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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.

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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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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The exciting times of Running

An IT professional who found his passion in running, Deepthi Velkur talks to ultra-marathoner, Sandeep CR. 

Sandeep CR, a software professional has had a lifelong fascination with sport and in specific running. He is associated with the running club “Mysoorunners” for the past 4 years and shares his experiences. From a very young age, he has been an active sports enthusiast and has represented both school and college across multiple sporting events. Over the past 10 years, Sandeep has trained his focus on long-distance running graduating from 10K runs to Half-Marathons to Full-Marathons and eventually covering Ultra-Marathons as well.

Just looking at Sandeep’s running achievements is motivation enough for someone like me to get going and notch a few marathons myself. A snapshot of his running credits are: the 80K Malnad Ultra, the 80K Vagamon Ultra, the 60K Ooty Ultra, the 50K Javadhu Hills Ultra, 8 Full-Marathons, 25+ Half-Marathons and not to mention the countless 10K runs – wow! What an impressive running resume.

For Sandeep though, running is just one of his areas of interest. In his pursuit of staying fit, he also dabbles in cycling, swimming and bouldering. A keen reader and an avid wildlife enthusiast, Sandeep volunteers his time with a few NGOs with the aim of conserving wildlife.

My conversation with Sandeep was extremely interesting and I just had to share some excerpts from that discussion.

How long have been into long-distance running and did it happen by chance or was it something you’ve always wanted to do?

As with most things in life, we all need some motivation to kickstart a new habit. For me, it was the realization that I was gaining weight pretty fast. Early in my professional career (about 8 years ago), my weight had jumped up from 68kgs to 78kgs in just about 24 months. This had me worried and pushed me to take up long-distance running. I’m used to doing shorter distances during my time at school and college, but never beyond a 10K.

Having taken the decision, I gathered the courage to run a Half-Marathon in 2010 and haven’t looked back since.

Which has been your best race for you personally in terms of timing and personal achievement?

I have done a few half-marathons under 1hr:40mins and a few full-marathons too in good time; but, the most gratifying experience in terms of running was the Malnad Ultra in 2017, which was my first 80K run.

Why was I pleased with it, you ask?Well, the entire process of training for it, training right and executing it on race day is something that gave me a lot of pleasure. Timing-wise, I finished my run in 11 hours which is pretty slow by any standards, but, the experience is what I cherish.

Do you set targets of how many races you would run at the start of the year and do you set out in accomplishing them?

I don’t race often enough. I do a maximum of three races a year. I have my races spaced out months apart so I get enough time to recover, train and then race again. My partner and myself run around 75 to 80km per week almost all through the year. The level of intensity differs as we get closer to the race day. 

How does your typical training day look like and where and how many days in a week do you train?

I train for about 5 days a week. I have been an ardent follower of the Maffetone method for the past 3 years. So all my runs are within the MAF heart rate which is 180- age. It has helped stay injury free and run longer. 

Could you give us some insight into the running group you are associated with -Mysoorunners? How did you become a part of this group and when? 

Mysoorunners is a fun-filled group. We have people from all walks of life associated with the group. The group was formed in 2014 by Ajit Thandur to get all runners from Mysore in one place and I have been a member since its inception. The best thing about this group is that it is non-competitive and it doesn’t matter what distance you run, you can be an absolute beginner or an experienced runner – we share the feeling of belongingness and treat everybody as one and enjoy great camaraderie.

Mysoorunners are the hospitality partners for the Tri Thonnur event. How has your association been with them?

I have been associated with Tri Thonnur as a volunteer/participant since its inception in 2013. It’s been great to see the event grow from being an outing for few like-minded folks to being one of the sought after races in the triathlon circuit across India. Typically we volunteer to ensure proper crowd management.

Which has been your latest run and the upcoming event your training for currently? Could you please share your experience\learnings from running the event and what changes would you like to incorporate in your upcoming run?

My last event was the Ooty Ultra, a road race of 60K which I managed to finish in 9 hours. There were occasions during the race where I sort of got into a negative mindset which resulted in spending a lot of time at aid stations and walking when I could have run. I realized I wasted close to half an hour with these distractions. I would like to be mindful of these things in my future races. 

How do you better yourself as a runner and motivate yourself and people around you?

It takes a lot of hours of running for someone to become an average runner as it is a continuous learning process. That in itself is a great motivating factor for me as you strive to get better each day.

What plans do you have for the future?

We are living in exciting times. The ultra-marathon scene in India is just starting out and I am sure there will be great races coming up in the future. Personally, I would like to run a 100 miler before I turn 35 which is 5 years from now. Also, I hope to complete the ‘Comrades Ultra’ something in the near future.

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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