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Ignore the Snooze button

Becoming a morning runner isn’t for everyone, so how do you avoid the snooze button, asks Nandini Reddy

The early morning opportunity to run is considered to be the best time to run by most runners. But are you one of those people who just cannot seem to drag yourself out of bed even after setting 5 blaring alarms. Wondering if you would ever be able to shake the night owl reputation?

If you want to do it, then try here are a few ways in which you can beat back your natural inclination to hit the snooze button.

Take it slow

It won’t happen overnight. You cannot become a morning runner just in a day. If your final goal is to run during the pre-dawn period then first start by getting up at least an hour earlier than normal. Once you are comfortable with this you can progress towards the pre-dawn goal.

Sleep Sleep Sleep

If you want to get up in the morning then you need to get enough sleep. Trying to become a morning runner by getting only 4 hours of shut eye won’t help you one bit. If you get at least 6-7 hours of sleep then you are less likely to hit that snooze button and you won’t be groggy and will be more energetic when you get up early in the morning.

Prep the night before

This will quicken your morning process. Layout your clothes and gear. You can even set you running playlist to go. Fumbling in the dark to gather you things in the morning will end up irritating your partner and giving you a few stumbed toes. This also saves you time in the morning.

Warm Up

When you get up, your body is cold and your muscles will be stiff. So it is very important to warm-up and ensure your muscles are all ready to support your run. Running without a warm-up increases the risk of injury.

Partner Up

If you think you are likely to skip you morning runs because the temptation to hit the snooze button is too heavy then for the first few weeks till your system finds its flow – find a friend who can run with you. If not for yourself, at least you would be up out of fear of disappointing your friend.

Know the weather

It is important to stay warm during pre-dawn runs. Dawn can be chilly as it would have the lowest temperatures of the day. Try and wear clothing that will suitably protect you from the chill and morning dew.

Nutrition

Try and avoid sugary morning meals. Go for a savory  breakfast instead. Even if you need to grab a snack before your morning run, try and pre-prep a small salad of vegetables. The sugary snack will cause an imbalance in your hormones making you more lethargic.

Remember your goals and motivate yourself to ensure that you wake up and create a new habit. Wake up and feel alive.

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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Off Season Training

The biggest marathon season now is done but the off-season might just be the key to better performance writes Nandini Reddy.

So you have spent the last few months running your favourite marathons across the country. In a few you have achieved goal timing and in a few others you raced for the first time. Whether you ran 10k, 21k or a full marathon, you most likely had trained intensely for 4-8 weeks to achieve your goal. So now that the major marathon’s are over, how do you prepare for the next season?

The off season is one of the most critical periods for a marathoner. Here is a step wise method that you can use to be a better marathoner when the next season comes around.

Resist the urge to Run

There will be marathons throughout the year but try and resist running for a few weeks after your big race. If you want to run races then do it closer to the season for the longer distances and run short distances like 5k more often. The urge to run can be heavy but resisting it for a while will do you more good.

Take a break

All marathoners need at least 4-6 weeks of recovery time and rest in order to bring their mind and body back to its healthy state after putting them under stress for the past few months whole racing and prepping for marathons. This time will help heal injuries and also prevent mental and physical burnout. You will also have the time to analyze your previous runs and identify areas of improvement.

Set Fresh goals

Chalk up a new training plan. Your stamina and your body have changed owing to the past training sessions. You have a new level of fitness to achieve now and your timings and training modules need to change accordingly. Bring in a coach on board if you can to make your sessions more useful. Pick a specific set of big races that you want to run in the year and work your training plan leading up to those goals.

Keep Moving

This essentially means that you do not run but you keep moving by picking up another form of exercise. Pick a cross-training or strength training routine. If you need the high of exhaustion then pick a high intensity workout like zumba or pilates.

Rework your nutrition

The off-season is a good time to try a new nutrition plan. You can experiment with the help of a dietitian and see if you can find food combinations that increase your energy levels. You can also try out new recipes and find a whole new nutrition plan that will fuel your training sessions and make you a fitter runner.

Smart athletes have a training plan that will always have a built-in recovery plan. Use the beginning of the off-season to set all this in place so that when you train again you come back stronger and fitter.

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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Eating Right for runners

Marathoner, Dharminder Sharma, talks about the kind of food that is good and bad for the Indian runner.

You can eat whatever you want to, because you are a distance runner so you can digest everything – how many times have we heard this advice from the so-called experts to newly christened long distance runners!

Another statement often heard is that I run long distances so that I can eat whatever I want.

There cannot be two worse statements about diet than these!

Eating right is as important for a long distance runner as it is for anybody else. One can never overstate the importance of eating the right kind of food and food supplements to ensure a life-long injury free running experience. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats take up a major part of our daily diet although fibre, vitamins, minerals and water are also indispensable.

What are carbs?

In India, carbs are generally considered to be wheat and rice and most do not know much about what other foods contain carbs. Fruits, salads, vegetables, nuts, sweets and legumes (daals) all contain carbs.

What are simple and complex carbs?

A general advice given by Dietitians to health conscious individuals and runners is to go for complex carbs rather than simple ones. Without going into the science of the advantages of complex carbs and the disadvantages of the other, a simple listing of the items would help a runner or a fitness enthusiast choose the right diet. The common examples of simple carbs that a runner should avoid or restrict in quantity are white breads, sugar and sugary products like candies, toffees, chocolates (except a small piece of dark chocolate) and mithhai (traditional Indian sweets), fruit juices (especially canned ones), white rice, most bakery products, potato chips and cold drinks, this list is, however, not exhaustive.

The complex and healthy carbs that one should prefer are whole grain breads, chapatis made of whole wheat, Bajra, Ragi and other coarse grains/millet, brown rice, beans, nuts, oats and oatmeal, quinoa, fruits especially less sugary ones like guava, papaya and pineapple, sweet potatoes and leafy greens.

What about protein in diet?

When it comes to proteins, there is a popular myth that only the body builders or hard core gym enthusiasts need to consume proteins. That is not true because our body needs proteins to build muscles that provide the necessary support during runs. Proteins help build the muscles and they are required to recover the muscles after a long strenuous run. Therefore, a runner’s diet requires proteins in good quantities.

A long distance runner under training should have at least 0.8 gm of protein per kg of body weight per day in order to stay injury free. Some of the protein rich ‘foods’ that one can add in daily diet are chicken breast, fish, sunflower seed, almond, quinoa, egg white, low fat cottage cheese (paneer), chick pea (chana), whole lentils (chhilka daal), oat, beans, soya milk, broccoli, brown rice and peas, to name a few.

How do fats help?

Besides, the carbohydrates and proteins, fats take another major part of human diet. We often hear of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats – good are the ones that should be more in quantity. However, often when people get their lipid (fat) profiles checked through blood tests and come across technical terminology, it is little difficult for them to correlate in the laboratory reports as to what are the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ fats. Even if they are able to make out what these are, they often do not have an idea as to how to increase or decrease their levels in our bodies. The best way to increase good fats is to eat the food that naturally contains large quantities of ‘good’ fats.  Some of the ‘foods’ that contain high to very high quantities of these ‘good fats’ are almond, walnut, flaxseed, olive, canola, chia seed, pistachio, fish oil especially cod liver oil.

Never forget the Vitamins & Minerals

One can never over-emphasize the importance of flaxseeds in the daily diet. They are a rich source of natural omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B1 and B6 and are one of the most nutrient rich foods that also contain protein, dietary fibre, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and selenium. Flaxseeds are low in carbs and therefore, very useful for someone looking to shed weight. They are also good for cardiac health as they lower cholesterol levels and the antioxidants in them slow down the process of aging.

How much fibre is enough?

We often ignore the importance of another ‘food’ in our diet and that is dietary fibre. Some of the above-mentioned foods do contain dietary fibres in large quantities and should form a part of the daily diet no matter whether the person is training or is in the midst of an event. I say this because a lot of literature on the internet advises against eating fibre and protein rich diet the day before the event and in fact advises eating pasta. Since most of the literature is from the perspective of the West, this advice may hold well in that context but my advice to an Indian runner would be to go for the same diet that one is used to eating which may be Roti, Idli, rice, Dosa, etc.

The night before the big race

If you are used to eating Daal, Roti, Kheera, rice and Dahi as your regular diet, there is absolutely no harm eating it the night before the event. There is absolutely no sense going on a hunt the evening before an event for a restaurant that serves pasta if you have gone to a new city to run in an event. Just stick to familiar foods that have worked for you during the training, if they have worked for you so far they would surely work now. Remember, the day before the event or a marathon is not the right time to try a new food in a new city! In fact, eating familiar food will actually prevent the constipation on the morning of your event and save you precious time to enable you to reach the event fresh and in time.

Fitness and a healthy eating has to be a continuous journey and not a time bound target for a runner or a fitness person. I would conclude by giving another important advice – spicy and oily foods the day before the event whether or not you are used to eating them, are an absolute ‘No’!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dharminder Sharma is an Indian Forest Service Officer (IFS) who has been running long distances for more than ten years. He has attended most of the major marathons in India and a few abroad. He has also started many running clubs in the Northern Indian region and organising quality runs for runners is one of his many passions

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Meet a young runner – Samir Zafar

Running is fever that can catch you young, Nandini Reddy caught up with 6 year old Samir Zafar who completed a 5km race. 

Samir Zafar, was one of the youngest runners at the recently concluded Madurai Marathon. For a 6 year old to take on such an arduous task of completing 5kms is indeed commendable. Talking to Samir was a pleasure because to him the run was something fun and he truly didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. A child whose days are filled with school, skating and cricket, Samir ventured into this new fitness event with equal enthusiasm and curiosity.

When asked what had inspired him to run the marathon, he said, “I just wanted to run.” It was as simple a motivation as that. Most adults run for a purpose – goal timings, fitness and even challenges. But Samir decided that he just wanted to run because it seemed like something he should try.

Watching your parents is what really gets one into fitness. Samir’s parents are both enthusiasts who ran the Madurai Marathon this year and this inspiration got him on board as well. Marathon usually requires training. Most of us employ virtual coaches, carry energy drinks and even train for months ahead. When asked if Samir underwent any sort of training or practice runs, he seemed puzzled and said, “No. But I do go to the park all the time with daddy.” It seemed rather matter-of-fact that being an active child he didn’t seem to understand the purpose of training. His physical activities on a daily basis helped carry him through the course.

The 5km race may be the easiest one to attempt as an adult but for a 6 year old with yet to develop muscles, it can be a formidable task. Samir did agree that it was a bit difficult to complete the course but he was so glad that he finished it. It was the first time he ran with such a big group of people and felt rather important to be participating alongside adults. “It felt very nice to run with such a big group of people,” quipped Samir with a broad smile.

Samir is all set to run his second 5km and in the future he might even make it to the 10km category with ease. But until then little runners like him continue to inspire us all to be fit and have fun while doing it.

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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Aging Gracefully with Running

Runners can keep going by adapting their techniques at each age milestone, says Radhika Meganathan

Age is just a number, as they all say. However, when it comes to running, the biology of aging cannot be denied, or ignored. As one ages, muscle mass decreases. Bone wear and tear over a period of years slow you down and makes you less flexible. Healing takes longer and stamina takes a hit. These are perfectly valid reasons to be vigilant and adjust one’s training and expectations from the sport.
The good news is, you can run the if you are prepared enough. At the Twin Cities Marathon in 2014, 59-year-old Christine Kennedy of triumphed with the astounding stat of 2:59:39.

Should you run when you are older?
Of course! As long as you don’t have any serious conditions that may hamper your running and you take proper care to run, running is good for all ages. Consider these pluses of running, especially if you are a senior:
1. Running can help you with a longer and healthier life.
2. Runners have less chance of suffering from clinical depression
3. Running improves blood circulation, and the brain benefits from improved circulation.
4. Running, and in general being physically active, can prevent you from cognitive decline.
5. Running reduces the chances of you getting colon or breast cancer.
6. Runners sleep better!
With all the above benefits, you are better off running!

But what about the ‘fall’ scare?

It’s a myth that you will fall and injure yourself if you run after a certain age. Injury happens to anyone who is careless or doesn’t take the necessary precautions. Age has nothing to do with it! In fact, most senior citizens experience falls in all walks of their life due to poor balance. Regular running makes muscles and bones stronger, and improves balance, which means – less chances of having a fall during running.

What if you are a senior and new to running?

Start with walking. Your neighbourhood park is the best bet, but you can walk in a quiet road too. Walk 10 minutes, and slowly jog for a couple of minutes. Alternate this until you feel slightly out of breath, and then stop. Repeat this consistently every day or every other day, progressively increasing the time to 15 and 20 minutes. Slowly venture into brisk walking, and eventually, sprinting. Set reasonable goals, look how your body’s responding and adjust your schedule accordingly. Take a companion if you are unsure attempting this alone. If you cannot run every day, aim for at least three times a week. Remember, the more you do it, the easier it will get.

What if I have a pre-existing condition?

Any sport requires a certain degree of caution when you attempt it with a pre-existing condition, and running is no different. As a starter, get your physician’s opinion. Get the right running attire, shoes and safety gear. Always have a mobile or a medical device alert with you, in case of emergencies. You can also hire a personal trainer who can help you get started with running. The advantage of professional help is that you will be under a monitored environment where you will be taught to gradually increase the level of activity.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A published author and an avid rambler, Radhika Meganathan is a recent keto convert who may or may not be having a complicated relationship with bacon and butter.

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Is Running Good for Children?

If your kid loves to run, or if you want to encourage your child to be a runner, read on to know about safe running practices for kids, says Radhika Meganathan

There is no doubt that regular exercise and an active lifestyle is good for kids. It’s easier for them to learn good habits when they are young, and what’s more, kids are natural runners. Running fortifies bones, musculo-lumbar co-ordination, and toughens muscles and tendons. Most importantly, it is fun. So little wonder that your little one loves to run!

Still, we should not forget that children’s bodies are not fully developed and they need special attention if they want to indulge in running as a dedicated sport. The Journal of Athletic Training mentions in one of its articles that:

  1. Children absorb the impact of running less effectively than adults. Less absorption means bigger impact to bones, joints, and soft tissue – all pointing to higher risk of injury.
  2. Kids bodies’ have not learned to acclimatize or climate control, so they won’t take to running in extreme heat or cold as well as adults do.
  3. Kids lumbar and hand-eye co-ordination is not as well developed as adults, especially in the beginning of their running phase.

So – should you train the little champ in your life? Or is it too risky? If your kid is already an enthusiastic runner, how much training is good for them? And what if they lose interest as they reach teenage or adulthood?

In general, medical opinion seems to be that runners under the age of 16 should not participate in any event longer than a 10K. That actually leaves plenty of distance for those little feet to cover! When young kids are concerned, the focus should be on enjoyment, rather than rigor or intensity. Here are some tips to get your kid run without missing all the fun:

  1. Get your child involved in running-related games, rather that straight line running. Opt for speed training, which will help them well into adulthood.
  2. Vary the running. Get your kid to sprint, hurdle, do track work and even cross country! This way, they will develop as an all-round runner.
  3. One size does not fit all. Some kids are active in the day, some in the evening, some can get going for hours while some get tired very easily. Figure out what works for your kid and let them practice around that.
  4. Kids being kids, might not remember to do the right warming up exercises, or drink enough water during running. Make sure they get trained in these pre- and post-run techniques as well.
  5. If there is a running club in their school, get your kid enrolled in the program. Your kid will get to run with his friends, under the supervision of the school coach who will make sure your kid follow the right running routines.

In case you really find a winning spark in your kid and they are also equally passionate about running, the best way forward would be to let them train under a qualified Athletics coach.

Can your child race?

For most marathons, the minimum age is usually between 16 -18. If your kid is younger, the you can include them in the fun runs or family run categories that range from 1km to 5km. There is also the option of introducing them to marathons through kid events like – Kidathons. If your child is just starting off but if a decent runner then use this reference guidelines to plan your races.

Under 4 years old – 400 m

Age 5-6 – 800 m

Age 7-8 – 1-3 km

Age 9-15 – 3- 5 km

Age 16+ – 5- 10km

Do not worry that your kid might lose interest later in running. The main objective now must be to imbibe in your kid the habit of physical activity a regular routine, giving them a solid foundation that they carry it well into their adult life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

A published author and an avid rambler, Radhika Meganathan is a recent keto convert who may or may not be having a complicated relationship with bacon and butter.

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Going Non-Diary

Lactose Intolerance or becoming vegan, whatever your reason, non-diary products are making their way into your daily diet, says Nandini Reddy.

The diary market has faced many lows since early 2011 because of contamination and accusations of chemical enhancers in cattle feed. This has lead to a wave of people switching to alternative forms of milk including nut milk, grain milk and bean based milk. Fitness enthusiasts looking for alternatives without the fat content of milk and people switching to vegan diets have been the biggest adopters of the alternative milk trend.

Like every good food it is important to understand why their alternative milk forms are good and bad for us. Let us consider the various factors that you would need to weigh in before switching over to a particular milk alternative.

Nutrient Value

Nut milks are power houses of nutrients such as Vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, zinc, pottassium, phosphorous and calcium. They also contain flavonoids which are lower the levels of bad cholesterol.  On the downside nut milk and rice milk are low in protein and calcium and lack Vitamin D and B12 which are essentially found in animal milk.  Soy and Rice milk are also great sources of nutrients and have no saturated fats. They have have anti-oxidants that help in supporting the immune system.

Flavour 

Nut milk definitely taste better than any other milk even diary. Rice milk is bland so it blends well as it does not affect the taste. Soya milk has a specific taste that will grow on you. These milks can be added to most breakfast cereals and can also be had alone. For cooking, coconut milk has always been the favourite but almond and cashew milks are also finding their way into desserts as great alternative to cow milk.

Health Benefits

Alternative milks all have the right nutrient values to promote cardio-vascular health. Blood pressure and cholesterol are lowered because of the magnesium rich composition of these milks. Rice milk helps increase iron and copper in your blood thus boosting red blood cell production, and giving you better oxygenation and vitality. Soy is a good alternative if you want to add more protein but its continued use isn’t recommended for women because of its high phytoestrogen content. Rice milks are very starchy and are not suitable for diabetics.

Cost

Alternative milks are more expensive than cow’s milk. Most of them retail at nearly twice or thrice the cost. Most of them are hard to find and are generally available at specialty stores in big cities. Using online sources and buying in bulk might prove more economical in the long run as the shelf life of sealed packages is from 6 months to one year.

Whether its change in lifestyle or beat an allergy or just for overall health, alternative milks do have a space in our 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.

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Take the Stairs

You can elevate your running performance if you start using stairs, says Nandini Reddy

If you are movie buff then you need to borrow one piece of training advice from Rocky – make climbing stairs as part of training. If you have a shorter training window before  marathon then training on stairs is a good way addition to your training plan. As you power your way up the stairs, you legs become stronger and your heart and lungs are taxed more from the movement thus improving your overall stamina and strength.

So how do stairs help so much?

  • When you are climbing stairs you are moving against gravity and this helps build power and strength in a runner.
  • If you are trying to reach a goal time in a marathon you will need both.
  • Stair climbing also helps you stabilize your form as you work to stay on balance.
  • Stair climbing training also reduces the risk of injury
  • Climbing stairs makes your hearth pump faster and improves your blood oxygen

How they help your legs?

Strength training is a key part of runners training schedule. Body weight training routines recommend lunges and squats to train the legs and glutes. If you do stair training then you will get the benefit of both these exercises in a single move. With your heart pumping your muscles are also more oxygenated. Both your legs get equal amount of workout during stair training.

The oxygenation advantage

During an intense exercise your heart is continuously pumping oxygen to your muscles at a grueling pace. As the intensity of the exercise increase the VO2 levels rise. Stair climbing helps improve your Vo2 max levels and the greater the VO2 level the harder you can run. A British journal published that stair climbing was known to improve the VO2 max level by nearly 17% in women.

What if I choose a natural uphill terrain?

You can choose a natural uphill terrain also to train with but stairs come with a built in difficulty that most natural terrains do not have. Stairs are built at an angle of 65 degrees, while most hills will only have about 5-10% of this gradation.

How do you start?

If you are looking to get started on the stair training routine then like any other exercise ease into it. You can tired very quickly on stairs so do not equate your running capacities to your stair climbing abilities. Start by walking up 10 floors first. If your body is taking the strain then start jogging up 10 floors. If you are able to breath comfortably then move to running. If you need a bit of a challenge, try taking two stairs at a time. You can also use the handrail to pull your body up and get a complete workout.

A Sample Training Plan

Here is a sample training plan if you are ever considering using the stair climbing work out as away to train faster for a marathon

Warm-up – Jog for 10 minutes on a flat terrain

Main Workout – 10 floors x 20 times with a recover time of 30 secs between each set. Use the elevator to come back to a start point if you are able or run down briskly while using the handrail for support.

Cool-Down – Walk down  the stairs at a slow pace and then stretch out all the muscles that you worked.

There are a few stair climbing races around the world if you ever want to consider participating in one but until then use it as the perfect routine to get your strength up for running your best race.

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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Reasons to join a Running Group

There are running groups on every street today and irrespective of your running goals, here’s why you need to consider joining a running group, writes Nandini Reddy. 

There are running groups for every type of runner today. There are the ones are specific to your place of residence and there are the ones that are specific to type of training you want to do. There are even groups of runners who train together for the purpose of achieving goal times in particular races. So whatever running goals you might have, there will be a running group out there for you.

Solo running may seem convenient. You plan your runs around your schedule, commitments and moods while running groups have their own schedules. While it might seem difficult to follow, it will the most disciplined manner in which you can improve your running form, timing and pace. Running groups combine running and hanging out with friends. So while flying solo might have been the way you started, it just maybe time to join a running group this year.

Here a few compelling reasons why you should consider signing up with a running group

Explore a New World

When you run solo you follow known routes and run at a pace that you are comfortable with and you might even that special playlist lined up. Group running gives you partners with whom you can converse about a variety of topics. Also you are more likely to explore new routes thus making your runs more interesting.

Get Faster

Running with others automatically helps you work on your pace. You might just be getting faster and not even realizing it. There is plenty of research that suggests that runners who train with groups tend to be faster than runners who train solo. Group influence always tends to spur you try a bit harder, move faster and even get over roadblocks that you might have faced as a solo runner.

No excuses 

If you are planning to just turn off the alarm and go back to bed, its easy to do as a solo runner but when you are in a group and you know they are waiting for you – then you are most likely to not miss training days. When you train as group, you are more likely to actually follow a training plan.

Perfect for newbies

Most running groups offer coaching for newbie runners. You will get to meet experienced runners who can correct and coach you as you run along with them. You will get tips on nutrition and even strength training because most serious runners always follow a strict fitness regime.

Help you reach a goal

If you are hoping to reach a goal timing, pace or complete a difficult trail run course then a running group can help you achieve that. Having a group to train with will ensure you stay motivated for the training period and that you also stick you a training plan.

The idea of joining a running club can be intimidating. There will be a lot of questions running through your mind but you should know that running groups always welcome new runners with high enthusiasm. So don’t let fear get in the way of you starting a new experience.

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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