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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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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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Running your first 10k – Part 1

Are you considering endurance running as a serious fitness activity? If yes, great decision!, writes Coach Pramod Deshpande. In this two part article learn how you can achieve this dream.

As someone who enjoys running himself, I have to say that endurance running will bring about an extremely positive change in your life while making it an enjoyable and fulfilling journey.

No matter the reason – an influential social media post, well thought out decision to correct some fitness parameters or just the curiosity to try something new, this is an activity for everyone and learning a few aspects of it will help a long way in preparing for it.

Let us start with some basics – the 3 fundamental truths of Endurance running:

  • Current fitness level – Fitness is not like a positive bank balance that you can draw upon at any time. You have to start from the baseline of your current fitness level. All your glory day medals and trophies are of little use if you have not been active in the recent past. We all have that friend who cannot stop talking about his sporting achievements in school and college and we often wonder – if he/she is healthier than I am? Fear, not my dear friends, if he/she has been as inactive as you in the recent past, he/she has very little advantage over you when this journey begins.
  • Patience is name of the game – “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time” – Leo Tolstoy.
    You may be in hurry to post a pic on social media of you taking a bite of the finisher medal of your next big race but your body is going to take its time to prepare itself to cover that distance. So please give enough time for preparation.
  • Perseverance and discipline – You might run fast for the first couple of weeks but that is short lived as your body will start complaining as weeks go by. Do not focus on speed at this juncture but your emphasis should be more on getting out and putting in the mileage day after day as per your training schedule.

Preparation before the start of your journey

Before you get down to training, there are a few things to sort out:

  • Clear your calendar – This is going to be a dedicated preparation and will require changes to your daily routine. Keep aside 90 minutes of your dedicated time (preferably in the mornings) for training minimum thrice a week for the next 10 weeks from the start of this journey.
  • Make a commitment to yourself – You can always find ample reasons to miss that training – but if you stay committed, you can always spare those 90 minutes no matter what the situation might be.
  • Prepare for lifestyle changes: You will see a lot of positive changes in your nutritional discipline, proper sleep and rest patterns – open your arms and embrace it, you’re becoming a healthier version of you!
  • Select a target event – It becomes easier to achieve your goal if you have in mind an event to participate in such as a 10k, to begin with. To give yourself enough time for preparation, choose an event 10 weeks away and always choose a reputed event as the support on the course and other facilities are better.
  • Guidance for preparation – Running is natural to all of us, however, serious preparation for such an event requires proper guidance and monitoring. One of the options where you could receive this guidance would be to join a running club as they have well-designed training modules, the services of an experienced coach and group running is fun. While the other option you have is to select an online program but these programs typically lack personalization, monitoring, and most importantly encouragement when you’re feeling low. A note of caution here, an advice from some runner friend, knowledge nuggets from ‘Google University’ are not really effective ways to prepare and can have serious drawbacks. Be wise in your selection.
  • Running gear – Having the right gear is motivation in itself – always have a dry fit t-shirt, comfortable, light and flexible running shoes, water bottle and exercise mat before you start.
  • Health Checkup – It is always recommended to get a health checkup and get your doctor’s opinion before you start this journey.

Nutrition Discipline

Nutrition planning is more an individual aspect and therefore instead of getting into specific food aspects, let’s talk about ‘Nutrition discipline’, which is essential for endurance running. Doing a lot of trial and error during this training phase will help you find out what suits you best. Here are a few pointers:

Regularity in food intake: Endurance running is a long duration activity and gastric distress (running on an empty stomach) is an important aspect especially during early morning runs. Regular food intake and the right quantity play a major role in setting your body clock for this long duration activity.

  • Fixed time for food intake: Set a timetable for food intake based on your daily routine and stick to it. Have an early dinner so that you digest your food properly and are ready for the morning run.
  • Smaller quantities: Train your body to eat meals every 3 hours as this helps to reduce the quantity of each meal without compromising on nutrition and absorption.

Before the Run: Typically, the training begins in the morning and with an 8-hour gap from your last meal, it is important to eat a snack rich in carbohydrates like a banana or slice of bread with peanut butter as the body will need the energy to run.

During the Run: For workouts that last more than an hour, carry small qualities of some carb-rich snack e.g. couple of groundnut bars, glucose biscuits, dates, jaggery, energy gels etc. It is important to get used to eating during the run.

After the Run: Eating a protein and carb snack within 20 minutes of your exercise gives you the maximum benefit. Carrying your post-run snack with you is best as eating after you get home or after 45 mins is not ideal. You can carry boiled eggs, protein shake, protein bar, an idly with lots of sambar etc.

Hydration: Your general hydration requirement will increase as you will be sweating a lot. Keep a water bottle handy. You can also get hydration from buttermilk, fruit juices, fruits, coconut water etc.

  • Before your run ensure you have water at least half an hour prior to the run.
  • During the run drink whenever you feel thirsty. It is all a matter of practice and you should not worry about the loss of pace due to water stops as dehydration at a later stage will slow you down even more. Adding carbs & salt supplements to the water e.g. Fast & Up, Enerzal, Gatorade or a homemade mix of sugar, salt & lime is a good option.
  • After your run, remember to drink water or water plus supplements immediately after the run. However, you need to continuously hydrate yourself in the first hour of completing the run.

In the next part we have a training plan and much more. Keep reading!

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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12 weeks to stronger cycling

Getting better at cycling takes time, effort and planning, so how can you become a stronger cyclist asks Nandini Reddy.

Becoming a better cyclist means you need to get better at communicating with your muscles. Cyclists who are able to perfect the link between their brain and their muscles are the strongest ones. Training will increase the voluntary actions of your muscles and make cycling easier for you. There will be greater muscle activation and improved endurance and you will find yourself cycling easily over long distances.

Sustained cycling is an activity that doesn’t come naturally so it’s important that you train your muscles to be activated during this process. You can maintain speed over a longer period of time before fatigue hits your muscles.

Practice Practice Practice

A beginner cyclist will be able to activate about 30-50% of his muscles during the first few weeks of training. The idea is to increase the number of muscles activated in order to improve your endurance. A world-class cyclist will be able to activate anywhere between 80-90% of his muscles. Even if you don’t reach that high number a good range to aim for is 50-70%.

The best way to start activating your muscles is to do quick up-hill rides. The duration should be between 30-45 seconds. This sort of demand on your muscles will require you to utilize maximum power and you will start activating your dormant muscles as well.

As you practice more these hill rides will become easier and then you can move to increasing the duration in order to enhance your endurance. The idea is to develop your muscles to endure the long distance rides.

12 weeks to power cycling

The idea of following a 12 week programme is to ensure that your muscle fibres are activated. The activated muscles should also be strengthened. The intensity of the workout should be balanced with duration to ensure endurance during the long race.

Before you start any ride ensure you are adequately warmed up. The idea is to start intense and slowly reduce the intensity, recover and restart the cycle for a longer duration. This would prepare you to become a more powerful cyclist by the end of the training period.

Week 1 – 30 sec sprint rides uphill – 2 min active recovery – 4 times

Week 2 – 30 sec sprint rides uphill – 1 min active recovery – 4 times

Week 3 – 30 sec sprint rides uphill  – 1 min active recovery – 6 times

Week 4 – Active recovery – Flat surface cycling

Week 5 – 1 min sprint rides uphill – 2 min active recovery – 6 times

Week 6 –  1 min sprint rides uphill – 2 min active recovery – 8 times

Week 7 –  1 min sprint rides uphill – 1 min active recovery – 8 times

Week 8 – Active recovery – Flat surface cycling or 1 min hill rides

Week 9 – 3 min intense rides uphill – 3 min active recovery – 3 times

Week 10 –  3 min intense rides uphill – 3 min active recovery – 4 times

Week 11 –  3 min intense rides uphill – 3 min active recovery – 6 times

Week 12 –  3 min comfortable rides uphill – 3 min active recovery – 3 times

After the 12th week you can change the intensity and duration to improve your endurance. Have fun riding.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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How do you train for a long-distance cycle ride

There’s little that can beat the beautiful simplicity of a bike ride but you need to prepare well so you have a stress-free ride says Deepthi Velkur .  

A good long ride with the fading sun warming your back and the cool wind in your face is probably one of the most gratifying cycling experiences there is.

Amateur and relatively seasoned cyclists alike, dream big of achieving the “century ride”- a distance of 160.9km (or 100 miles). There is nothing quite like the feeling you experience riding through the most scenic locations on two wheels. Despite the tired legs and weary back, you put in that little extra to discover new lanes, explore new places and create new memories on each ride.

As you start preparing for that long-distance ride, I would like to put out a couple of words of caution –be prepared!

Any such endeavour requires you to have great stamina, thorough planning, and strong mental courage. This can be achieved through high-level endurance training (core, flexibility, and muscular strength) as well as building your aerobic and lactic acid capacity that will help tackle those long gruesome rides effectively.

I have a few simple suggestions that will be of help to make the most of your rides.

Set clear goals:I have mentioned this is in several of my articles and I cannot stress the point enough – setting small and realistic milestones always comes in handy in achieving your end goal. It is equally important to re-visit your goals every few weeks and make alterations till you achieve what you’ve set out for.

Training week: For endurance cycling, building your base fitness is important. Your training regimen should include interval training two to three times a week, strength building exercises every other day and stretching post training to improve flexibility and stiffness.

Build your aerobic threshold by going on long rides at a steady and low-intensity pace twice a week. Going the distance is all about endurance and that is in finding an optimal pace – keep your threshold level at approximately 75% of your maximum heart rate. Invest in a good heart rate monitor to get a more precise reading. 

Beat bonking: Start with a good breakfast that includes lots of carbs and less protein especially on training or event days. Carry enough food and water with you on your ride and adjust your intake of food depending on how far out you plan to ride.Eat that little something one hour into your ride and every 30-45mins thereafter. Refueling with a drink or meal containing 1:4 ratio of protein to carbs will speed up recovery by quickly replenishing glycogen stores to avoid the dreaded bonk.

A pair of good padded shorts:  Cycling is fairly a low-intense sport and over the course of 80, 95, 160 kms it is not that your legs will tire out but you will begin to feel every bump on the way through your neck, shoulders, hand, and butt. Investing in a good pair of shorts with lots of padding and by changing your posture and position every now and then, helps relieve you of aches and pains in certain areas of the body. 

Mind over matter:Unfortunately, it is our mind that usually gives up first. Imagine how frustrating it is when you have been riding for a while and covered 1\4thof the distance. Fear not, train well and push negative thoughts away – just focus on the ride ahead. Going on long rides work best with a group of friends as you tend to go faster, conserve energy and focus better.

Divide the distance by two: No matter what distance you’re aiming at covering, the best approach is to divide the distance as two halves. The first half is usually easy and will seem like your spinning along while the second half will have your muscles working hard. During this half, please do not forget to refuel when required. Push yourself harder this time to achieve the best results. 

Watch the winds and foresee trouble: Winds can favor your ride or work against you. If you start out with a tailwind, roll easy and you’ll face with the headwind on your way home. When riding in a group, stay together during headwind stretches as each of you can take turns at the front sheltering the ones behind. Carrying emergency gear on your ride comes handy if you need to fix anything on your bike.

Adding a few of these tips in your preparation will bolster the training and help you achieve a comfortable, satisfying ride. Have fun! 

 

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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Connect to the Ground

Running barefoot is not just a trend but practised by many elite runners as a habit, writes Capt Seshadri. 

Running a marathon is certainly no walk in the park, more so if you are running barefoot. But for many an athlete, unshod seems to be a preference over wearing shoes, be it a marathon, a cross country event or, for a few, even a sprint!

‘Barefoot’ or ‘natural running’ as it is often termed, ignoring technological and biomedical recommendations, is still practised in some parts of the world, more prominently in Africa and Latin America, rather than in the European or North American continents. The arguments for and against make for interesting reading, although there is no proven evidence to substantiate either view. It is widely believed in some circles that barefoot running, being natural to the human body, brings health benefits. History confirms that all the running before the advent of footwear was done on uncovered soles, most likely, even the first marathon that Pheidippides ran from Athens to Sparta with the news of the victory of the Greeks over the Persians. It also seems logical that the track events before the first Olympics must have been contested barefoot.

Preliminary scientific research suggests that the barefoot runner tends to land on each stride, on the ball of the foot, thereby avoiding stressful impact and repetitive shock of heel landing. This also increases the elasticity of the muscles and protects the adjoining areas like the plantar fascia. The arguments against, are lack of protection against climate and inclement weather, and the possibility of cuts and bruises from uneven running surfaces, resulting in painful injuries and sepsis. Advocates of natural running however, maintain that the shoe could cause and aggravate injuries and stress to knee and ankle joints, especially if not conforming to the specific configuration of the feet of individuals.

Since the late 70s, with much debate surfacing between running barefoot and with shoes on, manufacturers of athletic footwear took cognizance of the pros and cons and began designing running shoes for comfort and injury prevention. One of the cautionary points put across by them was that diabetics, especially, should avoid running barefoot, to prevent complications, while also citing possible bone damage to users.

All this triggered the move towards an intermediary and realistic compromise between running barefoot and running shod. And so came about the hybrid term ‘minimalistic running’, using thin soled and flexible shoes with a minimum of padding, like sandals or moccasins. This could possibly be an evolution of what runners wore for a millennium or more, before the design and development of the modern running shoe. A soft covering that permits the feet to adapt to the contours of the ground, allows for greater flexibility and adjustments to each individual’s peculiar stride or style of running.

Natural running is gaining popularity among the athletic community the world over. In November 2009, the Barefoot Runners Society was formed in the US; soon after, on December 12, 2010, the Barefoot Runners of India Foundation garnered 306 participants for a half marathon in the town of Khargar, near Mumbai. A few medical associations though, warn runners not to transit overnight to the barefoot ideology. Time, training and an understanding of the effect such a transition would have on the muscles involved, should dictate the duration of transition.

So, if the bare necessities of your running lives involve shoes, you might like to think again. Or, even maybe not. Possibly, time will tell.

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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How do you breathe while running?

Breathing the right way while you run can improve your endurance, writes Nandini Reddy.

Breathing right is important for all runners but many runners do not pay much attention to it and end up feeling winded after just a few hundred metres of running. A marathon is an endurance event that asks your body to sustain the routine for a long stretch of time. In an aerobic exercise like running, it becomes important to have the right breathing technique if you want to get the most of your run.

Like you find a certain rhythm in your pace and in your stride you need to also find a rhythm in your breathing. Before you find your rhythm you need to learn the basics of belly breathing.

Diaphragmatic Breathing or Belly Breathing

Working your diaphragm to the fullest potential you need to fill your lungs with air and then exhale by pushing all the air out. The simplest way to ensure that you are breathing from your belly is to ensure that your belly rises when you inhale and collapses totally once you exhale. If you do it slowly in a count of 5 then you will feel that full effect of the deep breathing technique.

If you are breathing from your chest then your diaphragm will not work to its full capacity and you will end up taking shallow breathes. Shallow breathing will tire you out faster. Using your diaphragm and breathing in using your belly will ensure you sustain your energy through the run.

Practicing belly breathing

  • Lie on your back
  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach
  • Take a deep breathe and ensure your belly rises
  • Exhale slowly and lower your belly
  • Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth

Rhythmic Breathing

Rhythmic breathing is the next level of belly breathing. It is the best form of breathing to ensure you stay injury free also. It helps coordinate your foot strike with your inhalation. When you inhale your body is tight and this is the perfect way that your foot should strike the road. In a tight state there is less chance of injury. When we exhale the body relaxes and if you strike the ground with your foot at this time you are setting up for body for injury. The stress on your body when you foot hits the road is high so it should be prepared to take that stress and not collapse under it.

Another thing that should be focused on is that you do not exhale and strike your foot down on the same side every time. If one foot is under stress all the time you will increase the risk of injury on that side of your body.

Importance of Rhythmic Breathing

There are several advantages to rhythmic breathing:

  • Helps you centre yourself and gain control of your body
  • Helps gauge the effort for running
  • It allows for precise control
  • It has a calming effect
  • Helps sustain you through long runs
  • Your body is in harmony

It takes time and practice to get the breathing right and runners should spend time on it if they want to run longer and injury free.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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Controlling your Running Too Much

Are you monitoring your running to the point where you are becoming obsessive?, asks Nandini Reddy. 

Passionate runners will run because they love the feeling of exhilaration they get when they are running and the sense of achievement they experience after they finish a run. But if you are running by schedule and more for a plan instead of enjoying it then you might be controlling your running a bit too much.

If you want to know if you have become obsessive or a controlling runner then look for these signs.

Your Motivation

Do you feel a sense of joy when you want to run or do you feel like its a task you need to achieve? If you are more motivated by factors like fear of gaining weight or reaching running targets then you are an obsessive runner who has only superficial factors that are motivating you to run and not ones that fuel inner joy. If you find that your alarm and running schedule is what gets you to run everyday then you need to revisit your motivation to run.

Importance of Running

Passionate runners always want to run because it is an activity that they want to indulge in by choice. If you are feeling compelled to do a run and are trying hard to include running into your schedule then you are forcing yourself to do something that you are not naturally attuned to do. You are trying to prove a point to an external factor instead for your own benefit. While some form of exercise or activity should be part of your life, it doesn’t mean you need to take up one that lets you talk about it on social media and declare the number of finish lines you have crossed.

Core identity

A lot of people call themselves runners today. There are numerous opportunities for people to try their hand at running a marathon today or join a running group. But many of them get carried away to a point where they believe that being a runner is their core identity. This means you are getting obsessive with your running habit. Running needs to be a part of your life but making it your core identity doesn’t make any sense.

Feeling angry or sad

Any form of exercise releases endorphins and makes you feel happier. If you are feeling angry about not hitting goals and are constantly stressing about achieving a target then running is controlling you instead of you controlling your runs. There is a psychological gain to exercise and being obsessive doesn’t help. Over-training can lead to burnout both mentally and physically.

Ultimately running should be an experience that enhances your life. It is good to be dedicated to an activity but its never pleasurable if it becomes obsessive.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

Read more