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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Featured Comments Off on Marathon Recovery |

Marathon Recovery

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

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

So what next……..

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

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

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

Recovery tips:

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

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

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

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

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Training Comments Off on The importance of strength training for runners |

The importance of strength training for runners

Guest Columnist Pallavi Aga demonstrates the importance of strength training for runners especially women. 

The world seems to have woken up to the benefits of staying fit and this is quite evident when you look at the increased number of people who have taken to running. There has been a sudden outburst of running events that happen every weekend across the country and we have seen a lot of fitness enthusiasts who have taken to running in a big way.

Unfortunately, as is the case with all sporting activities, there is a dark side to it – sports injuries. This is more common than you think and the best way to minimize the risk is strength training.

Strength training is of paramount importance, especially for people who lead a sedentary lifestyle. Such a lifestyle leads to under-development of the muscles and they may not be firing at an optimal level. With an increase in mileage and overload of training, they begin to experience muscle weakness and instability which ultimately causes muscle strains and sometimes a muscle tear as well. This is because runners neglect one very basic requirement that is muscle strength which can only be built through strength training. Research has shown an 8% increase in running efficiency in people who do regular strength training.

Strength training and women

Strength training is extremely important for women to prevent them from getting osteoporosis because usually after the age of 40 is when the pre-menopause period starts and during this time the bones tend to start weakening. Sarcopenia, i.e. muscle loss also sets in causing various postural imbalances. In fact, there is a myth that strength training should not be done by older women but the benefits you reap with strength training exercises are immense.

Common myths about strength training

  • It makes you bulky
    Strength training helps in reducing body fat and builds lean muscle. Bodybuilders focus on a carbohydrate-rich diet which primarily contributes to the bulky look. If the nutrition is clean and focus is on adequate complex carbs and lean protein with some calorie deficit, then it helps to tone up the physique, giving the lean look.
  • Strength training means lifting heavy-weights
    For people looking at building endurance, the focus should be on doing multiple reps and lifting lighter weights. Compound and complex bodyweight exercises can also be done. This kind of strength training is important during the marathon season for runners.
    However, for muscles to get really strong you need to lift heavy weights with fewer repetitions. The time between reps should be kept lower so as to build leaner and stronger muscles. Use the off-season to train using heavy weights to build the muscles well for the next season.
  • Spot reduction
    This is a complete myth and no amount of crunches, twists or squats will help in spot reduction. If there is a lot of fat, the muscle definition will not show up. The only thing which works is eating clean and staying on a calorie deficit diet. It is the correct amount of carbohydrates, proteins as well as the eating window (how much and which type of macronutrients are consumed before and after a workout) which leads to the reduction of fat.

 Benefits of strength training

  • Helps the muscles become strong and hence less prone to injuries
  • Builds muscle coordination and balance
  • Builds bone strength
  • Body weight strength training helps in building endurance and form.
  • Builds neuromuscular coordination and power
  • Increases running efficiency
  • Prevents muscle loss and osteoporosis
  • Posterior and kinetic chain development

Runners usually put in a lot of mileage and hence cannot have large muscle gains. Runners during the running season should focus on compound movements targeting major muscle groups in a complex manner. They can also look into gaining heavy muscle with strength training during the off – season which helps the running muscles become stronger further helping in building a toned, leaner physique.

Some of my favourite strength training workouts
Below are a few of my favourite weight training exercises that have proved beneficial. To build your own workout, you can focus on one area or multiple areas (upper body, lower body, or core) and create a tailor made circuit. As running itself adds a lot of cardio in the fitness regimen , we do not need a lot of added cardio during the strength training sessions. I would suggest to keep the rest period between the sets less to increase the fat burn and to keep a tempo pace. Rest in between the sets can be utilized to do abs or push-ups to promote the maximum effort.

  • Push-Ups : inclined, declined, hindu push ups, close grip and even using Bosu ball
    Works : chest and core muscles
  • Bent Over Row
    Works: back and core muscles

  • Lat pulldown
    Works: mid-back, posterior shoulder, and rhomboid muscles
  • Planks : all the variations
    Works: core muscles

  • Bulgarian split squat, Single- leg dead lifts, Straight leg Deadlift
    All of these work : hamstrings, glutes, back, and core muscles

  • Lunges
    Works : leg, quads, and glute muscles

  • Squats and sumo squats
    Works: hip, adductors, quads  and glute muscles

  • Shoulder overhead push press
    Works : hamstrings, lower back, core, trapezius, shoulders and arms

Compound movements are the best. Hence always include squats, deadlifts and shoulder overhead push press to your exercise schedule.

Running, as a sport, has to be respected and focus should be on overall fitness and running injury-free. Strength training, yoga and Pilates plays an integral part in running. Foam rolling is a must after a strength training session.

For me, the Mantra to life is – stay fit and enjoy life and hence I want to run injury-free and focus on both strength training as well as yoga.

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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Motivation Comments Off on Stay fit and Keep Running |

Stay fit and Keep Running

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25th September 2012 – Chennai

A mother of two,

My younger daughter just 9 months new;

To wade away the baby blues,

I took to my running shoes.

What set out as “Mine Exclusive” time,

Grew on me while runners I tried to mime;

Learning the skills and nuances of the sport,

Yes, ‘running’ I began to court.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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Featured Comments Off on Passionate Barefoot Running |

Passionate Barefoot Running

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FM: What are your running goals for 2019?

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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Training, Uncategorized Comments Off on A 5 Minute Warm Up To Improve Running Performance |

A 5 Minute Warm Up To Improve Running Performance

Protima Tiwary takes you through a simple warm-up routine before you start running.

Getting out of bed early in the morning for a run seems like a huge task in itself, and adding a 20-minute warm-up routine before your run makes you want to crawl right back in. Yes, we understand how that feels, and while we know it is tempting to miss out on a warm-up, it can prove to be harmful, even dangerous in the long run. Warm-ups and stretches reduce the chances of injury and also improve performance during the run. They also help combat muscle soreness.

Here’s the good news- you don’t need to spend 20 minutes for a warm-up routine. We are here to show you a warm-up that will take you only 5 minutes and absolutely no equipment. Get out your pen and paper and take notes!

Jumping Jacks

This will help you warm up and get your heart pumping. Do 40 jumping jacks to kickstart your warm-up routine. If you want, you can also time yourself and see how many can you do in a minute.

  1. Stand with your feet wide apart.
  2. Open up your arms and have them extended to your sides
  3. Jump up and bring your feet together. Your arms move together in a “clap” over your head
  4. When you touch the group again, your arms and legs are in the extended position.

High Knees and butt kicks

This movement mimics those in running and will help open up the abdominal, leg and hip muscles. Do 25 each of these.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with arms at your sides.
  2. Now start running in place, but with your knees reaching up to your chest.
  3. After 25 high knees, take a break of 20 seconds
  4. Now start running in place again, but this time with your feet trying to touch your glutes.

Arm circles

This will help activate your chest muscles, deltoids and upper back. Do 10 for each hand.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart
  2. Lift your arms to shoulder height, with the palms down
  3. Make small circles with your arms, making sure not to bend the elbow

Side stretch

This helps stretch your torso before your run and will help you combat side stitches during your run too.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart
  2. Bring your arms over your head, and keeping your abdominal muscles tight, lean to the right. Hold for 10 counts.
  3. Now do the same for the left side.
  4. Make sure only the torso is leaning, with your feet grounded firmly.

Hip Rotation

This helps stretch the glutes and lower back. Do these 10 times each in a clockwise and anti-clockwise rotation.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart
  2. Make a circular motion with your hips. Make sure your feet stay grounded.

Spider Crawl stretch

This will help stretch the hips and leg muscles. Hold this position for 10 counts on each leg.

  1. Lie down in a forward plank pose
  2. Your legs should be shoulder width apart
  3. From the outside, bring your right foot next to your right hand (or till wherever your flexibility allows you to)
  4. Repeat with left leg after holding this for 10 seconds

Inch-walks

This one is for your core, hamstrings and deltoids. Do this 10 times.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart
  2. Bend down to touch your toes
  3. Now walk your hands out to reach a plank position
  4. Hold for 5 seconds, then walk back with your hands to touch your toes.
  5. Stand up straight

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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Motivation Comments Off on Runner dreams – Sudha Singh |

Runner dreams – Sudha Singh

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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Featured Comments Off on Understanding why runners collapse and how to avoid it |

Understanding why runners collapse and how to avoid it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

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

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Featured Comments Off on Mary Kom – World Champion Boxer |

Mary Kom – World Champion Boxer

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan touches base with the legendary Mary Kom. Six-time World Champion boxer and lady extraordinaire and the brand ambassador for the Tata Mumbai Marathon 2019.

In a crowded press room, Mary Kom saunters in, punching the air and smiling the smile of an unbeatable world champion. No swagger required for this champion of champions; her very presence is awe-inspiring. As questions fly thick and fast, Mary defends them with a deft left hook. Her answers, though, are extremely emotional and thought-provoking.

In her opinion, she has achieved whatever any person would want to; medals too many in number to count, which she modestly and jokingly attributes to her fuzzy brain, laid low from years of being punched in the head. So, what then is her final medal destination? The Olympic gold, obviously, which has eluded her over the past decade. So, what makes her tick?

It is evidently her relentless pursuit of personal satisfaction of giving her all-out effort to achieve the best she possibly can, without the accompanying disappointments of defeat. “I have achieved more than any ordinary person”, she says. “Many people, including my close family, ask me why I want to go further. But there is still a fire in my belly to achieve more and more while I still can”.

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan: What were your reactions when you saw your own biopic?

Mary Kom: Oh, at first, it was so emotional. Most of the picture, except a few scenes about violence in Manipur, was a true depiction of my life. It took me quite a while to move away from it and tell myself that it is a movie after all. But on the whole, I liked it very much.

Capt: You must have made a lot of sacrifices, especially with your family. How did you handle it?

MK: It was truly terrible. I had, at one time, to leave my one-year-old son to get back to boxing.

Mary reiterates that hailing from a small town, and being a woman, it was extremely tough to follow the standards set by her idol, Muhammed Ali. But, despite opposition and discrimination, she managed to climb to the heights that have established her as a living legend in the field of boxing.

A surprise visitor to the meet was a Commonwealth Games gold medallist from her own state of Manipur, way back between 1998 in Kuala Lumpur and 2002 in Manchester, Dingko Singh. After a quick dialogue with him, Mary lapsed into an exhortation to junior boxers to shed their fears and move forward to challenge people like her so that they could move up the ladder to international recognition.

Mary Kom. Living legend. Looking for more!

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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