer is not only playing the role of a doting mother and loving wife, but also that of a superwoman who competes in ultramarathons under record timing! We caught up with Taru Mateti for a quick chat to see what keeps her going.

What inspired you to take up running?

I have been actively involved in sports all my life. I only took up running at the age of 49 as a form of recreation. I discovered that running gave me joy and a sense of liberation. I started enjoying running enough to make it my passion, so much so that I decided to pursue it wholeheartedly by leaving my job and concentrating on training for marathons. Point being, it was a hobby that turned into a lifestyle.

How did your family react when you told them about your decision to run?

They have been super supportive! Training for an ultra-marathon is more long-term than training for a full marathon. Hence, a bigger buy-in is needed from the family. It is months of consistent and long training, with a string of no weekend outings because of long runs. Fortunately, my husband runs too and my family understands my passion. If we have family commitments, we plan our running days in a way we can set out time for both family and fitness. Deciding to run an ultra is a big commitment and one must consider all factors, the family being the most important one of them. I am grateful for their support.

You’re not just a marathoner, you’re an ultramarathoner! Could you share the greatest moments of your running career? 

The greatest moments have been at my best and worst races. Let me explain.

I had run the Bengaluru full marathon in 2014 undertrained, tired, and with some niggles. I obviously did not get a good timing and realised how important it was to get a mentor who would guide me with my training, nutrition and even recovery.  This race taught me how to be grateful.

I also remember the 100K Pune Ultramarathon where I ran through the day! I was the only woman running the event that day in the 75K/100K/100 miles combined. I finished fifth amongst all men. The runners high was one of a kind.

Another time I paced a friend in Pune Women’s Half Marathon and she got her PB. Her joy at winning reminded me of how humility and gratefulness are 2 of the most important qualities that will see you through life.

Then there was the time I paced my mentor for 61k in his 161k run, and we kept talking throughout the distance. I learnt so much in that knowledge exchange!

Then there was the Fitathon in April 2017 when I was struggling, and my husband, who had been trailing in all runs till then, was going strong. He could have gone ahead, but he ran with me until the end. This race reminded me of the power of love.

How do you deal with bad races?

It is important to go through some bad races too because you have so much to learn from them! I’ve learnt that one needs to set practical targets, and a sustainable training plan and strategy needs to be thought of to support that target. Bad races have also shown me how important it is to eat well, sleep, and go through the regular body and blood tests.

As an ultramarathoner over 50, your training and mental conditioning would be very different, isn’t it?

Definitely! And I am not just over 50 now, I started all of this only when I was 49! My lifestyle before I took up running has made me injury prone, so my recovery time is longer. I also put in fewer runs and miles than others, and keep a check on my speed. I plan my run, yoga, strength training, and rest days carefully, along with my diet and supplements.

I have stopped wearing high heels (I wore them for more than 30 years!) I have altered my eating habits and am conscious of my posture. I am finally working on my spine, hamstrings, feet, glutes, upper body and core like never before!

Could you shed more light on the challenges and advantages that being on the other side of 50 gets along?

It is great to be on the other side of 50 and running as well as working out. All the wealth in the world can’t buy us good health the way working out for fitness can. Growing old is inevitable, but we have just one body and we have to keep it in high maintenance mode.

With age, women do have to deal with a lot of changes, the main being menopause. Learning to adapt to this new way of life is a part of this lifestyle, and being fit does make things better.

Yes, there are challenges too, so it is important to know your limitations. But that doesn’t mean you should stop yourself from learning new things!

If I had to point out one disadvantage, it would be the fact that being on this side of the age scale doesn’t have too many competitors, and anything that a woman this age does is appreciated a lot. Basically, this attitude encourages mediocrity.

They say consistency is key – but how do you build this consistent pace that they talk about?

Running isn’t only about running; you need to take into consideration the consistency in terms of training, diet and recovery. I do yoga/pilates at least three times a week and strength training twice a week. Yoga is important because it helps improve mobility and breathing, while sleep, nutrition and medical health continue to be important. In order to run well, one must train to run well!

Marathons don’t always go perfectly. Any moment you’d like to share with us where you thought things were going downhill? How did you overcome that?

I do not think about how I am running during my run. I give it my best, learn and move on. But I did have a bad phase due to an injury when I couldn’t do any workouts for a month and had to visit the physiotherapist daily. It frustrated me, I remember crying! But I overcame all of it by focussing on doing the upper body exercises that I was allowed to do, and spending time at work and doing a lot of yoga.

An ultra-marathon is a combination of mental and physical strength- any tips you’d like to share with us on how to stay strong during the race? 

It all boils down to your mental health, isn’t it? Train hard, but also practice self-love. One has to be comfortable in spending time with oneself and nature because most of the runners will find themselves running those long distances alone.

I usually find myself having a conversation with well, myself. Or sometimes I sing! I also count steps, especially when there’s a fuelling stop coming up. I also draft emails, Facebook posts and workout plans in my head while running!

Remember why you started- this will see you through the race, all the way to the finish line. It is difficult to stay motivated, but visualise the goal, why you want it so bad, and be grateful for the effort you’ve put into your training.

As a runner, what is the one quality that defines you?

I will not pick one only,  and would like to say that I am dedicated, self-motivated and hardworking!

Any tips you’d like to leave us with?

It is never too late to start! I started at 49, did my first headstand and L-sits at 53, am learning pilates at the age of 54 and am now trying to master the art of a full split!

Inspirational, to say the least. How many times have we heard “we’re too old for this”? It was a pleasure interviewing Taru Mateti who at an age that people think “is too late” is charging ahead and rightfully earning the title of Marathon Podium Queen with each passing year.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

An Army kid who wishes to travel the world one wellness vacation at a time, Protima Tiwary is a freelance content writer by day and Dumbbells and Drama, a fitness blogger by night. High on love and life, she is mildly obsessed about travelling and to-do lists and loves her long gym sessions like a fat kid loves cake.

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Featured Comments Off on Road cycling National Champion – Naveen John – Part 2 |

Road cycling National Champion – Naveen John – Part 2

Deepthi Velkur continues her conversation with Naveen John about his training and his move to competitive cycling in the second part of the story. 

If you haven’t read the first part then click here 

When did you move from being a recreational cyclist to a competitive cyclist?

It was a couple of years after I picked up collegiate cycling. My friends convinced me to sign up for a race and I went full on – got myself a bike, some racing gear and showed up for the race and I finished the race.

During my time racing in the US, it was never competitive. I just went out there to ride and have fun. I enjoyed the training, being part of the racing action and never went in with the mentality of winning. In 2012, when I came back to India, it all changed. I felt like I was on a mission and I decided – I want to try and be the best.

You’re a 3-time Indian Time-Trial (ITT) champion and the country’s first International pro-cyclist? What does it take for someone to achieve this?

Oh! I get asked this question a lot. Every time at the national championships, I have kids come up and ask – what must I do to become a national champion?

My response is simple – ride your age X 10,000 KM and you will give yourself a shot at becoming a national champion.

Not many like that response because it puts the onus back on them. In India, cyclists are just not doing enough work compared to cyclists abroad. I realized this for myself when in 2016 I was in Australia where I rode with a professional team and saw 18-year kids train so much more than I did. It got me thinking, “Am I putting in the kilometres”?

It’s a paradigm shift that we need here in India where the athletes need to put in a lot more work. A few years ago, you did not have to work too hard to become a national champion. If your closest competitor was doing 8,000 KM at the age of 23-24, you only need 9,000 KM to beat him. Today, however, you need at least 25,000 KM to beat me (kinda cheeky, since I lost my National title this year despite that, but always “long game”).

It’s true that the infrastructural challenges we have in our country can be blamed for the bar being so low in our sport but at the base of it – practice, kilometres in the legs and hours spent on the pedals are key.

Do you take assistance from a Coach to train yourself for nationals?

I started off on my own in 2013. I self-coached trying to figure out the answers along the way but I fell short and ended up in 4th place. One of the team supporters then recommended I get a coach.

Getting a coach can be quite a daunting proposition – all of a sudden, you are accountable to someone else and constantly graded. The thought of putting your physical readiness in someone else’s hand is quite a leap.

Fears aside, I started working with my first coach in 2014 and that changed my life and introduced me to a whole new world of scientific training. I’m a pretty adept self-learner and as I was being coached, I also upped my level of understanding of the human body, sport science and training. I have since moved on to my 2nd coach who is based out of Australia.

Training in cycling is a very objective process and working with a coach who guides your physical progression can free up time to work on other areas of improvement that you constantly need to as an athlete. So far, cyclists in India have always moaned about a lack of good coaches but that scenario is changing today.

Our concluding part can be read here.

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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Featured Comments Off on Running and Yoga |

Running and Yoga

Guest Columnist, Pallavi Aga talks about how runners need to do yoga to marry constant movement with eternal calm!

Runners are typically ‘Type A’ personalities (ambitious and highly competitive) and are very conscientious about their personal and professional lives. Perfection and discipline are their second nature. Running is a high adrenaline driven activity and causes an adrenaline rush also known as “The Runner’s high”, which though beneficial at times, does cause stress on the body.

We live in an environment where we are constantly bombarded with signals that keep our sympathetic nervous system (it stimulates the body’s fight-or-flight response) activated. Runners may face a heightened response to this stress, especially when preparing for an event. Terri Guillemets (an author from Arizona) once said, “Give stress wings and let it fly away”.

Yoga has the magical power to reduce stress and activate the parasympathetic nervous system which promotes healing and emotional health. It adds the Yang to the Yin element always found in a runner’s life.

Introducing Yoga into your life.

Runners are initially sceptical of yoga as it’s difficult for them to sit still for prolonged periods as they are used to the constant movement. When I took up running, I was not interested in yoga myself. It was only later on that I realized that the constant use of running muscles led to stiffness and lack of flexibility which was the harbinger of injuries. It was at that point I understood the importance of yoga and decided on practising it. On further thinking, it hit me – yoga is the key to improving flexibility, calming the nervous system and distressing as its effects extended beyond the realm of the physical body.

Yoga has benefited me in so many ways – improving my flexibility, balance, body toning, strengthening my core and improving my breathing technique which in turn has calmed me down immensely.  Today, I continue to practice yoga under the guidance of my guru Umesh Ji.

Why yoga

Flexibility 

Yoga helps in stretching the stiff, tight muscles and lubricates the joints. The increased flexibility leads to ease of movement which is essential in preventing injury and reducing soreness. For example – the reclining and standing pigeon pose is excellent to stretch the iliotibial tract and the deep muscle pyriformis which are common causes of knee and hip pain in runners. The standing pigeon pose also helps in a deep hip stretch as well as adds to the balance and strength. The frog pose is important for a deep groin stretch. The only word of caution here is that never try to force extreme flexibility on yourself because as a runner this can be counterproductive too.

 Warm up

Surya Namaskar can be used as an excellent form of warm up before a long run. It has to be performed dynamically as pre-run static long stretches are not beneficial.

Balance and Proprioception (sometimes described as the ‘6th sense’)

Balance and Proprioception are very important for runners. A body imbalance increases your chances of stumbles and injuries. Having a balanced posture increases strength and also enhances your proprioception abilities. Standing postures like the Tree posture with eyes closed also increase the proprioception and reflexes.

Strength

Yoga is very helpful to build up the strength of unused muscles in the body.  The muscles which are stiff and inflexible become weak and need to be relaxed and lengthened. Eccentric contraction of these muscles builds strength and stability.

Yoga also aids in building the upper body and core strength which is extremely beneficial for runners. Body weight postures utilize the whole body and not only the legs thereby strengthening the upper torso, arms and shoulders. It also increases the muscle tone causing less fatigue and less weight impact on the legs. A simple pose like Downward dog pose utilizes different muscle groups at the same time.

Breathing technique

Yoga involves full command over your breath and breath with movement being an integral part. It promotes deep belly breathing which is beneficial when used during running prevents you from feeling breathlessness. Yogic techniques focus a lot on correct breathing and prevent the rapid, shallow breathing which can lead to oxygen depletion and toxin accumulation.

Complete body workout

Yoga poses involve all muscles and joints of the body in one pose alone. For e.g. the Toes pose stretches the Toes and the plantar fascia helping in the prevention of plantar fasciitis and foot pain.

The deep intrinsic fascia also gets stretched in long static holds which cause structural benefits to the joints. Chakrasana is one such pose which stretches the whole body.

Endocrine and nervous system

Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system calms down the nervous system and brings down the cortisol level. High cortisol levels can cause breakdown of immunity and extreme fatigue and insomnia. Yoga practice makes a runner more mindful of this effect which in turn helps them to be productive in their runs.

Finding your edge

Runners should add yoga to their cross-training practice and they will observe a lot of benefits with the development of a healthy mind and body connection. It’s all about finding your edge and gently pushing into it so as to enjoy the sport rather than causing injuries and stress.

Combining yoga as an element to balance out your running will transform the way you feel, make you more agile and enjoy your running in a whole new way – with so many benefits to boot, it becomes important to include it as part of your cross-training!

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Pallavi Aga is a doctor by profession and an avid follower of eating clean and green with a holistic approach to health and diet. She is actively helping the society towards walking down the path of health through Facebook live events and also with media groups like India Today, Dainik Jagran and Pinkathon.

 

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Training Comments Off on Understand the Maffetone Method |

Understand the Maffetone Method

Deepthi Velkur looks into a popular method that runners around the world are adopting to get leaner and fitter.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit” – Aristotle.

I want to get better. I want to be fitter and leaner. I want to train right without feeling drained out or being injured. I’m sure we have all had these thoughts and questions in our head. Is there a way we can actually achieve this?

The answer is – Yes, we can! The reason for you not seeing any improvements, feeling burnt out or prone to injuries is not only a problem with your training, diet or your shoes. It could be your aerobic base or the lack of it. For an athlete to perform well and overall have good health it is important to have a solid aerobic base. This can be achieved by following the Low-Heart rate training also popularly known as the Maffetone Method.

So what is the Maffetone method?

The MAF Method is a philosophy developed over the course of 40 years by Dr Phil Maffetone which helps individuals take charge of their health and reach their performance potential.

The premise of the method says that by developing your Maximum Aerobic Function(MAF) where you improve your aerobic base, become fat adapted, improving your energy levels, losing body fat, improving athletic performance, minimizing injuries and ramp up your performance potential.

It is a style of training where one focusses mainly on their aerobic running using a heart rate formula of 180- your age. “Most people do not develop good aerobic conditioning as it takes time and one needs to be consistent. Such people end up with poor metabolism and aerobic physiology. In order to build your aerobic fitness, you need to make sure the heart rate does not exceed this threshold and by doing that you’re expending the fat for fuel and not sugar. When you run aerobically you tend to feel energized and don’t have the need to nap or require an energy gel to replenish your carb stores.

Most runners tend to use this method during their base training phase by not allowing their heart rate to spike more than this “aerobic maximum”. You can measure this using a heart rate monitor each time you run so that you don’t exceed the limit and stay 0-10 beats below it. Once the heart rate goes beyond this threshold, the aerobic muscles start to function less efficiently and the anaerobic muscles take over. It’s good to note that Aerobic muscles use body fat and oxygen for energy consumption whereas anaerobic muscles use the glycogen stores within the anaerobic muscle cells which do not last more than 2.5 or 3 mins.

Benefits of using the 180 formula

You have to train at a low heart rate in order to build your aerobic base, a relaxed pace where you are able to make easy conversation. Finding the right heart rate is an individual process. After several evaluations of many athletes, Dr Maffetone came up with this formula to determine an optimal heart rate training zone.

The main benefits of using the 180 formula are that your body is trained to burn more of the stored fat for energy consumption. It also enables you to run, cycle or do other activities much faster over a period of time without overtraining. This happens with sustained practice where your body becomes efficient over time to perform faster with better stamina while maintaining the same training heart rate.

Using the Maffetone Method to build endurance

  • Determine your Maximum Aerobic Threshold: Using the 180 formula, figure out your threshold heart rate
  • Keep a heart rate monitor handy: Get yourself a good heart rate monitor which beeps or vibrates indicating your heart rate has spiked above your aerobic threshold.
  • Train right: Phil Maffetone recommends you to run at your threshold aerobic heart rate. By doing that one trains the aerobic muscles to function at its maximum making you run more efficiently and burning the fat to fuel energy instead of having to rely on the anaerobic muscles. Over time your pace increases while keeping your heart rate below the specified threshold. The training plan should be individualized based on the years of experience as a runner. Do not train in groups as each person’s capabilities are different and vary from one person to another.
  • MAF test: It is necessary to track your progress and course correct along the way. This provides you with the required motivation to push and also to make changes were needed. Always start with a warm-up and run a distance of 5 Km at your maximum aerobic heart rate and record it. Repeat this test at the same time and route every month from now to check how you’ve progressed. You should notice a marked improvement in the MAF timings and subsequently in the race timings as well.
  • A warm-up is must: This is a definite deal breaker with respect to this method of doing a 15min warm-up. We tend to slip warm-ups but by doing that you are spiking up your heart rate and it becomes difficult to bring it down. Hence a gentle warm-up will gradually increase your heart rate and you can see good results.
  • Controlled breathing: By breathing through your nose, you can keep your pace and heart rate under control. You might find it a bit hard at the beginning, but it takes time for the results to show and over time becomes easy to run at slower paces.
  • Maintaining running form and cadence: Running at a slow pace tends to affect your posture and cadence and incorporate one or two workouts after the initial 3 months to work on this.

Challenges and pay-offs

While there are huge followers of this method, there are people who disagree with the method of training. The pace you follow in this method is excruciatingly slow leading to boredom and results take time.

Conclusion: The MAF method covers a lifestyle concept encompassing diet, nutrition, exercise and stress management. Results take about 3-4 months to show. Joining a Maffetone facebook group or a running buddy can help immensely and keeps you motivated to push on.

Be patient, repeat it and the results will follow.

You can read about Ajit Thandur‘s and Pallavi Aga‘s experience with the Maffetone Method.

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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Featured Comments Off on Taking it one step at a time! |

Taking it one step at a time!

Anirudh Inani took to running, cycling and trekking to stay fit, a journey that eventually became a passion. In this conversation with Deepthi Velkur, he tells his story.

Passion. Determination. Dream big. You live only once. These are not just some fancy adjectives or phrases thrown around in Anirudh Inani’s world. These are the mottos he has chosen to live by every day.

An entrepreneur by profession, Anirudh Inani’s passion lies in running, trekking and cycling.

Anirudh’s pursuit is to be able to finish at least 40 events across running, cycling and triathlons before he turns 40. He has it all in his sights – taking part in the Olympic triathlon, competing in Ultra events, scaling the highest mountains and conquering every trek.

Ambitious and daunting it certainly is, but he is taking it one step at a time and is currently working on improving his timing for a full marathon and move on from that.

I caught up with Anirudh on what drives this passion and this is what he had to say.

When did you discover your love for fitness and how did your weight-loss program with Truweight impact your outlook to life?

I discovered my love for fitness after I started running and cycling simultaneously many years ago. The Truweight program has phenomenally changed me and my outlook towards life – I have never been fitter, more confident and more energetic after I lost my weight.

Did running happen by chance or was it a conscious decision and a means to stay fit?

At one point in time, I was so heavy that it was very difficult for me to even jog for 100 metres. I had no stamina and was running out of breath while running. I started running to lose weight but eventually discovered that I really enjoyed the high I used to get post my runs. Over time, I worked on increasing the distance of my runs and the rest followed.

Being a businessman, managing your time well is of utmost importance. How do you bring in fitness into your busy schedule?

It’s definitely not an easy task managing a business, running a family and trying to stay fit at the same time. However, I feel that if you’re passionate about something, you will find a way to manage it all and prioritize. Fitness rejuvenates my soul. It’s food for my soul.

What keeps you motivated to stay fit and push forward?

I’m fortunate to have a great set of friends who are into fitness and health conscious too. When you are surrounded by such people, you automatically feel motivated. We always discuss events happening around the country/ world and what needs to be our next goal to achieve and this drive keeps me going to keep myself fit. 

What is it about trekking that appealed to you? How often do you trek and where?

Mountains have always fascinated me and I’m a mountain lover. When I was doing my management studies in Mumbai, I went for a 2- day trek to the Western Ghats with a friend of mine who was already a passionate trekker. Trekking was not so popular and most of the people were scared thinking it’s not safe. I was mesmerized by that trek so much that after completion of my management studies, the first thing I did was to enroll for my first Himalayan trekking expedition in 2003. My parents were very apprehensive as well but eventually convinced them. There was no looking back since then. I made sure I do at least one Himalayan trek every year. Also, in the same way, I have encouraged a lot of my friends into trekking so they get to experience the thrill and joy of going on treks and this, in turn, has made them passionate trekkers too.

How many events across running and cycling have you been a part of till date?

Well, I used to run small distances every day as a part of my fitness routine and commute on a cycle to the park and back where I used to run.

I wasn’t confident of completing marathons. The maximum I could think of running was 10k but a friend of mine encouraged me to take the plunge and I registered for my first half marathon in Hyderabad, just a day before the event. The terrain was tough and quite challenging too. I did take the plunge not knowing if I would complete my run but after I started the race and seeing the energy of the people around, that pushed me to complete the race successfully in a decent time which gave me a real high and boosted my confidence. Since then I’ve done about 5 half marathons, a dozen 10K’s and one triathlon.

On the cycling front, I have done a couple of 100 km rides, Ladakh cycling expedition of around 350 Km in the mountains of Ladakh. A cycling expedition from Hyderabad to Rajahmundry which is a distance of about 700 Km, passing through a very scenic route of forests and mountains. After my Ladakh cycling expedition, I decided to upgrade my cycle to an advanced geared bike which I still have as my prized possession.

Cycling or running? Which of the two gives you the real high after an event?

Though I love cycling more, it’s difficult to compare between both. I feel elated post my runs and when I achieve the goal I had set for myself. Whereas with respect to cycling, I simply enjoy the entire journey of cycling and I just grasp every moment. It is a different experience altogether to discover a new place on a cycle.

What is the kind of training regimen you follow with respect to cycling and running?

Running thrice a week in the morning with alternate day strength training and circuit training for 3-4 days a week in the evening.

I still have to work on my flexibility as it’s a crucial part of any fitness regime.

Sundays are for long rides if there’s no running event planned.

What measures do you take to better yourself as a runner/cyclist? 

I read a lot about techniques of running, attending workshops and keeping in touch with different running groups which help me in gaining further knowledge.

Any particular race(s) in mind that you wish to complete, be it running or cycling in 2019?

I intend to do quite a few trails runs and countryside cycling events. I also intend to do Tour of Nilgiris cycling event in 2019.

 

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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Featured Comments Off on Catching the Marathon Bug |

Catching the Marathon Bug

The late bloomer in running, Guest Columnist Sonali Mahant talks about how she caught the marathon bug. 
I started running at the age of 35. It was like a dream to run a Half Marathon once in my life, it had been on my bucket list for quite sometime. The idea of running non stop for 21.0975 kms seemed challenging and I wanted to win the distance with my ability to endure. During my training process, I was extremely motivated by getting to run on a synthetic running track (400mtrs). With each workout into training, I was thrilled to know what a human body could achieve if trained appropriately under a coach. Finding myself breathless at the end of my workout, used to always push me to do more. I felt much more alive than ever before. And for once there was nothing to hold me back, I felt free and light.
The Half Marathon
I ran my first Half Marathon at IDBI New Delhi Marathon and I stood second in my age category (35-45)with timing of 1:39:47. Someone who wasn’t even running 2kms a day to running a Half Marathon in 2 months was quite a shocker for everyone including myself. Important thing to note, I was regularly strength training and had been dedicated in working out in a Gym for 3 plus years before Running happened to me. But finding out that I’d be able to run this strong was like discovering my love for Outdoors and particularly RUNNING. Oh yes, running long distance is certainly more of a mental challenge than physical. It’s good to experience a mixed bag of emotions all at once and how during those minutes of running everything else seems to freeze. Anyone who runs long distance is mentally stronger not that who don’t aren’t but yes I have always encountered that mind gives up much before the body does.
Always Disciplined
I get to hear from fitness enthusiasts and runners all over the country and especially women who seek inspiration towards a healthier lifestyle. I never break my discipline and extremely dedicated to my workouts and this, in turn, is very inspirational for many. Even when it’s a national holiday or an off for a festival, I start my day with running. I hold a lot of responsibility as everyone around me expects me to be on Podium in every race and break my own records with each run. I post and share as much as possible, only to make everyone aware of how “Health is Wealth” and how making healthy choices can transform their lives. Also, I’m a part of Adidas Runners Delhi where I meet runners from all over and help them with their real-life problems related to running. Interactive sessions always prove helpful as they get to know about the real hustle and glory related to RUNNING.
So far so Good
I have run 6 half marathon’s, 3 in 2017 and 3 in 2018 besides running several 10kms races.
IDBI New Delhi Marathon 2017
Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2017
BSF Run for Martyrs 2017
Tata Mumbai Marathon 2018
IDBI New Delhi Marathon 2018
Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2018
TCS 10k Bengaluru 2017
Adidas Uprising 2017 10k
but a lot more to do. Now I’m preparing for Tata Mumbai Marathon where I’ll be running a Half Marathon and it’s going to take place on 20th Jan 2019.
Running has changed my life in ways I can’t put into words besides not only making me but feel much younger. I feel like I’ve been detoxed inside out and it’s been a blessing to become a RUNNER.

ABOUT GUEST COLUMNIST

Sonali Mahant is a high energy individual driven with an immense passion for life, relationships, health and self-care who believes that age is just a number and one can start working on their goals the day you get clarity.

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Featured, Motivation Comments Off on Seeing the world one trail at a time |

Seeing the world one trail at a time

Deepthi Velkur talks to the first Indian Woman, Aakriti Verma to have taken part in the World Trail Championship.

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”

Aakriti Verma certainly wants to live up to this inspiring quote. With a little over four years of running experience, she has already achieved the adulating distinction of being the only Indian woman to take part at the World Trail Championships.

A HR professional with a leading IT firm for the past 6 years, Aakriti uses her national-level swimming experience to cross-train along with the runs. Her focus is not on clocking a heap of miles on a daily basis, instead she sets targets for each run and pushes herself to achieve it.

Apart from competing at the world championships, Aakriti has been a podium finisher in major running events such as Urban Stampede, Malnad Ultra, Jawadhu Hill Ultra, Yercaud Hills Ultra, Bull hill 50k run across the country in distances ranging from 5KM to 100 KM. She is also an Ironman distance triathlon finisher. Phew!

As if that wasn’t energy-sapping enough, she finds time to conduct daily fitness sessions for more than 500 colleagues as well as organizing running events at her organization.

Excerpts from our conversation

HR professional to long-distance enthusiast to being the 1stIndian woman at the IAU Trail World championship, you sure where a lot of hats. How do you manage to keep it all together?

It has never been easy as there is a lot of hard work, sacrifice and discipline behind it. Time management is also the key and you need to manage your time well to excel at work and also make time for your training. So, I prioritize much of my time for work during the weekdays and for training and races on the weekends.

You were a national-level swimmer at school and still use it as part of your fitness regime. How has that helped your transition into long-distance running? 

Swimming is the best sport which involves movement of all the muscles in your body and surely helps to build a lot of stamina. This is definitely the best cross training workout for runners and also helps in my recovery process. I resumed swimming after college to train for my triathlons, though my focus for the last year has been towards running ultra-marathons.

You have been into long-distance running for nearly 4 years now and since the past year, you have focused more on trail running. What piqued your interest into that specific area?

I started off with running 5K and 10K’s and took up long distance running only in last couple of years. Trail running has definitely interested me more as I feel it is more challenging and you spend your time close to nature mostly in the mountains which attracts me to this sport.

Being the first woman to be a part of a 6-member team representing the country at the 2018 IAU Trail World Championship in Spain is a ground-breaking achievement. How did you feel when you heard the news and was there any sort of pressure on you?

It was indeed a proud moment for me to be part of the Indian team. This being my first appearance in an international race, it was a mix of excitement and pressure as I was the only female to represent India in this sport. Hopefully I would be paving the way for lot of other females to build themselves in this sport.

You needed to accumulate 500 ITRA (International Trail running association) points to qualify and be a part of the Indian team at the Trail World Championship. How did you go about achieving that?

To be honest, I wasn’t focusing much on my cotation points. All I did was to participate in most of the trail ultras across India and give my best at every race. The cutoff points for female runners last year was 500 and I was lucky enough to get 530 odd points through my Malnad Ultra.

The world championship course I’m sure was very technical. Can you tell us something more about the course?

The terrain was very technical and it was my first time being on these trails and they are quite different from the trails in India which are rather smooth runnable trails. Most of the sections of the race were uphill and downhill which made it even more challenging. Apart from the technicality, the stiff intermediate cutoffs made the race that much more tough.

In Spain, you had to come off after more than half the race was done. What was the challenge and where do you see as areas you need to work on?

I would have been able to complete the race irrespective of the difficulty and technicality but the stiff intermediate cutoffs were a huge challenge due to which I had to pull off from the race. By spending more time training in such technical trails found mostly in the Himalayan range will definitely help me tackle such courses better.

How many races have you ran in India and overseas? Which has been the most treasured race till date? Why?

I have run more than 29 races across India and one international race. The most treasured race is definitely the Solang Sky Ultra organized by The Hell Race team. This is the only race in India that comes close to the technical trails found in Europe. This race has given me immense learning, helped me overcome my fear of running technical sections along the trail and has enhanced me to train myself better. I was extremely delighted as I was the only female runner to have finished the race within the cutoff time till date.

For trail running in specific, is there a specific training you need to follow as opposed to running a regular marathon?

Yes, there is a vast difference as the training required for trail ultra-running is completely different versus road marathon training. To run trails, you need to spend lot of time running in the mountains, plan your nutrition, hydration, training in high altitudes, running with backpacks etc.

What races do you plan on taking part in for the remaining part of the year?

With the running season almost coming to an end, I am glad that I participated in some new races this year like Solang Sky Ultra, Mawkyrwat Ultra. Next, I plan to run the SRT (Sinhagad-Rajgad-Torna)Ultra and Vagamon Ultrail next year.

Follow Aakriti’s running journey on Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/aakritiverma06/  

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 Off on Being a runner in a busy world |

Being a runner in a busy world

24 hours never seems enough.How we juggle all facets of our lives and make time to stay fit? Difficult? Not so much, says our guest columnist Sagar Baheti.  

Anything is possible, but you have to believe and you have to fight.”

A famous line quoted by someone (not a runner!) who is familiar with racing and hard work, the indomitable Lance Armstrong. This quote serves as an inspiration no matter what challenges life throws at us.

“I haven’t got the time” is probably the number one reason we give for not running or just doing regular exercise itself.

True, life does get really busy sometimes and everything else in life is always more important, but making your run a priority will probably be one of the best things you’ll ever do for yourself.

For now, put your feet up and take some time to read how you can make time and plan your life around running.

The perfect way to run and live

An ideal day would be to wake up early (6 AM!), get your pre-run nutrition sorted and head out for a warm-up before an intensive session of running kicks in. Post the long-run, spend a few minutes doing a few strengthening exercises and cooling off with some stretching. With the morning workout, all done, have a good nutritious breakfast to supplement the workout and then take a nap or perhaps a sports massage. During the day, have your meals on time and get in the second workout around 5 PM before heading home and hitting the bed by 9 PM to make sure you get at least 8-9 hours of sleep. This needs to be on repeat!

How fantastic it would be if we were paid to live like this, huh? Unfortunately, barring the elites, very few of us can enjoy such luxuries. We cannot follow such a schedule even on a holiday let alone a working day!

The never-ending demands of this competitive world – career, family responsibilities, social obligations, relationships, priorities, the relentless Bangalore traffic – all of these come in the way of the ideal running day.

For me, my top priorities are being available for my family and to support the growth and well-being of those directly or indirectly dependent on me through my business venture.

I always keep these two priorities in mind when I look at a training run or an event and decide if I want to do it or not. When making a choice, it is important that your priorities are clear and you know where fitness fits into your life. With this clear mindset, you will be able to run with the right perspective in mind.

Ideas to make a runner out of you

I took a shot at drawing up a few ideas that will help you start running or continue running despite the myriad of responsibilities we are all laden with.

+) Make short-term goals. Write it down like your own weekly plan. It’s often easier to plan for the short-term and factor in your schedule and responsibilities.

+) Be flexible. It’s ok if you did a workout in the evening instead of a morning when you have an emergency meeting or you’ve had a late night. It’s also alright to have two run days back to back if you’ve had to miss one for whatever reason. It’s better to do this than miss it completely.

+) Don’t overdo it.Working out twice a day is ok if not done too frequently. If you are training for a specific event and have some mileage planned for the week, you can see how to fit it into your schedule and run twice in one day to get more miles.

+) Be prepared.Carry your running gear with you at all times. I keep it in my car. If I get a time window at work where it’s possible to get out for an hour, I go for a quick run. I know people who do the same when they take kids to classes and use the waiting time to get their runs.

+) Clear it out in the morning. Getting it done first thing in the morning is a great advantage. Starting your day early would mean that the pressure of making time for your run in the midst of a busy day is not on your mind.

+) Don’t procrastinate.Don’t give in to the thought of, “I’ll start fresh next week and follow my schedule”. If you’ve missed a few workouts, but on a comparatively free day you consider skipping it so that you can start it right the following week, then reconsider. It’s better to get even one run that week than none.

+) Use the best option available.Running on a treadmill is a great option for travellers. I travel for more than a hundred days a year and use treadmills at hotels whenever possible.

These are some of the things that I do to be consistent and make the best of what I have, never for once forgetting my priorities. This also helps me stay stress-free during my non-running phases as well as helping my come back to running when my other priorities are sorted.

Small things you could do to staying fit –

+) Always take the stairs – this is a quick workout on a busy day.

+) Walk around with strap-on leg weights at home.

+) Plug in a workout during an outing. For eg: use a pedal boat on a lake, get a swim in at the hotel.

Consistency and focus are two weapons that will take your forward, not just with running or fitness but anything in life.

Enjoy your runs and keep at it. Life is an outcome of the choices we make.

 

GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Sagar Baheti, an amateur runner and cyclist from Bangalore who runs a successful import and export stone business and in 2017 was the first ever visually impaired runner from India to successfully complete the Boston marathon.

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