Motivation Comments Off on Don’t stop running |

Don’t stop running

Protima Tiwary speaks to Lokesh Meena who has clocked over 250 marathons since he started running in 2015. 

A government employee with a tight schedule and an interest in running, Lokesh Meena has run over 260 marathons in the USA since 2015! We caught up with him to understand how he continues to sign up for races every weekend even as a hectic career and family call for his attention.

What motivated you to take up running?

I am an employee with the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India since 2009. Before I started working, I was a regular guy who didn’t keep fitness as the main priority, but at the same time, I was considered fit enough to play cricket once in a while. From 2010-2014 I was stationed at a high altitude post at Lusaka, Zambia. The altitude made it difficult to do too many exercises. I became lazy and physically inactive, a fact that my colleagues pointed out too. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I decided to join a few colleagues who’d go for morning walks. I then got transferred to Washington D.C. where I saw how people were physically active and knew how to take care of their bodies. Fitness was a priority for everyone, and it drove me to make it mine.

Inspired by the fitness levels around me, I started running too. My first jog was out in the snow, and I covered a total distance of 0.5miles. I started jogging 2-3 times a week and made it my habit.

So…is this how you took up running? Could you please share the results that you saw.

I weighed myself after a couple of months after I started jogging and saw that I had GAINED WEIGHT. Yes, even with all the running I had managed to put on weight. That is because of my diet- I’d run, come back & eat desserts because I thought I had earned them. Seeing that weight gain demotivated me. I slowly made some diet changes and got back to running, this time longer distances. I also cut out sugar, fried and fast food from my diet.

The difference was visible within a few months. I was losing 2kgs every week! I was also running 25 miles every week, with strict diet control.

I came across an 8km race in my neighbourhood and signed up for it. This was in September 2015. I finished this race in 37minutes 57 seconds. The runners high hit me and I was ecstatic. I then started running a race every week!

So far I have run about 260+ races in the USA which includes 25 ultra- marathons, Boston Marathon, Chicago Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon (twice), Philadelphia Marathon, Rock n Roll Washington D.C, The North Face Endurance Challenge Washington D.C. being some of those.

Could you share some of your major achievements in your running career till date?

March 2, 2018, was undoubtedly the best moment in my running career when I was selected to represent India at the World Trail Championship 2018 in Spain by the Athletics Federation of India.

In June 2018, I won my first ever full Marathon, Grant-Pierce Indoor Marathon in Arlington, Virginia, the United States on June 24, 2018.  My timing was the Asian & Indian Best (confirmed by The Association of Road Racing Statisticians (ARRS)) I had set an Indian National Record and Asian Record!

I also qualified for the Boston Marathon in April 2017. It is considered to be the Olympics of amateur runners and I was stoked to find out that I had qualified.

You must have a hectic schedule. How do you find time for running?

Allow me to share one of my favourite quotes by Henry Ford -“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Running has improved my productivity. Plus I understand the importance of discipline and deadlines, and being fit helps me stay focused on the task at hand. I also have the support of a lovely wife Nirma who helps raise our three beautiful daughters. My family has been an immense source of strength and support and always encouraged me to go after my dreams.

How do you train?

I usually run with a lot of people because I feel immense joy in doing this together. For trail runs, I exercise at the gym and also go hiking and outdoor cycling. For bigger races, I usually train with a coach. I hired a coach for 10 months while I was preparing for the Boston Marathon where I ran 100 miles a week.

For training, one has got to be consistent. Strength and core training play a big role. Hills training also plays a big part as hill running builds muscle strength. I do gym strength training 3-4 times in a week.   A positive outlook about life also a key factor in running. “More importantly you cannot fake in running.”

What have been some of your greatest learnings through running?

  1. Never give up, no matter what the results say. Failure cannot dictate the rest of your days.
  2. Marathons are great teachers. Marathons make you humbler.
  3. Show up. Showing up is always the secret to success.

Any tips you’d like to share with us on how to stay strong during the race? 

Stay positive! You don’t need negative thoughts clouding your judgement Also, don’t compare yourself to anyone, you’re all running your own race. And of course, train well.

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 Devil’s Circuit Tests Your Mind Like Never Before |

Devil’s Circuit Tests Your Mind Like Never Before

Protima Tiwary just completed the toughest obstacle course, the Devil’s circuit and she shares her journey here.

As of 2019, I have been going to the gym for over a year now. Before that, I used to be a runner for almost 2 years, easily clocking in 7 km 4 times a week. I had run a handful of marathons to test my stamina and focus, but I really tested my strength? In hindsight, I feel the answer to this is no because what I did on 20th January 2019 beat all other tests that I had ever taken. This was the day I successfully completed 13 out of 15 obstacles in India’s toughest obstacle race, the Devil’s Circuit.

When I had seen the race registration details in 2018, I gave myself some time to think about it before signing up. Basically what I did was give myself enough time to lose focus and let fear take over my mind, because I did not sign up for the race last year, giving myself the reason that I could never do this. This time around things were different because I signed up without really thinking about what was going to happen. All that I knew was that I had to train and train hard. I had to see if all that gym, diet, discipline and routine was of any good. I signed up knowing this would be the ultimate test of all that I had worked from over the last few years.

After having suffered an injury in October 2017, getting back to the gym in April 2018 had been an intimidating task. I was back to lifting 5 kgs and struggling to maintain form. But over the months I slowly built strength and felt stronger than I ever had before. Signing up for the Devils Circuit required just a few rearrangements in the training plan, with a shift in focus to upper body workouts. I started 2018 with the ability to do zero pull-ups, ended it with the ability to 4 (even 5) at a stretch.

I will be honest, I didn’t let myself think about the fact that I was taking part in India’s toughest obstacle race, because I am aware of what fear does to me. I have lived a large part of my life being anxious and scared of things. This time I wanted to do things differently. The only time I actually gave a thought to the obstacles was when I was a few metres away from them. This in itself is such great progress! Working out trained my mind too, something I realised as I stayed focused on performance.

I balanced myself 15 feet high on a bar

The first obstacle required us to climb 15 feet high and then climb back down. It looked easy from the spectator stand, but I understood the intensity of this obstacle when I was halfway up the actual obstacle!  Going up on top and throwing one leg over the pole to shift your side, and then climbing back down requires a change in your centre of gravity. When this happens 15 feet high up in the air with nothing but your core to keep you stable, and that you happen to be scared of heights… Well, you know how it goes. Panic almost got the better of me. Before I threw my leg over to the other side, I wanted to shut my eyes and cry. I looked down at the mattress 15 feet below me. I said to myself- look, if you fall, you fall 15 feet on to that. You won’t get hurt but it’s better to be in control than give up. By reflex, I tightened my core and threw my leg over the pole at the top. I climbed down, happy at my performance, and jumped the last 6 feet. I ran a couple of meters before turning back to look at the obstacle and cursed loudly in celebration.

After this initial shock and adrenaline rush, I crossed the next couple of hurdles only because I had to. I mean there was no other way about it.

I froze in fear

I would have said no to the fourth one had it not been for people asking me to give it one try. This required you to jump up, hold onto a bar, pull yourself up and roll over to land on top of the obstacle. All of this was happening 12 feet in the air. Not like I had some great core strength or balance or even upper body strength to balance, but I jumped up, had a little support given to me on the back, and before I knew it I was putting my leg on the bar and rolling over to land on top. I celebrated this moment by standing there and just enjoying the view, but I also think I went wrong in doing this because I ended up looking down, got scared of the height, and literally froze on top of the obstacle for a couple of minutes. The height was intimidating.  This time there was no soft mattress to cushion my fall. If I fell, I fell 12 feet on to the ground. It took me 5 minutes to climb down because I was frozen stiff with fear. Once down I ran without looking back.

I crossed monkey bars and hanging tires, only thinking about three things: core conditioning, the centre of gravity and the fact that I had to do the obstacles because there really was no other way out of it.

My favourite obstacles were the ones in water, mostly because I love water and hate heights, which basically meant it was love versus fear for me. I crawled through trenches and did muscle ups in water without much of a problem, plus my body felt more at ease doing these movements.

I conquered a childhood fear  

I am super proud of one particular obstacle- this required us to climb a height of 10 feet and jump into the water which was 4ft deep. As a child, I have been trained to be a swimmer, but one thing they couldn’t get me to do was jump into the pool (even if it meant from the deck of the pool.) While I was climbing onto the top of this particular obstacle, I told myself “ Nope, you’re not waiting here to see what the height is like. You jump because there’s no other way to go back.” I cleared this within seconds. I landed in water prepared for all of it to come rushing up at me. I smiled while doing a muscle up to get out of this pool, proud of myself for having let love win.

I plunged into a pool filled with ice

The last obstacle deserves an elaborate mention only because I feel this is the star of all the obstacles at the race. Sliding into a pool filled with ice does not require anything other than strong grit and determination. Once again I told myself I wouldn’t stop at the top of this obstacle. I climbed up the inclined slope (slipping and getting back up twice) and immediately sat on top of the slide. I was three seconds away from the toughest, coldest slide of my life. When my body hit that ice cold water, the world stopped. My body was in shock. I remember the first emotion being panic. But once again I am extremely proud of the fact that the voice in my head asked me to keep moving, to swim through, do a muscle up even when I couldn’t feel my body and get out. This too took me a few seconds to clear. Once out, I started jogging on the spot to get some life back into my cold, numb body. I know it sounds like a simple slide into ice, but the three seconds before you hit the ice are the toughest- you either regret what you are doing, or are proud of what you have done. I wanted to celebrate all that I had achieved. Yes, I had successfully completed India’s toughest obstacle race.

Here’s what  I learnt

Honestly, this wasn’t only about physical fitness. I knew rope climbing & muscle ups required an immense amount of upper body strength, and I had prepared myself for it. There is still a long way to go, but it felt good to know that I could manage, and if life calls for some really extreme situations, I know I am physically fit enough to get out of them.

More importantly, this was about testing your mental strength. It is so easy to let panic overwhelm you, it is so easy to freeze, it is so easy to give up. I ended this race knowing that giving up or saying “I can’t do this didn’t occur to me even once” The amount of self-awareness and confidence this gives you is not something that I can put into words. All that I really know is that if your mind says you can achieve something, your body makes sure you will do it. This goes for fitness and in life. I woke up the next morning a little sore, a little bruised, but a lot happy.

If you asked me whether I would do this again, I won’t even think twice before saying YES.

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 Bruce Fordyce – The Ultra Runner |

Bruce Fordyce – The Ultra Runner

As the countdown to the Tata Mumbai Marathon 2019 begins, Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan catches up with the legendary ultra-marathoner Bruce Fordyce, an astounding 9 time champion of the Comrades.

Over a cosy chat, Bruce reveals the facets of one of the most gruelling races in the world and what made him do it.

Capt: What exactly is the Comrades all about?

Bruce: It is a run that was conceived in 1921 by Vic Clapham, a WW I veteran, to commemorate his South African colleagues killed during the war. Vic, the survivor of both the war and a 2,700 km march through the then German occupied East Africa, dedicated the event to their memory as a frontier of endurance.

Capt: Wow! That is almost a hundred years old. So how does the ‘comradeship’ work with the participants?

Bruce: That is the sad part. Many of the athletes I have run with and, in fact, most of the competitors, are sadly unaware of the legend behind the event. In fact, its constitution states its main objective as ‘celebrating mankind’s spirit over adversity’. At the end of each year’s race, the buglers play the ‘Last Post’. Unfortunately, very few seem to even recognize the tune, leave alone understand its significance as a tribute to the fallen.

Capt: That is quite sad. Still, do tell us about your experiences with the Comrades over the years.

Bruce: Well, I started as a kind of social runner in the first couple of years, but from the third year on, finding my timings improving, I got a bit more serious about it. And with my first win, there was no looking back. It can get pretty lonely; many a time there is no one near you, unlike the flatter marathons where runners bunch up together and then someone breaks out of the crowd. Here, there is no crowd, and me, especially as defending champion over the years, I had to keep looking for a contender to compete with.

Capt: This is an up and down race as I recall reading. What exactly is this?

Bruce: This has to do with running up and down from Durban to Pietermaritzburg and back. The route alternates every other year.

Capt: So which, in your opinion, is tougher? The up, or the down?

Bruce: Well, it’s obviously the same thing, but different runners look at them differently. You just don’t think about it and take it in your stride. Speaking for myself, I have fared better in the ‘up’ run, having won it 6 times against 3 of the ‘downs’.

Capt: What special preparation does the Comrades require, as opposed to normal marathons?

Bruce: It’s not much different actually. If you look at it, the Comrades is probably the oldest and the toughest ultramarathon in the world. I took each year as a project, planned the run and timings and, importantly, made sure I didn’t take too much stress in the first half.

Capt: I see that your wife Jill is accompanying you. Jill, do you normally do this? And do you run too?

Jill: Oh no. It’s not often that I accompany him. And I do run, but not to compete. Bruce does the serious running; I enjoy the 10Ks. We have travelled the world together though, and I try and make the best of my interests along the way.

Capt: And your experiences in India? With marathons and other interests?

Bruce: I see that India is becoming a big name in marathons and similar running events. I have come here several times. In fact, I brought a team down from South Africa way back in 2007; unfortunately, we did not give a great account of ourselves. But it’s great to be back and see the participation increase year after year.

Capt: Alright. Enough about running. What else do you look forward to in India? Jill, your turn now.

Jill: Oh I love this country. I would love to see a lot of wildlife, nature…

Capt: Wildlife? Hailing from Africa, the world’s safari destination?

Jill: Each country is diverse and that is what attracts me. I am also a history lover and India has so many exotic locations on offer.

Bruce: I have a deep interest in archaeology and history and India is so diverse in both. Any visit would be a bit vacant without these.

Capt: Bruce. Back to running and a final question for you. What would your message be for aspiring long distance runners?

Bruce: Long distance running is like making fine wine. It takes time, patience, and a lot of effort. You have to learn and get accustomed to the process. Yes, get used to running; running well and running controlled.

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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Training Comments Off on Understanding Zone Training |

Understanding Zone Training

Deepthi Velkur discusses the popular training method, Zone training for marathoners.

Have you ever heard about the “zone”? That term has been thrown around fairly causally nowadays but let’s try and understand what it is.

The “zone” is a state of absolute focus that assists athletes across sports to perform at their peak potential. It’s the point when your mind fully processes only the thoughts and visuals needed to help you achieve your goal.

As an athlete, we often have one recurring question – “what’s the optimum training intensity level I need to be at?”.

Let’s try and break that down to understand it better. In training, there are pre-dominantly 3 key variables – Frequency, Duration, and Intensity.

To be able to achieve your best, you need a good training plan and a good training plan needs to have an amalgamation of different workout routines – some with shorter durations but higher intensity, some with longer times but a more relaxed intensity and so on. A mixed bag really and this variation brings about greater performance improvement.

Just so you know, high-intensity workouts are designed to help you improve speed and stamina while lower intensity workouts help achieve better endurance levels and overall toughness.

All of this leads to the next question – “how do I measure the intensity of my training”?

To answer that question,  you first need to know what are training areas or intensity zones.

Intensity zones are the best indicators to show how hard your body is training during a workout.

For each of us, we have a personal resting heart rate, a minimum heart rate, and a maximum heart rate – between these values lie the different heart rate zones that correspond to the intensity of training and the benefits you reap from that training.

These heart rate zones are linked to your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds and the idea behind this type of training is to prepare your aerobic system without having to overstrain your muscular and skeleton systems.

There are different ways to identify your heart rate zones and the simplest one is to define them as percentages of your maximum heart rate.

So, how do you arrive at that magical heart rate zone?

There are various formulas to calculate your maximum heart rate(MHR). The MAF method promotes the 180 – formula in which you subtract your age from 180. You could further add or subtract 5 – 10 based on varying factors such as pregnancy, returning from injury or training competitively (subtracting for the former, adding for the latter).

The different heart-rate zones

There are 5 different heart-rate zones and every training plan can include workouts that cover each of these zones.

Here is a breakdown of what each zone means in terms of your heart rate and the benefits of training in each zone.

Zone 1: <70% of MHR:  This is the low-intensity zone. Training in this zone helps in fast recovery and gets you prepared for training in the higher heart rate zones.

Zone 2: 65 -75% of MHR: This is a light zone primarily aimed at the aerobic base building. It is used for long easy runs and you can hold a conversation with your training partner.  This zone helps in stabilizing your performance levels, improving basic endurance levels, training of fat metabolism and technique optimization. This zone is essential for every runner’s program.

Zone 3: 75-85% of MHR: This is a moderate zone that still keeps you in the aerobic range. It is effective for improving the efficiency of blood circulation in the skeletal muscles and the heart. Training in this zone is also used to stabilize your performance levels as well as training of glycogen metabolism and prepares you for higher intensity workouts.

Zone 4: 85-95% of MHR: This is the zone where the going gets tough, breathing will be difficult and your running in the anaerobic zone. Training at this intensity improves your speed endurance and the body uses carbohydrates as an energy source and you can withstand high levels of lactic acid in your blood for a longer duration.

Zone 5: 95-100% of MHR: In this zone, your heart and respiratory system will be working at their maximum capacity. The lactic acid builds up in the blood at this stage and after a few minutes, you are unable to continue at this intensity.

Each zone serves a purpose, and how much time you spend in each zone depends on your training goals. Intensity zones are used in sports because training at different intensities stresses your body in different ways, leading to different physiological adaptations and resulting in different benefits.  If you’re just starting out or have only been training for some time or returning from injury, you probably shouldn’t train at a high intensity. If you’re a professional athlete, look into incorporating interval training into your training plan for peak performance.

Reaping the benefits of zone training

The biggest hurdle with heart rate training especially for advanced runners is holding back. People often feel they are doing something wrong if they are running at a slow pace – this often leads to frustration. The benefits of this training is to stay consistent, be patient and your pace will automatically improve.

Try and mix different workouts as variety is good, vary the intensity and duration of your training sessions and don’t be stuck running the same distance every 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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Motivation Comments Off on Not just a Marathoner |

Not just a Marathoner

Protima Tiwary meets Nihal Baig whose race experiences guarantee to give you goosebumps.

“I can’t recall a single day in past 15-18 months, where I was pain-free. But still, I would wake up every morning and give my 100% during the workout. And this is what has transformed me into a better athlete.” Says Nihal Baig who has just returned from Ironman 70.3 that was held in Bahrain. This interview with him was all about mental strength, grit, determination and a lot of goosebumps as he took us through his race experiences.

How did this wonderful journey as a runner begin?

I have a 9-hour desk job, but my real passion lies in running marathons and triathlons. I started running when I was in IIT-B during college where I ran short distances (usually 5K) for 5 years. In IIT-B I enrolled myself under National Sports Organization- Athletics. While I maintained a good record in sports, it was in the final year that I won 5 medals (3 golds, 1 silver, 1 bronze) and I was awarded as the Best Athlete across all IITs.

It is in the last 2 years that I realised I wanted to aim at an Ironman title, so I learnt how to swim, I started cycling, and did my first Triathlon in Sept 2018 with a timing of 4:45:22

You’re not just a marathoner, you’re an IronMan! Could you share some special moments of your running/Triathlon career?

I have a bunch of them, and they go way back to college too!

December, Inter IIT Sports Meet-2013, Guwahati : 5000m race

I was used to running in Mumbai, so the rough terrain in Guwahati had me wrapping up my toes in bandages. I maintained a steady pace and ran all my laps within 85 seconds, but it was the last one where I overtook the one in front of me and beat him by a  second to win the race. I completed this lap in 62 seconds, and with a toe that was bleeding profusely. The cold weather had numbed the pain.

Vasai Virar Half Marathon-2017

I was eyeing the HM PM. My previous best was 1:23:55 and I was aiming for a sub 1:22 I started my race as per my plan, but I hit a wall. With 12km to go, I had to let my mind take over as I kept telling myself that I had to reach my goal, I kept pushing myself, and honestly, it was all in the head. I finished at 1:27:47 but I realised an important thing at this race- that I was capable of overcoming a bad phase as much as I was capable of running through a good one. It improved my self-confidence.

Hyderabad Marathon-2018

I set myself a goal timing of 3:05 (Boston Marathon Qualifying Time) I was recovering from a fibula stress fracture so wasn’t sure if I could do this since the pain kept coming back after every run that I did. The pain was terrible the night before the race, and I had to mentally prepare myself to run the next morning. I ran with muscle sprays and compression socks and 28km into the race my pain vanished. When I reached the 30K mark, I felt this surge of power that had me complete the marathon in 3:03:37.

Ironman 70.3 (8th December 2018) Bahrain

I completed my swimming in 37 minutes and was cycling strongly for 30km when a strong pain in my lower back threatened to take over my performance. I kept pushing, but the strong headwinds after the 60K mark made things even more difficult, and this is when my mental strength really helped me push forward. I managed to reach the finish line and then started to run. I was confident of this part of the race since I am familiar with running. But 4km into the run and my right quads got stiff. I continued slowly. 3.5km before the race ended my calves started cramping. I ran on my toes, ignoring the pain and motivating myself to keep pushing forward. This last 3.5k was the toughest run of my life! I finished with a total time of 4:44:48. I came 5th in my Age Group and was also the best runner in this group.

Wow! That gave us goosebumps. You have learnt so much in these tough races, haven’t you?

Absolutely! Every race has something to teach, there is no good/bad race to be honest. Yes, bad phases do come in at every race, and that’s when your mind needs to take over. Races have taught me to go after my dream. I have learnt the power of the mind, and how mind over matter is how you need to navigate through a race and life.

Consistency is key – how have you build this pace and strength over the years?

My year is divided into 2 phases –

Base and Strength Building: I work on my weaknesses and focus on muscle strengthening workouts. In a week I do 6-8 workouts (2-3 in each discipline), 2 core conditioning workouts and 2 strength training workouts. I focus on bodyweight exercises rather than weights.

Peaking and Racing season: I do 9-10 workouts (3-4 in each discipline and 2 core conditioning workouts. Instead of strength training, I do either stair or hill workouts. This phase also includes a lot of intervals and tempos in each discipline without compromising the endurance. I almost end up doing about 30-35k swimming, 180-200k running and 900-1100k of cycling.

Any tips you’d like to share with us on how to stay strong during the race?

Break the race into parts, and complete the race in smaller goals instead of looking at the finish line. If you are running a triathlon, break in down into swimming-cycling-running and set goals accordingly.

We told you, this one guarantees goosebumps!

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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Training Comments Off on Here’s How You Prepare Yourself For An Obstacle Race |

Here’s How You Prepare Yourself For An Obstacle Race

Protima Tiwary explores how you need to train if you ever want to tackle an obstacle race.

You have been running marathons this season, and in the excitement of the runner’s high you’ve signed up for an obstacle race. Great going! Now it’s time to train to give this your best shot. It goes without saying- an obstacle race is not the same as a marathon, so if you feel you can make your way to the finish line without training, you’d be mistaken.

Sprinting, climbing ropes, crossing over bars, jumping over pits – obstacle races are all about adventure and adrenaline. Training for them requires mental, emotional and physical training. Once you set your mind to train for this race, here’s what you need to do –

Running

Continue running, but this time change your training and incorporate speed runs, hill climbs, sprints and tempo runs in your routine. An obstacle race is all about the running experience and isn’t about how fast you run.

Cross-fit

Incorporate cross-fit moves into your training regime that will help you conquer the obstacles. Exercises like push ups pull ups, rows and bar hangs are recommended. This basically works on your upper body strength, often a weak spot for runners.

Plyometric training

This will help increase fast-twitch muscle development which will help you with jumps and lateral stops- starts. Exercises like springing with added weights pulling you back, box jumps and butt kicks are recommended.

Mobility Training

Concentrate on flexibility and mobility training that will give you a wider range of movement during the race. These exercises help open up all the joints and muscles that are stiff, thereby improving posture and circulation. Yoga is a fine example of flexibility training.

Strength training

This will help improve the strength in your body that will help you with posture and form, as well as help build power that is required to clear the obstacles. Exercises like bicep curls, shoulder press, chest press, farmers walks, squats and lunges are the basic exercise that can be done to increase strength.

Here is a 6-week schedule that will help you train adequately. Consult a coach or a trainer for specific exercise under this schedule.

Week 1 – Build Stamina

Practice different variations in running, climb stairs, go on brisk walks. Build stamina that will be needed on the race day. The fatigue can get overwhelming on the day of the race, so it is better to go well prepared. You don’t want to be out of breath on the first lap!

Also, start practising yoga.

Week 2- Build Strength

Improve your form and build strength that will be needed to clear the obstacles. Incorporate box jumps, climbing, jump squats, pull ups and push ups in your regime. Ideally, perform high repetitions of bodyweight exercises like pull ups, push ups, squats. This will help build muscular endurance and explosive power.

Week 3- Build Upper Body Strength

Focus on building upper body strength as this will be needed for all those rope climbs and bar crossing that need to be done. Incorporate exercises that focus on your upper body muscles- shoulder press, bench press, bicep curls, tricep dips, lat pull-downs are some primary examples.

Week 4 and 5- Practice

Your training towards the end of this plan will include all the exercise in a rotation. This is the period when you need to better your skill. Functional circuits are the best way to train. Set your pace. Set your goals. Prepare yourself mentally.

Week 6- Go slow

Build on strength, but make sure you do not over-do it! Ease up on the training in the last one week. Give your body a little rest by reducing the intensity of the workout. Eat well, sleep well.  Continue yoga.

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 Strength Training for Runners with Coach Zareen |

Strength Training for Runners with Coach Zareen

Reebok certified core fitness coach, Zareen Siddique demonstrates a few workouts for runners to Protima Tiwary. 

“I am running, why should I be thinking about strength training?” Have you ever found yourself asking this question as a runner? Well, strength training for runners is super important because not only does it help build stronger muscles which are involved in running, but also prevents injuries and helps improve posture, form and eventually, your running performance.

But here’s the thing- runners need a different strength training program than regular gym-goers. Instead of pushing movements like bicep curls, bench press and leg extensions, runners need to focus on building strength in particular muscles that help in maintaining balance and posture, like core and glutes.

I asked Functional Fitness Master Trainer, Yoga and Body Weight Trainer and Diet Coach Zareen Siddique, the face of fitness we have all come to know as @fitwithzareen on Instagram, to tell us some of the important strength building exercises that runners can benefit from. Here is what she had to say.

What got you started on your journey as a professional fitness coach? 

I was always a sports buff, constantly trying out new workouts and working out to be stronger. I took up fitness professionally 5 years ago. I realised it was time to take things to the next level and share the knowledge that I had gathered over the years.

Are you a runner yourself?

I love the outdoors early morning, but I do complete a long run once a week (mostly on weekends) I also practice yoga, callisthenics and free body movements 5 days a week where I clock in 40minutes of a good workout.

 How do you recommend runners should train?

As far as runners are concerned, they need to focus on the core, glutes and back. Here are some exercises I suggest which can be done with light weights.

  1. For the shoulders
  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your arm at the elbow.
  • Keeping your arm bent, move your hand from your shoulder, as if you are marching with your arms bent.
  • Hold weights in your hand to increase resistance.
  1. For the glutes
  • Lie on a mat with your feet on top of a bench. Your feet should be hip to shoulder width apart.
  • Tighten your core and initiate the glute bridge, i.e., push your hips up through the heel while squeezing your glutes. Do not arch your lower back.
  • The top position should have your shoulders and knees in a straight line.
  • Hold for 10 seconds before lowering it. Squeeze your glutes while lowering yourself.
  • Make sure that your core is tightened at all points of this exercise.
  1. For hamstrings
  • Stand with your feet slightly apart. Hold a kettlebell in each hand.
  • Take one leg back and balance yourself on one leg
  • Now bend down (on one leg) without bending your knee. You should feel the stretch on your hamstring.
  1. For the calves and ankles
  • Stand with your feet slightly apart. Now balance yourself on your toes.
  • Squat down without leaning forward, while on your toes.
  • Stand with your feet slight apart.
  • Move your body weight on to your heels and walk.
  • Similarly, move your body weight to your toes and walk.
  1. For the quads (and arms)
  • Stand with your at feet shoulder width
  • Hold a kettlebell in both your hands.
  • Bend down in a squat while holding the kettlebell.
  • While coming up, pull up the kettlebell with both your arms, and bring it to your chest.

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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The Latest and Best Marathon Training Method

Coach Pramod Despande of Jayanagar Jaguars talks about the various methods that runners can consider while training for a marathon.

We have all heard of the age-old adage “practice makes perfect” and while that holds good to this day, practising and training the right way is the key to being successful. In this read, let’s have a look at some of the best training methods out there and how these can be leveraged to help amateur runners like us run better.

The latest and arguably the most successful marathon training method has to be the one developed by Patrick Sang. The evidence of that is the recently delivered World Record time of 2:01:39 (by Eliud Kipchoge at the 2018 Berlin marathon) and also an
unofficial world record of 2:00:25! Takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

To be fair, this training method isn’t suited for mere mortals like us. For that matter, we can’t sustain any of the elite marathoner’s training methods as they are exhaustive and intense – consider their weekly mileage of 200 – 225 km which is equivalent to 3 – 4 weeks of mileage for normal runners.

That leaves you wondering – what is the most suitable training method for amateur marathoners like us and what are the latest methods of training?

Before I can answer that, let’s first understand the evolution of present-day marathon training methods and the training programs.

The Earlier Methods:

Since 1896, when the first competitive marathon was run, many runners and coaches have developed various training methods for competitive elite athletes. The documented plans, however, started with the pioneering work by Arthur Lydiard of New Zealand in the ‘60s, ‘70s and its impact can be witnessed even today through the terminology coined by him e.g. “base building”, “peaking,” etc.

Lydiard’s basic idea was to develop runner’s stamina first and then work on their speed. He divided the whole year into different periods (periodization) with emphasis on specific aspects with respect to each period. The average mileage for marathon-conditioning phase(base training) is of about 160 km, then moving on to the next phases that include ample use of hill training, intervals, and speed training. He suggested the use of gymnastic exercises for the loosening and stretching of muscles but was not in favour of weight training.

Over the years, many coaches developed their methods by modifying Lydiard’s programs, while keeping in line with basic principles, whereas some successful coaches like, Gabriele Rosa, Renato Canova, etc. developed their methods in contrast to Lydiard’s training principles.

For e.g. Renato Canova’s method focusses on speed and raw power during the early phase and moving on to longer threshold/tempo runs towards race day. Gabriele Rosa, on the other hand, swapped speed work with marathon specific workouts.

That being said, the common aspect amongst the 3 programs mentioned above – all produced world-class performances.

Training Methods for Amateur Runners

After the running boom of the 70’s, a large number of amateur athletes started taking up running thus fuelling the demand for programs to train larger groups of non-elite runners to complete their first marathons and subsequently to increase their performances. This gave rise to a whole new area the “marathon training program.” The difference between this program and the elite training program was:

  • Larger group size (elite runners’ groups are very small)
  • Runners with lesser athletic abilities or experience (than elite athletes)
  • The training programs required to be tailored around the life of a runner (the other way around for elite athletes)

Many coaches, ex-runners, doctors, etc. who possessed good management and business skills started to create these programs and training methods. They combined a scientific perspective along with savvy marketing techniques.

Here is a summary of some of the popular methods:

High Mileage Training: These methods established by coaches like Hal Higdon involve a gradual and consistent increase of mileage with a goal to cover a high weekly mileage across 5 days a week.

Hansons’s method: This variation prefers giving equal importance to all runs and not dedicate one day for a long run. The overall mileage in this method tends to be on the higher side. This program also avoids activities other than running as part of the preparation.

Specific training pace method: The start of this method is mostly credited to Jack Daniels, where there is an emphasis on training at specific paces for each workout and has extensive formulas to arrive at precise paces. This method also uses long runs as an important workout with specific paces and variations.

More Intensity, Less Miles: These methods emphasize lesser overall mileage but high-intensity workouts for each session.

  1. Methods like FIRST (Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training) by Bill Pierce & Scott Murr that advocates “less is more” theory i.e. running lesser distance but with much higher speed.
  2. Also in the similar methods of CFE by Brian Mc Kenzie, gives more importance to HIIT type of high-intensity exercises and weight-bearing exercises.

Heart Rate Running method – LHR or Low-Intensity high mileage: Some methods also advocate running longer distances at lower heart rates to increase running capability at that heart rate, a prominent evangelist of this method is Dr Phil Maffetone.

The Run Walk Method: Popularized mostly by Jeff Galloway, typically for beginners but many experienced runners have achieved quite great results through this method.

All of the above methods have provided excellent results to many runners but interestingly, they all have contrasting principles and so this creates lots of confusion in a runner’s mind.

How can methods with conflicting principles give great results?

Is there a best method?

Not really – you will find that a lot of runners swear by each of these methods and an equal number doubt them. Typically, a method will be effective for a few years and then a runner’s performance will plateau. Hence, you will need to shift to another method or incorporate some aspects of another method to improve performance.

All these methods are built upon some basic principles e.g. Progress Overload principle, Principle of Specificity, Principle of Periodization, Principle of Reversibility, base mileage built up, etc. and understanding these might be a tad technical for the average runner. Also, all these methods assume a specific fitness level and preparedness. So where does the answer lie?

The answer really lies in the runner and not the method.

Each runner has unique abilities – a combination of genetic makeup, body structure, fitness levels, aerobic base, mileage base, mental makeup, etc. These factors decide which method works best for you. For example – with respect to the genetic abilities, some runners excel with slower and longer workouts, while some others respond well to speed workouts. Along with genetic ability, a runner’s development of various aspects like Aerobic Threshold, Lactic Threshold, Anaerobic Threshold, VO2 Max, etc. will decide the suitability of a method.

All of this brings us to the inevitable question of – ‘Which is the best-suited method for me’?. Again, there is no quick and clear answer and it requires you to take into consideration a lot of factors.

Initially, the best option will be to go with a coach, someone who will tailor a specific training plan for you. A coach has his own assessment about, which method(s) will suit a runner and they will use components of multiple methods to tailor a specific training plan for a runner.

But if you are trying to plan your own training please consider the following aspects before you take a decision.

  • Check the base requirement for preparedness for the plan, e.g. the basic mileage, a PB, etc. and unless you meet all the requirements, please do not start the method
  • Check the total time investment required by the method – it should fit within your lifestyle. Any plan will work only if you follow all aspects of it, including the prescribed rest
  • Figure out if you have access to complete the prescribed type of exercises. For example – if the program emphasizes a lot of hill runs and you don’t have any hills nearby, you will need to make an alternate arrangement
  • Most importantly, make sure the target pace or finish time of a program matches your own goal as each of us have our own individual goal for e.g. choosing a method/program for achieving a sub 3 marathon will not suit you if you are looking to achieve a sub 4.
  • If you have tried some other method earlier and searching for a program to switch, please make sure you ‘unlearn’ aspects from the earlier method.

After considering all the requirements, when you select a method, please consider the following:

  • Be patient with the method you’ve chosen to see progress and achieve results. Typically, a method takes around 4 to 6 months to improve the specific physiological pathway or muscles after which the required improvement is visible to you.
  • Do not switch to another method on the basis of the result of just one race, as many factors influence the result of a race.
  • Having said that, if a particular method is causing some serious injuries or health issues, do not hesitate to re-evaluate the method.
  • Monitor your performance under the method you are following to see if you are plateauing. If yes, it is probably time to move to another method.

After due consideration, irrespective of the method you select, please follow all the workouts and rest prescribed by the method diligently and enjoy your running – the results will come through in the end.

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

A reputed coach and mentor for the Jayanagar Jaguars and a technology innovation head with a leading MNC who over the past 4 years has trained more than 2500 athletes complete Half-Marathons, Full-Marathons and Ultra-Marathons

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Running and Yoga

Guest Columnist, Pallavi Aga talks about how runners need to do yoga to marry constant movement with eternal calm!

Runners are typically ‘Type A’ personalities (ambitious and highly competitive) and are very conscientious about their personal and professional lives. Perfection and discipline are their second nature. Running is a high adrenaline driven activity and causes an adrenaline rush also known as “The Runner’s high”, which though beneficial at times, does cause stress on the body.

We live in an environment where we are constantly bombarded with signals that keep our sympathetic nervous system (it stimulates the body’s fight-or-flight response) activated. Runners may face a heightened response to this stress, especially when preparing for an event. Terri Guillemets (an author from Arizona) once said, “Give stress wings and let it fly away”.

Yoga has the magical power to reduce stress and activate the parasympathetic nervous system which promotes healing and emotional health. It adds the Yang to the Yin element always found in a runner’s life.

Introducing Yoga into your life.

Runners are initially sceptical of yoga as it’s difficult for them to sit still for prolonged periods as they are used to the constant movement. When I took up running, I was not interested in yoga myself. It was only later on that I realized that the constant use of running muscles led to stiffness and lack of flexibility which was the harbinger of injuries. It was at that point I understood the importance of yoga and decided on practising it. On further thinking, it hit me – yoga is the key to improving flexibility, calming the nervous system and distressing as its effects extended beyond the realm of the physical body.

Yoga has benefited me in so many ways – improving my flexibility, balance, body toning, strengthening my core and improving my breathing technique which in turn has calmed me down immensely.  Today, I continue to practice yoga under the guidance of my guru Umesh Ji.

Why yoga

Flexibility 

Yoga helps in stretching the stiff, tight muscles and lubricates the joints. The increased flexibility leads to ease of movement which is essential in preventing injury and reducing soreness. For example – the reclining and standing pigeon pose is excellent to stretch the iliotibial tract and the deep muscle pyriformis which are common causes of knee and hip pain in runners. The standing pigeon pose also helps in a deep hip stretch as well as adds to the balance and strength. The frog pose is important for a deep groin stretch. The only word of caution here is that never try to force extreme flexibility on yourself because as a runner this can be counterproductive too.

 Warm up

Surya Namaskar can be used as an excellent form of warm up before a long run. It has to be performed dynamically as pre-run static long stretches are not beneficial.

Balance and Proprioception (sometimes described as the ‘6th sense’)

Balance and Proprioception are very important for runners. A body imbalance increases your chances of stumbles and injuries. Having a balanced posture increases strength and also enhances your proprioception abilities. Standing postures like the Tree posture with eyes closed also increase the proprioception and reflexes.

Strength

Yoga is very helpful to build up the strength of unused muscles in the body.  The muscles which are stiff and inflexible become weak and need to be relaxed and lengthened. Eccentric contraction of these muscles builds strength and stability.

Yoga also aids in building the upper body and core strength which is extremely beneficial for runners. Body weight postures utilize the whole body and not only the legs thereby strengthening the upper torso, arms and shoulders. It also increases the muscle tone causing less fatigue and less weight impact on the legs. A simple pose like Downward dog pose utilizes different muscle groups at the same time.

Breathing technique

Yoga involves full command over your breath and breath with movement being an integral part. It promotes deep belly breathing which is beneficial when used during running prevents you from feeling breathlessness. Yogic techniques focus a lot on correct breathing and prevent the rapid, shallow breathing which can lead to oxygen depletion and toxin accumulation.

Complete body workout

Yoga poses involve all muscles and joints of the body in one pose alone. For e.g. the Toes pose stretches the Toes and the plantar fascia helping in the prevention of plantar fasciitis and foot pain.

The deep intrinsic fascia also gets stretched in long static holds which cause structural benefits to the joints. Chakrasana is one such pose which stretches the whole body.

Endocrine and nervous system

Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system calms down the nervous system and brings down the cortisol level. High cortisol levels can cause breakdown of immunity and extreme fatigue and insomnia. Yoga practice makes a runner more mindful of this effect which in turn helps them to be productive in their runs.

Finding your edge

Runners should add yoga to their cross-training practice and they will observe a lot of benefits with the development of a healthy mind and body connection. It’s all about finding your edge and gently pushing into it so as to enjoy the sport rather than causing injuries and stress.

Combining yoga as an element to balance out your running will transform the way you feel, make you more agile and enjoy your running in a whole new way – with so many benefits to boot, it becomes important to include it as part of your cross-training!

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Pallavi Aga is a doctor by profession and an avid follower of eating clean and green with a holistic approach to health and diet. She is actively helping the society towards walking down the path of health through Facebook live events and also with media groups like India Today, Dainik Jagran and Pinkathon.

 

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