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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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.

GUEST COLUMNIST

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 –

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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Motivation Comments Off on How to reach the next level in Running |

How to reach the next level in Running

Your mind can ensure that you get through your most gruelling runs and workouts, and help you reach the next level, says Nandini Reddy

Strong legs and a solid body are not the only requirements to be a good runner. Every sport requires a strong mind and overcoming a mental challenge can be tougher than physical challenges at times. You mind is the one that will decide if your push harder or give up. That extra set of push-ups and extra km of running happens not because you body is energetic but because your mind refuses to give up.

If you don’t want to throw in the towel, then you need to train your mind with a few tried and tested techniques to reach peak performance.

Visualize

If you know you are about to tackle a tough course or workout then first sit down and visualize the course. Understand the hard parts and imagine yourself pushing through the course. Imagine getting tired and being rejuvenated. You need to get your mind to believe that you are now comfortable while tackling the uncomfortable task. You can coach your mind to deal with discomforts and forget about elements that you cannot control. For example, if the weather changes its not under you control but your attitude to the run despite the weather can be regulated by your mind.

Rewire

Running with intensity isn’t a pleasurable experience. You heart rate is elevated; your lungs are protesting, and your muscles are screaming. When this happens your mind automatically asks you to stop. You start to feel like you are not in shape or don’t have the strength or endurance to take on this challenge. But you can rewire your mind to assess this experience differently. You can drive away the unpleasant thoughts by thinking about the finish line, strengthening your legs and building your stamina.

Feedback

Feedback is an incredible motivation tool that your mind needs, to improve. For one you do not need to look at your GPS watch or attach headphones to your phone that is tracking your run progress. The feedback should come from you mind when you congratulate yourself for crossing check points and remembering to hydrate. Listening to music instead is a great way to relax your mind. Mark off points that you had visualized before the race and mentally pat yourself on your back for your progress.

Divide

Mentally divide and mark the course in your mind. Focus on reaching each mark point instead of aiming straight for the finish line. Mini goals are easier to achieve. You will cross the finish line if you can count your small victories instead of focussing only on crossing the final timing mat.

Memory

If your enthusiasm is flagging mid-run the you need to first recall your previous wins. You have done this before and this is another run like the others is a good thought process to follow instead of telling yourself that you want a break. Tackle steep hills and difficult trails one step at a time. If you have a positive affirmation, even one as simple as ‘I can do this’, repeating it to yourself would be a great way mentally boost your passion.

Mental training techniques can improve your running performance and your ability to tackle tough workouts in a more nuanced way than must focusing on the finish line.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

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

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Training Comments (1) |

Runners need Strong Arms

A strong upper body is as important as a powerful pair of legs for runners, says Nandini Reddy

When you think of running you do not worry about the strength of your upper body. You are more focused on your legs, knees, ankles and hips. Very rarely do you hear runners talking about their arms and shoulder strength. But in reality can you imagine running without using your arms? Have you tried running by sticking you arms to your sides and not moving them at all? It would be weird and uncomfortable. It is also a highly inefficient way to run. So if your arms are so important then shouldn’t you be taking care of them.

Deadlift for your upper body

Building a super strong upper body has to be a crucial part of your training as a runner. Have you noticed that when you legs get tired you tend to pump you arms more to finish that critical last mile. So its important that you develop you lateral muscles, pecs, shoulder and arms. You can include deadlift, push-ups, overhead presses and lateral rows in your weekly training sessions to strengthen your upper body. Remember that endurance runs tend to put pressure on your muscles and having strong muscles can help you immensely.

Improve your posture

An upright posture give you good running form. A stable and upright posture will improve your running performance as it has a direct positive impact on your endurance. Shoulders and lateral muscles play a big role in ensuring good posture.

Up your lung capacity

As you work your muscles better your lung capacity increases. Also during a hard run a strong upper body will not need as much oxygen to hold a good running form. When you have a stronger upper body your oxygen requirement reduces and that means you can run with more energy and possibly faster.

Improve Endurance

Building muscle endurance is the key to becoming a better runner. Getting the right stride length and number of strides is important. Often when runners are not strong on their upper body their form starts to flag mid run causing stress injuries and more pressure on the body to complete the run.

Strength training your upper body is as important and ensuring that you legs are in good running form. Don’t ignore it because it can be the one thing that determines how you progress as a runner.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

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

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Training Comments Off on Slow down to speed up |

Slow down to speed up

Runners tend to train too hard and too often and that may not lead to the results you want, writes Nandini Reddy.

If you have ever seen elite athletes training the first thing you might notice is that they don’t run fast. In fact if you did accompany them on their training days you might even be able to keep up. If you think it isn’t possible then you haven’t been introduced to the benefits of low intensity training for marathons.

Why do runners need to train slow?

The answer is rather simple really. Runners run a whole lot more and when its training season before marathon season then they run nearly everyday. So imagine running at your full pace capability every day – what do you think would happen? You are more likely to burnout than get a better race timing. Increasing your average weekly mileage is more important than running faster. You are also less likely to burnout or be injured if you focus on number of kilometres run rather than how fast you run.

How do you distribute the intensity of your runs?

In an ideal situation, you need to run 3 moderate paced runs, one medium intensity run and 1 high intensity run in a week. The moderate paced runs should focus on distance and you need to ensure you make most of your weekly target kms in those runs. The high intensity run is about pacing and timing. Even if you run a short distance focus on on consistent pace.

If you were to measure the intensity of a standard runner, you will see that they never do low intensity runs. Most of their runs are distributed between medium to high intensity which means you are driving yourself to fatigue rather quickly. Elite runners run at low intensity nearly 80% of their training time and only run in high intensity for 10% of their training time.

So how can you control your run intensity?

Whether you are running in a group or alone there are ample wearable devices that you can use to monitor your runs.

Find a Coach

If you are serious about becoming a strong runner then signing up with a coach till you find your flow is a good idea. They will bring in a discipline into your training plans and will hold your accountable. Technically the coach doesn’t have to run with you. You can also have a virtual relationship where you get guidelines and report back on progress with statistics.

Heart Rate based plans

Try to plan your runs according to the heart rate training zones. Any good running coach can give you the basics of how this plan works and with your wearable devices (most of which monitor heart rate to a decent degree of accuracy) you can track your training intensity.

Monitor your work

Using the wearable devices and running apps, monitor your work. You can compare your before and after using these tools effectively. Most running apps store your runs indefinitely until you choose to delete them so they make for a great way to reference you performance as you train.

So if you have been pushing yourself to achieve your goal times everyday then you need to stop and re-evaluate your training program and also rest your over-stressed muscles.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

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

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Training Comments Off on How running affects your muscles |

How running affects your muscles

Radhika Meganathan demystifies the relationship between running and muscle building

Runners are often associated with trim, wiry frames. Well, all that running stimulates your body to burn through your diet and the reserve fat in your body, so no wonder a typical runner burns way more calories. Most body builders, though, avoid running like the plague, accusing running to be a muscle destroyer. This claim is not entirely untrue, because running does have a huge impact on your muscles. But what if you want to build muscle yet still run?

What happens to muscles during running? During an intense cardio activity like running, the body constantly burns calories, even after you have stopped running. It not only burns the calories from your regular diet, it also burns through your reserve fat in the body. But when you run too hard or too long, your muscle will become the food if your body does not have many calorie stores of food and fat left.

Thus, if you want to build muscle mass while continuing with your running routine, you have to concentrate on two things: your calorie burning metabolism, and your running distance.

Adjust your diet

You now know why runners are advised to eat hearty! If you do not adapt your diet to your distances, it may lead to constant calorie deficit and your body will not be able to grow muscles from the limited nutrients from your diet. It’s like a vehicle trying to run on an empty tank! That’s why you must closely monitor your diet if you want to run and retain your muscles.

If your goal is to grow muscles, do not run or weight train on an empty stomach. Be especially wary of long training run, since they can deplete your energy reserves and reduce your muscle mass. After a long run, plan for additional carbs and protein. Make sure you eat a regular, balanced diet, one that has equal portions of protein (lean meat, seafood, eggs), complex carbohydrates (brown rice, bananas, sweet potatoes) and vegetables.

Adjust the distances you run

In addition to nutrition, you should pay attention to the amount of distance you cover each week. The right distance is different for everyone, but you definitely should keep in mind that longer distances (also, a more intense running schedule) will burn more calories and will ultimately start utilizing calories from muscle. But what if you love running and do not want to sacrifice either?

Do not despair! The solution is simple. In order to save your muscles, follow a training plan that gives equal importance to endurance and strength training, and also gives you adequate time for recovery.

  • Talk with an expert trainer/runner and arrive at a schedule with a safe number of training sessions per week.
  • Running shorter distances and following a moderate weight-training schedule will help you retain your muscles without sacrificing them to an intense running regime.
  • Reduce your weekly runs’ mileage.
  • Short runs and sprints are the best way forward if you are looking to build muscles.

With the right training, running can work on developing lean muscle. So get started with the right training and nutrition.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

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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Nutrition Comments Off on Food for Muscles |

Food for Muscles

Strength training and lifting weights is a great way to build muscle strength, but your diet plays a bigger role says Nandini Reddy

Strength training is an essential part of a good runner’s training schedule. Taking care of your muscles means more than just using weights to build muscle. The one factor that needs attention is your diet. Your diet can play the most critical role in ensuring your muscles are healthy and in a state to support your strenuous running schedules. All foods are not equal so its important to pick the right ones to give your muscles the energy boost they need. There are essential rules to remember while choosing food to build muscle.

The Right Amount of Protein

Protein has the essential nutrients that are required to build muscles and also repair them when they are damaged during training. But you also need to understand that protein needs to be eaten in the right quantity. According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, consuming 1.6 gms of protein per kilogram of body weight is ideal for building muscle. Lean meats like eggs, fish and white meat are a great way to add muscle. Supplemental protein shakes break down quickly in your body so they are a great after workout booster.

When do you eat Protein?

Muscles break down whenever you run. Right after a workout your body is better equipped to absorb the nutrition from protein. That doesn’t mean you have to consume something immediately after you workout. You have a 2 hour window within which you can have a meal that will help recover the muscles that have been damaged during the run or workout. While post-workout may be an ideal time to replenish your muscle building proteins, pre-workout meals also have a great impact. Eating a protein rich meal a couple of hours before going in for your workout is also very beneficial. But you need to remember that there is a limit on how much you consume. Eating too much protein in one sitting might only create problems rather than give you a bulky frame. Plan out the protein consumption in advance and spread it out through the day.

Its not all meat

Fueling muscle growth and repair doesn’t mean you have to only indulge in eating meat. There are several vegetables that also help and should be included in your diet. Beetroot, oranges, cantaloupe, panneer, spinach, apples, yogurt and milk are great protein additives to your diet. They give you added nutrients and fuel for muscles to repair better.

No Junk Allowed

Junk is the worst kind of food that one can consume. The extra calories in junk will only make you gain weight. They will not help in muscle development. The goal should always be to eat healthy food. If you need to increase calories to make up for the energy requirements from running, don’t add junk. Eat healthy food otherwise muscle growth will not be adequate and might even be retarded because of lack to the correct nutrition.

Fuel for your runs

Carbohydrates are the most important fuel for your runs. Protein cannot provide adequate energy to keep you going the whole day but carbs can. So along with your protein it is important to give your body the right mix of carbohydrates and fats to prevent deficiencies. Sweet potatoes, brown rice and pumpkins are good carbs to eat along with protein. The carbs get stored as glycogen and will fuel the muscles as they work to help you reach the finish line.

Ensure your calorie intake equals your expenditure. If you lead an active lifestyle then your calorie intake will be higher. If you run and workout daily then you need to fuel these as well. So remember that it is important you give you body adequate protein to build muscles and carbs to fuel those muscles as they work.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

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

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