Motivation Comments Off on When running becomes your life |

When running becomes your life

In conversation with Shiv Shankar Kosgi, an operations manager and coach with the Hyderabad Runners Society and an injury-free runner, as Deepthi Velkur discovers.

Shiv Shankar Kosgi prides himself on being an injury-free runner despite being on the road for more than 6 years now. An operations manager and a coach with the Hyderabad Runners Society (HRC) by profession, Shiv has also competed in prestigious runs across the country such as the TMM, AHM, ADHM to name a few. He enjoys his running, focuses on staying injury-free and his immediate goal is competing in the stunning Comrades Marathon 2019.

I had a chance to catch up with Shiv and listen to his story.

FM: How did you take to running? Why?

Shiv: Back in 2008, I started going to the gym to lose weight and to stay generally fit. I moved to Hyderabad from Pune in 2012. At that point, I suddenly had a fascination for running and a friend of mine Steve Nipps introduced me to the Hyderabad Runners. I ran my first half marathon that year and felt elated at the end of the run – I have not looked back ever since. Over time, I started scaling up to longer distances and I have always enjoyed running because for me it is not just about fitness or weight-loss, it gave me much more – it gave me an identity.

FM: Apart from being an avid marathoner, your inclination has always been towards understanding the science behind running and its effects on the human body? How did this interest come about?

Shiv: From the moment I picked up running, it has turned into my passion and that passion for running became my profession eventually. When I noticed the change and the positive impact it had on my physical appearance, mental fitness and the lifestyle change it had brought about, it really fascinated me to explore more about the scientific methods and my approach to training.

FM: There has been a sudden shift in people wanting to stay fit and have especially taken to running? How and why do you think is the reason behind this shift from when you started running in 2012?

Shiv: It’s really great to see a sudden shift in people wanting to lead a healthier lifestyle and the fact that humans are meant to move around and stay active rather than just sit and do a desk job. People have picked up running as a preferred form of fitness activity for various reasons as it is considered to be quite economical for everyone, an activity that can be performed individually, the euphoric feeling you get after every run, helps lose or maintain weight, a sharp mind even as you age, reduces your risk of cancer and finally running adds years to your life.

FM: You have been a coach for the Hyderabad Runners since 2014? How do you go about with your training?

Shiv: I strongly believe in discipline, determination, and dedication in terms of training, because long distance running is an endurance sport and to sustain yourself and be better each day you should follow a systematic training plan and set appropriate goals. Endurance sport is very demanding & taxing on the body. Hence one should give equal importance for recovery and nutrition and always listen to your body signals and never do too much too soon.

FM: What is your strategy to keep runners motivated and be consistent with their training?

Shiv: I have a very simple strategy – connect with trainees regularly, speak about progress and performance, correct them where necessary and make training fun for them.

FM: How do you train your runners to stay injury-free?

Shiv: As I strongly believe in a scientific training approach my recommendation is to always – set a realistic goal, put a training plan in place, follow the training plan, maintain a training log, measure performance at regular intervals, slow down and rest, give nutrition equal importance and do strength training twice a week. Follow this and you will be injury free.

FM: How have you been able to manage coaching as well as the other functions of the running club as an operations manager?

Shiv: Well it was a complete shift of career from an IT job to sports management. Hyderabad runner society (HRS) is mostly driven by volunteers and is a Non-Profit Society. I was the first full-time employee to join HRS when the trend of running was just picking up in India. As an Operations Manager, my job role was not just about coaching but included planning and conducting training programs for runners across various locations by hiring professional athletic trainers. Simultaneously, I manage the yearly events calendar in the planning and execution of events and training runs from end to end.

FM: How do you see Hyderabad runner’s society growing in the coming years?

Shiv: Hyderabad Runners Society is the first running club in India which is registered as a non-profit society and is institutionalized. Today, there are more than 6000 members on google groups and 20K plus followers on social media. Hyderabad Runners have really helped and inspired thousands of people in transforming their lives and following a healthier lifestyle. It has been a great platform for people in many ways, as it has made a positive impact on the residential communities, corporates, institutions, NGO’s etc.

In the past 5 years, the number of runners and running groups has grown dramatically – today there are more than 25 sub-groups within the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad and has runners of all age groups and all walks of life. As the trend of fitness grows globally, we will witness a growth in the number of runners and running groups as this will, directly and indirectly, have a positive impact in the society in various ways.

FM: DrPhil Maffetone was the Event Ambassador for the 2016 Hyderabad Marathon. Do you encourage your trainees to follow the Maffetone method of training? If yes, why?

 Shiv: In the current day and age, we have various methods of training to choose from, have access to training coaches and training plans. Even before we discovered Maffetone method of training, we had a mentor and coach Mr Bill Pierce, the Chairperson of Health Sciences department at Furman University, South Carolina, US. He is the author of the training program “Run Less Run Faster” and we have been following his training plans since 2010. Later on, we discovered the Maffetone method and I would encourage people to follow this training method if its suitable for them. MAF (Maximum Aerobic Function) training emphasis totally on the Aerobic training which is very good for anyone who wants to pick up running and scale up to long distances because training in aerobic zones prepares runners for the long distance while keeping the heart rates in control and don’t end up burning out.

FM: A final question – do you set yearly targets for yourself in terms of the races you will be a part of and have you been able to achieve it?

Shiv: I always choose which races to run in a calendar year and classify them as ‘A’ race and ‘B’ race. ‘B’ races are part of my training runs and ‘A’ races are the ones where I set goals and achieve my personal best. This way I have been able to achieve my targets.

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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Motivation Comments Off on Conquering Race Day |

Conquering Race Day

Dharambir Kumar talks about his journey into endurance sports with Anupam Das.
Three years ago because of his sedentary activities he weighed 95kg and was worried about my health, he started to train for long-distance running from 2016, and gradually inducted cycling, yoga & weight training to be fit and now he weighs 72kg with his regular training. He has finished two full marathons and many half marathons in these three years. He has also done Brevet 200,300,400 and 600km cycling in a single session and achieved Super Randoneur (SR) title this year. His dream is to finish an Ironman challenge and he is working towards it.
Dharambir talk about his journey, here is the story he narrated to me.
The Run
I was not sure how my second attempt in the full Marathon at “The Run” would go. Just 4 days before the big race my daughter, Shreyashi was born. Finishing my FM at 4:30:48hrs was a dream and I have dedicated that to my little angel. I am a regular Half Marathon runner with my weekly practice runs & mileages enough to support my body for Half marathons, to such an extent that, you ask me to run a Half Marathon now, I would do. But the Full Marathon is a different beast, which I realised during my first attempt at New Delhi Marathon in Feb 2018.

After completing two FMs and many HMs, I have realised that the effort to run the two formats is different and that should be respected. In order to run an HM, a runner needs to run longer practice runs well in the conversational aerobic zone. The distances should be gradually increased from 25km to 28km, followed by 35km, 38km and 42 km before heading to Race day. This sort of practice helps tune your body, especially the core muscles and vital organs to sustain your effort for a longer duration.

Falling off the Training Bandwagon

Ideally, one should dedicate at least 3 to 4months  at end of summers in India, to practice for a long-distance race. End of summers being preferable in India in view of the extreme heat we face in summer though the days are much longer. I did clock in a good timing but my practice schedule preparing for the race was not well-planned. Post the race also I got busy with my Brevet Rides (200/300/400/600km), which I conquered one after the other to achieve ‘Super Randonneur’ title. These long duration of cycling compromised my target of LSD runs to tune my body and mind for the next full marathon.

I thought I will do at least one 30 or 35km run to acclimatize my body a week before the event, but I couldn’t schedule the same. You might ask me, as I was doing endurance cycling prior to the FM, my body would have been trained and tuned the 42km FM. Cycling and Running are two different kinds of sports and involves endurance capacity of many different muscles of our body in each go, so they need to be trained separately. Running is considered a more vigorous effort workout, therefore our body needs special conditioning prior to the race. Anyway, I planned to give my best on Race Day.

The Race Day

Though I was not confident, I had planned to achieve a sub-5-hour completion for the Full Marathon. I started my run with ease at 5:00 am, I felt my legs were moving freely. ‘The Run’ started from the newly built international cricket stadium in Gomti Nagar extension in Lucknow. I started to enjoy the route (which is a new route for Marathons in Lucknow) and I ran comfortably and completed 21km well under 2 hours. The route was scenic too, most part being on the bank of river Gomti, away from the pollution and urban infrastructure of the city, I was completely absorbed in the beauty.

After crossing 21km mark, I started feeling a little discomfort, as if my body is saying “Enough”. Here is where the training would have helped but I had missed that training. But I continued to run, then after 25km, my right knee started giving me trouble, with pain on every step. I sprayed on a generous amount of Volini spray hoping to alleviate the pain. But after a small duration, the pain would be back and I had to stop again to spray my knee again.

After 29th km, the situation became further worse, as I was facing the Sun, and feeling the heat directly on my face, my discomfort grew. This phase of discomfort continued till 35km, but once I crossed it, I regained my rhythm. Now I had only 7km left, and the one thought that kept me going was the fact that I could be back home to spend time with my new born daughter.

I pushed myself harder at this stage and I do not remember when I crossed the finishing line. The route support was awesome, with hydration and energy points in every 3 to 4km and cycling marshals all throughout the route especially for the full marathon runners, which they require most.

There were times when I thought I would not be able to participate in full marathon this time, as this needs full commitment of body and mind for a long duration starting hours before the race starts, till recovery to be able to take care of my family. But unprecedented help from my runner friends families, office colleagues and their families poured in to support us.

Sometimes even the impossible seems conquerable.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Anupam Das is a Faculty of a Superspeciality Medical Institute in Lucknow, UP. He started his journey of fitness from 2017 with Long Distance Running, Cycling, Body Weight cross fit & Yoga.

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Motivation Comments Off on Running Nonstop with Ravi Goenka |

Running Nonstop with Ravi Goenka

A running career that spans over 2 decades, Ravi Goenka, the co-founder of the Jaipur Runners club reminisces his running career with Deepthi Velkur.

“And suddenly you know…it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of new beginnings”.

For the past 21 years, Ravi Goenka has certainly had several new beginnings. Starting his running career in 1997, he has clocked many a mile and has now moved on to helping others achieve their fitness goals. Ravi lives by the motto, “take it all one day at a time and enjoy the journey”.

When he’s not running, he spends his time managing his several interests in garments, textiles, retail and dairy. He also spends his time being actively involved with a couple of NGOs who focus on providing education for underprivileged kids. Ravi has been a co-founder with the Jaipur Runners Club (JRC) since 2011 and in this conversation, he tells us how he hopes to help runners achieve their goals.

When did you first pick up running and what inspired you to do so?

Sports has always been a part of my life. I have been running for a long time now and I’m addicted. Today, I just can’t live without my run – it really has intertwined itself into my life and I build my day around it. My first run was the Terry Fox run (Dubai) in 1997 and 7 years later I did my first half-marathon in 2004 and a full marathon in 2005.

Running brings about immense benefits to the health and overall development of a person? In what way has it benefited you?

Discipline. Perseverance. Camaraderie. These are 3 key elements that come to mind when someone asks how does running add value to your life.

Discipline in the way you live – running influences everything from the way you eat to the way you plan your day. Running helps build perseverance and makes you believe that no matter how tough the situation is, just stick with it and you will come through a winner. Every runner’s journey is peppered with stories of how a friend helped them during training or a stranger egged them on a tough uphill course or rubbed down a sore muscle on a tough trail. That’s what running brings out in people – a spirit of community and camaraderie.

When did you decide to start Jaipur runners club? What was the main idea behind starting this club?

Prior to 2010, Jaipur didn’t really have a lot of exposure to marathons and there were only a handful of marathoners. Mr.Mukesh Mishra, CEO – Jaipur Marathon (now the AU Bank Jaipur Marathon) and I were in touch and discussed several ideas on how we can improve the runner’s experience at the event.

We realized that runners did not have a platform to practice together and both of us felt the need to create a space where runners could interact, motivate and inspire each other. That’s how the idea of starting a running club – JRC came about. When it started out, it had a very loose structure for a couple of years, but it has gradually evolved over time and today we have a more formalized structure in place.

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

A running group/club definitely enhances and enriches a runners experience. When you are part of a group they become close buddies and it’s a huge benefit to run along with them. Right from waking each other up in the morning to sharing training tips to motivating and pushing each other during runs plays a major role in motivating and inspiring you to achieve more.

We also try doing a whole lot of things such as organize monthly runs, bringing in motivational speakers and sports nutrition experts to speak to our runners. We also have a few renowned sports doctors on our panel to help fellow runners. Our objective is to give the runners at the club a wholesome enriching running experience.

Your best and worst race so far? Why?

My best race probably was the 100K race in (took me a tad over 12 hours to complete) Dec 2015. I participated in this run to promote Ultrarunning in Jaipur as the concept was fairly insignificant at the time.

I call it my best not because I ran a 100K but because of the atmosphere, it created. There were hundreds of local runners who ran distances between 4 – 42K alongside me and for a lot of them it was their longest distance they had run until that day. We had many more citizens who lined up at Central Park where the run was happening and created such a festive mood.

The SCMM 2015 (my last officially timed run)run wasn’t my worst but rather a most enlightening race.  I was hoping to break the 3hr45min barrier and things were going great until 32 KM mark where I suddenly cramped up. The situation nearly brought me to tears as I had put in hours of hard work, several months of practice and I was maintaining a decent time in training (3hr50min – 4hr). That brought me a moment of realization that chasing personal bests was making me lose the joy of running. I then made the decision to focus on staying fit and enjoying my runs.

Take us through your training regimen and how do you to stay injury-free?

There are 2 key activities I go through the year that are very important to me – yoga and working out at the gym. In addition, I do a fair bit of cross training between sports like cycling, TT, tennis, cricket and swimming. Since I enjoy sports, I try and put in 15-20 a week on that. Before and after any run session, I do a quick warm-up and cooling-down stretches.

I have had running-related injuries and lay-offs a couple of times over the past 2 decades and this has been mainly due to overtraining. However, I ensured proper rest during the injury and I have been able to get back on my feet quicker.

How do you keep your runners at JRC motivated?

Our job is to get them into a regular habit and once done we have seen runners take off and make considerable progress. We are also constantly evolving are plans and programs to keep the runners on their feet through the year. With the advent of social media, there is no dearth for motivation as there are runners scaling new heights every day. In a city like Jaipur, we are seeing a surge in the number of runners who want to do their FM in 2 years’ time from when they started running or wishing to attempt an Ironman challenge.

At JRC, we organize boot camps focusing on overall fitness, building running techniques, challenges like 10KM over 10 days, 100-day challenge and hill training. We also see a very high newcomer participation in our events and that’s encouraging. We also have a lot of mentoring happening with guidance from experienced runners on plans being made for new comers and helping them with customized plans for speed and endurance training.

 

You ran the 72K Jaipur midnight marathon on Independence Day this year as a dedication to the Indian Soldiers. What were your thoughts at the finish line?

I was happy that I managed to finish the 72K run with ease in spite of having certain challenging factors that can take a toll on your body and mind – visibility at night, humid weather conditions and a full working day at office/factory. It was good to see a few young fellow runners from JRC giving me company and through the run kept pushing each other to finish the race.

12 hours of barefoot running saw two members from JRC participate. Briefly talk about the run and how did you cheer them on to the finish line?

We currently have some very strong runners from Jaipur attempting to run long distances and also being successful at it. Although I was not physically present during the run and could not cheer them on,  we were given regular updates on their progress and were being cheered through a virtual medium.

As a director of JRC, what are your future plans for the club?

We gradually and steadily hope to increase the number of runners in Jaipur and at the same time instilling in them a love for fitness. The goal is also to ensure we are able to have each member run long and strong and stay injury-free. The co-founder of JRC Mr Mukesh Mishra is also very dedicated to the cause and we have a very supportive team in place who are always out there to support all events and runners. To top it all, having a team of dedicated volunteers is a big boon in itself.

Do you think you might reconsider your decision to stop running at official events?

 The SCMM 2015 was my the last official event that I ran. My friends call me the “enlightened Baba” who has attained Nirvana after years of this journey. I enjoy running on my own most of the time as this is my “ME” time and also enjoy runs with friends sometimes. I also try and be part of the runs of JRC which gives me an opportunity to interact with fellow runners. I have been running for so long now that I don’t feel the urge to travel anymore for runs. My businesses take a lot out of me and focus is on my work  for now. Hopefully in a few years, if the goal posts change, I would love to travel again to run in different parts of the world.

 

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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Motivation Comments Off on Leadership Lessons from Marathons |

Leadership Lessons from Marathons

Deepthi Velkur talks to runners to understand what leadership lessons they have learnt from running marathons.

“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon” – Emil Zatopek (three-time Olympic gold medallist).

We’ve all heard how running is good for us. Research proves that running makes us healthier (both physically and mentally), happier and can even help each of us become a better leader. When we see a marathon runner in action, all we see is a solitary figure but dig a little deeper and you will see that she/he draws inspiration and energy from their fellow runners. Similarly, leaders draw inspiration and energy from professionals around them.

Running a marathon teaches us life lessons – the fact that you can achieve anything, you can push your body and mind to new limits as long as you have the will and determination. Some of these lessons can be translated into the leadership roles we play. In my conversation with several experienced runners, they shared leadership lessons they have learned from running.

Always have a goal.

A big goal provides direction and purpose. Small goals are what get things done.

Rajesh Chandrasekhar (Director – Operations, Cisco Systems) believes that there is a symbiotic relationship between running and leadership.  He says, “Setting goals, both small and big, motivates us to garner all our efforts and focus our energies towards achieving that goal. He goes on to add that without a clear target in mind, our potential is under-tapped and our purpose can wander”. He sums up his conversation by paraphrasing the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland – “If you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t matter which way you go!”

Anjana Mohan (General Manager, SEP India Pvt Ltd) likes to break things down when targeting a bigger goal. She chips in saying, “When a goal is overwhelming, just focus on a single step. The steps add up. Having a big goal is necessary to set up the path to achieving it. But once that is in place, just focusing on the single step ahead of you and staying in each moment is enough to get you to the goal. Breaking down a large goal into tiny little steps is an inevitable lesson of running”.

Deepa Bhat (AVP-Products, Prepmyskills) adds, “At work, I stay focused to completing smaller tasks and milestones without taking my eyes off the larger goal. I picture the victory, this re-energizes the team as well as me, celebrating the small joys and keep moving ahead”.

In running, you might set yourself a big goal of competing in a marathon major but you also set yourself smaller goals every week. Similarly, in leadership, you set yourself intermediate goals building up to the big target in mind. This helps build a sense of achievement as well as provides feedback on how you’re doing.

Being adaptive

 In a run, we do not always control every single factor, do we? In our corporate lives, we cannot manage every single dependency or risk, can we? When you run and the weather makes the route tricky, you adapt, you find a way to push through – that’s a lesson we all take into our corporate and entrepreneurship lives too.

Sagar Baheti (entrepreneur) who runs his own import and export stone business says, “Every time I run, I realize it’s a unique experience. If you’re running the same route, it feels different every time depending on so many factors like what you’ve eaten before the run, how much sleep you managed to get, what’s your state of mind. A lot of these factors, sometimes may not be under our control. Similarly, when you work with people on projects, there are so many factors that may or may not be in our control but we have to strategize and adapt to make the best of what we have at a given time”.

Anjana Mohan’s take is, “Learning to refocus on what you want and why is a key leadership trait. The miles can be long and rough. There are many obstacles in the way. But when a runner focuses on what they want and why the challenges of the moment melt away. Good leaders are able to focus people on what awaits on the top of the mountain, which reduces the strain of the climb and motivates them to keep moving towards it”.

Ram Narasimhan (Director, Colt Technologies) believes that if you keep the end goal in sight, you will automatically adapt to changing situations, “No two runs are the same and there will be situations where conditions are less than perfect (and these will be many), but then you learn to take them in your stride and work around them. Sounds familiar in real life? Day in and day out at work, I come across situations that need resolution, decisions and course corrections which may throw plans awry, but then running has taught me to keep the end goal in sight and the process will follow”.

Fail and learn early.

We all make fundamental mistakes in training, during a run, and in our lives. How we bounce back and learn from it, is the key to being successful.

Bindu Juneja (Teacher, Bethany High) has this to say, “Disciplined decision-making will help us in taking intellectual decisions based on your feedback loops”.

Pramod Deshpande (Senior VP, MFX Services) believes that as a runner we have to deal with negativity every time we miss a target or a weekly goal. Similarly, in the business world he says, “a leader should provide honest feedback to his team, even at the risk of being unpopular, only then can his team members achieve their potential”.

Anjana Mohan says “Failure is more important than success. Our successes validate our strategies and what we already know but it’s the failures that educate us about what we don’t know. A failure at a running event makes us more mindful about everything we did during our training, and what we could have done differently. In life, leadership or running failure forces us to face our ‘Lessons learned”.

Patience and Perseverance

Four strong values that help us achieve our goals in life – be it completing a run in personal best time or closing out that critical project.

Subramanyam Putrevu (CIO, Mindtree) is spot on when he says “Distance running is not a short sprint, it is sustaining the will and self-belief over the distance at a steady consistent pace with enormous patience. You need to have a lot of perseverance to build it step by step without injuring yourself. This is how you build the business or execute large projects”.

Pramod Deshpande adds, “With self-belief, discipline and hard work we can surprise ourselves with achievements, which we never imagined”.

Vikram Achanta (Co-founder and CEO, Tulleeho) says, “Hanging in there till the bitter end is especially valuable if you’re an entrepreneur where the journey is never easy – Finish strong”

Deepa Bhat, also adds “Training makes you realize the amount of hard work it takes to each milestone – What you put in is what you get. Running is the greatest metaphor! Sometimes you fail to make it to the expected target, that does not mean, you never will make it.  You only get to your milestones after focused, determined efforts for a longer time period”.

Run your own race

When you’re running the distance, you’re competing against yourself and not against other runners. Similarly, in a leadership role, we compete against our performance targets while keeping an eye on how others are performing too.

Annie Acharya (Senior Manager HR at a leading pharma company) gives her view on the subject, “there are 5 things common in leadership and running: a) common objective for group yet individual targets – you may train with a group yet run your own race, b) your competition is you, c) No excuses – like in leadership there is no excuse to fail, runners have no excuse not to run, d) running your own race, knowing your limitations and yet learning from others (leaders don’t shy from copying others best practices, yet they need to know their limitations and e) you don’t stop until you finish. Whether it’s 10K, 21K or full marathon runners finish their race. Similarly, in leadership, it is expected to achieve your targets irrespective of the hurdles or difficulties”.

Ram Narasimhan also adds to this. He says,The first thing running teaches you is self-awareness. It highlights your strengths and exposes your weakness in a way that you adapt yourself to run using your strengths. The same is true with leadership too – a true leader is one who is aware of his weakness and uses his strengths to overcome them”.

Be uncomfortable

Spending too much time in your comfort zone causes it to shrink and negatively impacts performance. Just like a runner who loses fitness if they are not pushing themselves, a leader who does not push herself/himself and their team outside their comfort zone are likely to be under-prepared for the challenge.

Anjana Mohan says, “Getting used to being uncomfortable is a necessary ingredient for change. We rarely achieve anything from our comfort zones. Whether it is having to wake up early and get out in the cold, or whether it is a particularly difficult and sunny stretch to keep running through, it is important to get acquainted with one’s own discomfort to facilitate change. Understanding the level of discomfort that one can tolerate without being discouraged is what determines the amount of transformation that one is capable of. This is a leadership lesson to motivate others as well as oneself”.

Recovery is important 

Most marathon runners take this seriously. They know that if they don’t build rest days and recovery into their schedule, they will burn out. In business, unfortunately, this is often ignored. Recovery needs to include physical and mental recovery to avoid exhaustion.

Bindu Juneja (Teacher, Bethany High) adds, “Recovery is as important as running, often ignored by runners, working long hours on a continuous basis reduces overall effectiveness”.

While running an actual marathon may not be what all of us want to do, in our leadership role, we are (metaphorically) training for a marathon every day you turn up for work.

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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Featured, Motivation Comments Off on How to consistently click miles every week |

How to consistently click miles every week

With an insatiable appetite for running, Divya Vasishta has quite a story to tell. In this conversation with Deepthi Velkur, she explains what drives her passion.

“The mountains are calling and I must go” – John Muir (Naturalist and Preservationist).

Probably one of the most compelling quotes that says it all for many outdoor lovers and definitely apt for our guest today – Divya Vasishta.

Divya hails from Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, a scenic mountain town, so it’s no wonder that her runs always seem to take her to the hills.

She is by no means a career runner – running happened by accident 5 years ago and she juggles a busy corporate life (quality head with a US-based organization) with her undying passion for running and the mountains.

Her running timeline might be short but she has covered the spectrum – countless 10Ks, Half-Marathons, Full-Marathons, Trail Running and also Ultra runs.

We had ourselves a tête-à-tête and I was fascinated by her story. Read on and chances are you will be too.

FM: It’s been 5 years since you started running, what inspired you to pick up such a tough endurance sport?

Divya: I never liked running on a treadmill but I had to for a long time as I spent quite a few years in Canada and the severe winters made it hard to run outdoors. A few years later though, I moved to California famed for its gorgeous weather and scenery, I started to head out for my runs every day for about 30 mins.

After having spent 10 years out of the country, we decided to move back to Bangalore. It was definitely a huge change for me. The weekends seemed empty with nowhere to go camping, no hills to climb, no trails to walk on and I ended up running longer durations inside my housing layout.

Initially, it started out as an aimless activity until a friend suggested that I participate in a 10k run back in 2013 to begin with, which I did and the experience of the race was enthralling. That paved the way forward and I have never looked back since. For the first two years, the focus was to improve my timings and then later on, I focused on building and testing my endurance and this became a vicious cycle with no end.

No distance ever seemed enough for me initially. I was curious to see how much further I could go and fast forward 3 years, I have run a maximum distance of 100K in 14 hours 20 minutes in the Bangalore Ultra. I also completed the Khardung La Challenge in Leh (the world’s highest Ultra marathon at 17582 feet) a distance of 72K.

Since 2013, I have completed 13 Ultra events and countless half and full marathons. I always enjoyed runs that are challenging with a sole purpose of finishing them comfortably and maintaining a constant pace. I personally prefer the quieter and smaller events and always look forward to trying new routes with new organisers.

The first 2 years of my running life took me to different locales but it was always the hills that kept calling and brought me a kind of peace that I couldn’t find anywhere else.

Having discovered running in the hills, I have completed events in Ooty, Munnar, Manipur, Leh, Manali (Solang Sky running – being the toughest so far) as well as Shimla.  This year, I became the 3rdfemale runner from India to run the Everest marathon.

I haven’t limited myself just to running in the hills obviously – I enjoy running in California and completed the Big Sur marathon which is considered a beautiful run but very challenging owing to the weather conditions. I have also completed a 143.9K run during the 24-hour Bangalore stadium run last year.

FM: Fascinating and amazing to see what you have achieved in 5 years. Prior to 2013, what kind of sports where you in to?

Divya: I have always been an active and outdoorsy person. Back in school, I loved running on the tracks and tried my hand at different sports like field and track events, basketball, hockey and mini marathons. With college and the initial few years of working, these activities took a backseat. Post marriage, my partner and myself started going on short treks in our free time. Hitting the gym became a part of my daily routine. In 2006, step aerobics fascinated me and quickly became one of my favourite activity. We (my partner and myself) had done a few treks of which the Machu Picchu, few in Alaska and the Everest Base Camp clearly were my favourites. Between 2010-13, I appointed a personal trainer and he used to set up various routines for me and then it was only in 2013, that I started running.

FM: That explains the ease with which you have acclimatized yourself to ultra-running.  This is me being curious – how was your lifestyle prior and how has that changed since you started running?

Divya: In terms of routine, not much has changed in my life. I have always been disciplined in everything I do. Early rising, timely intake of food and hitting the bed early has been my routine for the longest time. Food habits have changed for the better. For instance, I used to eat a lot of processed food and that has completely stopped now. I prefer eating fresh home-cooked meals and drinking natural juices. 

FM: Managing your professional, personal as well passion for running takes a lot out of a person. How do you manage this and what do you do to unwind?

Divya: I really didn’t have to make a lot of compromises. I started running when I was well-settled at work. There was no need to commute to work daily and work related travel was manageable too and was a part of my routine life. Both my husband and myself are morning people. I just had to wake up a little earlier so I could clear up any work-related emails and then head out for my morning run. While travelling, it becomes a bit hard to manage my runs so I make sure to manage expectations during those days and plan my work and running accordingly. And I never forget to pack my running shoes wherever I go.

Running is relaxing for me, but a spa appointment for a deep tissue massage and foot reflexology is a reward for myself (smiles).

FM: To be able to clock 9455Km in such a short time is astounding. Did you imagine you would have achieved this in less than 5 years? Do you set at a yearly target for yourself?

Divya: I was never interested in numbers, like setting up a monthly or yearly target. What I do is set myself a mileage target of 60K every week and try to achieve it on most days. My tally seems very less in comparison to other Ultra runners. But I feel, if I run a lot (especially training runs), I’ll probably start disliking running so I run the tracks I enjoy. Sometimes a training run of 35K stresses me but at the same time I enjoy running a 100K event.

FM: Another mind-boggling statistic is the fact that you have a podium finish in greater than 50% of the events you have participated? What are the 3 key factors that help you achieve this?

Divya: You are right. Out of 55 events, I’ve had about 27 podiums wins. I would say – It just happened. Though I’ve had podiums in the open category too but most of them have been in 45+ age category, so being a veteran probably led to this and I see it as an advantage. I really don’t run with a competitive mind.

FM: Congratulations on finishing the Comrades marathon last year – such a fascinating run especially given its origins. What interested you in taking part in this event?

Divya: Curiosity, I think. I wanted to see why runners are so crazy about this run and I guess I did find my answer. It’s a run with an amazing aura. I finished the race which is approximately a 89KM run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. It is considered the World’s Largest and one of the oldest Ultra-marathons, which was first held in 1921. The race has very strict cut-off time of 12hours and I managed to finish it in 11 hrs and 42 minutes. 

FM: Obviously, your training program for this run would have been different from your normal training. Can you please share a few snippets into the differences?

Divya: One needs to be diligent and disciplined in preparing for any targeted run, especially a run as challenging as this with strict cut-off points. It only tends to increase the pressure which may lead to unnecessary stress.

My goal was just to finish the run within the cut-off time and with that in mind, I prepared my own training plan and stayed within my normal weekly mileage, with an exception of 2 or 3 weeks where I exceeded it. I also added hill runs to my routine, almost every weekend and most of the events I went to were in the hilly terrains which got me stepping out of my regular running route. Being the only female from Bangalore to participate in this event that year, I had to look for a group running this event. The drive to the location for the training runs was quite far from my place and that led me to start driving in India, which I dislike doing, especially during the dark, early morning hours. I don’t remember missing a single run as per my calendar.

FM: So, where is your next big run and what plans do you have for the next few months?

Divya: A 100 miler in a decent time for sure.

 

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 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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Running at 46

How this Fit Mom, Smita Kulkarni is inspiring young ones to get fit, writes Protima Tiwary.

At a very early age, Smita Kulkarni faced the unpleasant shock of menopause. Not prepared to deal with this at the young age of 37, it took her a lot of mental strength to overcome the body changes that would follow. Hereditary conditions and family history also had her testing for other health scares. Today, at the young age of 46, Smita Kulkarni runs half and full marathons with ease and is a source of inspiration to so many young women all around her.

We sat down for a little tête-à-tête and found out how fitness changed the life of this leggy beauty.

Was fitness a major part of your childhood?
I come from a family of foodies, but active ones at that. Everyone I knew was either playing a sport, or practicing yoga, or was involved in an outdoor activity. As a child I would play a lot of cricket with the boys, kabaddi and volleyball in school and practice yoga with my father which I won’t deny,  I used to detest back then.

How did fitness become such a major part of your lifestyle?

Fitness became a part of my lifestyle only in 1999. I had gained a few unwanted pounds while traveling with my husband on a ship, and I knew it was time to get in shape. I started walking a lot and started with basic bodyweight training exercises. I used to read a lot about fitness too and started doing the HIIT workouts at home.

My son was born in 2003, and I got back to training soon after. I concentrated on weight training and was really enjoying the journey when in 2009 the unthinkable happened. I had hit premature menopause at the age of 37.

It was hereditary, and I was put on Hormone Replacement Therapy to avoid the side effects of menopause (osteoporosis, strokes, weight gain) But now we had another problem- it’s a well-known fact that HRT is known to cause certain types of cancer (breasts and ovarian) and there was a history of breast cancer in my family (my mother is a survivor) I had to discontinue HRT, and that is when I put in all my energy, both physical and mental, into fitness. I started running, and soon got addicted to this “me-time.”

Smita Kulkarni- a mother, a runner, a baker, a wife, a homemaker- how has your ecosystem adapted to your fit lifestyle?

My family and loved ones have been a great support. I am extremely blessed to have a husband who is very supportive of my running and other fitness activities, and it’s an added bonus that he believes in staying fit too. My son is a football player and has accompanied me for a lot of runs and has also done a couple of 10K races with me. We are a food-loving family but everything is done in moderation.

What is your nutrition like today? How do you train? 

I do a couple of Full Marathons, a few Half Marathons and 10k races throughout the year. For this, I train with Dr. Kaustubh Radkar who is a 20-time Ironman. We train 3-4 times a week, and two days are dedicated to the gym for strength and functional training. I also practice yoga every day.

As far as the diet is concerned, I have never believed in any of the fad diets, I’m too much of a foodie for that!

I just believe in eating in moderation and I try to stay off junk food, aerated water, and sweets as much as possible. And even if I do indulge I see to it that I burn it off the next day. Only if I am training for a specific race do I take extra care of what I am eating.

What has been your best race in terms of performance?

No one race comes to mind because there are so many! But if I had to pick, I’d choose the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2014 where at the age of 42 I finished in 2 hours 4 minutes WITHOUT any training. Then came the sub 2 hours half marathon at ADHM (Delhi), then the Full Marathon at IDBI Delhi. Lastly, my first international World Major Marathon in Berlin was extremely enjoyable, and of course, memorable.

How do you keep yourself motivated to continue training and running?

I have my Radstrong team and my PuneRoadrunners group to thank for all the inspiration and motivation that they have provided me with. Plus knowing that there are others who are supporting my journey and getting inspired by what I do, I am motivated to wake up each day and train even harder.

How has running shaped you up as a person?

Running has shaped my life for the better, without any doubt. There has been a physical, mental and emotional transformation. I have become so much more disciplined, I think that has been the biggest change which has affected everything else in my life. I wake up at 4:00 am and go to sleep by 10:00 pm! I have a schedule in place, I have wonderful people who support each other and I have made amazing friends on this journey. I also think I am better equipped to deal with stress now. My perfect stress buster involves me lacing up and going out for a run!

Are there any races that are close to your heart?

So many of them, but I guess it’s a tough one between the Berlin and Delhi Marathons where I ran a steady, strong race with consistent splits throughout, with no walking at all.

Could you share any myths that you’d like to bust when it comes to fitness?

Yes, there are a couple that comes to mind, the first one being that running is bad for your knees. Honestly, as long as you do a total body strength workout at least twice a week you will reduce your chances of getting injured and will enhance your running experience.

The second one is that doing crunches will get you a flat tummy. No, it’s the planks, a good core workout and sensible eating that will get you flat abs.

She sits calmly as she answers our questions, that image of perfection with her dark, curly hair, kohl-lined eyes and red pout, with no idea of the extent to which she has inspired us today. Here is a woman who shows how age is just a number, and if you believe in love, there is nothing that will bring you down. More power to you Smita! Keep inspiring.

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 traveling and to-do lists and loves her long gym sessions like a fat kid loves cake.

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Featured Comments Off on Speed for Runners |

Speed for Runners

Guest Columnist and runner, Anjana Mohan, talks about how you must consider building your running goals keeping in mind other facets of your life.

Chasing a time target presents fantastic opportunities to push oneself to new limits, train muscles to work hard and sustain mental effort. Improvements in speed offer immense satisfaction and accomplishment. It can become addictive and spawn a pursuit of personal bests (measured as timing). These self-evolutionary goals undoubtedly bring joy and benefits. However, I submit that the pursuit of speed is fundamentally competitive (even if it is only with oneself) and therefore poses great risks.

The simplest manifestation is the effect of both achievement and failure. The goal-driven nature of speed creates an obligatory ending once the target is achieved, or sometimes when it has failed. Continuity has to be artificially created. The endorphin high of success can only be sustained by setting new competitive goals, which will plateau over time to cause frustrations, or injury when ambition reaches past ability.

Culture of Speed

The culture of speed is ignorant of the unique nature of individual bodies, minds, and lives. We compete against others or the clock as absolutes. We consider performance in isolation rather than placing it in balance within the context of our daily lives, physiology, emotions, and efforts. We superficially correlate speed with mental fortitude disregarding many factors.

Even when a runner “competes with oneself” they are ultimately dialoguing with their own ego. Competition can bring out one’s best but also insidiously normalizes feeding and sustaining some vanity. This spiritual corrosion restrains runners from discovering their depth. The fastest runs lose the meditative beauty of time collapsing to yield to the aliveness and energy of every moment. Interval training is sweatily self-absorbed. Bob Marley said, “Some people feel the rain and some just get wet”. Running offers room for both and its best value is when it can be woven into the network of the various facets of your life.

Although both competition and goals can be set iteratively and repeatedly over the life of a leisure athlete, they are fragile and vulnerable to many fatal forces.  Running endures maturely when balanced to fold into a fitness strategy for one’s life. While speed may be a useful measure of how well you are pushing yourself, letting it dominate your running can destroy its own fundamental foundations. Consider balancing effort and pleasure. Redefine a new personal best “joy” within the changing context of your life.

Timings and medals are easy metrics. There aren’t easy ways to measure success by the criteria of whether or not a habit will sustain over a human lifetime. We are conditioned to seek bursts of brilliance or intermediate intensities (endorphins and dopamine). But long-distance running’s most powerful lesson is the opposite ‐ the slow, sustained spirit. Serotonin and oxytocin associated with falling in love can come from running, enjoying the trail and company. The meditative aliveness that becomes a part of your personality has more to offer your spiritual growth than any podium, PB time or prize. The seduction of speed should remain subservient to the enduring desire to keep on running.

*The views expressed herewith reflect her personal views and do not necessarily represent the views of any group*

GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Anjana started running in the U.S. in 2007 and has helped mentor many from the couch to half marathon. She is passionate about empowering women through running and now runs in Bangalore with Jayanagar Jaguars

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Training On The Go

How do you train for a race if you’re always on the go? Here are some hotel room workouts that do not require any equipment and will keep you on track, by Protima Tiwary.

Fitness isn’t a seasonal hobby, it is not something you can put away when you’re traveling, or taking a vacation or neck deep in work. Fitness is a lifestyle that trains your mind to accept commitment and discipline before laziness and excuses, it shows you the way towards great physical, mental and emotional health. Being fit isn’t only about looking good. It’s about the focus to be committed towards your fitness routine.

So how does one stick to a regime when they’re stressed with deadlines, or traveling, or on vacation? How does one stick to a plan when they realise their makeshift gym has dumbbells that weigh *gulp* not more than 10kgs?

Athletes all over the world are faced with this dilemma, and it’s after years of trying and testing exercises and fitness regimes, the experts have come up with a list of basic exercises that are all that an athlete needs when he is traveling. If a hotel room is all that you’ve got, here is how you make use of it to give you the best possible workout. You don’t need TRX bands or dumbbells- these bodyweight exercises will see you through.

Jumping Jacks

Easy, light and super convenient, 100 of these should be enough to get your heart pumping. This is just the beginning. Don’t forget to turn off the fan, you might hit your head if you jump up too high!

Burpees

If you’re an athlete, at some point in your training career you might have done these as a punishment. Yes, burpees are those dreaded exercises that have the best of us huffing and puffing by the end of round 1. Guess what? It is now time to embrace them with open arms because burpees are one of the best ways to kickstart your body and get yourselves warmed up!

Squats                 

Once your body is warmed up, nothing better to get your core and glutes activated than with some squats. Open up your leg muscles and get the blood flowing to your quads and inner thighs with different variations of squats – regular squats, wide legged squats and sumo squats.

If you have weights in the room, nothing like it. Maybe hold your traveling bag and do some front squats?

Bulgarian Split Squats

Are you missing leg day at the gym? No need to fret, because you can get in a leg workout in a hotel room, without using any machines! Place one foot on the chair, and go down in a squat. Hold a bag or a lightweight to increase resistance. You will feel the burn on your quads soon, and end up having a killer indoor leg workout!

Push Up

Get your upper body ready with some basic push-ups. Best part? You can always try variations to improve your upper body strength, even on normal training days! Got the hang of the regular push up? How about trying the diamond push up next? Or how about adding a bag on your back and then going in for a quick set? Have you tried the decline push ups yet? Keep your legs on the chair and try your luck!

Tricep Dips

Get creative with furniture! You might not always get a cable or dumbbells to do any tricep curls or overhead extensions, but you can always use that chair at the study table or kitchenette to do those Tricep dips and get your tricep muscles popping.

Plank

Easiest exercise to do practically anywhere and one of the most effective exercises that get major muscle groups activated and working. Your core is of utmost importance no matter what sport you play. Nothing better to train your core than to get a few minutes of planks daily, isn’t it?

De-stress with hotel room yoga

Cool down after a rough day and killer workout with some of your favorite stretches, right in your hotel room! Legs up the wall pose, hip flexor stretch, downward dog, cat-cow pose, spinal twists are all stretches that will help you relax at the end of the workout.

 How many reps should I be doing?

The answer to this depends on your fitness levels. If you want a good strength training and cardio workout, experts recommend going in for a large number of repetitions. If you’re just about starting your fitness routine and do not wish to miss a workout, you can go easy on the reps.

Full body workouts are usually possible without any equipment, even on days when you’re traveling. Don’t let that worry you- ask your trainer to design specific routines based on these simple exercises, and you’ll see how you can enjoy a workout as good as one in the gym.

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 traveling and to-do lists and loves her long gym sessions like a fat kid loves cake.

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