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A Regular Guy To Your Friendly Neighbourhood Ironman!

Protima Tiwary learns how Abhishek Avhad started as a regular guy and became an Ironman in just two years.

Abhishek Avhad gave himself a simple challenge in July 2016, a challenge that changed his entire life. Two years and an IronMan later, Abhishek talks all about it to the Finisher Magazine.

Your journey as a runner started only in 2016. What made you start?

I only started running in July 2016 because I was a football player in Junior College, and my smoking habit was ruining my fitness and game for me. I led a normal student life, complete with studies, sports and parties. I was also studying for my CA certification, which meant that my schedule demanded a lot out of me.

I still remember that time when I smoked an entire pack of cigarettes in an hour! I think that was the turning point for me. I woke up the next morning with my insides burning and decided to fix this by throwing away any remaining smokes that I might have lying around.

But of course, this was just the first step. I only took up running when I got my first job at one of the Big 4 accounting firms. A colleague who was a regular runner spoke about his love for running and suggested I give it a try too. Just out of curiosity, I agreed. He helped me chose a 10K race, set a target, and basically guided me towards my first race. I owe the start of my running journey to him.

How has life changed for you since then?

I have made more friends in the last 2 years of running, swimming and cycling than I did in my entire college life! I love the fitness fraternity because of the people that it attracts. It’s a positive space that inspires and empowers people to lead a fit lifestyle. So much has changed in my life in the last 2 years, but I guess the main change is in my spending habits. What I spent on parties is now being spent on nutrition and race entries.

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

I’d say my enthusiasm stands out. If I am in a race I will push people to go hard, I will high-five every kid who’s out there to cheer for us. I will hand over my own nutrition if someone needs it more. I guess this is also why I love pacing the most.

Can you tell us about your best and worst races?

My worst race has to be the Ladakh Marathon, my first full marathon and also the first time I travelled to that altitude. I had just quit my job and was serving my notice period, because of which I landed 3 days before the race. I didn’t get much time to acclimatize. Breath-taking now made complete and literal sense as my lungs screamed for oxygen as I ran the full marathon. There were only 140 of us, so there were times when I was running alone and mental strength was needed more than ever. After the 30km mark, I got mild AMS (mountain sickness) and had to walk the remaining distance. My timing was over 7 hours. It was my first and only DNF. I learnt so much though- I learnt patience, the importance of mental strength and never to underestimate a race. It’s better to be over prepared and over cautious than to take it lightly. This was a 7 hour punishment for me that left me with valuable lessons for life.

My best race was no doubt the Ironman triathlon in Sweden. I loved the positivity and support that everyone showed at the race.

What pushed you to do the Ironman? What was the experience like? 

Ironman was never on my mind. I couldn’t even swim, and I had barely every cycled more than 20km at a stretch. But things changed for me when I heard of Milind Soman finishing the race in July 2015. That was when I had heard of Ironman for the first time, to be honest. I read more about it, and it stayed on my mind when I started running. 2 months into running and I decided one day I wanted to own that title too, I wanted to cross that red carpet.

With this thought, I participated in triathlons (completed 8 so far) rather than opting for pure marathons. Till date, my personal best marathon timings is in an Ironman.

The actual race can be extremely intimidating, I won’t deny that. It’s a task to swim with 2000 participants, all raring to cross you in the water. But the support and cheering is really empowering, and you find yourself smiling through all of it. The crowd support made this my favorite race till date.

You might not like endurance sports in general, but you will love race day at the Ironman! It’s an experience filled with adventure that will evolve you into a disciplined person.

They say consistency is key – but how do you build this consistent pace that they talk about?
There are no shortcuts. Consistency is built by showing up. A session missed is a day gone, and in the grander scheme of things, it matters. As far as training is concerned, add free weight workouts to build strength. Work on your core post a run, do upper body workouts after a swimming session and do the lower body exercises after cycling. You need to maintain a balance between endurance and strength training to ace the race.

No race is perfect. Any moment you’d like to share with us where you thought things were going downhill? How did you overcome that?

There will always be circumstances out of your control. It’s your choice how you wish to respond.

I remember during the Ironman I got cramps within the first 25minutes of the race. I was stranded in the middle of the Baltic Sea, with the first cramp I had got in a year! I had cramps in the first half an hour of a 16hr race, of course, I was concerned. But then the mind kicked in. I knew that salt eases cramping, so I took huge gulps of the sea water and carried on! That decision saved my race, and guess what? I also got a very good swim timing.

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

Physical training will prepare you only to a point, beyond which you need your mind to control your body. Focus on building your mental strength too! Do focus building exercises in your free time, or even at your workstation!

I stopped training with music. It might distract you from the pain during runs, but it doesn’t work the mind. Even in the Ironman, there is a clear rule stating no use of headphones throughout the race.

I also started doing training runs of 15 km in 800 metres loops on the street instead of running from place A to B. My 200 km rides were on a 7 km patch of road going round and round. Even my training swims were done in a small 25-meter crowded pool, taking turns every 30 seconds. It’s devastating mentally, but it sharpens the mind and makes the race day seem like a piece of cake.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m racing the Deccan Cliffhanger which is a 640 km ultra-cycle race between Pune and Goa, with a 32-hour cut-off. I also aim to qualify for Boston in 2020.

Apart from running, I plan to write a book for absolute beginner triathletes from a strictly Indian perspective, where I will talk about basics like getting started, buying your first bike, choosing a race, balancing your demanding work-life with your triathlon journey, etc. A prelude has already been in circulation and has received very promising reviews.

I also have a small triathlon group who I coach and have frequent meetings to talk about the sport in general. I would love to help people get into the sport and continue to be a participant throughout!

Follow him on Instagram herehttps://www.instagram.com/calves.of.steel/

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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Endurance and the Indian runner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GUEST COLUMNIST

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

 

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Energy Gels – are you a believer or a skeptic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

 

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Run Mumbai Run! – Running Clubs In Mumbai For A Fitter You

Running alone has its perks! But if you want to be a better version of you, a fun way to do it is to explore joining a club, writes Protima Tiwary.

Marathon season is upon us! This can only mean one thing- it’s time to get those sneakers out of their shoe closets, wipe off the dust, tie up those laces and hit the track! Getting ready to run a marathon might seem like a daunting task, especially now that it’s festival season and all that you see around you is excuses. Everyone needs a partner to help balance the chaos of city life, but sometimes even a running buddy doesn’t make the cut. It is precisely for this reason that city-based running clubs are now overfull with enthusiastic members, looking forward to getting fit for the season.

Are you looking to join a running club in the city of Mumbai? Whether it’s enjoying a scenic view of the city skyline on Marine Drive, or making your way through the lanes of Bandra, Mumbai has a running club for you.

Here are some options that can help you on your journey to the finish line.

MUMBAI RUNNERS

What started off as an Instagram community has not only turned into motivation for many, but also into a full fledged website that inspires so many Mumbaikars to join the crew on a weekly basis. This running group meets on Thursdays and Sundays, in different locations around the city. Join them on Instagram here.

https://www.instagram.com/mumbairunners/?hl=en

ADIDAS RUNNERS

Adidas hosts running clubs in Marine Drive and Bandra, and is largely targeted towards the youth of the city. Hosted by Ayesha Billimoria, these morning sessions take you through warm ups, a run and cooling down techniques. Adidas Runners also supports a lot of environmental causes through their runs, and this running club encourages participation from all Mumbaikars. To know more about their running schedule, check out their website here- https://www.adidas.co.in/adidasrunners/

STRIDERS

Striders believes in combating the ill effects of the sedentary corporate life through running. This running club aimed at the regular job-goer targets the corporate lifestyle, and aims at promoting the benefits of running and exercising, especially when a large part of the day is being spent sitting. Other than marathon training and running programs, they also have a fitness training routine which you can sign up for. You can find them all over Mumbai.

https://www.striders.in/

MUMBAI ROAD RUNNERS

A non profit venture, this running group is about having fun while aiming to stay fit. Not only do they organize runs, but also award nights, rock climbing, beach football and a whole bunch of other fun activities that promote emotional health. They organize a half marathon and 10K run on the 1stSunday of every month and a 10 miler on the last Sunday of every month. This group is open to all.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/mumbairunners/about/

RUN INDIA RUN

No matter how old you are, or how busy your schedule is, Run India Run is here to help all those who have found their true calling in running. They organize marathon training sessions all around Mumbai, and are the leading running community in India that also focuses on mental, emotional and spiritual health. This running club takes the help of experts to design training sessions.

http://runindiarun.org.in/

Ready to lace up and get social?

 

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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For the love of running

In conversation with Brijesh Gajera, co-founder of the Ashva Running Club, talks to Deepthi Velkur about his love for running. 

Why do we love to run? It’s tough, it hurts – yet more and more people every day are taking to the roads. I had a chance to talk with Brijesh Gajera and listening to him gave me an insight into the enormous pleasure running can bring – it is, after all, a natural thing to do.

Brijesh is a software engineer by profession and an outdoor enthusiast by passion. In his professional avatar, Brijesh works with Cisco India where he tackles next generation Enterprise Networking Solutions in the hope of building predictability, adaptability, and protection for businesses worldwide.

But, that’s just one side of him – a self-proclaimed outdoor enthusiast, Brijesh is a long-distance runner, cyclist, and trekker. He has participated in multiple marathons over the last 10 years, most notable of which is the prestigious Boston Marathon 2018. He has taken part in multi-day cycling tours in the Western Ghats in South India, Indian Himalayas, and Europe. He loves the Himalayas and keeps visiting them for hiking, cycling, and running which, he calls his annual pilgrimages.

As if that wasn’t enough, Brijesh enjoys mentoring and coaching amateur long-distance runners. He is the co-founder and one of the coaches of Ashva Running Club where he trains runners to help them achieve their goals – be it their first 5K/10K/Marathon or specific targets.

“The two important things I did learn were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be and that the most difficult part of any endeavor is taking the first step, making the first decision” – Robyn Davidson.

Let’s read through Brijesh’s first steps as a runner and what influenced him to go from recreational runner to running club co-founder.

Was running a big part of your life growing up?

Actually, no. I used to do the occasional (not more than a couple of times a year maybe) run around the school ground with a friend of mine but that was to get a competitive high as both of us were the toppers in the class and running was our way of settling the debate of who is better J

From the moment I started following athletics in my high school years, I became a huge fan of Haile Gebrselassie. Actually, who is not a fan of his? I always admired his running and that was my regular connection to running in growing up years.

What was the trigger to pick up running and do it so well?

After I moved to Bangalore for work, I used to volunteer for an NGO called Parikrma. When the inaugural Bangalore 10K happened in the year 2008, Parikrma asked its volunteers to run in the event to show solidarity to their cause. I liked the idea and registered for the event. I truly enjoyed training for and running my first 10K. The joy of running took a hold on me. What was supposed to be a one-time affair became a lifetime passion after that event.

Soon 10K was followed by Half and Full Marathons. The haphazard training was replaced by a structured program and all my travel plans started revolving around running.

You have competed in several marathons over the years – did you always plan on it being competitive?

Well, nothing was planned as such and things happened on their own. I generally get driven by a goal or an idea – of experiencing a particular marathon, achieving a target time or volunteering for a cause. Once I choose to run an event, I plan my training and focus on it whole-heartedly.

In the early days of my running, my aim was to simply build endurance and run in various places. Once I was satisfied with my endurance level, I decided to target a particular finish time and worked on speed. When I was reasonably close to the Boston Marathon qualification, I decided to train for it.

In short, my competitive knack comes from the targets I set for myself.

How many races have you participated so far and which has been the most memorable one?

There are a plenty! I have lost the count, or rather never kept it. All my race medals go in an antique trunk in my living room. Roughly there are more than 25 marathon or longer distance races I have participated in till date.

Choosing the most memorable race from so many is quite a task! Of course, my first marathon always tops the list. It was an idyllic setting in Auroville and what I experienced and learned that day about human endurance, psychology and never-say-die spirit is irreplaceable.

Then there is Ladakh Marathon 2017 for the experience and love of mountains, the Boston Marathon 2018 for the weather and sea of runners, The Big Sur Marathon 2018 for the natural beauty and scores of Mumbai Marathons for the crowd support.

 

You are the co-founder and one of the coaches of the running group Ashva, how did this group come into being and how many runners do you have currently?

Somewhere along my personal running journey, I felt that I could share my experience with fellow runners and guide them. My dear friend, Murthy R K, also wanted to get into coaching runners around the same time. In fact, he was already coaching school kids by then. Together we decided to form “Ashva Running Club”.

It’s been more than 2 years now and we have about 75 runners in 3 different locations (Lalbagh, Whitefield, Kanakapura Road) in Bangalore. Apart from that, we also train people remotely.

Do you think joining a running club enriches a runner’s experience? If yes, why?

Totally. Joining a running group has helped my running immensely.

First of all, the camaraderie of a group is a great motivation to get up and go for a run. It helps one to be regular and disciplined. There is also what I call “Running Rituals”, the warm-up and cool-down, which are essentials for injury-free and enjoyable runs. If it is left to our choice, we may avoid these rituals at times and eventually omit it all together, but when you are part of a group, these are religiously followed.

In addition to that, a sensible group can also help you avoid the excesses – too much or too less of training.

Describe the training process that you follow at Ashva?

Everything revolves around the trainee, to begin with. Every person comes with a particular goal in mind and we try to understand the goal and help the person to be on a path to achieve it.

We focus on injury prevention, strengthening, and conditioning. We maintain a healthy mix of speed, tempo and long runs in our training program.

What we try to strive at Ashva is BALANCE, not just in your running in particular but in your life in general. Balance in your physical and mental states, balance in your professional and personal life, balance in your running and non-running worlds. We encourage and help people to achieve the balance of exercise, nutrition and rest. We, in fact, urge our runners to take breaks from running from time to time for rejuvenation.

We believe all these elements come together to build a healthy runner and human being.

How do keep your runners motivated?

By a mix of continuity and variety. The continuity keeps one connected, the variety keeps one excited. Running Rituals, I talked about earlier are a permanent part of our training. We do not compromise on them. We go to different locations to train to give them a different look and feel. We also encourage them to participate in new events and explore new places on their own.

What are the top three things you do to prevent running injury-free?

Warm-up and Cool-down: No two ways about this – it is a must every time you decide to take a run.

Yoga: We believe that yoga is a fun and engaging way to work on flexibility and strength and we have regular sessions of yoga in our training.

Cross-Training and Breaks: Cycling and Swimming are effective ways to avoid injuries and burn-out. And so are breaks – in fact, frequent and small breaks are rarely understood and a highly underrated device for injury-prevention!

You participated in the Mera Terah Run last year and completed 13 half-marathons in 13 days – can you please describe the emotions before, during and after this most challenging event?

I have been participating in the Mera Terah Run (MTR) for last 4 years, and it is going to be 5th this year.

Though the thought of running 13 marathons in 13 days in 13 different places with overnight travel sounds daunting, one thing we must understand is that running is just a medium for MTR to achieve their mission. The cause we choose for MTR is the utmost priority. Running is in fact lot of fun in MTR because there is no pressure to finish under a certain time, there is no finish line and medal or certificate per se and you get to meet so many different people and run with them that it feels like a festival.

Before the MTR starts, we spend a lot of time planning the logistics and coordinating with our friends in various places to make sure we have good experience traveling and running in those places. The last 3-4 runs of the whole campaign are slightly difficult given the accumulated fatigue of running and travel. But the group bonhomie and the collective purpose keep us all excited for the whole duration of the yatra as we call it.

Being a passionate traveler as well, I am sure you have run in some exotic locations – can you please name a few?

My heart always goes with the Himalayas, Pedong/Kalimpong in Darjeeling, Leh in Ladakh, Manali Solang in Himachal, Garhwal in Uttarakhand – these are my personal favorites. Another favorite is Western Ghats – Malnad, Mahabaleshwar, and Ooty.

Diu on West Coast of India also makes to my list. Outside India, I loved the Big Sur Marathon route a lot.

What are the future goals for Ashva and yourself?

We would like to see Ashva Running Club building a healthy and active community. I read somewhere once that running makes people smarter. If that is true, I would like to see our trainees achieve the balance and also be able to coach themselves eventually and help their fellow runners with their knowledge.

For myself, I would like to see Ashva achieve its goal J That is my biggest goal. Of course, I would like to continue running. As of now, I am focusing on training for a 90KM trail marathon early next year. I plan to focus on ultra-marathons for some time and also visit exotic places in the process.

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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Making running a habit

Do you have a really hard time waking up, or finding that motivation to run consistently? In this article, Kavita Rajith Nair tells you how she overcame these hurdles and went on to become a morning person!

It only takes 21 continuous days to form a habit – says Stephen Covey in his book – 7 Habits of the Highly Effective People. But how do you get through those 21 days? Is motivation the only factor? How about the habits we have to break first? Not having case studies and with only my experience to go by, I’ll avoid generalities and stick to my tale.

‘SHOWING UP! Is the theme that worked for me’ – making every single session consistently for the next 21 days.

That’s all it takes to make anything a habit be it running, cycling, boxing, music, hitting the gym, sleeping early, waking up early. Literally anything!

Running is the newest habit I have cultivated, which I have sustained for over 2 years now and is no longer considered a habit, as it has become an inseparable part of my life.

Bangalore is a runner’s paradise with easy access to broad traffic-free roads early in the mornings and beautiful weather almost all around the year – it’s no wonder you see runners across the city roads quite frequently. That’s how running became a natural choice for me.

When I decided to give running a shot, it wasn’t because I was a couch potato – I had

Ballroom Dancing, Kickboxing and CrossFit training going on and this helped me shed 7 Kgs. However, despite all of this I just couldn’t get my weight to budge south of 75 kilos. In hindsight, I think just dabbling in each of them and not doing enough of them consistently didn’t help my cause.

Running requires you to be an early morning person. I was someone who would hit the bed late and wake up late as well. As old habits would have it, mornings found be tucked comfortably in bed, until Jayanagar Jaguars (running club) opened up their branch in HSR Layout, just about 500mts from my house.

One morning I mustered enough motivation to SHOW UP on the ground at 5:20 AM. The routine was simple – some warm-up exercises, a couple of kms brisk walk, few drills after returning to the ground, cool down stretches, few core strengthening exercises and wind up. It was done and dusted by 7:00 AM and I was home by 7:05 AM. I still had an hour to go before my alarm would ring on a usual day otherwise and I just earned 60mins additional time to do my stuff – ME TIME!!! I thought I had already started liking it, but yes not a habit yet, as it was just the first day. The strangest thing happened that night, I started yawning at around 8:00 PM and despite my hard attempts to stay awake, I eventually hit the bed at 9:00 PM. That was by far the earliest time ever I had gone off to sleep, probably did it last as a kid.

The next day was a rest day, but despite that, I woke up earlier than usual and slept early too. Then came the running day, I was eager to be on the grounds on time and I SHOWED UP again. After a week, I pulled in my spouse to join me for a trial session, he was sulking initially to wake up, but our welcoming Location Lead, gave us proper guidance for absolute amateur runners like my spouse and myself and also the camaraderie of the warm co-runners, some experienced and some new to the sport like us, drew us to the ground for the next few sessions regularly. And that way, without realising I SHOWED UP again and again until today. It’s been 2 years and 3 months and I SIMPLY SHOW UP, be it at the grounds if in Bangalore or if traveling, I AM UP AND ABOUT on the roads on the scheduled days. To be very candid here, I am not sure when that turned into a habit, as I stopped counting after a few days I think to the extent that even for emergency reasons if I had to miss my running, I was on a complete guilt trip.

Looking back, here are the few things that probably helped me build ‘Running as a habit’:

  1. Decision: Awareness that you need to cultivate a habit is a big thing in itself. 10% of your work is done here.
  2. Choice:The next big thing is to decide what is it that you want to do. This could take a while as you may have to do a bit of introspection to arrive at this, or just go with what your heart tells you one fine morning, or what your best friend suggests, it is an experimentation anyway. Another 5% is done here.
  3. Enjoy: You should like what you have chosen and thoroughly enjoy it. Might be a taste you have to develop but that you should be aware of in the early days as it will most likely make you happier, content, energetic through the day to pull your daily chores and office routines without any additional effort- this gets you to the 40% mark.
  4. Partner-In: Rope in a friend/ family member/ partner/ spouse/ colleague.For me, this was an important step, especially in the initial days one pushes the other and unknowingly you have crossed a week without missing a single session. This takes you to a 50% mark.

The next 50% is the tricky bit, here come the cliched big words like regularity, consistency, determination, persistence and so on. I can share what helped me to bridge the gap of the next 50%.

  1. Note down the changes the new habit has brought in you. E.g. ease of waking up early, longer days for self, more Me-time, less grumpy, sustain more energy through the day and help me have a positive outlook on life itself.
  2. Talk about it to as many as possible.Of course, you risk shooing people away at the very sight of you from afar, but your well-wishers will stick around for you, noticing the change in you and to support you. Talking about your new habit only reassures that you are liking it, you are spreading a word about it, and in a minute way, influencing the people you are speaking to. That in itself is a big motivation.
  3. Set goals. This could be tough, as you are new to the habit, and may be unaware of what goals to set, you can either use our google mom to read blogs and research good articles or pester your coach/ mentor/ guide to help you here. I did the latter of course 🙂
  4. Measure yourself. This could be basis your goals for the habit you chose, but as it’s said, “only if you measure, can you change/control it” so measure! I defined performance for myself in running and then started measuring it. Needless to say, my original obsession with weight was also being measured, but along with it started measuring more meaningful yet simple aspects like BMI, fat%, skeletal mass, water content etc. And trust me, any of these moving in the positive direction is a huge stimulus.
  5. Share your success stories. While your successes will be evident to yourself and people around you, you can choose to share on social media if you are a social media friendly person, or even just talk about them. But having said that, consciously remember to have your head fixed right on your shoulders and not have the successes get to your head. In simple words, ‘Always Be Humble!’

Parting Message: Don’t get overwhelmed by the words Consistency, Dedication, Introspection, which I have used to describe my journey, believe me, this looked scary to me as well, but just remember #21Days and you will enjoy the journey. In our multifaceted daily life as a mother, father, child, caregiver, employee, manager, wife, husband and so on, never forget YOURSELF. Before I say Adieu, I would say have some time to live for yourself.

As an amateur runner, I have shared what helped me to ‘SHOW UP’ on all mornings of the run days and eventually cultivate ‘Running as a Habit’. Am eager to hear from you what helped you!

GUEST COLUMNIST

Kavita, employed with an International Bank had taken up running to stay fit in summer of 2016. Her leisure running has now developed into her passion. She fondly inspires people around her with her enthusiasm, infectious energy and love for running

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Running your first 10k – Part 2

In the second part, a detailed training plan is presented by write Coach Pramod Deshpande to help you achieve your dream of running your first 10k.

The Training Phase

Endurance running is more than just “running itself”, as it also comprises of supplementary exercises like core, stretching, plyometrics and strength building exercises. Additionally, sticking to a nutrition plan and having proper time for rest and recovery are critical factors. Let us discuss these aspects a little more in detail.

Training plan

Here is a suggestive plan giving you an idea of how you could gradually increase the intensity of your workouts and mileage, include strength training and gym, stretching and core exercises etc. Following the below schedule will help you complete your 10K. This is more of a generic program and a better way is for you to get a customized program that suits your fitness levels and health parameters.

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 Basic warm-up exercises – only walking – finish with stretching and a couple of sets of core exercises
Rest 30 mins walk Rest 30 mins walk Rest 45 mins walk Rest
2 Basic warm-up exercises – only walking – finish with running drills, stretching and a couple of sets of core exercises
Rest 35 mins walk Rest 35 mins walk Rest 55 mins walk Rest
3 Basic warm-up exercises – only walking – finish with dynamic plyometric moves e.g. jumping jacks, one leg hopping, both legs hopping for 10 minutes followed by drills, stretching and a couple of sets of core exercises
Rest 45 mins walk Rest 45 mins walk Rest 60 mins walk Rest
4 Mix jogging and walking. Add one day of the gym for basic strength training. Don’t forget the pre and post run routines. Get a massage to relax.
Rest 45 mins walk & jog GYM 45 mins walk & jog Rest 60 mins walk & jog Massage
5 With each workout gradually reduce walking and increase jogging. Continue with gym and pre and post run routines.
Rest 55 mins Walk & Jog GYM 55 mins Walk & Jog Rest 70 mins Walk & Jog Rest
6 By now you should be able to jog 50% of the time. Focus on jogging continuously. Speed is not important. Continue the gym and the pre and post run routines.
Rest 55 mins Walk & Jog GYM 55 minutes Jog Rest 80 mins Walk & Jog Rest
7 Target to jog 60% of the time. Do not worry about speed, try continuous jogging. On weekends, ensure you complete the time, even if you are completely tired, this will be the longest jog before the race. Do not miss the Gym and the pre and post run exercise routines.
Rest 55 mins Jog GYM 55 mins Jog Rest 90 mins Walk & Jog Rest
8 Repetition workouts, do not walk in a repetition of 10 or 15 minutes, you have a 45 sec rest after each repetition. Do not miss the Gym and the pre and post run exercise routines. Get a full body massage after the workout.
Rest Run 10 mins – 45 sec recovery (Repeat 4 times) GYM Run 15 mins – 45 sec recovery (Repeat 3 times) Rest 80 mins Jog Massage
9 Same as week 8. Last week of gym, strength and plyometric exercise. Continue with stretches.
Rest Run 10 mins – 45 sec recovery (Repeat 4 times) Rest Run 15 mins – 45 sec recovery (Repeat 3 times) Rest 40 mins Jog Rest
10 Workout same as last week, mileage is less. Continue stretches. Get proper rest
Rest 35 minutes jog Rest 35 minutes jog Rest Race

Rest & Recovery

This is the most neglected part of your preparation. Once you start your training, in all anxiety to achieve results, you are likely to push yourself to the maximum and fail to add a rest day. But, unless you recover from the fatigue of your previous workout, starting the next day’s workout is counterproductive. A recovery gap of 24 hours between your workouts is extremely important.

You will see advanced athletes doing workouts daily and elite athletes doing workouts twice a day but they are tuned to take such loads and also manage adequate rest.

Do not do any work out on rest days. Typically, with these types of workloads, you will require additional sleep which is another facet of recovery. A 7-8-hour sleep routine is essential.

Event Day

You will be ready physically and mentally for the event only if you factor in all the aspects of preparation, training, nutrition with sufficient rest and recovery days.

Some key aspects to keep in mind for the race day is to

First, Completion- Do not focus on timing rather push yourself to complete the race as a lot of time and effort has gone into preparing yourself for the race. Factors such as speed, finish time, doing better than the person next to you can be given focus on your next race and you need to prepare for them accordingly.

Second, the golden rule of endurance running, nothing new on race day- Your pace during the race (no matter who overtakes you), running gear, food, and hydration before, during and after the race should be exactly the same as it has been during the training phase.

Lastly, Look Back – once all the euphoria subsides, look back from where you started, how dedicated was your preparation, how many sacrifices you made along the way. Then, consider what you achieved during this time – improvement in fitness parameters, a finisher medal that you have completed your 10K run, the discipline, and patience you learned along the way, the amazing new friends you made …. The list will be very long – savor it and be proud before you start thinking about your next target.

Happy Running!

GUEST COLUMNIST

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

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Boost Your Brain Power

Mental training exercises that you need to add to your daily athletic routine, writes Protima Tiwary.

Ask any athlete what motivates him to wake up every morning and keeps him going through the day, and his answer will be “discipline” Self-motivated people will brave blood, sweat and tears to reach their goal, and none of this would work without discipline. So how does one learn discipline? Is it something we are born with? Is it something you can learn later in life? God forbid, is it too late to learn discipline in life?

Thankfully, discipline can be learnt, but do not accept results overnight. Just like the physical body takes week, months and sometimes even years to transform, the mind needs its time too. The mind imbibes so much on a daily basis, removing distractions to inculcate discipline seems like an intimidating task to many. With a little hard work, a few months is all you need to grow into a self-motivated, disciplined individual yourself.

How? It’s simple. All you need to do is exercise your mind. Yes, there are exercises that help train your mind into becoming stronger. Note these down carefully, because these exercises can be done at any given point of the day.

Start your day with Meditation

10 minutes before you start your day is all that you need to meditate successfully. Meditation is said to be the strongest of all the willpower workouts, and for good reason. With only 10 minutes a day, your brain will be able to focus better, and you will be less stressed and more energetic to deal with the day. To get started, sign up for some meditation podcasts or Youtube channels that will guide you through the process.

Remember, it will take you some time to train your mind to focus to meditate, but as it is with physical exercises, your mind too needs patience to build strength. Give it time.

Use your opposite hand

Your brain is wired to use your dominant hand. When you try using your opposite hand, your brain will spring into action since it is a completely new activity that it is not used to. You will find yourself to be more alert and focussed. This, using your opposite hand will require willpower.

To get started, sit down with a pen and notebook for 20-30 minutes during your workday.

Treat this as your me-time and you will find yourself looking forward to this experience daily!

Do Cross Lateral movements

The idea is to get your brain to be more alert. Lift your left knee and touch it with your left elbow 5 times, then do the same thing now with the right side. Then, lift your left knee and touch it with your right elbow 5 times, then switch sides again. When you do this, the left and right hemispheres of your brain are being worked together, causing your mind to be more alert.

Cross stimulate your senses

Keep your brain alert by engaging multiple senses like sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing. Doing so stimulates new neural activity throughout the brain. Some ways to do this would be to learn a musical instrument, learn to cook something new, read a new book, or even try a new exercise.

Correct your breathing

Inefficient breathing patterns not only affect your brain concentration power but also interfere in your exercises. Inefficient breathing limits oxygen to your brain. By correcting your breathing, you improve your concentration and focus, and even boost learning and IQ!

Here’s what you have to do – place one hand on your stomach, inhale slowly through your nose. You will notice that your abdomen expands while you inhale. Now exhale slowly (for around 5 seconds) and feel your abdominal muscles collapsing. Practice this for 5 minutes daily.

Other things that will contribute to a healthy mind include keeping a check on your savings and spending, keeping a food diary (food affects mood, and knowing what you’re putting into your body will help you decide how to train your mind to feel!) correcting your posture whenever you can (posture affects body language which in turn affects your emotional health) Carry around something tempting whenever you feel like testing yourself, see if you can resist it. This slowly contributes to mental strength too. Eat healthily, drink plenty of water. Also, take care of the vocabulary that you use (use positive words and avoid negative words and thoughts.) Last but not the least, learn to be grateful for what you have.

Whether you are running a marathon or lifting heavy or playing a sport, you need a strong mind to see you till the finish line. Without a strong mind, the body is nothing. Time to train your mind along with your body to be stronger, faster and more efficient. If you could build mental toughness that could help you overcome any obstacle and come out on the other side intact, you would have a positive outlook and a boatload of confidence in life, isn’t it?

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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The Heptathlon

A young Indian woman, with a humble, rural background has suddenly brought into the limelight, an event, well known but hitherto unheralded. Capt Seshadri takes a look at the challenging Heptathlon. 

In athletics, as in life, only a few parts can be glamorous. The leading running stars are, obviously, the fastest men and women; not that we should take anything away from their efforts. Still, there is glory in events like the marathon, the ultimate test of endurance and stoicism. While track takes centre stage, with the finishing tape in the front of the most august audience, the field events and the throws are an integral part of every athletics competition across the globe. Each one of these needs specialised training, commitment, dedication and a great deal of effort.

Combining all these is an oft-forgotten event, relegated to the sidelines, yet requiring a rare combination of speed, strength and endurance. Seven highly competitive events spread over two days, comprises the heptathlon, a name quite naturally derived from Greek, denoting seven (hepta) athlon (feat). It appears that this is a further take from the once popular pentathlon, and is now contested by both women and men, the former vying for honours outdoors and the latter, indoors. Both, however, are dissimilar in the types of competitions.

When it started

The first women’s heptathlon was reportedly held in 1980 and qualified as an Olympic sport in the 1984 Summer Games.  Today, it is part of the IAAF World Championships, and the IAAF Combined Events Challenge decides who is the women’s heptathlon number one for the year. Points are allotted according to performance in each of the events, in terms of time or distance, with the athlete amassing the most points being the obvious winner.

The first day of the competition comprises the 100 metres hurdles, the high jump, the shot put and the 200 metres. With two sprints, and a field and a throw event each behind them, the women go into the second day with the long jump, the javelin and finally, the 800 metres. Naturally, no individual can be best at everything, so it matters little that the champion athlete should finish on the podium in every event. While one school of thought might recommend that the competitor should be above average in all the events, if not necessarily within a ‘first three’ finish, in reality, each athlete specialises in a few of them and makes calculated compromises in the rest to garner maximum points overall. In effect, the participant actually competes not against the rest of the field, but rather, against the score table, a matrix constructed by an Austrian mathematician, Dr Karl Ulbrich, with points from zero to 1,000 and above for every event.

To score 1,000 points per event, each athlete would be required to perform, on an average, something like this:

110 m hurdles                                   13.85 seconds

High Jump                                              1.82 metres

Shot put                                                 17.07 metres

200 metres                                           23.80 seconds

Long jump                                               6.48 metres

Javelin                                                     57.18 metres

800 metres                                         2:07.83 seconds

Mundane figures, to the normal eye, but to the most competitive athlete, an almost impossible task to accumulate 7,000 points. In fact, the women’s world record has been set at 7,291 points, with the athlete surpassing the 1,000 average in just three of the events, her obvious favourites.

The men’s heptathlon, at first glance, appears to consist of much easier events than those for the women, but the competition is extremely intense and the performances in each, marginal. The men hepathletes compete in the 60 m, long jump, shot put, high jump, 60 m hurdles, pole vault and the 1,000 m, the first four on Day 1 and the remaining on the second day.

And finally, for the super athletes not satisfied with just seven events, there is also a tetradecathlon, a double heptathlon, consisting of 14 events, with seven events each day.

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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