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Running in the Sky Together

Our duo columnists, Mahalakshmi and Sandeep talk about how they conquered the Solang Sky Ultra, India’s only Sky running event in the Himalayas.

“Never limit where running can take you. I mean that geographically, spiritually, and of course, physically” – Bart Yasso.

I enjoy running – it’s a chance for me to go where my own two feet can carry me (literally).

It’s calming and repetitive. I have also found that the common running tenets of competitiveness, determination, positive thinking are the beliefs that I want to base my life goals on. It seems to me that running does a lot of good for a person and fits into my life quite well.

One of my running journeys took me up into the beautiful Solang valley in Himachal Pradesh that stands at an elevation of 8,400 feet. With the gorgeous Himalayas forming the backdrop, the Solang SkyUltra is India’s only mountain running race and is part of the Hell Race endurance series.

Skyrunning, as it is called is a high-altitude trail run and an extreme sport of mountain running that is run at an altitude of higher than 2000 meters and an incline of greater than 30%. These runs require a lot of technicality in terms of climbing and tackling the narrow trails.

“A wild story of human endeavour and sheer willpower”

This Solang Sky Ultra race has 3 categories – 10KM, 30KM, and 60KM respectively. The gain in elevation varies from 600, 2200m and 3800m for each category respectively. Mahalakshmi Sagar (my partner) and I registered for the 30KM race with a lot of uncertainty in our minds. Staying in Bangalore that is known more for its traffic than its trails, our uncertainty was understandable. Now, we have done our fair share of trail running too – the Turahalli trail as well as Yercaud trails for example but we still felt very apprehensive and unsure of the training that is required to tackle such a run.

Uncertainty and apprehensiveness aside, we decided to go ahead. We registered for the race, booked our accommodations and on the 28th of Sep 2018, Mahalakshmi and I along with two of the best amateur trail runners in India (Sampath and Aakriti) headed out to Chandigarh (our first stop). From there, we hired a taxi to Manali and thanks to the heavy rains our journey turned out to be longer and more exhausting than expected. The treacherous 12-hour drive was made palatable watching the wild, raging but beautiful Beas river making its way down the mountainside.

We arrived at the Solang Ski Resort and took the chance to mingle with a few of the runners who had arrived earlier and after a brief rest, we decided to go for an acclimatization walk on the race route.

During the race briefing, we were informed that the race route had been changed due to bad conditions and we were given thorough instructions regarding cut-offs, aid stations, etc. It was a daunting task to organize such an event under the given circumstances and the organizers had done a marvelous job getting things set up. We were ready to go and could not wait for race day.

RACE DAY! The 30KM leg flagged off at 7.30AM from the Solang Ski Resort and the route went down the Anjani Mahadev Temple road which lead us to our first river crossing of the run. They had created a makeshift bridge of a few planks of wood that enabled us to cross the river Beas leading to the harder section of the course.

Once across the river, the route meandered through tiny picturesque villages and then onto the Leh-Manali Highway which provided us with a bit of tarmac to run on. It was quite an easy climb to Jogini Falls. My Partner and I had decided to run the entire race together but halfway through we realized how unprepared we were for the trail, nevertheless, we were quite happy with the progress we made so far.

Jogini falls was a good climb and we were pretty warmed up by now and set our sights on the run ahead. All of a sudden, the race took us by surprise – it went straight through the falls! Obviously, we were soaked to the bone but we limbered on and set our sights on the remaining 16 to 18 KMS of the run.

Running through the waterfall, we hit the trail again and the trail sort of started winding down. Even though it was a downhill, the terrain was slippery and we could not run at the speed we wanted to. We passed through a village and had an aid station before the next climb.

The next section of the race was the most difficult one. Though only 2KMS, it had an elevation gain of 900+ meters. The terrain was rugged, to say the least. Forget running, even walking on this stretch was tough. We both realized, that this was way tougher than what we had imagined. We got really slow on this part, taking slightly more than 2 hours to complete this climb.

When we reached the top, we realized that we had 2 hours left and chances of us finishing before the cut-off’s seemed very unlikely. Nonetheless, we decided to give it a go, we tried to run hard and fast for the remainder of the race. Even though it was mostly downhill from that point on, we just could not get our speed going as the trail was full of slush.

We crossed a few more streams on our way down and that part of the stretch was the most beautiful. Through the winding trails, we finally came down to a gorge which had to be crossed via a century-old British bridge. It had lost its form and the only thing left was its railings. Volunteers helped us get across to the other side.

On crossing the bridge, we realized that if we did not run hard we might miss cut-offs by a good 10 mins. We kept running till we reached, the Manali-Rohtang highway. From there on, we both had decided to walk as we would not make the cut-offs anyway and instead we talked with the locals around and had an easy finish. Though that was not the ideal way we normally do our races, we thought it was worth it. We both decided then that we will do this race again next year and finish strong.

The 2018 race was unprecedented with the podium finishers getting through the course at some unbelievable speeds and setting new course records. In the 60KM race for men – Tianding Wahlang ended up 1st with a new course record time of 7hrs 12 min and 56 sec. Apart from Tianding, the other top two runners also bettered the previous course record of 9hrs 1min and 49 sec.

In the women’s format, there were the first-ever finishers with Aakriti Verma taking 1st place with a time of 13hrs 49min and 56 sec. In 2nd place with a time of 14hrs 44mins and 48 sec was Arpita Maitra which unfortunately was outside of the cutoff time, nevertheless, it is worth a mention. In the 30KM and 10KM categories, the gentlemen from the Gurkha regiment took home the honors with some exceptional running.

Though treacherous, we think races like Solang SkyUltra should happen more often. We thank the organizers for putting up a wonderful race. We truly appreciate the fact that the likes of Vishwas, Nupur, Ashok and Gaurav of the Hell race team are trying to build a culture wherein the runners are not pampered, they give you a tough race that leaves the runners with a feeling of utter satisfaction when they complete it.

As a parting note – we do not recommend this race to anyone who is not trained enough. Work hard on your fitness, train well and then go ahead.




Mahalakshmi and Sandeep are techies who have a passion for running. They met and married each other through running. They both constantly strive to achieve balance in their professional, active and personal lives.

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Featured, Motivation Comments Off on The No Limits Runner |

The No Limits Runner

Nandini Reddy catches up with Dr NTR Balasubramanian, a person who cannot see a limit decides to try his hand at every endurance event. 
When the list of marathons reads long and tough you know you are talking to a runner who doesn’t even want to think of the limits. From the Satara Hill Marathon to the Devil’s circuit, from trail cycling to ultra-running, Dr NTR Balasubramanian has done it all. Bala is a freelance diabetologist by profession who takes his health very seriously. I caught up with him to understand how he manages to power through all these amazing acts of endurance.
Excerpts from the conversation
When did you start trying your hand at endurance sports?
After self-training for more than a year, I attempted the Wipro Chennai Marathon held in January 2017. I directly had a go at the half marathon skipping the 10 km run. The number of miles I had covered before the event was quite a considerable number that gave me the confidence to sign up for the half marathon in my maiden event. Running Gurus typically advise to taper down the mileage a week prior to the event and rest completely for a couple of days prior to the event. Since I wasn’t looped into the community yet, I didn’t know this and did the exact opposite. I ran 21.1 km by myself the day before the event, primarily to check if I could complete the run on the event day.
Of course, this then led to tight hamstrings and calf muscles on the event day, but despite this, I managed to finish with a decent timing for a novice marathoner.
What motivates you to pursue these endurance activities?
Health is my main motive. This includes both physical and mental health. Endurance athletes need as much mental stamina as physical to complete an event which may extend for up to 24 hours or more. I’ve done a couple of 12-hour events myself. Similar to physical stamina, one’s mental stamina also keeps improving with every event. The better your mental stamina, the better you are able to cope with challenges in daily life.
You seem to have made it a habit to pursue tougher endurance events each time – what special preparation do you do for facing the various challenges at these events?
[Laughs] It’s not my habit! Our bodies are endowed with a gift of getting fitter and fitter as we keep training. Most of the time it’s the mental block which prevents a person from tapping his or her body’s full potential. I keep pushing my limits gradually while training, be it the distance fixed for a long run, the duration held of an iron-man plank, the route length fixed for a ride on my bicycle and so on.

Coaches advise physical preparation for an event in which a few weeks before the event we are advised to split the challenge into half and work our way up to the final challenge. This way the body is given a drill to build up its stamina for the full event on the D-day. Mental preparation is important and starts from the day I register for the event. The mind adapts and gets attuned to the challenge at hand. An interesting fact is that an ultra-marathoner who can do 100 km run cannot cope up with an extra 25 km on a day when he has registered for a 50 km run.

The athlete who crosses the finish line in style will be found limping and difficult to walk on his way back to his home. This is because it all comes down to mental preparation. 
You completed the Satara Hill Marathon, considered to be a challenging hill marathon – your advice for anyone who wants to attempt this course?
Satara Hill Marathon is an event that challenges the athletes’ capacity to climb the hill with a 1000 metre elevation while running the uphill distance of 11 km. Running the same distance downhill also involves endurance and tolerance of your quadriceps. I would advice people attempting this to train on a hill path once a month as part of their training schedule. Flyover runs can mimic a hill run to an extent.
The Malnad Ultra trail is one of the most challenging trails for runners and cyclists, how did you decide to attempt this race? How was the experience?
I am an ardent nature lover and have an affinity for mountainous areas. Malnad Ultra aka the Coorg trail has a tough route and I wanted to take up this challenge. The route is entirely on the non-motorable paths in the hill. The scenery and weather were so tempting that an occasional runner will be found enjoying the experience and taking pictures without being worried about their timing or the possibility of not being able to finish before the cut-off time.
Due to the rains this year, the paths were very uneven and muddy. Luckily, I sweat much less since the weather was cold. The view from the summit at 1200 metres was fascinating. The streams the cut the running path and the sounds of birds signing added to the experience. There were many lakes and a huge one near the 40 km rest area, which is a prime location for clicking pictures. A couple of professional photographers pulled every runner from the track to capture the magical moment. The 50 km race I was participating in was flagged of at 7 am and I completed this in 8 hours 12 minutes with the cut off time being 9 hours. Though we were warned about leaches and snakes I didn’t come across any.
Mental preparedness is the most important factor for any endurance race, you have any special rituals that you follow to prepare your mind before a race?
I announce my participation to my friends and their wishes give me a lot of confidence. I am also a regular yoga practitioner and never attempt a race without a session of yoga pranayaama and meditation the day before the race.
Have you run at any international races? Which ones have been the most challenging?
The only international race I have done is SUNDOWN MARATHON at Singapore in May 2018. My son, who is now working in Singapore, had told me about this event and I was keen to participate as it was a night race. This was a flat track race and I took 5 hours and 14 minutes to complete the 42.195 km
What has been your most memorable race till date? Why?
It will definitely be the Malnad Ultra 2018 50 km. It was my maiden attempt in a trail setting and a wonderful place to do that feat.
With the racing season in full swing now in India, what is next on your race calendar?
I will be running the 42.195 km in the Skechers performance Chennai marathon on Jan 6th 2019. The next big race in the pipeline would be the Everest Ultra marathon on 29th May 2019





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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Nutrition Comments Off on Race Day Hydration |

Race Day Hydration

Brijesh Gajera talks about how he handles race day hydration, one of the most important aspects of running the healthy way.


Water, water, everywhere,
Not a drop to drink;
Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink.

– The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Have you ever felt your body and mind losing energy during the course of a marathon? Ever felt yourself melting drop by drop in your own sweat as you continue to push every step of the way or the water being sucked out of your body? Ask any seasoned runner and they will tell you that over-hydration or lack of it can make or break your marathon performance.

I have had first-hand experience with one of my trainees. He was participating in a 10K race and the weather was unusually hot that day. He was a newbie to running and was not used to hydration while running. To top that, he started the race with a rather aggressive target. A little after the 6K mark, he started feeling disoriented which ideally should have set off a warning sign for him, instead, he chose to ignore the signs and with the intent of achieving his target, he pushed on. A couple of kilometers down the road, he started wobbling. A fellow runner noticed this and saved him from falling to the ground. I happened to be there cheering runners and recognizing him for a distance, I noticed his discomfort and ran towards him. By the time I got there, he was almost unconscious – we instantly took him to the mobile ambulance on site and once he was administered IV drips, he felt a lot better. The doctor confirmed that it was a case of dehydration and that he was lucky to get timely intervention.

Imagine if we could store water somewhere in our bodies and not worry about it as we knock off mile after mile, right? Unfortunately, that is not possible but instead, we have the ability to continue performing in a moderately dehydrated state before the need to hydrate arises.

So how exactly should you hydrate in a long-distance race? In general, I am quite wary of giving a definite number or quantity as everyone’s bodily demands and reactions are somewhat unique. So, I would rather use Coleridge’s epic poem to help you decide for yourself.

Imagine you are surrounded by a limitless expanse of water. Unlike Coleridge’s mariner which was treading the salty waters of an ocean, here you have access to fresh sweet water. How will you drink water then? It is a no-brainer! You will drink it when you feel mildly thirsty or drink regularly like you would on a normal day. You will not wait for the moment when you are dying of thirst or drink too much water and feel bloated. It is almost the same while running a marathon. You do not have water everywhere around you but you know upfront where exactly the water points are located. All it takes is to look at this detail and plan your run around it. Instead of running as far as possible without water, just keep sipping water at every aid-station or at an alternate aid-station.

And for the record, there is something also known as over-hydration! Excessive water can lead to hyponatremia (the low concentration of sodium in the blood due to drinking too much water). It can lead to nausea, headache, weakness, and other problems. As much as you do not want dehydration, you also want to avoid over-hydration. Drinking an energy drink and water alternatively is also a good strategy to avoid both extremes. If you are taking gels, many of them also contain electrolytes so drinking water regularly along with it should help.

Here is how I take care of my hydration:

I typically carry a small bottle of water in all my training runs. If not, I do my training runs in loops of 3-5km so that I get back to the point where I keep my water bottle. For the very long runs, I keep the plain water as well as electrolyte drinks and alternate between them. For the races I participate in, the first thing I look at is the placement of aid-stations on the route and drinks available in them. I still prefer to carry a small bottle of water for my races not because it gives me the freedom to have water whenever I need it but also to reduce the usage of paper cups or plastic bottles. I would rather refill my bottle than use a disposable cup or bottle.

The real place to try all these is on your training ground. Do not think of your training just as a way to increase mileage. Think of it as a way to fine-tune your hydration, nutrition and race day strategy. In fact, that is the place where you can afford to fail and find ways to succeed.

So why not try your hydration during the training and make sure your boat sails smoothly on the race day?



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

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Featured, Motivation Comments Off on Experiencing the BMW Berlin Marathon |

Experiencing the BMW Berlin Marathon

Protima Tiwary talks to Reeti Sahai and Nivedita Samanta about their experience of running with 45,000 that the 2018 BMW Berlin Marathon.

There is a slight chill in the air, fluffy white clouds dot the clear blue canvas that is the Berlin sky, and Brandenburg Gate is buzzing at 7:00 am as the crowd gathers to cheer the runners. There is an electric energy in the air as the runners get ready for the official flag off at the BMW Berlin Marathon 2018. Among the 44,389 runners are Reeti Sahai and Nivedita Samanta, Adidas runners from India.

I caught up with them post their full marathon to find out how the experience was. Excerpts from the interview:

What was it like to run the BMW Berlin Marathon?

Nivedita– The Berlin Marathon is considered to be the fastest course in the world. It is flat, the weather is fabulous in September and the vibe is amazing. The entire city comes out to celebrate. The neighbourhoods were full of excitement, cheering spectators, playing music, cheering you on, handing out water and rooting for you. Words cannot describe the feeling of togetherness, and the motivation it gives you to keep going. The one thing that shocked me was the number of people running the race. Throughout the 42.2km distance, I was surrounded by a sea of bodies as almost 45,000 people came together from all across the world to run this marathon. I was prepared for a crowd, but not something to this extent. It was mentally exhausting because I had to constantly plot the quickest way around the crowds without losing any of the planned water stops.

There is a reason why it is called a World Marathon Major (WMM). The organisation was absolutely perfect. The fact that a new world record was set made it all the more memorable. I am now ready to run my second WMM race, for sure!

Reeti – This one was special in more ways than one. It was my maiden marathon, that too a World Major one! At the age of 40 I was trying my hand at a full marathon, I was prepared mentally and physically. I surprised myself by completing this under 4 hours! A sub 4 hour maiden marathon at the BMW Berlin Marathon at the age of 40, where Kipchoge broke his own world marathon record- you can see how special this one will be for me for the rest of my life. I am so grateful, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

The people of Berlin kept cheering me on, and I felt more confident. I kept visualising the finish line.I continued running, enjoying the energy around me. I felt grateful thinking about the fact that I’m actually living my dream of running a world major as my maiden marathon.

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?

Nivedita– I am actually pleased to say, for the first time in my running career, that I had a near- perfect race. The only time I’d say I lost focus for a while was at the 40th km, when I lost because of a large number of runners around me. I wanted to go faster but was mentally tired from all the shoving. But that moment of weakness lasted maybe for a minute. I just remember scolding myself for already doing my fastest time ever and for complaining about something I had managed to do for the entire race. I just decided to continue at the same pace instead of going faster. I still finished strong and with a smile.

Reeti– Navigating through the crowds was mentally exhausting, and it took me 15km to find my own space to run. I popped a gel and took a couple of sips of water in my 8th kilometre, relaxed by 10km, and kept talking to myself to stay on track at the same pace. Before I knew it, I had already run 16km. I wanted to get my hands on a water bottle, but the water stops were jammed. Picking up a glass and running wasn’t easy, and I didn’t want to stop because of the crowd at the stops. It was quite frustrating to navigate my way to drink water. I popped my second gel at 16km, found a water station, regained my pace and confidence, and continued with a smile on my face. At the 34th kilometre, I got tired, and the thought of “The Wall” crossed my mind. I had not encountered it yet, but I had heard of it from my marathoner friends. I didn’t want to hit the wall! I took the 4th gel, stopped for some water, and continued (All this while talking to myself) I crossed the Adidas Runners cheering station at the 37th km and they gave me a new burst of energy. 5 more kilometres to go, I could do this! Giving up at this point felt easy, but I knew I had to push myself. My legs were screaming, and I kept saying to myself “pain is temporary. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” At the end of 5km, I wanted to be a marathoner. I was going to do this. When I crossed the Brandenburg gate and saw the finish line 400mt away, I teared up. I was smiling through those tears, and I had achieved my dream. And I was a sub 4 marathoner!

How did you decide to run the Berlin Marathon? How did you train for it?

Nivedita– Running a World Marathon Major has always been on my life goals. So, when I got the chance to run as part of the Adidas Runners team, I was SO excited! My 20-week training period was intense. The primary reason for my focus was that I had never enjoyed a full marathon distance in the previous 5 attempts. When I introspected, I realised that I wasn’t training adequately and was, therefore, falling short of my goals. So, I set several goals –

First goal – Try and finish at least 15 minutes faster from my previous time of 3:55.

Second goal- Enjoy every bit of the training period and the eventual race. Something that I had never accomplished. In my previous full marathons, I’d forget the main reason why I run- because I love to. I needed that joy back in my life. – Be very vigilant with my nutrition.

Specific to training, I’d read the book ‘Advanced Marathoning’ by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas to get more inspiration, as suggested by my friend Satwik Rajani. I took inspiration from the book, and ran 6 days, covering 90km every week, in the famous Delhi summer. I was also very lucky to have support from some of the Adidas Runners Community members and Reeti-my fellow Adidas Woman teammate – we’d wake up at 3 am to start running at 4.30 am on Sundays to cover our mileage.

After several injuries in previous years, I have learnt the importance of strength training. So, in addition to running, I was in the gym doing resistance-training at least 3 times a week. On the days that I had my weekly smaller speed workouts, I’d merge it with upper body and core conditioning. On my goal pace run days, I’d make sure to cool-down with focussed yoga & mobility stretches. At every step, I was super careful about keeping my nutrition products from Unived close. I used 3 different running shoes during the entire training cycle- I used the super light pair of adios for all my speed runs and the Ultraboost Lace-less and Solar Boosts for my other runs. This helped my legs and feet adapt to different levels of cushioning and support was good training.

Regular physio visits, massages and enough sleep were crucial for my recovery. The final piece of the entire training plan was establishing a positive mindset.

Reeti–  I had been running half marathons for 6 years now, and always thought that a full marathon was way too exhausting to even think about. So I never really aimed to train for one. I turned 40 this January and decided I wanted to do my full marathon in my 40th year. A simple wish manifested into a goal, and I called my running coach Ian and told him this news. 4 months were left for the Berlin Marathon, and I was afraid Ian would tell me I was not prepared. To my pleasant surprise, he said “Great! Let’s train for a sub 4 marathon Reeti!” I was so touched by his confidence in me, but I wasn’t sure what that meant in terms of training.

I started receiving my weekly training plans and I started running 4 days a week, and strength-training once a week. Gradually the mileage, intensity and days of training increased. So did the heat and humidity in Delhi. There were mornings I’d question my decision. There were days I didn’t feel like running. I went through emotions I hadn’t experienced. Training in the summer wasn’t easy. I chafed and HOW. I discovered aches and pains in new parts of my body. I slept for 10hours a couple of days a week. I tried to eat as healthy as I could. I had a bare-minimum social life (they thought I’d hit midlife crisis) I visited my sports physician for every minor niggle I had. I got regular massages done. I almost slept at 9 pm if not earlier for these four months. I barely drank alcohol. I had the most amazing set of running friends who are family now. I couldn’t have done this without them. They say a sport has the power to change lives – I can vouch for this.

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 the race?

Nivedita–  Staying positive is key. No matter what, just visualise that finish line in your brain.

Moreover, preparation is key. It is hard to set lofty goals and try to achieve them with inadequate training. There are no shortcuts and hard work is the only way to succeed. Being a good runner isn’t only about running. You must pay equal attention to cross-training, weight training, eating healthy and getting enough rest. Research about your race. You should know well before you race about the main water/fuelling stops you’ll make. If possible, carry a small water bottle and keep refilling it.

Finally, believe in yourself. It is very easy to start worrying about what people will think about your race. It doesn’t matter what others think. It’s only your opinion and your self-belief that matters.

Reeti– Whether you’re running your maiden marathon or your 10th, 42.195kms is a mental as well as a physical battle. It is your inner voice that helps you – what we are saying to ourselves at any moment will determine how we feel about race day. Talk about wanting to be confident and relaxed, talk about enjoying the day. Use your inner voice in a positive way. Visualize the finish line. Set small goals. Be it 5kms, the next lamp post or 10kms. And focus on that. Smile. Think of all that hard work you have put in. Lastly, do not forget to be grateful.

You can follow the journeys of these superwomen on their Instagram pages.

Nivedita – https://www.instagram.com/nivi.fitrabbits/

Reeti – https://www.instagram.com/thedefaultrunner/



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 The Fit Way of Life |

The Fit Way of Life

In conversation with Trainer and Running Coach Nirupma Singh, Deepthi Velkur discovers why fitness needs to become a way of life. 

“Fit is not a destination, it is a way of life”

A very fine quote indeed and a motto that Nirupma Singh lives by every single day.

She has been a trainer for the past 16 years and since 2016, she has also been a running coach at the Bangalore Fitneskool Runners club. For several years now, she has participated in multiple runs (5K all the way through to a full marathon) across the country and has qualified for the Boston marathon in the past 2 years.

Since 2014, Nirupma has been a podium finisher in several major running events in the country (amateur category) with some recent notable mentions being:

  • Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM) 2018 – 1st place (Personal Best of 3h 36min)
  • Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM) 2017 -2nd  place (Personal Best of 1hr 34min 41sec)
  • Bengaluru Tougher 10K Challenge, 2017 – 1st place (Personal Best of 45min 13sec)

Running achievements aside, Nirupma has spent a lot of time and effort on certifications such as – Reebok, Advanced Personal Trainer, Big lift certification from Proton fitness academy, Pilates, stability ball training and resistance band training. She is a licensed Zumba instructor as well and is currently pursuing her ACE certification. With such an impressive resume to flaunt, it is no wonder that Nirupma is an inspiration to a lot of women who want to stay fit and achieve more.

I had a chance to talk with her on how fitness took a hold of her life, how she trains and also her plans for the future.

For someone who has never taken to any form of physical activity, how and when did you decide to take up fitness seriously?

I had a sedentary lifestyle until I was 30, got married and had two boys. With marriage came a whole set of responsibilities and I found myself juggling multiple roles in life – it was a tough, taxing and unenjoyable period. I was home-bound and not doing anything to satiate my creative desires. This put a tremendous strain on my physical and mental well-being and I was often unwell to a point that I fell into depression and had to seek medical help.

During this time, my sister recommended I join a group fitness class as that would help me get fit as well as meet new people. I remember day 1 where I could not complete even two jumping jacks – it was a bladder-bursting, dizzy experience. The sessions were tiring, my trainer was pushy and I swore never to show up ever again but the next day, I did show up and with each passing day I felt stronger and more positive. I stopped my medication and since then, I have never looked back.

How did your move from trainee to fitness trainer happen and how did you get associated with Bangalore Fitneskool Runners?

Two years into fitness classes, my trainer suggested I do a certification and become a trainer. The thought appealed to me and I took up the Reebok certification and became an aerobics instructor. That worked as a catalyst for me to get more certifications and 16 years later, I still enjoy being a fitness coach. My association with Bangalore FitnesKool Runners started in 2016 with the training heavily focused on running.


Where does the training happen and what are the various kinds of training offered by you?

The classes are held at Decathlon, Sarjapur and Adarsh Palm Retreat, Bellandur. The training I provide at Decathlon is flexible and catered to each trainee, be it a newbie preparing for their first event or a seasoned runner looking to sharpen their skills. Each training plan is customized keeping in mind the current health, fitness level and most of all the final objective of the aspiring runner.

At Decathlon Sarjapur, I conduct three hours of strength training spread over two days, and in conjunction with this, I spend three days on a personalized run training plan. All plans are fluid and adapt as per progress and feedback received from the trainees.

At Adarsh Palm retreat, the objective is different – it is a more holistic approach prioritizing overall health and fitness for day to day activities.

My training plans include:

Strength training – Yoga and Pilates.

Body weight strength training – Flexibility and Balance workout, cardio workout, Step aerobics, Hi-Lo, Dance aerobics, Zumba, Plyometrics, speed and power drills, and HIIT.

Weight Training – using dumbbell, barbell, Kettlebell, resistance band and machine.

I also use virtual communication to reach out to my clients as this approach allows me to make specific fitness plans for them keeping in mind their end goal. For example, I use videos to demonstrate and guide clients on how to correctly perform my prescribed exercises, to simplify and understand dietary requirements, I use charts. These are very useful and simple for a client to understand.

For me, my primary goal is to keep my client’s injury free and enjoy their fitness experience.

How do you manage to keep yourself abreast with advancements in the field and what makes a good trainer or coach?

Fitness as a subject is a science and very dynamic in nature. As a trainer, I need to be aware of all advancements in the field and incorporate them in my programs. All my years of practical experience have helped me achieve more in a more efficient manner.

In my opinion, successful coaching starts with understanding the uniqueness of your trainees keeping in mind their emotions, temperaments and mentoring them accordingly. What I enjoy most is convincing my trainees to commit to a specific goal. This is a skill I believe every good trainer should possess.

What does your personal training schedule look like?

My weekly average including the sessions I conduct is 12-14 hours. For my running, I do intervals, tempo runs, and long runs spread over 3 days. My strength training is about 4 hours a week including runner-specific training and body weight training as well. To complement all of this, I do a bunch of cardio activities like the step or dance aerobics and Zumba. To add some recreation, I play badminton for about 4 hours a week.

For me, Monday is an absolute rest day.  

Apart from being a fitness trainer, you also run marathons? What is it that drew you towards running?

 In 2009, I was already working as a fitness trainer when a friend convinced me to run the Delhi Airtel Half Marathon. The idea was intriguing but daunting – it made me nervous but I just cannot say no to a challenge. I trained for 3 months and was able to successfully complete the Half Marathon and since then I have enjoyed running.

Do you run a lot of marathons every year and which has been your toughest race so far?

I do participate in a few annually – the TCS 10K, the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM), Shri Ram Properties Bengaluru Tougher 10k challenge, the Spirit of Wipro Bangalore, the TATA Mumbai Marathon (TMM) and the Bengaluru Marathon. In a season, I typically do several 10k and half marathons but only one full marathon.

The toughest race so far would have to be the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2015. Around the 27KM mark, I heard a pop in my calf after which the next 15KM became extremely painful but I managed to secure 4th position. As it turned out, I suffered a grade 2 calf tear.

At the time I was overly enthusiastic and did not realize that it would have been better to have walked out of the race rather than continue and further injure myself just to complete one race. I would never advise anyone to sacrifice their health and well-being just for a race.

What do you enjoy more – being a trainer or a marathon runner and why?

It would be an impossible task to decide between the two, as I find them both equally enjoyable and they complement each other. Empowering others to achieve their goals feels like an accomplishment in itself, and by participating in events I try to set an example by leading from the front. In my opinion, by being a runner I’m able to use my experience to further improve upon my training in a manner that no coach, who does not actually run, could.

Nutrition plays a major role in staying fit. How do your eating habits contribute to your overall fitness?

According to me, food is natural medicine, and I feel that healthy and clean food habits are the most important part of our fitness programme and overall health. I focus on eating a well-balanced, nutrient-dense food to fuel my performance. I eat food available from locally available ingredients and prepare them in a manner that I’m able to derive the desired nutrients from it. It is all a matter of eating the right food, in the right quantity at the right time. Pre-run/workout and post run/workout food must strike the correct balance between proteins and carbs to fuel the training activity and then later replenish it. Breakfast is the most important meal, apart from which I take short meals and mid-meals throughout the day that consist of fruits, nuts, and raw vegetables. As for snacks, I eat roasted seeds accompanied by 2-3 liters of water in a day. The secret to my energy is good food and correct eating habits.

What is the key to staying fit?

The key to staying fit is to sleep well, exercise and eat clean as this should be an integral part of your lifestyle. It allows for better physical and mental conditions and a more positive outlook to get through the mundane aspects of daily life.

What are your future plans for Bangalore Fitneskool Runners and yourself?

I intend to improve my training methods and results and push all my clients to reach the apex of their abilities. Also, I’d like to use this as a platform to spread the message of clean eating and being fit to a larger audience so as to help improve the condition of their health and lifestyle. I, personally, intend to continue to work on my craft with the same passion and enthusiasm as I have for the last 15 years, for the foreseeable years of my life.

For Nirupma, fitness is her passion, her calling, and her profession. Listening to her story is inspiration enough for me and many other women to do more.

Stay healthy, achieve more and inspire – we wish you more success Nirupma!



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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Training Comments (1) |

Want To Run Better? Work On Your Core!

Are you a runner who’s looking to get better at the next race?  The Protima Tiwary has a few fitness tips on how you can work your core.

What if we told you that all the strength in your legs would build up if you concentrated on building a strong core? That is right! A strong core will help you run better and faster because it will improve your posture and speed. The core sets a solid foundation for the strength of your entire body. So if you want to ace that next run, it’s time to start working on the core!

A huge misconception is that doing crunches is the only way to build the core. Before we begin, let understand what “core” stands for.

The “abs” consist of the rectus abdominis, obliques and transverse abdominis.

  • Rectus abdominis : starts at the pelvis and ends at the lower chest.
  • Obliques: these run down the sides of the stomach diagonally.
  • Transverse abdominis is an internal muscle (gets activated when you suck your stomach in)

When you run, all three muscles work together to provide strength to your legs.
Noted below are a few exercises that will work your core, and come highly recommended by trainers and coaches around the world.

1. Plank
Planking builds isometric strength and sculpts your core. It is also one of the most convenient exercises to do! All you need is an empty patch, and be it at work, home or the gym, a 1 minute plank is enough to get those core muscles activated. Include planks in your routine daily. To increase the effectiveness, place your legs on a higher surface (like a bedside stool or the stairs) and then plank on your elbows. Another variation would be to do a side plank.

2. Lying down bicycle
This too could be done at home or at the gym, depending upon your convenience. Lie down on your back, hold your legs 3-4 inches off the ground, and start cycling in the air. Make sure your legs don’t touch the floor. You can use your hand to support your lower back so that your legs stay in the air.
Doing this daily comes highly recommended.

3. Bridge 
Another convenient exercise, this helps build strength in your lower back as well as your core. Lie down with your feet flat on the floor, and lift your hips so that they are in a straight line with your shoulders and knees. Hold this for 10 counts. Make sure your hips don’t dip. Include 5-6 reps of this in your this daily.

4. Lateral leg raises
Lie down on your side, and lift your leg to around 45 degrees. Make sure this is a controlled movement. Do 30-40 reps per side. This exercise not only works on your core, but also the calves, hamstrings and glutes!

5. Modified bird dog
Get down on all fours. Lift your right arm so that it is parallel to the ground. At the same time lift your left leg so that your thigh is now parallel to the ground. Your knees should be at 90 degrees. This will activate your glute muscles too. Hold for 10 counts, then switch sides.

The best part about these exercises is that they can be done anywhere, and not necessarily at the gym. Include these basic exercises to your daily routine, and you will see how your performance improves.


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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Training Comments Off on Preparing for the marathon season? Here’s some advice |

Preparing for the marathon season? Here’s some advice

Deepthi Velkur had a chance to talk to a few runners on how you could prepare for the marathon season. 

For many runners, the desire to run a marathon is all about achieving a personal goal. For others, it could be the desire to push the envelope and see how far they can go with their bodies. Perhaps, a friend talked you into it, or you want to get fitter, or you’re running for a noble cause such as building awareness for a local charity.

Whatever the reason, you need to hold on to it and constantly remind yourself of it often during the months leading up to the marathon season.

Each marathon is a new adventure in itself! Making that overwhelming and sometimes breath-taking decision to run the traditional 42.195 km can not only be quite uplifting but it can also give you the much-needed energy to kick-start your training.

Whether it is your first time preparing for a marathon or one of many, a good overall approach to your mental and physical training is as important as a specific running plan, which can help you be at your best on marathon day.

To help us better understand how you can go about this, we spoke to a few professionals and here’s what they had to say.

Kothandapani KC (fondly called Coach Pani), is a running coach with the PaceMakers running club and a marathon runner himself.

He recommends that for a first-time marathoner, the focus should be on completing the distance comfortably and not worry about speed or timing.

For a seasoned runner though, someone with at least two years of running experience and multiple 10Ks and half-marathons, Coach Panihe recommends the following:

  • Build a training plan 6 months ahead and work backward i.e. 24 weeks, 23 weeks and so on.
  • Run at least 4-5 days a week focussing on one speed workout, one strength workout like uphill runs, one long run, and two easy runs in between.
  • Run your long runs 60-90 secs slower than your target marathon pace and increase your long runs by not more than 10%.
  • Every fourth week cut back your total mileage to 50% to avoid overtraining.
  • Break-down the 6 Months into three parts – base building, converting the base building into speed endurance and race-specific workouts.
  • During long runs, prepare yourself as if you are going to run on race day such as getting your gear ready, waking up early, hydration strategy, pre-snacks etc.
  • Ensure you follow a proper nutrition plan and adequate rest to overcome both physical and mental stress.
  • Always listen to your body. Do not over train – helps minimize the risk of injury. To track this, check your resting heart rate and if it’s on the rise, ease off on the training for a bit.
  • Race at least two Half Marathons during your training period, trying to improve each time so that you get an indication of your progress in training
  • Taper down your training in the last two weeks. Be careful to not fall sick or catch a cold
  • Plan your race day strategy such as at what pace you want to run, hydration points, when to use gels etc. Note: don’t try anything new on race day – stick to the plan!
  • Finally, believe in yourself, believe in your training and think positive. Start the race slow and build the pace gradually. Aim for negative splits.

Sandeep CR, an Ultra-marathon runner and is part of the Mysoorrunners running club shares his advice:

  • Prioritise your races in terms of which race is of top priority, where you want to do well and train accordingly.
  • Build your training slowly. Keep a weekly mileage of 45-55kms which will help you to build endurance.
  • Go on long runs as you need to get used to being on your feet for long hours.
  • Run a few tune-up races before the main race to know where you stand and where you could improve.
  • Keep a close watch on your nutrition intake and give yourself time to recover.
  • 80% of your runs should be at an easy pace and 20% should be tempo or speed work.
  • Slow down your training in the last 2-3 weeks as overtraining will lead to injuries.

Shahana Zuberi, an amateur runner who has run a few half marathons and is part of the Bangalore Fitnesskool running club feels to run a marathon, one should have:

  • Great inner strength.
  • Eating right during the training phase.
  • Focus on building endurance rather than speed.
  • Plan your training well ahead of the race and do not rush into overtraining due to lack of time as that might lead you to injuries.
  • Patience and perseverance will help you achieve your end goal.
  • For running a half marathon in specific, you can work on building speed during the interval and tempo runs and
  • Finally, rest well as your body needs to recover from all the hard training.

So, there you go – you’ve heard it straight from some of the experts – train well, eat right, rest enough and be patient.

These key steps will help you develop a healthier way to run making it more fun, with better results for body, mind, and soul.

I end this article with quite a quote by Paula Radcliffe (three-time London and New York marathon winner) – “In long-distance events, the importance of your mental state in determining the outcome of a race can’t be overestimated.

Something for all of us to reflect on.



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, Motivation Comments Off on A Regular Guy To Your Friendly Neighbourhood Ironman! |

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/


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, Motivation Comments Off on Endurance and the Indian runner |

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.



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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