Featured Comments Off on Understanding Training Cycles |

Understanding Training Cycles

Ajit Thandur talks about training cycles and how to efficiently train in your aerobic zone.

In my previous articles, I wrote about the principles behind the Maffetone Method (180 Formula as it is popularly known as) and another article that provided an insight into the Maximum Aerobic Function Test (or MAF Test for short).

There have been many questions or a fair bit of confusion among amateur runners, bicyclists, and swimmers about how long one continues to do aerobic training? I will list out the kind of typical questions I have been asked and answer them to the best of my ability and understanding.

I must mention here that it is important that one must always bear in mind that each one of us is different in terms of build, capability, body type, metabolism, strength, maximum heart rate, age, and such other factors. So, you must understand the principles behind the Maffetone Method, train, listen to your bodies and figure out what is best for yourself with respect to training, nutrition, hydration, rest and recovery.

These are primarily the typical questions I have been asked and I shall address them in that order.

My speed is too slow if I run at my Threshold Aerobic Heart Rate (TAHR). Is that normal?

Of course, it is. The whole idea is to improve your aerobic base which you have hitherto not done. Over a period of time at your aerobic heart rate, the pace which goes down to maybe even walking in uphill gradients will improve. It needs patience because it could take anywhere from 3 to 6 months to see significant improvement.

On uphill gradients, I literally have to walk!

Well, just allow your aerobic base to build up and your body to get fat adapted. Over time, when that happens your efficiency will go up and you will be able to run even inclines at your TAHR.

How long must I train at my TAHR? Can I do Interval Training and Strength Training?

Building your aerobic base can take 3 to 6 months. During this period it is best to do all runs/rides/swims at your TAHR. Avoid Intervals and Strength training during the base building period since it will be counterproductive.

When can I start Tempo runs, Interval training and Strength training?

After your aerobic base has developed ( which is indicated by your periodic MAF Tests) and reached a  plateau it is a good time to do intervals, tempos or strength workouts. Also, time it according to when your planned race is coming up. Maybe 2 days a week is fine.

Must I do TAHR runs/rides all my life?

It is a very good question and most relevant. It is important to understand that building one’s aerobic base isn’t a one-time procedure. After having achieved an aerobic base and getting our aerobic muscles to efficiently burn fat for energy ( becoming Fat Adapted), it is time to start interval training and strength training and speed work. And then, of course, it is race time.

After the planned race or races are over, it is time for rest and recovery. Once done with rest and recovery, it is again time to build on the aerobic base since at pre-race and race time as a lot of anaerobic effort has been put in.

A word of caution is relevant at this point. Especially in a tropical country like India, all through the year, there are races happening every weekend in all major cities. Please do make your choices of races to provide sufficient time for aerobic base building, race, and recovery to get back to building your aerobic base. Too much racing will adversely affect you with overtraining and injury.

Training, aerobic base building, tempo, interval runs/rides/swims, strength training, race, rest and recovery. This is a repetitive cycle.

It is therefore vital to understand that it isn’t racing time always. Be patient, prepare for a race aerobically, then do tempos, fartleks or intervals and then your race.

After that get back and repeat the same cycle all over again to be a healthy, injury free and a happy athlete. Complete happiness will come from striking a healthy balance between work, career, family, children, socializing, aerobic training, speed, racing, personal bests, rest and recovery.


Ajit Thandur is an entrepreneur and amateur endurance runner/swimmer based in Mysuru taking a keen interest in injury-free training and nutrition. He also conducts Thonnur Swimathon, Tri Thonnur and a run race Chamundi Hill Challenge in Mysuru.


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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 –


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.


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.


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 Running, Mountains, and a Hell Race |

Running, Mountains, and a Hell Race

Deepthi Velkur discovers that high in the mountains is where, The Hell Race co-founder, Nupur Singh, found her calling.

Nupur Singh, co-founder and creative director of the endurance race series – “The Hell Race” certainly found her calling high up in the Himalayas. Hailing from Madanpur (on the border between UP and MP), Nupur has quite a story to tell. She may have earned a name for herself at the national air rifle championships and state-level basketball but in her heart, she believes she was always destined to do something in the outdoors.

She found her inspiration in 2013 when on an adventure trip to the Himalayas, she realized that being one with nature and making a career out if it was something that she wanted to do. In 2016, leaving behind her career as an architect in Delhi, Nupur together with Vishwas Sindhu and Rohit Kalyana started “The Hell Race” endurance series.

I had the chance to talk with Nupur on her fascinating story. Read on and be enthralled.

FM: From being an architect by profession to being the co-founder of the endurance series -The Hell Race? How and when did the switch happen?

Nupur: Being outdoors has always been close to my heart and after a decade of a regular city life, I somehow found the way back to my roots. My most favorite pastime during my childhood was hiking alongside my grandfather in the fields, listening to his stories about the dacoits of Chambal and how he escaped the attacks by the goons or hunting for leopards and wild boars. The bullock cart rides, swimming in natural water bodies, jungle hikes to hunt for monkeys and pigeons, being chased by the bulls are just a few adventures I got to experience as a kid. Being out in the wild came naturally to me. Maybe that was the reason I was a good sportsperson during my school days. I represented at National and state level in various sports including Rifle shooting, tennis ball cricket, basketball and swimming a few times.

Unfortunately, after school, I lost touch with sports and the outdoors completely and went on to do my graduation in Architecture (Pune) and worked for 3 years in Delhi as an Architect with almost no physical activity. Almost a decade later, in 2013 I happened to see a google ad about a Himalayan Trek and ended up doing my first trek. It was that trip that made me realize how much I loved the outdoors. Over the next 3 years, the passion was reborn, and my sole focus was to work and save to be able to travel – be it a trek up the mountains, a Rajasthan cycling tour or a beach trip. Eventually, the decision to make it a lifestyle became clear.

Vishwas Sindhu, the Devil behind the concept -The Hell Race, was my partner in crime for around 2 years before we decided to setup this series. The idea and concept of The Hell Race was born during one of our cycling trips together from Manali to Leh back in 2014.

Finally, in February 2016 he convinced me to quit and we started this unforgettable journey of The Hell Race along with Rohit Kalyana, who deserves the devil’s crown himself. It hasn’t been easy riding at all. We have gone through a myriad of emotions – frustration, exhilaration, fights but the sheer will of the team has pulled us through so far. And the journey has only begun…

FM: What was really the idea behind establishing this series “The Hell race”? Why the name “The Hell race”?

Nupur: The idea was to build races that would challenge the current race scenario in India. Trail running and mountain biking is an evolved sport worldwide. In India however, we still have mountain biking events happening on roads and trail running events on jeep tracks or roads. Apart from setting a negative impression of the sport it also puts Indian runners at a disadvantage. To represent India at a global level we had to have events and trails of international standards, where athletes get a chance to test their skills and train for them accordingly.

A few good races exist currently but to grow as a mature community we need many more. Obviously, the whole idea didn’t come up in a day. Every race we organized brought new challenges and exposed us to harsh realities. All of that made us experienced and mature as race organizers. With nearly 3 years gone, it’s now a series of endurance races in mountain biking, trail running, ultra-running and marathons.

This concept is our attempt to bring adventure enthusiasts and athletes from across the globe together. We are determined to build world-class endurance races in India. The name ‘The Hell Race’ comes from the expression ‘What the Hell’. The race standards and the trails that we have set truly live up to the name. But to train for it every day, to be able to come out of your comfort zone, to achieve something beyond your limit (both physically and mentally) is where the true nature of Hell comes. It’s still a work-in-progress as we continue to add various factors and trails to make your life ‘Hell’.

FM: What are the various events held by the Hell Race team? How do you attract runners?

Nupur: So far, we have organized 17 races. Our yearly calendar comprises of 10 races:

  1. The Border (Jaisalmer to Longewala): 22nd – 24th December 2018
  1. Bir Billing Half Marathon (Bir): 21st April 2019
  2. Hell Ultra (Manali to Leh): 15th – 23rd June 2019
  3. The High 5’s (Manali to Leh): 15th – 23rd June 2019
  4. Hell Race Trail Series (HRTS):
  1. SRT Ultra Marathon (Pune): 9th Dec 2018
  2. The Deccan Ultra (Sahyadri hills): Feb 2019
  • The Coffee Trails (Coorg): Mar 2019
  1. The Buddha Trails (Darjeeling): May 2019
  2. Aravalli’s Endurance Trail Run (Gurgaon): Aug 2019
  1. Solang SkyUltra (HRTS Finale): 6th October 2019

In terms of strategy, we keep it simple – we build challenging trails that have killer climbs and unforgiving conditions but as a runner, you are rewarded with breathtaking scenery all around. We are a small team and depend on our runners to be our promoters.

FM: Of all the events you organize, which do you feel is the most challenging?

Nupur: Each event that we have is challenging in its own right. Considering all races, the Hell Ultra is the toughest race – a 480KM ultra run from Manali to Leh (the world’s highest road). Running at an average altitude of higher than 4000m with temperatures dipping to -10 and oxygen levels dropping 50%, completing this beautiful but tricky course in 120 hours is a super-human effort.

FM: Organizing 17 races is no simple task? What challenges did you face?

Nupur: The biggest challenge is nature itself and the Himalayas can be brutal on you. Managing everything from finding trails to cleaning up post-race, managing feed stations to rescue in emergencies is not a major task but the unpredictability of weather is simply beyond our control. In almost every race, the weather conditions made sure to give us the taste of Hell we claim to give to our runners.

One such experience was the recently concluded Solang SkyUltra – a week before the race, the entire Manali valley was drowning. We had collapsed bridges, roads washed away including segments of our course, sparse connectivity, and food supply blocked. It became a nightmare for us to manage through it all. But in the end, overcoming these challenges, working along a motivated team and the inspiring runners who refused to give up no matter what is what makes it worthwhile and amazing.

FM: The High 5 which is a back to back 5-day half marathon event from Manali to Leh saw you participate in the race last year. What was it like to organize and at the same time run such a tough race?

Nupur: I have been on the Manali-Leh highway many times, the challenges and the beauty of the course never cease to amaze me. Organizing 2 races (The High 5 and the Hell Ultra) in parallel is a challenging task and requires a lot of coordination. Luckily, my amazing team supported by the volunteers and their collective teamwork gave me the opportunity to run as well. This is where my theory of ‘Living by Example’ came back to bite me like hell.

No matter how much you train or how good you are, the highway will be a blow to your ego. When I finished the 5 back to back half marathons in 2017 during my 2nd attempt, I realized that I’m not eligible to call myself a runner but a walker. It’s no joke as each day you run a half marathon and crosses one of the high altitude passes and the average altitude is above 4000m. The weather keeps changing by the minute, the oxygen levels make sure you drop every 50m, and at the end of the day, you know you have to do it all over again the next day. And with a small team, I can’t get away with not being involved in managing things too. In short, it had Hell written all over it but I would love to do it again and again.

FM: What are the most important factors to bear in mind when running in such high altitudes?

Nupur: Any high-altitude race should never be taken lightly. It is advisable to follow a training schedule to develop your core strength, breathing, long hours of workout, nutrition that suits your body and most importantly – recovery. Acclimatization just before the event is another key factor, spend a few days at an altitude of 3000 – 4000m and get yourself acclimatized. Be prepared for the extreme conditions as I have seen the humblest of souls burn out with anger and frustration. To cope with the pressure and tiredness each day is not something one can train for but only be prepared for. It goes without saying that you must avoid alcohol and smoking.

FM: Not being an experienced endurance sports-person, what inspires you to run such challenging races?

Nupur: As I said earlier, I’m barely a runner or a mountain biker or even a trekker for that matter. I only try to do things differently, things that challenge me and try to set up my own standards to live by. While setting up The Hell Race series and working along Rohit Kalyana, a certified mountaineer, I got the opportunity to develop my skills and experience the Himalayas in a whole new way. My love for these endurance sports has grown exponentially, and I will continue to explore my strengths. My toughest race so far was the 1st edition of the high 5’s race. It was my 1st encounter running at high altitudes and organizing at the same time. For an amateur like myself, the overall conditions were just brutal.

FM: How do you see the company growing in the near future?

Nupur: We have come a long way since the inception of The Hell Race series. Each year we introduce new concepts and races to keep the challenge growing. From the mighty Himalayas to the endless beaches, the brutal Thar Desert to the dense jungles, India is a land of diverse terrain. We try to expose our athletes to these extreme and challenging conditions through our races. The Hell Race Trail Series is our latest attempt to move forward. It right now comprises of 5 races in various parts of the country with Solang SkyUltra being the finale. We are also trying to standardize trail running in India in the coming years.

FM: Do you see yourself participating in more races or the focus will only be on organizing events?

Nupur: Yes, I do wish to participate in races in the future as well as organize them. Both will go hand in hand. But to be able to do it, I need to get out and train every day. That is still to happen, but at least I have the mountains as my backyard.

Follow her story on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wanderer_nupur/  and for more information about “The Hell Race”, visit their website: www.thehellrace.com.



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 Calm your pre-race nerves |

Calm your pre-race nerves

Being nervous ahead of a big race is perfectly normal, here are a few tips from Nandini Reddy to breath easy. 

You will be anxious before the big race. You want to give it your best and you want meet your performance goals. It is perfect fine to feel a bit queasy before the race. But don’t let the anxiety affect your performance. Here are a few things you can do to calm your nerves and run your best race.-

Follow a pre-race routine

Every runner like you is anxious to get to the starting line and race forward the moment the flag drops, but this can be a bit disconcerting to most people. So don’t get into the starting line frenzy if its not your scene. Do your stretches and warm yourself up for the race. Do not get into a panic by watching other runners, instead try to feed off the positive energy from runners around you.


When you are stressed deep breathing can calm you down. If you are getting jittery then step back to an area that is less crowded, close your eyes and take in deep breaths. You can also follow the yoga technique of alternating your breathing between your nostrils. This will make your gut feel better.This will get your primed to focus on your race.

Plug those Ears

Sometimes its always better to cut out the white noise around you during a race. Plug in your favourite music and sink into your own space of calmness. A lot of runners dislike listening to music but for many it has a calming effect and helps them focus better. Music can also lift your mood and make the run more fun.

Visualize your goal

Fear of failure is what causes most of the anxiety. You need to visualise that you will reach the finish line and in the goal performance times you have set for yourself.  A good attitude will build confidence and you are more likely to finish the race.

You can’t control everything

There are factors you cannot control like the weather for example. If it rains on race day then it rains. There is nothing you can do about it so why should you stress. Other runners, weather patterns and even the course difficulty are not points that you can control so let it go and enjoy the race for what its worth. You certainly will feel more rewarded.

Remember that you trained to finish the race and not psych yourself out. Always remember that you can better your performance with every race.



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 Fat loading or Carb loading? |

Fat loading or Carb loading?

It’s a matter of storing glycogen in your muscles before the big event, but if you are wondering which is best option for you, then read on as Radhika Meganathan discusses both approaches here. 

Every runner knows about and dreads hitting the “wall”, which happens when your body is depleted of energy, and energy comes from burning fuel, usually in the form of glycogen. To “load’ is to help your body fill up on its glycogen so that it can use it up for energy and keep you going as you are doing a long distance sport (anything that’s over 2 hours in duration). But what exactly should you load your body with – carbs or fat? Does it even matter?

Before answering this question, let’s first take a look at why glycogen plays a crucial role in the pre-race diet of a runner.

Why is glycogen important?

Let’s say you eat a delicious plate of biriyani or penne pasta. Once all those carbohydrates enter your system, most of it gets stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver. It’s like keeping money in a savings account; your body dips into it and you burn and lose energy during a race. So, the idea is to save enough glycogen to last an entire race. So now you have a free pass to eat whatever you want before the race, with no worries about dieting! All within certain reason, of course, as explained in the next part of this article.

What is Carb-Loading?

Simply put, you eat carbs before a race, ideally 3-4 days before the big day. This does not mean you just keep stuffing yourself without any limit. Eat to your satisfaction, not to the point of discomfort. The recommended range is to eat 7-10 grams of carb per kg of your body weight for 3 days before the race. Pasta, rice, bread, pancakes/waffles, chappathi, bananas, baked potatoes (without skin), oatmeal are in the recommended list Vegetables and fruits have carbs too but is best to keep them to a minimum, as they have fibre and too much fibre before a race can derail you with stomach issues!

What is Fat Loading?

Now, glycogen is not the only source of energy your body has access to, it’s just the most easily digestible one! During a marathon, you burn both glycogen and fat. But the body has to work harder to convert fat into fuel, which is why it prefers to burn carbs than fat. Fat encompasses everything from meat to dairy to nutty oils – think bacon fried in butter or eggs sautéed in coconut oil. The one thing that is NOT present in fat loading is carbs, so all grains, fruits and sugars are out of this diet.

Carb Loading vs Fat Loading: Which is best?

There is no right answer to this question, as it is entirely a matter of what you want to do and which option is most suited to your body. From an economic perspective, foods used in carb loading are cheaper and easier to prepare. That said, a diabetic runner will certainly not take to carb-loading in a healthy way, and can benefit from fat loading which has almost zero carb content. If you are not insulin resistant, or if you are following a keto diet, you can certainly opt for fat loading about 9-10 days before the race.

Recent scientific studies have revealed that a fat-heavy diet can work for runners, as it teaches your muscles to be fat burners. So when you are trained to use fat as fuel during a race, glycogen storage is saved up for later use, resulting in an actual delay of “hitting the wall” – this means it can even be avoided completely. It does take a few weeks for your body to adapt to fat loading, so make sure you don’t experiment too close to the D-Day!


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A published author and an avid rambler, Radhika Meganathan is a recent keto convert who may or may not be having a complicated relationship with bacon and butter.

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