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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Motivation Comments Off on Health, Fitness and Happiness |

Health, Fitness and Happiness

Ajay Singh Sethi a Reebok certified trainer and Barefoot exercise specialist talks to Deepthi Velkur about how he wants to help people live a lifetime of health, fitness and happiness.

“Formal education will make you a living. Self-education will make you a fortune” – Jim Rohn.

Ajay Singh Sethi is hugely inspired by Jim Rohn and believes continuous self-learning helps you achieve greater individual success as well as coach and inspire others.

An MBA graduate from XLRI, Jamshedpur, Ajay traded in his promising corporate life for one that inspires and helps others stay active and healthy.

A Reebok Certified Trainer, Barefoot Exercise Specialist (L2), EBFA USA, Certified Rehab Trainer, Kettle Bell Instructor, 24FIT Master Trainer and a Running Coach to name a few, Ajay hopes to bring Kota on the world map of Ultra Running with his flagship event Chambal Challenge (www.chambalchallenge.com) and take his 24FIT Coach education program nationwide to help people live a lifetime of health, fitness and happiness.

FM: From playing sports at the national level to running, what was the trigger to switch to long-distance running?

Ajay: To be honest, it wasn’t a well-planned or thought out decision. I was hoping to be a professional basketball player but unfortunately, injuries cut that dream short.

With a management degree from XLRI and a promising corporate career with Tata Steel, it appeared that I had my life all sorted out, but I wanted more. I wanted a more dynamic, active engagement with people where I could make a difference.

I decided to make a change – leaving my well-paid job of 8 years behind, I moved to Kota, Rajasthan and started Inshape, a lifestyle-based fitness facility in October 1995.

Building on my many years of hard work and training helped me achieve my dream of playing at the National level, I wanted to give something back and build a sporting culture in the city. Back then, not many people were inclined towards fitness or sports and there was no running culture at all. I used to run a couple of times a week, had a few friends join in and an informal group called Inshape Runner’s Club evolved naturally.

Initially, I promoted running to connect people to fitness as a way of life. With a background in sports, I knew that physical activity creates self-awareness and with effort, we could also remove self-doubt. I soon realized that every time we ran longer distances it was like breaking a mental barrier which got me to train and promote longer distances to make people mentally tough and overcome self-imposed limitations.

Personally, I had no fascination to run long distances but as a coach, I needed to lead by example. As a result, I participated and completed my first SCMM in 2004 along with 6 others from our little group. Since then the SCMM (now TMM) and ADHM have become almost a ritual for us.

FM: You brought about a running culture in Kota, Jaipur. How did you achieve this?

Ajay: Persistence – that was the key. I think if you stick and pursue an idea with a single focus, anything is possible. I didn’t get into running or promote running to get something out of it. Even when a large majority of the people had a different take on running, it didn’t deter me and I kept on pushing and gradually people realized for themselves the benefits running had on them.

FM: What are the highlights of your running career so far?

Ajay: I didn’t get into running for a career or to prove how accomplished a sportsman I am. I think I just ran to make people run and help them discover the joy of being physically active – the distances just followed.

So far, I have completed 18+ official Half and Full Marathons that include ADHM, SCMM and Leh Marathon. The longest distance I have run is 63KM.

I saw running as a community sport rather than a competitive sport. I believe the whole concept of PB and fast finishes in long distance running is nothing more than a self-serving, ego-boosting tool that pushes people in the wrong direction. Running isn’t boxing or wrestling where you win by knocking the other person down. I believe distance running is a sport that breaks down ego and makes a person humble. I promote running as a community sport where everybody wins.

FM: When did you think of opening up your own fitness center-Inshape?

Ajay: Multiple recurring injuries limited my growth as an athlete. After having finished my post-graduation in MBA like most young MBA’s I was aspiring to climb the corporate success ladder until one day when I asked myself this question- What is the one thing I would like to do for the rest of my life even if I didn’t get paid? This changed the direction of my life. I realized that it had to be something to do with fitness and sports.

In 1991, I joined the Corporate Wellness initiative in Tata Steel and became a visiting faculty in Tata Management Development Center talking about exercise and nutrition. The more I learned the clearer it became about what I wanted to do. I could trace back reasons for many of my injuries to the lack of professional help in my early sporting days. There were few gyms but there wasn’t any facility that was training people for lifetime health, fitness and happiness. In 1994, when 2 of my close friends quit and decided to go to the US I decided to go back to my home city Kota and start Inshape. I had a clear purpose ‘to make an appreciable difference in people’s quality of life’.

FM: Take us through the different training programs available at your centre?

Ajay: Our programs are designed in 3 categories i.e. Health, Fitness and Performance.

Health programs are typically designed for individuals with weight and mobility issues. Fitness programs are designed for people who want to be more active and fit. Lastly, people who want to maximize performance i.e. bodybuilding, modelling, body transformation to running a marathon or triathlon. We have a few people who come with very clear and specific goals on what they want to be trained for. We also conduct group classes like Zumba, Step Aerobics, Floor Aerobics, Flexible Strength, Kettlebell, etc. catering to various interests’ groups.

FM: Considering the varied group of trainees, building customized plans must be a challenge. How do you handle this?

Ajay: Being a certified group exercising instructor this was easy. I follow an annual training calendar for my running club members that lasts from March-November. I always design the training keeping in mind the lowest denominator i.e. the newest person in the group. At the start, I put runner’s through a series of assessment runs to determine their current level and based on that I put them into different groups. Those who are regular, get to know their levels as well as paces and then it’s easy to instruct them. I also conduct running clinics from time to time to educate runners about what they are going through. Those who join the running sessions in between get aligned automatically with others who are more experienced. Also, since I promote running as a community sport not many runners come to get a customized training plan or with the objective of pursuing running as a career.

FM: How do you assess to check if you have achieved the results at the end of every program?

Ajay: It’s simple. I believe everything that can be measured can be improved. Tracking various parameters show us if we have been able to deliver the right results.

People in the health program go through body composition assessments and these parameters (fat percentage, BMI, Height-Weight Ratio etc.) can be tracked on weekly basis.

In Fitness Programs, we primarily assess 4 points: Flexibility, Mobility, Strength and Endurance.

In Performance-based programs assessment runs deeper and wider and includes an 8-point screening methodology i.e. Flexibility, Mobility, Stability, Strength, Endurance, Speed, Power and Agility. Each of these parameters can be tested and improved.

FM: How do you ensure your trainees stay injury-free?

Ajay: This is one area where I feel a lot more needs to be done. I try to educate them and train them to be better athletes rather than for a particular race or an event (since most are not professional runners).

I think it has more to do with people than the coach today. Most people want too much too soon and they are in a hurry to run more races or long distances in a short period of time without understanding the principles of adaptation and progression. Those who trust us and listen are the ones who go further and long, others learn the hard way by getting injured.

FM: What according to you makes a good coach/trainer/mentor?

Ajay: The one who practices what he teaches. Formal education is important too but a good coach should continue to learn by self-education and only by applying that can he become knowledgeable. All this goes to waste if you truly don’t care about people. I learned from my mentor Jim Rohn that “people don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.”

FM: How do you keep your runners motivated to show up for training and assist them in achieving their goals?

 Ajay: In my fitness centres as well as the running club I follow a 4-point approach. Inspire, Engage, Connect and Enrich. I inspire people through others results, engage them through goal setting and structured program, connect them with others who are already following the program and lastly enrich them through unique lasting experiences through various events and activities.

FM: What got you to conceptualize an event like Chambal Challenge?

Ajay: Deep within me there always is a desire to go beyond, to do better than my previous best. I believe that this desire is there within everyone. I wanted to challenge people to act on this desire and attempt something they haven’t tried before or are not sure about. The distinct topography of Chambal Valley and the terrain of Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve gave me a perfect setting to create this event. You put together a road run, a trail run, uphill and downhill into one long run and attach spectacular view of Chambal river, reserve forest, and a bird century, you have Chambal Challenge. Chambal Challenge is a dare to runners to test their skill, strategy as well as attitude. I believe these attributes will help a person go beyond running as well as in life.

FM: What is your message for the amateur runners of today?

Ajay: Run because we are born to run but remember so are we born to lift, shift, push, pull, carry, climb and jump. So why limit yourself when you have unlimited genetic potential.

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 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 Fit Girl India |

Fit Girl India

Meet Ayesha Billimoria, athlete, the new age fitness icon and one of the leading fitness and nutrition influencers, who speaks to Nandini Reddy about her fitness philosophy.

Ayesha Billimoria is a track athlete, captain of the Adidas Runners in Mumbai and is leading a project, Fitgirl to empower women in athletic sports. Billimoria coaches runners for marathons and this three-time 400m national champion has been keeping her dream alive of running for India in the Olympics for over 15 years.

Ayesha Billimoria’s relationship with sports and fitness started at the age of 11 and from age 14 she has been a professional athlete. Her influence can be seen on the popular social image sharing site, Instagram, where Ayesha commands a formidable following. Here are a few excerpts from the interview.

How young were you when you fell in love with fitness?

I don’t believe in falling in love. Because those who fall in, fall out very quickly. I have enjoyed growing in love with athletics since the age of 11.

You are a powerful fitness influencer, what are the pros and cons of this responsibility

The pros of being a fitness influencer are that we get to touch thousands of hearts in a positive way. Cons – everyone likes to pounce on us for the slightest of tiniest of mistakes.

How have you overcome struggles like injuries? I ask because these are the points were people get most demotivated?

Yes, tons of injuries in my entire 22 years of running professionally and as an amateur. It depends from person to person and what their motivation is. For me it is mega, and that makes me want to wake up every single day with the same passion and energy.

What are your hoping to achieve with Fit Girl India?

A stronger and fitter society. mentally, emotionally and physically.

Do you feel running is empowering as a sport?

100% I think the best gift one can give a child is the gift of running. It not only gives you the confidence but the courage to think for yourself.

Nutrition is the most important factor in fitness. Do you believe that and what is your nutrition mantra?

New age comes with new drama. but no doubts there that good healthy food is essential for good performance and injury recovery. Nonetheless, we still won national medals with basic home food 🙂

How important is it to work with a coach? Is it only for the elites or do amateurs also need them?

MOST IMPORTANT! Just how we need a doctor when we are ill. The same goes for running. Those who try to do it on their own, often fail. I am the best example of that.

You had participated in the 100 days of running challenge – is such a task advisable or is it an extreme form of fitness?

I did not participate in the 100 days of running, I only represent the company that partners with this initiative. It is misguided information on the internet. And no I do not recommend this to anyone. Absurdity in the name of running, is driving this country crazy.

What is your ultimate dream as an athlete

It always and will be to represent India at the Olympic games.

Your words of advice to anyone getting into fitness

Relax and Enjoy it. Life is not a race. Breathe every moment and enjoy the process of physical and mental evolution.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

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

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Nutrition Comments Off on Foodies, Fitness & Conscious Consumption |

Foodies, Fitness & Conscious Consumption

Runner and Guest Columnist Anjana talks about food, fitness and the art of conscious eating. 

“So many fit aunties and uncles killing it in the gym these days no ?”, between bites, the conversation continues. Before you know it the plate is empty and you’re hankering for another bite of this or another piece of that. All too often the extra is waiting right in front of you to serve yourself. You add a guilty portion onto your plate and respond, “Exactly, so many more options for fitness now than in our parent’s generation. Such a good thing…”.

Every meal, everything we eat has a psychological satisfaction value. Let us call it the Satisfaction or S-index with 0 being, “didn’t even notice I consumed it” to 10 being, “enjoyed it with every fibre of my being and felt alive as every morsel hit my taste buds”. It is appealing to consider that our every meal could have an S-index of 10.

India is a foodie country and most Indian festivals revolve around food. This means that often the food itself will make us pause our conversations and optimize our S-index. However, India is also a very social culture, which means that food is seldom consumed alone. When there isn’t company, a laptop, reading material, the phone or other distractions accompany the meal. This dichotomy sets us up to consistently consume calories on the low end of the S-index. We often eat unconsciously and don’t make the most of our meals.

Consider how quickly pani-puri goes. If you’re one of two or three or the only one at a golgappa counter, it’s a matter of seconds before a round is over. If you go with friends or don’t pay attention, what you’re left with is the anticipation of having pani-puri, the satisfaction of having had it, but not the actual joy of eating it. The puri bursting inside your mouth and filling it with delicious pani, is exactly the experience that the modern food science of spherification holds as its holy grail. We take it for granted and are so familiar with it that we hardly pay attention.

In order to elevate our S-index of every meal, we must plan to eat alone, and truly alone without distractions. A prayer or meditation before a meal can help us focus on the experience and optimize our enjoyment. We must eat slowly and consciously allowing every texture, temperature and flavour to fill our senses. Unless you have a strong belief against water during a meal, use it to cleanse the palate after every bite, to experience each bite anew. Pay attention to how your body responds to the food. Pay attention to the portion size you need. S for Savor, S for Slow, S for Silence, S for Satisfied. You will eat less, enjoy your food more and refine your palate in the process.

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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Featured Comments Off on Running and Giving |

Running and Giving

Guest Columnist Tarun Walecha talks about how running introduced him to sharing his passion with others and supporting them. 

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”…Winston Churchill

Our lives are a constant evolution driven by our experiences and our passion. Our circumstances drive us, and our intent keeps firing up the desire to evolve into the individual we see ourselves as. Running happened to me in the similar course of life, though I must admit I had no clue of where it would take me eventually. An extension of fitness regime would go on to become a pivoted gear of my thought process and being, was something I could not even fathom even in my most lateral imagination.

RUNXTREME: The beginning

When I started running in 2011, often I was left for the want of company. Therefore, either I had to run solo or drive up long distance for a tiny run that I could manage. Facebook groups weren’t as prevalent, and those available weren’t as active. Four years of hopping around, running with various groups and partners I wasn’t able to find a steady, bankable and invigorating company. That is when, along with some like minded running buddies I thought of forming a running group of our own, we called it RUNXTREME and we wanted it to be the first source of any running related information a new runner may need. We wanted it to be easily reachable source for every aspiring runner… for all the hand holding they may need,  abate their anxieties, run along when they need and share all one can, so they could move up the ladder fast and not meander in the path.

RUNXTREME is in its fourth year already, needless to say I’m more that happy about the way it has evolved as a group. Not just for others, but it has also been instrumental in giving me a direction of where I want my life to be, and how running can be a driving force for the same. In 2016, while I was going through a turbulent phase, embroiled in the labyrinth of my thoughts, trying to find a purposeful headway with running.

Share & Care

I discovered Share & Care. As a part of that initiative, I decided to run 7 Half Marathons distance runs, on 7 consecutive days, in different parts of Delhi NCR. The aim was not to prove my physical prowess, but to create awareness for fitness and raise support for budding athletes from marginalised section of society. The support I got from the entire running community was overwhelming and only compelled me to repeat the same in 2017 in a bigger way. While that journey continues to be evolved as does my search for the way forward, a chance encounter with kids cycling on a Sunday morning, incited the thought of pushing the envelope. Instead of waiting for an annual extravaganza I wanted to do this year long.

A little bit of prodding my own thoughts and looking around took me to NAZ FOUNDATION (INDIA) TRUST, where I got to spend some time with the children they train, not only to become sports person but better, confident and self-assured individual through the medium of sports. What matters is that it doesn’t just end at a park game for the kids, over period of time NAZ FOUNDATION has actually formed a national level league for these kids. A Net Ball tournament which happens at district level, then state and eventually culminates into a national level competition. This entire journey from playing in their backyards to the expanse of a sports arena can itself widen their perspective to life, let alone the confidence and trust in themselves that they gain. Whether they turn up to be national sports champions or not becomes secondary against the new life that this entire process opens up to them. This seemed to be a logical progression where our group could foresee an integration and join them to be a part of this inspiring journey.

Running Charity

With the support of my fellow team mates, and the entire RUNXTRME community, we have decided to make their dream ours, and support NAZ FAOUNDATION in this endeavour. As we head into the running season, with the biggest run of the country ADHM approaching us, we would be raising funds for them so that could move ahead on this path unencumbered. With the help of friends and acquaintances, whom we shall urge to contribute towards this, it’s not the money that we will be offering…it’s a belief that we will reinstate, it’s courage to dream that we will instill.

I wish, hope and believe, this step towards supporting NAZ FOUNDATION at ADHM would only be a beginning of many more dreams to be realized.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

An architect by profession, Tarun Walecha enjoys amateur photography, travelling and is a sports enthusiast. He has been a sportsperson all his life and discovered running at the age of 40 and has since become his fitness mantra. In his 7 year running career he has completed 30 Half Marathons, 4 Full Marathon, and 5 Trail/Ultra Runs. He is also a Pinkathon ambassador and has founded the running group, RunXtreme.

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Nutrition Comments Off on Foods Runners should Avoid |

Foods Runners should Avoid

If you want to improve your running performance there are certain foods that you need to exclude from your diet, writes Nandini Reddy.

Food is the fuel that helps us achieve our running goals. Then we need to have only high quality fuel in order to get the best performance. The right food promotes better recovery and provides the right kind of energy to improve running performance.

There are certain foods that we eat without considering the effect they might have on our body. The wrong food means inadequate repair and longer recovery periods. It could also mean that you would get certain muscle related injuries. If you are looking to achieve the best performance while you run then here are certain foods that you should keep out of your diet.

High Sugar Foods

High sugar foods are never healthy. You may feel that it is necessary to boost your energy but you can avoid the cakes and cookies. Energy need not come directly from eating high sugar foods. You can get energy even from complex carbohydrates like whole grains.

Oily & Fried Foods

Fried food is a definite no-no when it comes to a good diet. Another thing to remember is many of us consume too much oil without realising that our regular food. If oil can be seen in the food you cooked even at home, it means its not healthy for you. Use oil prudently and you will be able to enjoy your food always. Fried foods and oily foods also take longer to digest and can create gastrointestinal distress.

Sugary Sodas

Caramel coloured bubbly sodas may be momentarily satisfying but can also lead to dehydration and increased sugar cravings. They do not really satisfy your thirst. These can be hard on your stomach and can derail your training energy. So for these drinks instead of moderation, you can just clean avoid them.

Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose need to be strictly avoided. They can lead to dehydration and increase sugar cravings. These sweeteners are also known to cause weight gain. These sweeteners also tend to confuse the body signals about insulin and it is never a good idea to do that.

Full fat Diary

Full fat diary is a good consideration if you want to grain weight. If you want to lose weight and feel lighter then its not a great option to include in your diet. If you like your glass of milk then look for those that are 3% fat or less. You can also choose alternatives like rice milk and nut milk.

Alcohol

With alcohol its not about elimination but moderation. Having too much can cause slowed reaction times and dehydration and thus leading to decrease in performance. But before the race you need to definitely avoid alcohol of any sort including beer. You can consider beer for a celebratory drink after your finish the big race.

White grains

White grains are not high in fibre. If you consume whole grains along with the carbohydrates you will also receive adequate fibre. A healthy gut is important to ensure that you are a good runner. White grains also tend to raise your insulin levels and that can cause your energy to plummet. Whole grains give you more lasting energy.

Processed Meat

Processed meat is high in nitrates. Increasing their intake also carried other health risks such as colon cancer but most importantly it doesn’t do anything for improving your running performance. It might seem easier to reach for a cold cut of meat instead of cooking fresh but by doing so you are severely jeopardizing you nutrition.

The key to a healthy running career is a healthy diet, so limiting or avoiding these foods will do you a whole lot of good.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

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

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Featured Comments Off on What began as ‘Fun’ turned to ‘Passion’ |

What began as ‘Fun’ turned to ‘Passion’

Deepthi Velkur talks to Shahana Zuberi who was inspired by a line she read once that said “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”

Once considered an extreme sport for athletes, the marathon has become a popular phenomenon in the last decade. Without any limits of age and preparation, people gather from all over the world to run a marathon. The most important part of a race is to cross the finish line and that does not depend on how long one takes to complete the race. Shahana Zuberi a doctor in biology from LMU, Munich and a veteran marathoner couldn’t agree with this more.

Shahana took up running for fun 3 years ago and that quickly transformed into a passion. She started her journey as a runner by taking part in different long-distance races such as 10km races and half marathons. While juggling her time between taking care of her little son and managing a Multi Sports activity center for young enthusiasts between the age group 2.5 to 8 years, she never misses out on her own run.

She has taken part in several long-distance races – countless 10k’s and 4 half marathons which included Bangalore Marathon, Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, and Tata Mumbai Marathon. Her personal best timing at 10k was 66:24 mins and half marathon was 2 hours 33 mins. A veteran at the TCS world 10K, she has taken up the challenge to pace 80mins bus as a pacer for the first time. She is part of the 19 member women pacer squadron. This year her goal of being a pacer is to create high energy and motivation among the members of her bus by helping them achieve their best with strength and grace. She also feels running with a pacer is very helpful since the pacers are aware of the route well and strategize\plan the race according to the elevation which helps to keep up with the energy levels until the finish line.

I caught up with Shahana to understand what keeps her running.


How long have you been running?

I have been running regularly since last 3 years. I run at least thrice a week and on an average of 35-40 Km per week. I enjoy running and ensure I keep all my long runs, at the pace that it ends strongly. This keeps me motivated and always look forward to my next long run.

What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about running? Specifically running long distances?

Running long distance always gives me a sense of achievement. After running a certain distance, we go into a trance where nothing else matters except reaching the finish line. During the easy long runs, I plan my day and strategize on how I need to finish the race. This makes me well prepared for the run.

Have you calculated how many kms you have accumulated in all your years of running?

In the last two years, I have accumulated a total of 1500 kms.

Which was your most memorable run ever? What was your favorite part?

My best run was Spirit of Wipro, 2016. This was my first run after proper training and I performed better than expected considering it was a very tough terrain.

How do you prevent yourself from getting injured with all the running you do?

It is important to remain injury free to enjoy the runs. I ensure on doing a proper warm up and cool down after the runs. Stretching is very important after run workouts. Don’t go overboard with your running. I run only thrice a week and rest of the days I do strength training. Foam rolling is another way to keep your muscles relaxed.

Being a part of the first all-woman pacer squad in the TCS world 10k marathon, what was your goal?

My goal will be to get my bus on target time to the finish line and keep everyone motivated all through the race.  

How many times have you run the TCS marathon? What brings you to run this marathon every year?

TCS World 10k is a prestigious international event. People from all over India come for open 10K and many elite runners participate in this run. This will be my third time. It has a beautiful route running through the center of the city. It feels pretty much like a city tour.

You being a veteran marathon runner, what health\safety advice would you give a fresher?

Advice will be to start slow and train well. Take care of your food habits. It is important to eat nutritious food and involve strength workout in your training.

When it comes to training, what is your schedule like? How do you break down running and strength training in preparation for a marathon?

I run thrice a week and it comprises of interval runs, tempo and long distance running. The remaining part of the week, I do strength training and any light workout like walking, swimming or cycling.

What is your special diet plan before a run? Care to share a few tips?

Well, at least an hour before the run, you can eat bread and a peanut butter sandwich. I like to eat a banana. Few dates and handful of dry fruits are good too. One should include a lot of proteins and carbohydrate in their diet. A day before the race my standard food is Aloo paratha.

During a run, what do you think about? Are you thinking about the next km, your body, or something that’s inspiring you—what is that?

During the race, I only think about the finish line. But normally as I said before, during easy runs, my mind keeps working wherein I plan my day, work and lots of other thoughts keep racing through my head.

Have you seen yourself evolve over the years of running? How would you say you’ve grown as a runner?

Yes, I have definitely evolved a lot as a runner and also as a person. My pace has improved, able to strategize better before and during the run, there has been a boost in my endurance level due to running consistently. In my personal life, running has helped improve my overall patience and also lead a disciplined life.

Shahana leaves us with these inspiring words, “Keep pushing yourself harder with a never say die attitude and you will see success come your way.”

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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Nutrition Comments Off on Gluten-free diet for runners – good or just a fad? |

Gluten-free diet for runners – good or just a fad?

Being Gluten Free is no longer a diet fad and has become a lifestyle change for many, Deepthi Velkur writes about what it means for you to go gluten free.

Gluten-free diets are gaining popularity among the fitness community. The effects of gluten-free diets may not necessarily provide the benefits many athletes hope will give them a competitive edge. Sports nutrition experts believe enhancing nutrition does not mean avoiding gluten – a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Here’s what runners need to know about going gluten-free.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a stretchy protein that is found in grains, especially in wheat. A vast majority of our gluten consumption comes from bread, pasta and baked goods. Other grains that contain gluten are barley, rye, and oats. You’ll also find gluten in ice cream, sweets, processed meats, alcoholic beverages and condiments such as soy sauce.

So should you go gluten-free?

Embracing the gluten-free diet is a medically necessary diet for individuals with celiac disease or related disorders. Celiac disease is a chronic autoimmune disease, where the body starts attacking the lining of the gut when you eat gluten. However, there are several non-celiac athletes who have cut out gluten from their diet and claim to have far fewer intestinal issues when they run, and even say that it enhances their performance.

Now, there’s no medical evidence that proves going gluten-free leads to enhanced running performance, but there is evidence of the potentially harmful effects that gluten can have in some people, for example, gluten can cause inflammation and irritation in the intestinal lining. Statistically speaking, nearly 90% of distance runners suffer from some form of digestive discomfort mostly cramps, diarrhea and bloating during or after exercise – cutting out gluten may help this issue in some runners. Other amateur runners also report they feel less brain fog, less muscle and joint aches, better sleep patterns, and more energy levels when they cut out gluten.

Is the diet workable with the Indian food plan? Yes, says a qualified nutritionist Naini Setalvad “We have many substitutes like bajra, jowar ragi, rajgira, singhada atta, white poha, kurmura and sabudana,” she explains. Food grains such as soy, quinoa, corn flour, millet, arrowroot, amaranth and rice flours all go with the gluten-free diet. Nevertheless, she warns, “If you stop dairy, as an Indian, you would feel less full”.

According to Priya Karkera, a dietitian and nutritionist expert “Milk can be replaced with almond and coconut milk and quinoa, a cereal, can be used to prepare khichdi, upma, and kheer.

Grains are an important food source of carbohydrate, which runners require to boost their training and recovery. Runners going grain-free often develop symptoms of overtraining syndrome, including persistent exhaustion and deteriorating performance.

The final word

If you’re thinking of going gluten-free, the big question is can you manage one? There is no evidence to support that this diet boosts performance. When you cut out a large food group, including food with gluten, your compromising on your health and its nutritional balance. Always consult your doctor or a health professional before changing your diet drastically.

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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