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Cool It Down

A cool down is as essential as a warm-up for any athletic exercise, says Deepthi Velkur.

The warm-up and cool down before and after a workout are just as important as the workout itself.  While the key purpose of warming up is to prepare the body and mind for intense activity, cooling down plays a very different role. A complete cool-down of the body helps in a smooth shift from exercise back to a state of relaxation. Many individuals dismiss cool down as time-consuming or simply trivial, not realizing that it is essential to prevent injury.

To dive deeper into this phenomenon, let us be aware of some of the notable stresses that occur during and after each workout

DOMS

During an intense workout, we put our body through a lot of stress. Tendons, Muscle fibers, ligaments get stressed and waste products fill up within the body. A good cool down aids in an easy repair process by relieving the effects caused due to a delayed-onset muscle soreness or DOMS (sometimes referred to as post-exercise muscle soreness).This soreness is usually experienced the day after a tough workout due to people having a lay-off from exercise or at the start of a new exercise regime.

Muscle Tears

During a workout, tiny tears named micro tears develop within the muscle fibers causing swelling of the muscle tissues which in turn apply pressure on the nerve endings resulting in pain.

Blood Pooling

The heart pumps large quantities of blood to the working muscles that carries both oxygen and nutrients required for the repair process of all the muscles that were worked during the exercise. When we abruptly stop exercising, the muscles no longer contracts and pushes the blood back to the heart along with waste products like lactic acid which remain in the muscles, causing swelling and pain. This process is termed as “blood pooling.”

What cooling down does for you:

  • Steadily lowers heart rate.
  • Circulate blood and oxygen to muscles thereby restoring them to their normal state before the workout.
  • Reduce the risk of blood pooling
  • Removes waste products such as lactic acid from the muscles that builds up during exercise.
  • Lessens muscle soreness.

How to go about cooling down:

Primarily, a cool down can last for 3-10 minutes and includes a gentle jog, decreasing speed gradually to a walk followed by light static stretching and refueling. It is very essential that all muscle groups are stretched at the end of a workout. To cool down after jogging, a brisk walk for 2-3 minutes followed by gradually tapering the pace to a stroll is good. At this point, standing stretches facilitate in increasing the range of motion in the leg muscles. Seated stretches improve flexibility through the whole body and promote relaxation.

A workout comprising of strength training requires a total body stretching to increase the range of motion in the joints that were worked during the exercise. One needs to be particularly careful to stretch the joints as well. Stretches must be focused on the particular muscle group that you have worked out. Mild movements and stretching will benefit your cool down process and keep the body healthy.

So do your body a favor.  Take time to warm up, progress gradually into the workout and cool down when you’re done being physically active.

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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HIIT – Is it right for you?

The newest darling of fitness enthusiasts, HIIT, is it beneficial or not for your fitness regime, asks Deepthi Velkur

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) a term that has been thrown around by fitness enthusiasts over the past few years. Essentially, it involves repetitions of short bursts of intense, ‘maximum effort’ exercise, like sprinting. The periods of burst activity last from anywhere between 20 to 40 seconds.

Why you should try HIIT?

As fit individuals, we all strive to be healthier and be fitter. When it comes to getting fitter, factors like cardiovascular ability, core strength and fat loss are crucial elements.

  • Cardiovascular ability refers to strength of your heart. It is very important for reaching and maximizing your fitness potential.
  • Core strength helps in having better balance, keeps the body aligned and helps to recover from injury faster.
  • Low body fat means you have peak performance in running, flexibility and agility.

Just doing cardio helps to achieve cardiovascular strengthening, fat loss as well as better core strength. But doing only cardio can lead to muscle loss. For those of you who have done cardio, it only gets repetitive and boring over time. The alternative to this is HIIT. It aids in bettering cardiovascular strengthening, assist in fat loss and bolster core strength without compromising muscle mass, and not taking up a lot of your time. For runners, cyclists, triathletes and other endurance athletes it is important to maintain muscle strength and mass as it supports them during long distance events.

How does HIIT build endurance?

If you want to build endurance in a short period of time, then you need to consider the following:

1) Heart rate (how many times your heart beats per minute)

2) Stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped per heartbeat)

3) Heart contractility (the forcefulness of each actual contraction of your heart muscle)

While the terms might sound a bit technical, these are the ones that determines your overall endurance. As each of these variables increase, your blood gets more oxygenated and your muscles also receive more oxygen. So, the heart is the primary component for building endurance through HIIT.

Sculpting your physique and increasing metabolic rate is a fabulous effect of internal training. By working out at your top level of exertion, you burn more calories in a short space of time than other workouts. Sound’s simple? Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as it sounds!

If you are an absolute beginner to exercising, then this high intensity method might not be suitable. You need to put in at least 3 weeks of proper training before graduating to interval training to avoid injury.

The Benefits

  • Increased Metabolism and Stamina
  • Time saver sessions – 3 sessions/week of 15-20 mins is sufficient.
  • Anywhere – HIIT sessions use your own body weight and hence can be done at any convenient place.
  • Preserves muscle mass and leads to an increase in cardiovascular efficiency as well as increased tolerance to the build-up of lactic acid.
  • Improved performance and endurance.

HIIT Routines

Designing the right interval training routine can be sophisticated or casual. Elite athletes can choose to visit sports performance labs to have blood lactate and exercise metabolism tests done to determine the best interval training routine. Remember that interval training is extremely demanding on the heart, lungs and muscles, and it’s important to have an OK from your physician before you start. It is recommended that you consult an athletic trainer, coach or personal trainer to get a HIIT program designed to meet your fitness goals.

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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Man of iron, will of steel

Petty Officer Praveen Teotia, Shaurya Chakra, Naval Commando impresses Capt Seshadri with his sheer grit and determination to not let his disabilities interfere with this athleticism.

“I am a mean, keen, fighting machine’! The motto of the Commando. The words that motivate the man beyond anything else. “Commando”! The war cry that instils terror and sends shivers down the spine of the enemy.

That fateful day, the 26th of November 2008, when some of the most hardcore terrorists in the world took siege of the Taj Mumbai, Marine Commando Praveen Teotia was to enact those very words. Breaking into the stronghold of the insurgents, he took on the enemy in close quarter battle, and in the process took four bullets in the chest and ear, damaging his lungs and causing partial hearing impairment. For this act of extreme bravery against all odds in the face of the enemy, he was awarded the Shaurya Chakra, the third highest peacetime gallantry award.

As a permanently disabled sailor, having become unfit for normal battlefield duties, but being honourably decorated, he was promoted to the rank of Petty Officer and assigned desk duties. However, this commando, hailing from Bhatola village in Bulandshahr, remained a fighter at heart. Despite his dire medical condition, he applied for a mountaineering expedition, but was refused on medical grounds; but nothing could deter him from his fixed idea. He just had to prove his fitness. Through a few Taj Hotel staff who he had befriended during the action, he connected with marathon runner and trainer Pervin Batliwala. In 2014, under his guidance and encouragement, Teotia began training to run marathons.

Afraid of how the Navy would react to a possible failed bid to participate under their banner, he ran incognito in the 2015 Mumbai Half Marathon. The next year, he gutsily participated in the Indian Navy Half Marathon. His successes automatically led him to aspire for greater triumphs. He moved up to the Half Iron Man Triathlon in Jaipur, which entailed a 1.9 km swim, 90 km of cycling and a 21 km run. Despite these stupendous feats, Praveen was unsure and a bit nervous about how the Navy would react to the long leaves required for training and participation. So, with a point to prove that this was the same commando who had been severely injured while fighting extremists in the Taj, he opted for voluntary retirement from the Navy. Says Petty Officer Teotia: “After I was shot, doctors had given up on me. But I hung on for five months in the hospital and recovered, although my hearing was impaired.” He simply couldn’t give up at this stage.

Khardung La, in Ladakh, at over 18,000 feet, is the highest motorable pass in the world. Even the sturdiest and most powerful of motor vehicles struggle to battle the steep inclines. The rarified atmosphere tests even the fittest of persons with its low oxygen levels. However, this human machine seemed to have no such problems. On September 9, 2017, Praveen Teotia not only completed the 72 km Khardung La Marathon, but did so in 12.5 hours, well within the stipulated time of 15 hours. Coach Batliwala was amazed. “I have met very few with such willpower. Finishing Khardung La is no child’s play. I did it last year. The oxygen levels are low and it is doubly difficult for someone with a damaged lung. To do so well is a stupendous achievement.”

Praveen proved his coach wrong by actually making it child’s play, with yet another unbelievable achievement. It takes the most courageous and committed athlete from among the fittest of the fit to complete an Ironman, the gruelling event in South Africa, considered one of the most challenging courses in the world. This former commando set his sights and his heart on it. Kaustubh Radkar, one of the most successful Ironman finishers and a certified coach, took Praveen under his tutelage. Earlier this year, Praveen cycled 180.2 km, ran 42.2 km and swam 3.86 km to achieve that ultimate, endurance defying event, the Ironman Triathlon. A little past the three-quarter mark, the derailleur of his cycle gave way. The remaining portion of the sector was mostly uphill, but Teotia completed it despite an injured knee and ankle adding to his already damaged lung. With a bleeding leg, this incredible athlete ran the marathon and then swam his way to complete, in the process being the first disabled Indian Ironman.

Let’s face it. A true commando never fades away. He does or he dies.

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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Too Much Too Soon

Our Guest Columnist, Tarun Walecha, shares his thoughts on staying injury free.

Running is the new golf as they say, and it certainly is as it has reached the corridors of corporate power today. But not before having made its impact on society, in general. The reason to this is simple, running isn’t all about power, or networking. It is far more than that, it touches you in many ways, be that your lifestyle, your ability to analyse and understand day to day situation, self-discipline, strong will and much more…so much more. One of the prime benefits which we start it all with, our fitness, that later becomes just a collateral. I’m carefully using the word collateral which by no measure means insignificant. There’s still more that running brings into ones life, new friends for one (and hoard of them, actually), lot’s running gear(mostly free 😊), a bit of travel for the events, not to miss the adulation (PBs et al) and the least preferred of them all….Injuries.

Is it all too much too soon?

Well, there can be a write up on each one of the issues, but we shall focus on injuries this time. Most of us who start running do not have a great history of sports. Well I said most, cause most often those with some sports background also fall in this category as they restart this regime after a fair amount of downtime. Those who restart this journey after a gap in the sporting activities, and for someone to start altogether fresh, running does expose us to certain amount of risk of injuries. Having said that, I can very confidently say that it’s not running that is the cause of the injuries though it does become the medium. It is like blaming a car for an accident and absolving or ignoring the role of the one who drives it. Let us understand what’s the reason for the injuries….and let’s understand when is it too much, too soon.

Roadblocks we encounter

One starts running with an aim of staying fit, and the limited available knowledge is a natural course of things to unfold. As we chart this journey, we encounter various roadblocks, inability to improve the speed, or cover longer distance, lack of disciplined routine and of course, a schedule to follow. While we seek these answers through various friends, runners, running coaches, online portals etc what we also start learning about is PBs, Podium finishes, and everything else that comes with it.  This is exactly where the “Too much Too soon” syndrome sets in. What started as a hobby, breaks through the realm of passion and before we realise it becomes an obsession. Suddenly learning takes a back seat, improving becomes the main criteria! Running for fitness seems basic, and getting a podium finish becomes the main driver. It’s this shift of focus that makes us ignore our limitations and push beyond the boundaries. Having said that what is life within the confines of limitations, and who would get better if one does not push the boundaries. But there’s a thin line there, a very thin line which only we can define for ourselves.

Misjudging your boundaries

There will always be a friend egging you to run faster, or a coach pushing you for a stiff target, and at times even a runner who silently is clocking better time than you but becomes the cynosure of your eyes and all you wanna do is get ahead of him/her. In a situation like this, more often than not, we misjudge ourselves, our training, our strength and our weakness. And even when we maintain our sanity, running as a regime does have its own wear and tear on our body. Our muscles are going to tire, our mind and body is going to get fatigued. But let’s not forget, no two individuals can be alike and this is a scientific fact. What we deal with is something similar, but beyond the biological or physical sphere. With a given physical and biological background, an individual still have too many variables to deal with, such as, a day job, daily routine, personal stress, amount of rest, one’s own willingness, mental strength and the list goes on. What we need to understand is that each one of these variables has a role to play for the way we perform. So, before we begin to compete with someone, we need to look within and know what’s good for us. It is this ignorance which leads to pushing the boundaries beyond the realm of reality and becomes the main reason for injuries.

Lessons Learnt

I started running about 8 years back with hardly any friends in running and bare minimum social media exposure. I consider this a blessing in disguise, cause the learning came in slow, but that slow did good to me. I won’t say I didn’t have my tryst with injuries, it’s a given as all the pounding is bound to show up some way or the other. Fortunately for me it has just been stress accumulation, incorrect or over training which lead to what one may define as pre-injury state. Each time it left a lesson behind, a sign to know if it was too much for me.

What we all need to understand is how to deal with it, but before that we must know, when to push further and when to back out. Only when you dive into a deep sea you will get pearls but where to dive and how to dive is the key. Of course, there’s a recourse through medical intervention, physiotherapy, proper guidance, etc. if one does fall into the trap or gets injured, but those we can deal in another article at another time. For now if I was to sum up my intent for this blog, I would say the following.

  1. Know your limits, make incremental changes and remember how Rome was built…😊.
  2. Understand your strength, and seek guidance when needed.
  3. Push your boundaries, but don’t be over ambitious.
  4. It’s important to understand your muscular anatomy and what it takes to run.
  5. Learn it the right way, correct form is the key to injury free and efficient running.
  6. Last but not the least, You are your own competitor, no one else.

Don’t let someone else becomes your bench mark… an inspiration, yes… a competitor, no. Learn to do this for yourself and not for others, let’s not fall in the trap and succumb to “Too Much Too Soon”.

GUEST COLUMNIST 

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

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Hip health for Runners

Pain-free and healthy hips are a requirement for a smooth running experience, says Nandini Reddy.

When you love to run you will also have to deal with injuries. While avoiding an injury might seem ideal, we sometimes need to deal with the fact that certain injuries need more attention. Any injury, even if its a minor pain should be dealt with immediately more so if it is related to the hip.

Most runners have dealt with ankle and knee injuries, ligament pulls and tears and muscle strains but unlike most of these injuries the hip is critical. So if you feel pain in your hip during or after a run, you need to seek medical advice. This is one pain that should never be ignored and certainly don’t self medicate.

Understanding the Pain

There are a variety of causes why your hip can get hurt. First identify the point of pain and what the pain feels like (sharp, dull, deep, etc). This will determine the cause of the pain as well and you can also avoid hurting yourself again. A doctor will eliminate the guesswork so it is always better to consult one if you find yourself in pain.

Remember that stretching and running with a warmed-up body is one of the most basic ways to avoid injuries. Minor hip injuries can be treated with rest but if you ignore the initial pain and continue to run then you risk complicating the damage from the injury. The most common hip pain comes from overuse – that means you run too much. The overuse of your muscles can cause a burning or rubbing sensation on the outside of your hips. This is the first sign for you to take a break. The inflammation will come down in about a week and if you use a cold compress on your hips and rest, you should be good to go.

Complex Hips Injuries

Now all injuries cannot be resolved with ice packs and rest periods. Another major injury is strength imbalance. This occurs because almost everyone has one leg slightly longer than the other. This makes one leg stronger than the other. While that is totally normal and probably how nature intended it, it doesn’t help when you run long distances. Weird running conditions on trail runs and old injuries can aggravate this condition. So avoid hill runs or running on slopes sideways if you have this issue. es. It can also be the result of an old injury or weird running conditions. Try not to run sideways across hills. That’s a bit strange in general, but it’s also hard on your hips. If you suspect strength imbalance get a professional to evaluate you. You might need to change your exercise differently to ensure that both legs are equally strong.

If you hear a clicking sound or feel a catch in your hips when you run, then you most likely have torn a cartilage.This is a serious injury that needs a professional opinion and adequate rest. If left unattended then it might even require surgery.

If you notice a pain inside your hip then its mostly likely due to a stress fracture. Running on roads and hard surfaces is a major cause for stress fractures. If you don’t get it looked at it can lead to limping because the pain can be intense. It needs the same attention any fracture is given that means 6-8 weeks of rest. Don’t attempt other forms of exercise unless recommended by your doctor and even then try and do them under supervision of a coach or physical therapist.

What can you do to ease the pain?

Never walk it off. That is ill advice for hip injuries and should never be followed. Good posture is an important aspect of running. Try and keep you shoulders square and your chin up and maintain a proper and comfortable stride. This will eliminate a host of reasons why you could get injured.

While you are in recovery you can consider swimming. It is an amazing exercise to prevent stress injuries and also helps strengthen your muscles without putting pressure on your bones. If you are injured then you must see a professional. This is the fastest way to get fit again.

Taking a few days off won’t make you a bad runner. But having to give up running because of an ignored injury is an unpleasant situation to put yourself in. Hips are vital for your running and you need to give them the respect they deserve.

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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Run long, live short?

Do long distance runners have a shorter life? Capt Seshadri attempts to explore this theory, based on research and experiments and from dialogues with doctors with experience in accompanying marathon runners in major events.

In the fall season of the year 490 BC, Pheidippides, a Greek messenger, ran a distance of 26 miles non-stop from Marathon to Athens, to announce the defeat of the Persians at the battle of Marathon, in which he himself had just fought. Having shouted out “nenikēkamen”, (we have won), he collapsed and died on the spot.

Centuries later, the death of Jim Fixx, author of “The complete book of running”, probably triggered the debate on the issue of health versus harm. Reports from across the world state that till date, 36 marathon runners have suffered a fate similar to that of the ancient Greek. The age range was between 18 and 70, thus averaging close to 44. Almost half of these deaths occurred either during the run or within 24 hours of the event. So, is there a connection between long distance running and heart attacks? The arguments for and against, both purportedly with solid data to back them, are conflicting but hardly convincing.

Heart + Running

It is a universally established fact that the cause of coronary failure is a build up of plaque in the arteries. So, does distance running help build up plaque, or prevent it? Argument # 1 suggests that extreme distance running can harm rather than protect the heart. This is based on a study of 8 runners over a period of 140 days, running a daily cross country stretch of 42 km, with a one day break each week. After the first 24 hours, the runners were subjected to tests to determine plaque build up. At the end of the race, it was found that their systolic blood pressure, (the number on the top) had decreased and the ‘good cholesterol’ was higher. However, having checked their previous medical records, for those with a history of heart issues, the plaque build up was higher. These findings seem to suggest that distance running is not necessarily protective but could even be harmful in the long run. Conflicting, or confusing?

Marathon runners of all ages around the globe, participate enthusiastically, quite often either ignoring or not being aware of previous cardiovascular deterioration. On the flip side, it would be silly to assume that all marathon runners are physically fit and are therefore immune to cardiac disease.

Understanding the heart

Argument # 2 takes a somewhat different pitch. It says: If we sampled 50 men running 3,510 marathons over the course of three decades, will their heart health suffer or improve? These were experienced runners, most of them with over a quarter of a century of training, with some even having run for half a century. The mix was eclectic, with some having commenced running from school days and others trying to work out the effects of sedentary lifestyles, smoking and indulging in junk food. On an average, they ran around 50 km a week. When these 50 were scanned, 30% had no sign of plaque, 40% had mild amounts and the remaining 20% were the worrisome lot.

The findings were quite chaotic to say the least. More marathons did not mean more plaque, as did less running not indicating any difference. This led to the conclusion that extreme running had little or no impact on heart disease, but reinforced the fact that a history of smoking and cholesterol led to greater plaque deposits even after years of running.

Added to this is a third dimension. According to recent studies, different versions of atherosclerosis, the technical name for plaque build up, could be benign or harmful, and could affect active and sedentary people, thus debunking both negative and positive schools of thought on distance running and heart disease. This ‘halfway home’ theory seems to suggest that long years of distance running neither improves nor deteriorates heart health. There is no clinching evidence to prove that running causes any direct changes in the heart. The conclusion would probably be that all kinds of running would help keep arteries clear of harmful matter. However, running does not provide immunity to those with a history of bad lifestyle, especially smoking and junk food. In the words of Dr Roberts, an experienced researcher, “You can’t just outrun your past”!

So, run to your heart’s content. Run for your lives.

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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Are you getting enough Vitamin D?

Runners require Vitamin D, as its an important nutrient to avoid stress injuries, writes Nandini Reddy

Runners get all their macro nutrients right with the diet they follow. That is easily monitored and the room for error is slim. But in terms of micro-nutrients, despite eating a balanced diet, there might be shortfall, especially of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and is particularly important for runners. Having adequate Vitamin D helps one reduce anxiety, strengthen bones and run with better power. It is an important factor in improving overall muscle strength and improved heart health too.

How do you know if you are deficient?

There are certain symptoms that will indicate a lower level of Vitamin D. You might have sore muscles often with pain that doesn’t subside easily. Fever and bone fractures in the ribs, hips, thighs and feet. If you are experiencing these symptoms then testing for Vitamin D is a good idea. A blood test will determine the levels and a physician can give you a temporary medication to amp up the levels of Vitamin D in your body until your natural rhythm sets in. Any medication should be taken under the supervision of a doctor as there are adverse affect to Vitamin D being too high as it can become toxic.

How do we get Vitamin D?

The best known way to get Vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight. With at least 30 minutes of exposure to the slanting rays of the sun, the body is able to synthesize Vitamin D. But just spending time in the sun isn’t enough to ensure that you body get enough Vitamin D. Along with sun exposure these inclusions in your diet will increase the Vitamin D – fatty fish, mushrooms and eggs. You also get fortified foods like milk and breakfast cereals but getting the nutrition directly from foods is a better option. These are just sources but to ensure absorption you need to consume magnesium rich foods and high dietary fibre foods, such as nuts, leafy greens, beans, avocado, olive oil, etc.

While you might feel that you are doing enough by running early mornings. You should realise that unless you expose a significant amount of skin without using sunscreens and creams, your body cannot generate adequate Vitamin D. Hence it is important to ensure that the diet also supports in maintaining the required levels.

How does it affect running performance?

As a runner it is important to ensure that you muscles and bones are in top health. If you have inadequate Vitamin D then you might experience the following during your training:

  1. Quick exhaustion
  2. Muscle soreness that lasts for days
  3. Slower recovery
  4. Stress injury on your legs
  5. Nausea from running or any exercise
  6. Bad Immunity to common colds, flu and cough

There is a designated amount of Vitamin D that has be present depending on the persons age which your physician will be able to prescribe.

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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Eating Right for runners

Marathoner, Dharminder Sharma, talks about the kind of food that is good and bad for the Indian runner.

You can eat whatever you want to, because you are a distance runner so you can digest everything – how many times have we heard this advice from the so-called experts to newly christened long distance runners!

Another statement often heard is that I run long distances so that I can eat whatever I want.

There cannot be two worse statements about diet than these!

Eating right is as important for a long distance runner as it is for anybody else. One can never overstate the importance of eating the right kind of food and food supplements to ensure a life-long injury free running experience. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats take up a major part of our daily diet although fibre, vitamins, minerals and water are also indispensable.

What are carbs?

In India, carbs are generally considered to be wheat and rice and most do not know much about what other foods contain carbs. Fruits, salads, vegetables, nuts, sweets and legumes (daals) all contain carbs.

What are simple and complex carbs?

A general advice given by Dietitians to health conscious individuals and runners is to go for complex carbs rather than simple ones. Without going into the science of the advantages of complex carbs and the disadvantages of the other, a simple listing of the items would help a runner or a fitness enthusiast choose the right diet. The common examples of simple carbs that a runner should avoid or restrict in quantity are white breads, sugar and sugary products like candies, toffees, chocolates (except a small piece of dark chocolate) and mithhai (traditional Indian sweets), fruit juices (especially canned ones), white rice, most bakery products, potato chips and cold drinks, this list is, however, not exhaustive.

The complex and healthy carbs that one should prefer are whole grain breads, chapatis made of whole wheat, Bajra, Ragi and other coarse grains/millet, brown rice, beans, nuts, oats and oatmeal, quinoa, fruits especially less sugary ones like guava, papaya and pineapple, sweet potatoes and leafy greens.

What about protein in diet?

When it comes to proteins, there is a popular myth that only the body builders or hard core gym enthusiasts need to consume proteins. That is not true because our body needs proteins to build muscles that provide the necessary support during runs. Proteins help build the muscles and they are required to recover the muscles after a long strenuous run. Therefore, a runner’s diet requires proteins in good quantities.

A long distance runner under training should have at least 0.8 gm of protein per kg of body weight per day in order to stay injury free. Some of the protein rich ‘foods’ that one can add in daily diet are chicken breast, fish, sunflower seed, almond, quinoa, egg white, low fat cottage cheese (paneer), chick pea (chana), whole lentils (chhilka daal), oat, beans, soya milk, broccoli, brown rice and peas, to name a few.

How do fats help?

Besides, the carbohydrates and proteins, fats take another major part of human diet. We often hear of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats – good are the ones that should be more in quantity. However, often when people get their lipid (fat) profiles checked through blood tests and come across technical terminology, it is little difficult for them to correlate in the laboratory reports as to what are the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ fats. Even if they are able to make out what these are, they often do not have an idea as to how to increase or decrease their levels in our bodies. The best way to increase good fats is to eat the food that naturally contains large quantities of ‘good’ fats.  Some of the ‘foods’ that contain high to very high quantities of these ‘good fats’ are almond, walnut, flaxseed, olive, canola, chia seed, pistachio, fish oil especially cod liver oil.

Never forget the Vitamins & Minerals

One can never over-emphasize the importance of flaxseeds in the daily diet. They are a rich source of natural omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B1 and B6 and are one of the most nutrient rich foods that also contain protein, dietary fibre, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and selenium. Flaxseeds are low in carbs and therefore, very useful for someone looking to shed weight. They are also good for cardiac health as they lower cholesterol levels and the antioxidants in them slow down the process of aging.

How much fibre is enough?

We often ignore the importance of another ‘food’ in our diet and that is dietary fibre. Some of the above-mentioned foods do contain dietary fibres in large quantities and should form a part of the daily diet no matter whether the person is training or is in the midst of an event. I say this because a lot of literature on the internet advises against eating fibre and protein rich diet the day before the event and in fact advises eating pasta. Since most of the literature is from the perspective of the West, this advice may hold well in that context but my advice to an Indian runner would be to go for the same diet that one is used to eating which may be Roti, Idli, rice, Dosa, etc.

The night before the big race

If you are used to eating Daal, Roti, Kheera, rice and Dahi as your regular diet, there is absolutely no harm eating it the night before the event. There is absolutely no sense going on a hunt the evening before an event for a restaurant that serves pasta if you have gone to a new city to run in an event. Just stick to familiar foods that have worked for you during the training, if they have worked for you so far they would surely work now. Remember, the day before the event or a marathon is not the right time to try a new food in a new city! In fact, eating familiar food will actually prevent the constipation on the morning of your event and save you precious time to enable you to reach the event fresh and in time.

Fitness and a healthy eating has to be a continuous journey and not a time bound target for a runner or a fitness person. I would conclude by giving another important advice – spicy and oily foods the day before the event whether or not you are used to eating them, are an absolute ‘No’!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dharminder Sharma is an Indian Forest Service Officer (IFS) who has been running long distances for more than ten years. He has attended most of the major marathons in India and a few abroad. He has also started many running clubs in the Northern Indian region and organising quality runs for runners is one of his many passions

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Running during your periods

Have you ever wondered how that time of the month affects your (or your loved one’s) running? Radhika Meganathan talks about running and the menstrual cycle.

The discomfort, the mood swings… yes, periods can be a pain, but here’s the more important question: does it have a negative effect on your running performance?

Menstrual cycle, explained

Most women have a 28-day menstrual cycle which is split into two halves. The first half is known as the follicular phase, characterized by increasing levels of Estrogen. Day 1 is when your period starts. Ovulation, or the release of a fertile egg, happens around day 14, give or take a couple of days.

The second half of a typical menstrual cycle is the luteal phase, when the lining of the womb (endometrium) thickens, to prepare the body for pregnancy. Progesterone levels and body temperature increase during this second phase.

If the egg is not fertilized on time, then all the hormones levels fall over the next few days, triggering your next menstrual cycle. Rinse and repeat until pregnancy or menopause occurs; sometimes, severe physical and/or mental trauma can also delay your periods and throw you off your regular cycle.

Timing your training

Often, the best time for any kind of physical training is during the follicular phase. This is when your body temperature is lower, and all stored energy and regular fuel are broken down rapidly without the interference of hormones; thus, this is the best time for short, high-intensity workouts.

After Day 14, when your body temperature increases, it may not be an ideal time for intense workouts. But this time if perfect for endurance training, as many runners have found out.

Now we come to the dreaded week before Day 1; technically, the last week of your menstrual cycle. This is when most woman feel bloated, lethargic and restless. The scientific explanation is this is when your body realizes your egg is not fertilized that month and progesterone and oestrogen levels fall sharply. Your best running performance may not happen during these few days, but the good news is you can still do gentle runs on Week 4.

Running during your period

Some women hardly feel their periods, but some are so adversely affected that they take time off from their work. One size does not fit all when it comes to menstrual symptoms, so you are the best judge on how you want to draft your running schedule around your periods.

If you have heavy periods with painful cramps, you may be tired and anemic. You may also be feeling dizzy (some women report fainting) and have concerns about leakage. At this time, we advise gentle runs, good hydration and a sensible approach to training and diet. After the first two days, everything is good, and you can resume your normal running schedule during this awesome follicular phase.

Finding your best running days

Keep a menstrual cycle diary for a few months. Jot down the quality of your run during certain days, and note your energy and mood level. This will help you to identify your best days and schedule your training. Use the ‘bad days’ to concentrate on core work, cross training.

But what is you get your periods during a race? What if D-day falls on the first two days? Well, Uta Pippig, winner of Boston marathon in 1996, crossed the finish line with red-streaked knees and shanks. Clearly, her periods didn’t stop her from her win, so don’t be stressed about it. Just make your body work for you!

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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