Motivation Comments Off on A Cyclist raring to go |

A Cyclist raring to go

Deepthi Velkur talks to an athlete par excellence, Samira Abraham, the national road racing and triathlon champion.

A National Road racing champion, National TT champion, National Triathlon champion, South Asian Triathlon champion and countless club level accolades have not stopped Samira Abraham from yearning for more.

Her goal – develop into a world-class cyclist and race at the international elite level.

FM: For someone who always had a keen interest in sports from a very young age, what was the trigger that made you take up cycling?

Samira: I went to see a BBCH race with a friend in 2016. I wasn’t aware of the racing and cycling community in Bangalore before that. I’m that person who likes to race and not to be on the sidelines and that’s exactly what I did, I raced the next one which was a BBCH criterium. It’s been more racing since then. Two months after I started riding was my first road cycling Nationals which was a valuable experience.

FM: Just 2 years into cycling, you’ve managed to secure two gold medals (Time Trial and mass start) at the 2018 National Road cycling championships. How did you manage that?

Samira: It’s God’s grace. It’s His strength in my weakness. I just did my part of putting to full use what he blessed me with. I absolutely enjoy putting in the work and developing as an athlete. We are all blessed uniquely, and we just have to receive it.

The Double Gold for the TT and road race are really special – I was injured for the large part of 2018 and that was tough. My coach and I focused on working with the situation and getting quality work in. I allowed God to work in my life instead of clutching on to the steering wheel. not fighting it and giving it everything I had.

It turned out way better than I imagined. So, when things don’t go according to your plan, they may end up working out even better, if you allow it.

FM: Do you take assistance from a coach to train yourself? Take us through of how your training week looks like?

Samira: I work with a coach and training is specific to the goals. We work really well together. Excellent communication and trust are crucial.

While I was training for a triathlon, it would be a mix of a swim, bike, run and strength sessions through the week, usually 2-3 sessions in a day. My typical training day went like this:

  • Swim from 5-7 am
  • Bike/run/brick session from 10-12 pm
  • Strength/bike/run from 4-5/6pm

I didn’t have an off day, instead, it would be an active recovery session of swim/ bike/ run. Weekends would have one or two longer sessions a day. The early morning training didn’t suit me at all. Given the training conditions and since I was caught up in getting the work done, it took me a year and a half to say hey, I can’t do this schedule and that my body needed more sleep and changing the sleep cycle is not working. With any kind of training, and even more so when it’s remote coaching, it’s very important to listen to your body. Your coach doesn’t know how your body feels.

I’ve been off the bike for over two months due to an injury which is not yet diagnosed, so currently, my training is to stay positive, be patient, work on mobility and strength. Once I’m healthy and back on my bike, we will revise the race calendar.

FM: What does it take for someone to be as good at the sport so early on?

Samira: A solid foundation, patience, consistency and to enjoy the sport is really important. I’m a strong believer that when you are a kid you should play different sport and not specialize in one too early.

Being in an environment which is conducive to training, regular races, like-minded athletes and people who genuinely want the standard of the sport to improve contribute to developing as an athlete.

In my case, I’ve been training since I was 8 years old, in various sport, so the base has always been there. Track & field and swimming were the constants.

Bangalore has a great cycling community which has helped in my development as a cyclist.

FM: You’ve not only made your mark in cycling but Triathlons too. What piqued your interest in this extreme sport?

Samira: Getting into a human washing machine in open water and try to not get a black eye, jump onto your bike and put down the hammer and run your heart out. What’s not to like in that? :)))

The sport looked interesting and the first race was more of let’s try something new. I love to race, so after the first triathlon, I wanted to race at the National Level and go on from there. I was working towards the 2018 Asian Games since I started the sport. I did get selected but then our team got cancelled.

FM: You prefer doing the Olympic distance (1.5 km swim, 40 km cycling and 10 km run) over any other distance? Why?

Samira: Long course triathlon never appealed to me. I like the speed, intensity and racing format of short course triathlon.

FM: How do you plan and train for both cycling as well as triathlon events?

Samira: I plan my training for the year based on my main races. I was doing both sports till mid-2018. It did take a toll on my body racing both especially since we didn’t have fixed dates for Triathlon National level races. The bike has always been my favourite and in the period of 2 years, it became clear to me that what I love is cycling and I moved purely to cycling.

FM: You went on to win a gold in the women’s category at the Senior National Triathlon Championship at Vizag in March 2018? Take us through your experience of the event?

Samira: It was my first Triathlon National Championship. I was well trained and ready to race. It was a 1.5 km pool swim so there were three to a lane in the pool and the 40 km bike and 10 km run were in a 2.5 km loop. I didn’t have a good swim and was a bit behind but I made up the difference on the bike, for the run, I cramped badly in the beginning. It was just about staying calm and positive and I brought it home on the run.  It felt awesome to win and winning it qualified me to race at the South Asian Championship.

FM: A month later, you were selected to represent India at the ASTC South Asian Triathlon championship? How was it like to participate in your first international event?

Samira: It was awesome! It’s been a childhood dream to represent India and it was so good to win it. It took place in Pokhara, Nepal. We had a lake swim and the bike and run was in a circuit through the town.  I love that as I get to experience new places through the sport.

FM: With the level of physical and mental toughness needed, how do you train yourself to stay strong during the race?

Samira: I’ve never thought of it as a separate element. It’s part of the training for the race. I like training with intent. Every session has a purpose. During the race, keywords help me to remain focused. For triathlon, as there are a lot of changeovers in a race, I run through the race a few times in my head. I really enjoy racing and love pushing myself to the max so it comes naturally.

FM: What role has your family played in achieving what you have today?

Samira: Everything. I’m blessed to have a supportive family. They back me 100 %. My siblings are my biggest fans and likewise. My parents are amazing people with a strong work ethic, combined with always making time for family. My mum has a full-time job but she comes for my main races and is part of my team. My little girl Zoe (her dog) lives with them now since I travel often. Being away from her is the most difficult thing for me, so it’s a blessing that she is well taken care of.

FM: Do you see major challenges/roadblocks of being a professional cyclist and a triathlete in India?

Samira: Yes, there are challenges, especially when it’s an outdoor endurance sport and it’s relatively new. Sometimes it can get overwhelming. I like viewing them as opportunities. It helps to seek out people who have done similar things. A good support system is vital too.

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 Comments Off on The Man who made the Devil’s Circuit |

The Man who made the Devil’s Circuit

Protima Tiwary meets Adnan Adeeb, the Devil Slayer, the man behind the toughest obstacle course, the Devil’s Circuit.

As India’s toughest obstacle race makes its way across the country, we caught up with the man spearheading the entire movement as he motivates every participant across India. Finisher Magazine in conversation with Adnan Adeeb, founder of Devils Circuit, India.

What do you prefer- life before or after Devils Circuit?

I spent 19 years in the corporate world, travelling the world as the sales manager for a global IT firm. I enjoyed the security.  Today, life is different. I, along with my team, am responsible to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience for runners. Our emotional investment in what we do today is helping us grow our tribe. Regular folks from across fitness spectrums walk over to us after the event to simply express their appreciation and to say ‘thank you’ for giving them the best Sunday of their lives, and it feels amazing to be able to create that kind of impact, and is worth all the effort we put into building each season. Yes, life is definitely more exciting now.

What inspired you to conceptualise Devils Circuit?

In 2011, we saw a huge potential in the space of amateur sports. We also noticed the audience shift from “I will just watch this” to “Let’s try this, let’s be a part of this!”

At Volano Entertainment, we wanted to be at the forefront of this revolution and felt that it was the right time, in 2011, to create India’s coolest, toughest, and largest participative disruptive sports property. With that thought, we introduced Obstacle Running to India in the Devils Circuit. Our first mover’s advantage, combined with constant ongoing innovation, has helped us reach out to millions of people across 8 cities and we continue to harbour thoughts of expanding to more.

What do you aim to achieve with Devil’s Circuit?

I simply want to inspire people. I think there is a huge disservice we do to ourselves and our loved ones when we take our health and fitness lightly. With Devils Circuit, I want participants and spectators alike, to think about life choices, their fitness quotient and give them a benchmark that helps measure their ongoing progress. We want people to understand that formats such as the Devils Circuit give you an idea of how much fun you can have through sports, by being active and being outdoors- it also allows for individuals to set their own goals on how to get stronger, fitter or simply more active through a unique running format.

What keeps you motivated to continue building this community around Devil’s Circuit every year? 

Each member of the tribe of DevilSlayers motivates me to keep making the property bigger and better. The individuals who combat their own issues and come to Devils Circuit are incredible. We have had participation from specially abled people, aged people, grandparents, people from the armed forces, people who have painstakingly fought their weight-related issues to transform themselves, and a lot many more who all have their own stories. All of these motivate me to continue serving this community and looking for ways to make the experience of every single participant exceptional.

What are your thoughts about the fitness industry in India?  

The fitness industry in India is on a huge growth trajectory. I feel the potential of expansion is massive, there is a definite drive both at an individual as well as a corporate level towards a healthier lifestyle that is unprecedented. This is a very exciting time to be a part of this industry and in the coming years, we will see a lot of innovation. If I look at the western world, the kind of gyms, studios, fitness centres that exist is incredible. It is up to us to constantly bring these avenues to our shores. With this in mind, we are in the process of launching our own studios in the coming months.

Do you try all the obstacles? What’s your favourite one? Least favourite? 

Yes, absolutely! I am on my own fitness journey too and I am the fittest I have ever been in my life.  My favourite obstacle is the Brain Freeze. This is the last obstacle on the course where we have participants come down a wet slide into 15 tonnes of ice cubes. It’s a fantastic way to end the race, gives your muscles a great cooling and gives you an organic high which we have also translated into our war cry #Booyah!

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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Featured Comments Off on Marathon Recovery |

Marathon Recovery

Head Coach of RunGenie, Ranjini Gupta talks about the importance of recovery after the big race.

To run a marathon, and run it well, you need to train for it. A well-rounded training plan will cover key aspects like speed workouts, long runs, strength and conditioning, diet and hydration. You name it you’ve worked on all these aspects. After all the hard work has been done, when you toe the line, it’s your time to put all that you did in training to practice. And you did great! 26.2 miles clocked to perfection. You are elated to wear that finisher medal and flaunt it with pride.

So what next……..

The recovery phrase which is another crucial aspect of training for a marathon.

Many a time, so much impetus is given to training that recovery is overlooked. For some, recovery would mean doing nothing and simply relaxing on the couch while some others would probably get back to their runs even before their bodies have fully recovered. While this may work for a few weeks, with intensity and mileage, niggles appear and before you know it, it grows into a fully blown injury. The key is to understand your body. Each individual is different and responds differently to training as well as recovery. Some recover faster, while some people may take a tad bit longer. Be patient, after all this body has undergone so much to get you to your goal. Now it’s time for you to reciprocate.

In the words of exercise physiologist Dr. Carwyn Sharp, “Recovery following a marathon is critical aspect of any training plan, but despite its importance is often neglected. This need for appropriate recovery for running 26.2miles is obvious with aching muscles and stiff joints after sitting, but athletes also have damage and stresses in many other systems and tissues of the body they may not feel, such as: micro trauma to the bone, ligaments and tendons, depressed immune system, damage to the heart, red blood cells and gastrointestinal system. In order to recover your health, avoid sickness and injury and maintain the gains from months of training, you should employ nutritional, training and passive recovery method in the 2-4weeks following a marathon”.

Recovery tips:

  1. It would be a good idea to do an easy 30 to 40 min run-walk on a day (or max two days) following the race day. The whole idea of this exercise is for you to do a body scan and listen closely to the whispers indicated by the body. There should no pressure of distance or pace in this session.
  2. In the same week, ensure you invest a bit on yourself and go to that physical therapist or chiropractor to get some releases done. You would have given it your all in those last few miles before the finish and there is a good possibility that your biomechanics could have been compromised. A good practitioner would be able to help you take care of little niggles which you might have incurred during the race or felt it during the body scan in your recovery run.
  3. Catch up on the sleep, that you would have lost during the training period. Studies have shown that sleep helps improve an athlete’s performance because growth hormones that stimulate growth and repair of muscles and bones are released during this period. The quality of sleep becomes an important aspect of recovery. Try to hit the bed early as it is believed that hours slept between 10pm to 5am is most beneficial to the body and mind.
  4. Hydration becomes another key factor. Most runners during their training period will take care of the hydration very closely however the same importance needs to be given during the recovery period as well. Your urine is a good indicator of whether you are hydrated or not. A clear to pale yellow indicates you are hydrated while a darker color indicates you are less hydrated.
  5. While it is still alright to indulge a bit post the training season, the more nutritious food you give your body, the faster it will heal and recover for the next season. Clean eating habits and having a balanced meal should be a way of life and not just when you train for races. The key is being consistent at it.
  6. Work on general strength and mobility along with cross training (either cycling and/or swimming) before signing up for the next race or getting into the next season. The off season is a great time to work on these aspects. This will help you stay injury free and give you time to work on those imbalances before the next season. Any improvement in your basal strength level, hip mobility, ankle mobility will directly translate into better timings the coming season.

As mentioned earlier, one size fits all does not work either with training or recovery. You need to be aware and sensitive to the needs of your body. The more prudent you are in taking care of your recovery, the easier it would be for you to get into the new season refreshed and rejuvenated.

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Ranjini Gupta is a mother of two and a marathoner who is trying to exploit her potential. She is the head coach at Rungenie Fitness, a fitness consultancy firm.

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Nutrition Comments Off on Fuel your Ride |

Fuel your Ride

Guest Columnist Bikey Venky talks about how you can fuel up so that you have a better ride with better nutrition and hydration.

“Nutrition is a valuable component that can help athletes both protect themselves and improve performance” – Bill Toomey (former Olympic decathlon champion).

The two most important aspects that have an impact on any of your rides are – how you train and how you fuel your ride. While many understand the importance of proper training with gradual buildup of efforts, periodization etc., not many understand the importance of properly fueling their rides.

Fueling for a ride includes both hydration and nutrition. Hydration and nutrition have a big say in the quality of your training or just any riding for that matter. They determine how well you are able to train, recover, or just how you are able to enjoy your ride.

Typically, you would end up burning about 300-600 calories per hour of cycling depending on your body weight, metabolic rate, intensity etc., but we don’t need to replenish all the calories that we burn. At any given point, we have glycogen reserves worth 1200-2000 calories in our bodies. Hence, it is recommended that we refuel our body of about 15-25% of the calories expended per hour. That would mean 90-150 calories per hour assuming you end up burning 600 calories per hour. This roughly translates to about 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour and these carbs can be taken in the form of natural sources like bananas, nuts and dates etc., or energy bars made out of slow release items like sources of carbs like oats and dates etc. While this can be your nutrition during the ride, you might have to load up before the ride if you are attempting a long endurance effort.

When you are going for a ride longer than 2-3 hours, it is advisable to have breakfast before you start your ride. The breakfast should ideally be slow absorbing carbs like oats porridge or a bowl of fresh fruits and nuts. This can be 1-3 hours before your ride start time. Once on the ride, you can supply more fuel at regular intervals (every 15-30mins) in form of your favourite energy bars, peanut bars or bananas. This will ensure that there is a constant source of energy to your body and the energy levels never dip. With the right levels of energy, you are more likely to give your best on the ride and enjoy it more.

For intense efforts like races, a quicker absorbing energy source from gels might come in handy.

During the rides, we not only burn calories but also lose a lot of body fluids and electrolyte balance in the body which can be distorted. The resultant dehydration leads to diminishing performance in riders. To keep the performance levels up, we need to restore the electrolyte balance in the body by adding electrolytes to our hydration bottles and drink regularly on the ride. The rate of hydration depends on person to person and the ride conditions. But, in general, about 600-1000ml of hydration drink per hour is suggested.

It is a good idea to make it a habit to drink water in small quantities at regular intervals like every 15-20 mins. Depending on the intensity of the ride, one can use one or two hydration tabs in a 600ml bottle and look to consume one bottle per hour. Something like the Fast & Up reload hydration tabs have all the necessary electrolytes. There are some riders who prefer more natural sources like common salt, lime, and sugar. Whatever is your source, it is important that the body’s electrolyte balance is restored for the body to recover and get stronger.

In summary:

  • Hydration: About 600ml per hour with electrolytes. Electrolyte sources: Fast & Up Reload tabs, Common Salt & lime with or without sugar/honey.
  • Nutrition: 30-60gms of carbohydrates per hour. Sources: Bananas, Peanut bars, Dates & Nuts, Energy bars, Energy gels etc.
  • Post ride: After a hard ride, having a combination of carbs and protein (in approximately 4:1 ratio) for easy recovery. It can be normal food that you take or milkshakes with fruits like bananas etc.

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

Bikey VenkyVenky, more commonly known as BikeyVenky in the cycling community, has been riding for more than 10 years. He loves giving back to the community that helped him become a healthy individual in whatever way he can including help organizing rides, races and mentoring young and old riders alike via BVCoaching.in

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Motivation Comments Off on Stay fit and Keep Running |

Stay fit and Keep Running

Ranjini Gupta talks to Deepthi Velkur about why being healthy and fit isn’t a fad or a trend. Instead, it’s a lifestyle!

A passion for health and fitness drove Ranjini Gupta to take up long-distance running as a career and today, she’s recognized as one of the most successful amateur runners in India. A mother of two adorable daughters, she has completed numerous 10K runs, half-marathons and full-marathons.

An ACE (American Council of exercise) certified professional as well as a qualified TRX Suspension trainer, Ranjini runs a fitness consultancy firm, ‘Rungenie Fitness’.  With a strong focus on strength and conditioning, Rungenie helps build training plans for clients to reach their full potential. Ranjini runs small group sessions and personal training sessions for runners as well being the fitness coach for the Roots football Academy.

Numerous podium finishes in 10K, HMs and FMs over the past 6 years aside, Ranjini has also completed 3 (Chicago, Berlin and Tokyo) of the 6 world marathons. She has also qualified in the ‘good-for-age’ category and participated as a semi-elite runner at the 2018 Tokyo marathon.

For the future, Ranjini has big goals in mind – complete the remaining 3 world majors (London, New York and Boston) as well as participate in ‘The Comrades Marathon’ which is the world’s largest and oldest ultra-marathon race.

I had a tete-a-tete with Ranjini and here are her thoughts on how it has been so far.

FM: What made you take up running? How has it become “your calling”?

Ranjini: I wrote something a while ago that kind of sums up how my journey began. Here goes,

25th September 2012 – Chennai

A mother of two,

My younger daughter just 9 months new;

To wade away the baby blues,

I took to my running shoes.

What set out as “Mine Exclusive” time,

Grew on me while runners I tried to mime;

Learning the skills and nuances of the sport,

Yes, ‘running’ I began to court.

The euphoria experienced at the finish of a diligently trained race, the camaraderie while training with the team, the awe in my daughters’ eyes acknowledging the exploit of my races, the act of planning and preparing myself mentally and physically…..this is me. This is something I enjoy doing and see it as my calling.

FM: 6 years hence, you’ve grown leaps and bounds and have achieved so much for yourself. What keeps you going for more?

Ranjini: It’s been a wonderful journey so far. Three world majors are done and dusted – Berlin, Chicago and Tokyo, many podiums won and lots of learning in the process of evolving as a runner. In the past 6 years, I’ve seen a fair share of ups and downs. However, what’s kept me going is consistency and deliberate practice. ‘Come what may, lace up and show up’.

FM: Do you train with a coach? Has that benefited you in a big way?

Ranjini: I’m blessed to have a wonderful human being to guide me through this journey – my coach Shri. K.C. Kothandapani. They say, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. It’so important to know what you want from the sport and commit to the discipline it demands. If you have that attitude, the teacher will find you. Under his guidance, I have learnt many nuances of the sport, be it the physical aspect and/or the mental aspect. He leads by example. One needs to simply observe his approach to the sport and life and you end up learning so much. We, the PaceMakers, are truly a blessed bunch of athletes.

FM: To be able to pursue your passion, you need the complete support of your family members? How has your family coped with this change?

Ranjini: All this would never have been possible without the rock in my life – my husband – Shri. Senthilkumar. In fact, when I first told him I was interested in running way back in 2012, he put me on to his friend who was a part of the Dream Runners running group in Chennai. That’s where it all began. Being a nuclear family with very young kids at home it was an uphill task but together, we held our ground. He knew that this made me a happier individual. I made a lot of new friends. My outlook towards life changed. So, it’s worth every sacrifice.

I come from a world where I was questioned as to why I need to run post having two kids and a family, running is bad for your knees, for how long would I be running this way, etc. However, as I managed to cope with running, without compromising on the needs of my family, over the years, I’ve seen a change in the attitudes of the large family members. Now they completely motivate me and support me in my journey.

FM: What kind of training schedules and diet plan do you follow?

Ranjini: I always plan my running calendar well in advance. All the key races are planned and in between the year, I try to do a couple of races as time trials for the main event. My training plan will follow this structure. The beginning of my running calendar, I always train for shorter distances (10km runs). Somewhere mid-year move on to half marathons and I like to peak my running calendar with marathons at the end of the season.

With regards to the diet, I don’t specifically follow any single diet plan. However, I am mindful of what I eat and the portion size of how much I eat. I include a lot of vegetables and fruits in my diet.

FM: The first amateur woman runner from India to have completed the Berlin Marathon. How did you prepare for this race? Describe your experience of the race from start to finish?

Ranjini: Berlin Marathon 2016 was the first world major I did. I diligently trained for this event for 4 months. I was at that time trying to get a Boston qualification time for my age category with a goal of 3:35 in mind. The race, however, went much better than planned and I finished as the first Indian woman to cross the finish line that year. Till date my timing in Berlin Marathon 3:28:58 stands as my personal best for the distance.  Berlin was the first international race, it was an experience by itself. The crowd support and the cheering squads throughout the course, the well laid out hydration stations, the perfect weather conditions, the flat course, the plethora of runners from different countries and it was a first-time experience for me and I enjoyed every bit of it. This race is also very special for me as I had my coach run the distance with me. The body and mind were in sync on that day and by the grace of God and good wishes from family and friends, everything just fell in place.

FM: You qualified for the Boston Marathon. Did you eventually run it?

Ranjini: Though I did qualify for the Boston Marathon 2018 with my Berlin Marathon time, I was unable to run the event as I was battling an injury and was not well trained to give the event my best shot. My registration was done and tickets were booked but I forfeited all of it. To toe, the line without adequate training or when not physically fit is not my type. For me The Boston Marathon is sacrosanct. When I run it, I intend to run it well, not just get a tick off my bucket list.

FM: An ACE-certified fitness coach yourself, what is the specific training plan you follow for amateur runners?

Ranjini: It was my aspiration to someday become capable enough to coach people and help them with their fitness journey. That lead me to pursue my ACE fitness certification and start Rungenie fitness. My forte is strength training. I truly believe that if one is fit, one can play any sport or carry out the routine activities of life more efficiently. Today, I train and help people perform to their potential and achieve their fitness goals be it in running or any other sports. The training plans for my clients are devised based on their fitness requirements and considering the demands of their lifestyle.

FM: How have all these years of running transformed you?

Ranjini: Running to me is freedom. It’s a time when I am in the present and I live the moment. Right from learning how to balance home and my passion, how to plan and prepare my day well in advance, how to inculcate good and clean eating habits, how to prioritize health and wellness, how to take things in your stride, how to be mentally strong – running has taught me this and so much more.

FM: What is your advice to a lot of women out there who haven’t yet taken to leading a fit and healthy lifestyle?

Ranjini: There has been a surge in the number of runners taking up the sport over the years. However, the ratio of men to women is still skewed towards men. My submission to women would be to start prioritizing on your health and well-being. Only a physically and mentally fit lady of the house, could be a cornerstone to the needs of her family. Start with small fitness goals. Make fitness a part of your daily routine. You owe it to yourself. We always mistake doing household chores as exercise. However, we fail to understand that through exercise these same activities of daily life could be done more efficiently. The most common excuse I get to hear when I speak to women is “I don’t have time for all this” …. well, no one does – “You need to make the time”.

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 Comments Off on Passionate Barefoot Running |

Passionate Barefoot Running

Thomas Bobby Philip approaches his running with passion and challenges himself at every turn to stay inspired, find outs Deepthi Velkur.

Thomas Bobby Philip (aka Bobby) believes that focusing on something that excites you lets you challenge yourself and achieve great things. A wonderful line from Oprah Winfrey comes to mind,

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you”.

Bobby took to running in early 2009 and soon discovered that this was his calling. He hasn’t stopped since, never missing an opportunity to learn, challenge and improve himself in the sport. He believes in sharing this knowledge and he takes great pains to inspire and influence amateur runners in the sport and help them as much as he can.

He is a strong advocate of Barefoot running ever since he took to it in 2012. A certified ChiRunning trainer, Bobby has been organizing regular workshops all over Bangalore and helps runners run efficiently and injury-free.

On a professional front, Bobby has been with Nokia for nearly 10 years and is responsible for Capability Planning and Development.

I had a chance to talk with Bobby on his running story.

FM: How did you catch the running ‘bug’?thomas bobby

Bobby: It was early 2009 and my daughter had her school sports event that she was participating in. To help her prepare for the event, we started running together around my layout.

I’ll be honest – I have never been into sports before this, so I had to take it slow.

Initially, we started off with 200M on day 1, 300M on day 2, 300M twice on day 3 and so on. We gradually progressed and in about 7 days I could see a vast improvement in myself. I didn’t have a proper running shoe at that point and just ran in whatever shambles I was in. That’s the start to my running journey and I have never looked back since.

FM: You graduated from running your first 10k to HM and finally FM in 2 years’ time. How did you go ahead with your training and increase your distance with each event?

Bobby: I realized running was my passion because it gave me immense happiness. I decided to do something about it. The first step – get a good pair of shoes.

At the Nike store, the people introduced me to this club called the Nike Run Club. When I started training there, I was under the guidance of a professional certified coach who introduced me to the concept of warming up, how to run, how to strengthen myself, how to cool down and other basic techniques.

With their proper guidance, I ran my first Sunfeast 10K in 2009. I gradually progressed from a 10K to do my 1st half marathon in Chennai the same year. With 1.5 years of continuous training, I progressed to my first full marathon in 2011 at the SCMM (Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon). I was in no hurry to rush things and took more than a year to gradually build my base miles and physical strength by doing 2 HM’s and many 10k’s. My FM was a success and personally a great achievement too as I finished it in 3hrs 49mins.

FM: How has being part of a running group shaped you as a runner and achieve what you have today?

Bobby: I think what is most important is to train under a coach whether your part of a running group or training alone. This gives you an opportunity to learn the correct method of training, a person you could consult with, learn and get an expert opinion on various training techniques.

I used to train at the Nike Run Club under a certified coach – Mr.Beedu who helped me in a lot of ways and used to train us well. I then joined the PaceMakers where I was and still am under the guidance of a very matured and experienced coach, Kothandapani. He introduced me to the scientific method of training where we are given a training plan and we need to ensure that we followed it to the T. The training plan included a mix of workouts – interval, tempo, hill runs, fartleks. A combination of all of this makes you stronger and a better runner.

Being a part of a running group is great as we train together, support and compete against each other while we continue to learn and benefit from each other’s strengths. That’s the great camaraderie shared when you’re a part of a running group.

FM: Do you think having the right coach/mentor/guide makes all the difference to your training and performance?

Bobby: Yes, Absolutely! In fact, I strongly recommend that everybody trains under a coach/guide/mentor whatever you’d like to call it. It gives a whole new dimension to your running and moulds you as a runner.

FM: You are the first Indian to complete the Boston Marathon barefoot. Why did you choose to run barefoot?

Bobby: In 2012, I transitioned to running barefoot. I personally found that it worked well for me. I did my first 10k barefoot in 2012 followed by my first HM and later a 50K. It was a success to a point where I felt that running with shoes became a discomfort and uneasy.

In 2015, when I decided to run the Boston Marathon, I had to run barefoot as I had no choice as this was the only method I could follow. It made the run difficult due to the harsh weather conditions. I also wanted to show the world that running barefoot is normal as in the western world running barefoot is perceived as something abnormal and new to them. It was a bit of a shock for them to imagine someone walking barefoot and to top it all running barefoot too. I had people come and ask me if I have never worn a shoe before. (chuckles)

Since then whenever I travel internationally, I am barefoot especially when I’m travelling alone.

Its human to be barefoot, in fact, the entire universe is barefoot. It’s just that someone invented a shoe and we are literally bombed with shoes on our feet.

FM: What changes did you make to your training plan to be able to run barefoot?

Bobby: Honestly, there is no specific training plan as such to be followed. But I would say there is a transition process involved to be able to run barefoot. It does take time and you need to be patient as this time period could vary from person to person which could be a few weeks to over a year in some cases.

Every individual is diverse based on their past experience, background, levels of fitness and one needs to identify what works best for them. For e.g. Milind Soman took almost 1.5 years to transition to barefoot running before he did his first HM as he wanted to ensure nothing went wrong in the process, while I know a couple of runners who ran over 20kms barefoot in their very first attempt.

I could have never imagined running barefoot at the first instance. I know for sure I would have got blisters which I was close to getting. I made sure I was gradual in my transitioning process and wanted to slowly add up my barefoot mileage.

A common injury that one might face is the top of the foot pain (TOFP) which causes a slight swelling on the feet and pain in the calves. These are some of the pain areas that the body has to get used to and basic strengthening of the body is also key here.

FM: What variation elements do you add to your training routine to make it wholesome?

Bobby: Firstly, there are a lot of variations in training and secondly, I introduce physical fitness workouts into my training. Apart from these, there are other factors such as nutrition, having a positive attitude and mental strength.  All of these put together is one complete package. I also get regular deep tissue massages and give good recovery time for the body.

FM: You achieved your first podium at the Bangalore Ultra (37.5K) 2010 and have been on the podium ever since? What does it take to be so successful?

Bobby: It’s all about disciplined training and the guidance of a good coach. That’s the differentiating factor.

First, I think it’s very important to train right which helps to minimize the injuries. Second, I had an immense passion for the sport and spent enough time on the sport to train myself regularly and be disciplined than many other runners. I was considered the most disciplined runner at the Nike Run Club too. Hence with proper guidance and a disciplined attitude, I managed to achieve a podium in the veteran category.

FM: Consistency is the key to achieving anything in life. How have you built your pace and strength over the years?

Bobby: I totally agree with the statement. I have been training for over 9 years now and I’ve been extremely disciplined and consistent with my training. I have people ask me how do I manage to be so good – all I have to say is that I started early and we have very few runners who have this sort of experience. But the most important aspect for any runner is to continue with the same level of consistency, discipline and following a correct method of training and you will see yourself becoming better each day.

FM: Who inspires you to keep achieving pushing yourself more and more?

Bobby: Everyone who challenges themselves and competes with themselves to be better than what they were yesterday is where I draw all my inspiration from. My coach has and is still my biggest inspiration/role model. Within our running group, we have a lot of runners who are not as good as me, but I see them working very hard to improve themselves and be better. It’s wonderful to watch and learn from such people.

FM: What are your running goals for 2019?

Bobby: In general, I would like to be consistent in my performance throughout the year. My performances have already hit the peak for e.g. I do an FM under sub-3 hours and I’d like to maintain myself at those levels which is a challenging task in itself. I don’t really set crazy goals for myself. Many people like to do a higher mileage like the ultra-distances. To be frank, I don’t have such aspiration as I prefer more intensity workouts/runs such as the faster 5k, 10k and HM’s and try and do at least one FM in a year.

With respect to the events for 2019, I would like to take part in a lot of Procam events like the TSK, the ADHM which I haven’t done in two years now and maybe one or two cities more.

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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Khardung-La Challenge – Only for the fittest runners

Runner Upendra Tripathi talks about his experience running the Khardung-La Challenge.

The year was 2017 and I was thrilled at having completed my first Ladakh full marathon, but my mind had something else running through it – the famous Khardung-La challenge.

It was the eve of the full marathon event and the Ladakh central market was bustling with runners from all over the world. It wasn’t just the anticipation of the Ladakh FM the next day but also the runners who had just completed the Khardung-La ultra-race were milling about adding to the sense of magic in the air. You could see emotions writ all over their face – some really excited, others with a look of satisfaction and others tired and a bit disappointed.

I got talking to a few of them and their stories of the ultra-race had me intrigued but apprehensive. My first thoughts were to never ever run the Khardung-La race, but the challenge beckoned – I was curious, I wondered if I could push myself and test my limits.

Despite my apprehensions, I knew in my head that I had accepted this gruelling challenge.

So, what is the ‘The Khardung-La Challenge’

The Ladakh Marathon, an AIMS certified event is considered to be the highest and is amongst the toughest marathons in the world. Out of the 4 races in this event, the Khardung-La Challenge (5370m) is the World’s highest Ultra Marathon covering a distance of 72KM with oxygen levels at 30% lesser than the plains.

It starts at over 4000M at Khardung village and has a steep incline for 32+KM until a steep descent starts at 40KM hitting the lowest altitude of 3500 meters to reach Leh. The cut-off time for the full course is 14 hours with 4 intermediate cut-off points – Khardung-La pass (8hrs), South Pulu (10hr 30mins), Mendhak Mod (12hrs) and Leh (14hrs).

Without a shadow of doubt, this is one of the most challenging, toughest races out there that really tests the limits of human endurance.

With a dream in my heart, I take flight.

A year has gone by now and it is September 2018. My dream of completing the Khardung-La challenge has taken shape – I have trained hard, followed a balanced, nutritious diet all the while focusing on my goal in mind.

Hoping to bring it all to a fruitful conclusion, I take my flight to Leh a week ahead to acclimatize myself and get used to the conditions. I spend the week training and preparing myself – physically and mentally. A day before the event, all the runners are picked up and brought to Khardung village where we undergo blood pressure and oxygen level checkups. With everything in check and normal, I finished the hot meal offered and after carefully laying out my running gear and other essentials, I hit the sack.

It’s the final countdown.

The sound of the alarm cut through the silent, cold night and I woke up with a start. I looked for the clock and it read 1230AM. I thought to myself, “who sets an alarm for this godforsaken hour?”. I assumed it was a mistake so imagine my surprise when I noticed the other 3 guys in the room waking up and putting on their thermal jackets. I jumped up in bed and made my way through the dimly-lit room to my running gear so that I could get ready. With the cold breeze howling outside, the hot drinking water and tea provided by the landlady was an absolute luxury.

The hot beverage woke me up and it finally sunk in that I was at Khardung village about to take on the famous Khardung-La race. I had to be at breakfast by 2 AM so I rushed about, finished breakfast and headed to the start line for a roll call by 230AM. The route recce director then briefed us on the route, the expected weather conditions, the availability of water and aid stations etc.

The anticipation was building up inside of me and I couldn’t wait for flag-off.

A dream come true

0259AM – All the training, all my sacrifices over the past year, all my dedication came down to this. In 1 minute, I was about to embark on one of my biggest challenges in life. I was ready!

0300AM – and we’re off! As soon as the whistle blows, all the runners clad in their multi-layered gear start off but within a kilometre, a large section of them have started walking barring the local Ladakhi and elite runners who seem to have adjusted to the altitude very well.

I soldiered on braving the elements and the fatigue but as I was nearing the 5KM mark, it got a whole lot worse – it started raining and then very quickly began to snow as well. The road being tar got very slippery with this deadly mix of rain and snow and as if that wasn’t enough, it was accompanied by a bone-chilling wind that lasted for hours. With the temperature dropping, my mind wandered off a bit and I started wondering ‘what on earth was I doing up here’?

Banishing those thoughts, I set myself a goal – get to Khardung-La pass (the first intermediate stop) because something good awaited the runners – hot garlic and coriander soup! In this weather and these conditions, a bowl of soup is a godsend and after a continuous incline of 32KM, nothing works better. The good thing was once we got up there, the weather improved, and we could see the sun coming out too.

All recharged, I then turned my attention to the next stage of the race – the 40KM decline. It sounded easy enough, but the reality was different. After a 32KM constant incline, my legs were like jelly and I considered several times of quitting the race and taking the mobile van back to Leh, but I didn’t.

Every time the thought of quitting came to mind, I looked back at the past year, my family, the sacrifices – NO, I decided – I cannot quit!

Summoning all the grit and will power I had, I pushed myself even more and was proud to have reached the finish line in 12 hours 30mins.

That indescribable feeling.

The sense of relief and achievement is something that I cannot describe. As I received my finisher’s medal, a sense of pride filled me and I was over-the-moon at making my dream come true.

The race itself is organized brilliantly and Motup (Chewang), the race director deserves a lot of appreciation for planning it so well. The crowd support in Leh was amazing and each one of the runners received an ecstatic ovation.

Looking back, I realized that everyone who finished that race is a winner.

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

A senior management Leader with a leading Semi-Conductor company, Upendra Tripathi((aka Upen) has achieved running accolades in 3 years what most of us will probably not achieve in our lifetime.

 

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Runner dreams – Sudha Singh

Capt Seshadri profile prolific runner, Sudha Singh, the national record holder in the steeplechase.

Early on a cool Mumbai morning, a host of Indian and international athletes lined up at the start line for the Tata Mumbai Marathon 2019, in what has become the foremost long-distance running event in the country. The Kenyans and the Ethiopians, both men and women, were being keenly watched, with high expectations from the recognised leaders. Foremost among the Indian women was an athlete more famous for her steeplechase wins than marathons.

Sudha Singh was born on June 25, 1986. A national record holder in the 3000 m steeplechase, her foray into the international arena began in 2005. It took five long years of hard work, intense training and perseverance before she broke through to dominate the Asian track scene in the steeplechase with gold medals in 2010 in Guangzhou and 2017 in Bhubaneswar and silver at Jakarta in 2018. Her Guangzhou win was historic in that it debuted in an Asian Games, making her the first winner of the title. Qualifying for the Olympics in 2012 she was unable to make the finals, being pitted against an array of experienced international athletes. In 2016, the year in which she ran her maiden Olympic marathon at Rio de Janeiro, she returned with swine flu, which laid her low for the rest of the season.

A fresh start under new coaches Lalit Bhanot and Renu Kohli, fetched her the silver in the 3000 m at the Jakarta Asiad in 2018, despite having been virtually written off as ‘too old for the event’. The next trophy in her showcase was a silver among the Indian women at the Tata Steel Kolkata 25k, which she ran in an impressive 1:29:11.

Her sights were now firmly set on the marathon at the IAAF World Championships in Doha, for which the qualifying mark had been set at 2:37:00. On January 20, 2019, at the 16th edition of the Tata Mumbai Marathon, Sudha ran the race of her life to a gold among the Indian women, in a course record timing of 2:34:56, also her personal best, making the cut for Doha, with plenty of time to spare. Powering to victory, she was far ahead of her nearest Indian rivals and even beating a few elite runners from the heart of Africa.

This champion woman athlete was recognised for her golden achievements by the Government of India, with the prestigious Arjuna Award in 2012.

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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Understanding why runners collapse and how to avoid it

Understanding why runners collapse at marathons, Brijesh Gajera writes about how you can avoid it.

My marathon dreams really took flight after my first Mumbai Marathon in 2011. That year, there were 964 finishers and when I completed my 5th consecutive Mumbai run in 2015, that number had grown exponentially to 3107. Four years on and the numbers have doubled again with 2019 seeing a record of 6722 runners earning the coveted finisher’s medal.

The number of aspiring marathoners keeps increasing year on year, not just with the Mumbai Marathon, but also across other marathons in the country. This is a very promising sign and bodes well for the health of current and future generations.

On the flip side, there is a rather disturbing statistic that is also creeping up. In the 2019 Mumbai Marathon, 3226 runners needed medical assistance mostly to do with dehydration and muscle cramps. Furthermore, 15 of them had to be hospitalized. This is alarming and to avoid extreme cases in the future, we must try and understand how so many lives end up at risk for a seemingly recreational purpose.

It goes without saying that there lies an innate risk in pursuing an endurance activity but the more I think of it, the following reasons come to mind:

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): In this age of social media and digital lives, everyone seems to be doing crazy stuff. Take a look at any Instagram feed or Facebook posts and you will see endless adventures all perfectly choreographed and you wonder, what can I do? The image of you on social media biting down on the finisher’s medal is incentive enough for you to sign up, no matter what your physical and mental conditions are at that moment.

“Carpe Diem – seize the day” is what we tell ourselves but what we don’t realize is that to be able to do that well, you need to invest hours of hard work, dedication and strong will.

Overconfidence: Have you ever noticed that when you are sitting next to a driver in the car, you hold on to the edge of the seat if you notice rash driving but when you are in the driver’s seat, the same speed or rashness no longer feels risky. That’s the problem with our being – we become supremely confident when it comes to measuring our own abilities. The same applies to marathon training where you consider 3 months of training to be sufficient compared to others who take about 6 months to train because you feel I’m gifted or I used to run during my childhood days or I’m a natural athlete or well, it’s me…I can do it.

Ecstasy: Really? You ask. The race day euphoria and excitement can be a great booster but it can also fool one into going astray. You end up doing silly things like chasing a very aggressive target or ignoring your own race plan.

So how do you avoid being part of that disturbing statistic if you have already signed up for a race?

Start Slow: The proverbial hare in the ‘Hare and the Tortoise’ story started off fast and then rested under a tree feeling overconfident that the tortoise is never going to catch up. The modern-day marathon hares end up in the medical tents. Rookies and sometimes even the experienced runners – start out too fast. Feeling fresh is no sign to go fast, especially when you have to cover a daunting distance of 42.195 km. Instead start slow, ease yourself into running, get into a nice rhythm and save your energies for the second half of the race.

Keep Multiple Targets: Many things can go wrong on race day and factors which are not in your control: weather, overcrowded streets, tummy ache, hydration and what not. What is in your control is to be flexible and prepare yourself to brace the conditions. Having multiple targets help. You can start with your slowest target (remember the first commandment – start slow). As the race progresses, you can take the call whether to go for one of your faster targets or settle for the slower one.

Let Your Training Guide You: Given you have trained for the race, how your race goes is mostly decided by how well you have trained yourself. A wise friend of mine never fails to repeat the golden words – you run your race in training. Your training should give you a reasonable estimate of what you can target and more importantly, what you cannot.

At the end of a marathon, you sure want to collect the medal on your own and want to hug your friends and family members and celebrate your success. Be wise and meet them on your two legs, not on the stretcher.

 

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

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

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