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Meet a young runner – Samir Zafar

Running is fever that can catch you young, Nandini Reddy caught up with 6 year old Samir Zafar who completed a 5km race. 

Samir Zafar, was one of the youngest runners at the recently concluded Madurai Marathon. For a 6 year old to take on such an arduous task of completing 5kms is indeed commendable. Talking to Samir was a pleasure because to him the run was something fun and he truly didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. A child whose days are filled with school, skating and cricket, Samir ventured into this new fitness event with equal enthusiasm and curiosity.

When asked what had inspired him to run the marathon, he said, “I just wanted to run.” It was as simple a motivation as that. Most adults run for a purpose – goal timings, fitness and even challenges. But Samir decided that he just wanted to run because it seemed like something he should try.

Watching your parents is what really gets one into fitness. Samir’s parents are both enthusiasts who ran the Madurai Marathon this year and this inspiration got him on board as well. Marathon usually requires training. Most of us employ virtual coaches, carry energy drinks and even train for months ahead. When asked if Samir underwent any sort of training or practice runs, he seemed puzzled and said, “No. But I do go to the park all the time with daddy.” It seemed rather matter-of-fact that being an active child he didn’t seem to understand the purpose of training. His physical activities on a daily basis helped carry him through the course.

The 5km race may be the easiest one to attempt as an adult but for a 6 year old with yet to develop muscles, it can be a formidable task. Samir did agree that it was a bit difficult to complete the course but he was so glad that he finished it. It was the first time he ran with such a big group of people and felt rather important to be participating alongside adults. “It felt very nice to run with such a big group of people,” quipped Samir with a broad smile.

Samir is all set to run his second 5km and in the future he might even make it to the 10km category with ease. But until then little runners like him continue to inspire us all to be fit and have fun while doing it.

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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Aging Gracefully with Running

Runners can keep going by adapting their techniques at each age milestone, says Radhika Meganathan

Age is just a number, as they all say. However, when it comes to running, the biology of aging cannot be denied, or ignored. As one ages, muscle mass decreases. Bone wear and tear over a period of years slow you down and makes you less flexible. Healing takes longer and stamina takes a hit. These are perfectly valid reasons to be vigilant and adjust one’s training and expectations from the sport.
The good news is, you can run the if you are prepared enough. At the Twin Cities Marathon in 2014, 59-year-old Christine Kennedy of triumphed with the astounding stat of 2:59:39.

Should you run when you are older?
Of course! As long as you don’t have any serious conditions that may hamper your running and you take proper care to run, running is good for all ages. Consider these pluses of running, especially if you are a senior:
1. Running can help you with a longer and healthier life.
2. Runners have less chance of suffering from clinical depression
3. Running improves blood circulation, and the brain benefits from improved circulation.
4. Running, and in general being physically active, can prevent you from cognitive decline.
5. Running reduces the chances of you getting colon or breast cancer.
6. Runners sleep better!
With all the above benefits, you are better off running!

But what about the ‘fall’ scare?

It’s a myth that you will fall and injure yourself if you run after a certain age. Injury happens to anyone who is careless or doesn’t take the necessary precautions. Age has nothing to do with it! In fact, most senior citizens experience falls in all walks of their life due to poor balance. Regular running makes muscles and bones stronger, and improves balance, which means – less chances of having a fall during running.

What if you are a senior and new to running?

Start with walking. Your neighbourhood park is the best bet, but you can walk in a quiet road too. Walk 10 minutes, and slowly jog for a couple of minutes. Alternate this until you feel slightly out of breath, and then stop. Repeat this consistently every day or every other day, progressively increasing the time to 15 and 20 minutes. Slowly venture into brisk walking, and eventually, sprinting. Set reasonable goals, look how your body’s responding and adjust your schedule accordingly. Take a companion if you are unsure attempting this alone. If you cannot run every day, aim for at least three times a week. Remember, the more you do it, the easier it will get.

What if I have a pre-existing condition?

Any sport requires a certain degree of caution when you attempt it with a pre-existing condition, and running is no different. As a starter, get your physician’s opinion. Get the right running attire, shoes and safety gear. Always have a mobile or a medical device alert with you, in case of emergencies. You can also hire a personal trainer who can help you get started with running. The advantage of professional help is that you will be under a monitored environment where you will be taught to gradually increase the level of activity.

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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Is Running Good for Children?

If your kid loves to run, or if you want to encourage your child to be a runner, read on to know about safe running practices for kids, says Radhika Meganathan

There is no doubt that regular exercise and an active lifestyle is good for kids. It’s easier for them to learn good habits when they are young, and what’s more, kids are natural runners. Running fortifies bones, musculo-lumbar co-ordination, and toughens muscles and tendons. Most importantly, it is fun. So little wonder that your little one loves to run!

Still, we should not forget that children’s bodies are not fully developed and they need special attention if they want to indulge in running as a dedicated sport. The Journal of Athletic Training mentions in one of its articles that:

  1. Children absorb the impact of running less effectively than adults. Less absorption means bigger impact to bones, joints, and soft tissue – all pointing to higher risk of injury.
  2. Kids bodies’ have not learned to acclimatize or climate control, so they won’t take to running in extreme heat or cold as well as adults do.
  3. Kids lumbar and hand-eye co-ordination is not as well developed as adults, especially in the beginning of their running phase.

So – should you train the little champ in your life? Or is it too risky? If your kid is already an enthusiastic runner, how much training is good for them? And what if they lose interest as they reach teenage or adulthood?

In general, medical opinion seems to be that runners under the age of 16 should not participate in any event longer than a 10K. That actually leaves plenty of distance for those little feet to cover! When young kids are concerned, the focus should be on enjoyment, rather than rigor or intensity. Here are some tips to get your kid run without missing all the fun:

  1. Get your child involved in running-related games, rather that straight line running. Opt for speed training, which will help them well into adulthood.
  2. Vary the running. Get your kid to sprint, hurdle, do track work and even cross country! This way, they will develop as an all-round runner.
  3. One size does not fit all. Some kids are active in the day, some in the evening, some can get going for hours while some get tired very easily. Figure out what works for your kid and let them practice around that.
  4. Kids being kids, might not remember to do the right warming up exercises, or drink enough water during running. Make sure they get trained in these pre- and post-run techniques as well.
  5. If there is a running club in their school, get your kid enrolled in the program. Your kid will get to run with his friends, under the supervision of the school coach who will make sure your kid follow the right running routines.

In case you really find a winning spark in your kid and they are also equally passionate about running, the best way forward would be to let them train under a qualified Athletics coach.

Can your child race?

For most marathons, the minimum age is usually between 16 -18. If your kid is younger, the you can include them in the fun runs or family run categories that range from 1km to 5km. There is also the option of introducing them to marathons through kid events like – Kidathons. If your child is just starting off but if a decent runner then use this reference guidelines to plan your races.

Under 4 years old – 400 m

Age 5-6 – 800 m

Age 7-8 – 1-3 km

Age 9-15 – 3- 5 km

Age 16+ – 5- 10km

Do not worry that your kid might lose interest later in running. The main objective now must be to imbibe in your kid the habit of physical activity a regular routine, giving them a solid foundation that they carry it well into their adult life.

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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Going Non-Diary

Lactose Intolerance or becoming vegan, whatever your reason, non-diary products are making their way into your daily diet, says Nandini Reddy.

The diary market has faced many lows since early 2011 because of contamination and accusations of chemical enhancers in cattle feed. This has lead to a wave of people switching to alternative forms of milk including nut milk, grain milk and bean based milk. Fitness enthusiasts looking for alternatives without the fat content of milk and people switching to vegan diets have been the biggest adopters of the alternative milk trend.

Like every good food it is important to understand why their alternative milk forms are good and bad for us. Let us consider the various factors that you would need to weigh in before switching over to a particular milk alternative.

Nutrient Value

Nut milks are power houses of nutrients such as Vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, zinc, pottassium, phosphorous and calcium. They also contain flavonoids which are lower the levels of bad cholesterol.  On the downside nut milk and rice milk are low in protein and calcium and lack Vitamin D and B12 which are essentially found in animal milk.  Soy and Rice milk are also great sources of nutrients and have no saturated fats. They have have anti-oxidants that help in supporting the immune system.

Flavour 

Nut milk definitely taste better than any other milk even diary. Rice milk is bland so it blends well as it does not affect the taste. Soya milk has a specific taste that will grow on you. These milks can be added to most breakfast cereals and can also be had alone. For cooking, coconut milk has always been the favourite but almond and cashew milks are also finding their way into desserts as great alternative to cow milk.

Health Benefits

Alternative milks all have the right nutrient values to promote cardio-vascular health. Blood pressure and cholesterol are lowered because of the magnesium rich composition of these milks. Rice milk helps increase iron and copper in your blood thus boosting red blood cell production, and giving you better oxygenation and vitality. Soy is a good alternative if you want to add more protein but its continued use isn’t recommended for women because of its high phytoestrogen content. Rice milks are very starchy and are not suitable for diabetics.

Cost

Alternative milks are more expensive than cow’s milk. Most of them retail at nearly twice or thrice the cost. Most of them are hard to find and are generally available at specialty stores in big cities. Using online sources and buying in bulk might prove more economical in the long run as the shelf life of sealed packages is from 6 months to one year.

Whether its change in lifestyle or beat an allergy or just for overall health, alternative milks do have a space in our diets.

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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Take the Stairs

You can elevate your running performance if you start using stairs, says Nandini Reddy

If you are movie buff then you need to borrow one piece of training advice from Rocky – make climbing stairs as part of training. If you have a shorter training window before  marathon then training on stairs is a good way addition to your training plan. As you power your way up the stairs, you legs become stronger and your heart and lungs are taxed more from the movement thus improving your overall stamina and strength.

So how do stairs help so much?

  • When you are climbing stairs you are moving against gravity and this helps build power and strength in a runner.
  • If you are trying to reach a goal time in a marathon you will need both.
  • Stair climbing also helps you stabilize your form as you work to stay on balance.
  • Stair climbing training also reduces the risk of injury
  • Climbing stairs makes your hearth pump faster and improves your blood oxygen

How they help your legs?

Strength training is a key part of runners training schedule. Body weight training routines recommend lunges and squats to train the legs and glutes. If you do stair training then you will get the benefit of both these exercises in a single move. With your heart pumping your muscles are also more oxygenated. Both your legs get equal amount of workout during stair training.

The oxygenation advantage

During an intense exercise your heart is continuously pumping oxygen to your muscles at a grueling pace. As the intensity of the exercise increase the VO2 levels rise. Stair climbing helps improve your Vo2 max levels and the greater the VO2 level the harder you can run. A British journal published that stair climbing was known to improve the VO2 max level by nearly 17% in women.

What if I choose a natural uphill terrain?

You can choose a natural uphill terrain also to train with but stairs come with a built in difficulty that most natural terrains do not have. Stairs are built at an angle of 65 degrees, while most hills will only have about 5-10% of this gradation.

How do you start?

If you are looking to get started on the stair training routine then like any other exercise ease into it. You can tired very quickly on stairs so do not equate your running capacities to your stair climbing abilities. Start by walking up 10 floors first. If your body is taking the strain then start jogging up 10 floors. If you are able to breath comfortably then move to running. If you need a bit of a challenge, try taking two stairs at a time. You can also use the handrail to pull your body up and get a complete workout.

A Sample Training Plan

Here is a sample training plan if you are ever considering using the stair climbing work out as away to train faster for a marathon

Warm-up – Jog for 10 minutes on a flat terrain

Main Workout – 10 floors x 20 times with a recover time of 30 secs between each set. Use the elevator to come back to a start point if you are able or run down briskly while using the handrail for support.

Cool-Down – Walk down  the stairs at a slow pace and then stretch out all the muscles that you worked.

There are a few stair climbing races around the world if you ever want to consider participating in one but until then use it as the perfect routine to get your strength up for running your best race.

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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Reasons to join a Running Group

There are running groups on every street today and irrespective of your running goals, here’s why you need to consider joining a running group, writes Nandini Reddy. 

There are running groups for every type of runner today. There are the ones are specific to your place of residence and there are the ones that are specific to type of training you want to do. There are even groups of runners who train together for the purpose of achieving goal times in particular races. So whatever running goals you might have, there will be a running group out there for you.

Solo running may seem convenient. You plan your runs around your schedule, commitments and moods while running groups have their own schedules. While it might seem difficult to follow, it will the most disciplined manner in which you can improve your running form, timing and pace. Running groups combine running and hanging out with friends. So while flying solo might have been the way you started, it just maybe time to join a running group this year.

Here a few compelling reasons why you should consider signing up with a running group

Explore a New World

When you run solo you follow known routes and run at a pace that you are comfortable with and you might even that special playlist lined up. Group running gives you partners with whom you can converse about a variety of topics. Also you are more likely to explore new routes thus making your runs more interesting.

Get Faster

Running with others automatically helps you work on your pace. You might just be getting faster and not even realizing it. There is plenty of research that suggests that runners who train with groups tend to be faster than runners who train solo. Group influence always tends to spur you try a bit harder, move faster and even get over roadblocks that you might have faced as a solo runner.

No excuses 

If you are planning to just turn off the alarm and go back to bed, its easy to do as a solo runner but when you are in a group and you know they are waiting for you – then you are most likely to not miss training days. When you train as group, you are more likely to actually follow a training plan.

Perfect for newbies

Most running groups offer coaching for newbie runners. You will get to meet experienced runners who can correct and coach you as you run along with them. You will get tips on nutrition and even strength training because most serious runners always follow a strict fitness regime.

Help you reach a goal

If you are hoping to reach a goal timing, pace or complete a difficult trail run course then a running group can help you achieve that. Having a group to train with will ensure you stay motivated for the training period and that you also stick you a training plan.

The idea of joining a running club can be intimidating. There will be a lot of questions running through your mind but you should know that running groups always welcome new runners with high enthusiasm. So don’t let fear get in the way of you starting a new experience.

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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A run for the eco-warrior

The six city SBI Green Marathon is a must run for every green warrior, writes Nandini Reddy. 

Set to be the biggest single branded race in India, the SBI Green Marathon is all set and poised to be one of the most entertaining marathons in the country. The purpose of the run is to celebrate the passion for environmental stability and sustainability and create a better future for generations to come.

Venkatraman Pichumani is the race director for the SBI Green Marathon. A seasoned runner who is a regular half marathoner at the renowned Mumbai marathon, Pichumani is the first Indian to be certified as a Race Director by RRCA with international accreditation.

Staying on track to their commitment, after each event their will be a sustainability report generated which will talk about the various actions taken during the course of the event to minimize the environmental footprint and maximize the social impact. This will be a public document that anyone can access.

The event shall develop and implement a community focused environmental education engagement plan, such plan may include social media posts, emails as well as lectures and presentations to the stakeholders about how running events can minimize the environmental impact.

Special Giveaway

This race is indeed special because of the many giveaways that promote awareness about protecting the environment and motivate everyone to become a green hero. Select participants will receive a special T-shirt made out of plastic by PlasticIndia Foundation. During the launch the organisers revealed the largest T-shirt created from 200,000 plastic bottles, setting a new Guinness World Record. The

T-shirts are made from a special cloth created from 100% recycled plastic bottles. This is definitely a collectible!

The Plantable Bib – yes you heard right, this running bib has a special use after you finish your race. It is especially designed to be planted, ensuring that you continue your commitment to the environments. At the end of the race each participant can take home a sapling that they can nurture and grow as proof of their commitment to have started on their journey for a better and greener Earth.

Race Categories

The serious runners can opt between a timed half marathon (21k) and a 10k race category. For those who want to have a fun run with the family there is a short 2k run and a dream run for beginners for a distance of 5k. If you want to have fun with a crowd then the 2k run might be perfect pick. If you have just started running and want to see how you perform in an actual race environment the the Dream run (5k) is the good place to start.

If you want to check if you are reaching your goal timings then the more serious 21k and 10k should be the ones you need to set your sights on.

Marathon Schedule

Mumbai – Feb 4

Delhi/ Bengaluru – Feb 18

Chennai/Ahmedabad – Feb 25

Chandigarh – Mar 4

If you missed it in a particular city ensure you make it to the next one. You can book you race participation at https://goo.gl/jZ8p9V

A unique race that promises to be a unique experience.

 

 

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When you stop running

Nandini Reddy explores what happens to your fitness and body when you stop running. 

There are many reasons as to why you had to take a break from your running. It could be because of an injury, family commitment, work schedules or just mental fatigue after you have finished your goal marathon. This is perfectly normal for even the most committed runner, a niggling question that stays in your head is about how long you can take this break.

So there are a lot of researchers who decided to study about how long does fitness last once you stop training. The short answer is within a few weeks your lungs and heart show the affects of not training.

What happens to your body

So once you stop cold turkey after being an avid runner then the first two weeks are bliss. Your muscles recover, you feel more relaxes and you still have all the benefits of the training. Once you hit the four week mark the blood volume drops significantly which means your heart is working less harder now. Runners heart are generally working overtime to continuously supply oxygen to those muscles that are constantly under stress. In another four weeks, muscles are all recovered and any minor tissue stress is also rectified. The lungs and heart are working lesser and if you were to even run on a treadmill now you will notice a change in the time it takes for you to be exhausted. Sustaining a hard pace will be a bit difficult and an easy pace will be what you can achieve. Researchers estimated that endurance performance decreases by nearly 25% after four weeks of no exercise.

What happens to your mind

The first two weeks are good for your mental health because you get to recoup from the punishing training schedules and your body also starts to feel more energetic. The niggling aches and pains will disappear over a four week period. But what happens to your mind after that? Running helps in keeping you happy. In fact any form of exercise has the power to increase positivism. When there is a break the first few weeks seem alright but slowly the anxiety starts to set in. Many runners who took long breaks have described as having signs of depression even. A few weeks off running has a positive effect but a prolonged break seems to have only negative effects on the mind.

So can you restart?

The first thing to remember is that you cannot pick up where you left off. Your body has changed and this has to be taken into consideration while drawing up your training plans. If you try to hit the same statistics with a vengeance you run the risk of injury. The first step is to adjust your mind and ease back into a schedule that is low stress. For the first week keep it easy. Do short runs in terms of distance and time. If all is well then go ahead and plan longer runs in the next week. Build up your pace and distance endurance over the next four weeks.

You can stop running. Sometimes you just need a break but remember that when you restart again, it is important that you respect the fact that you took a break and are now ready to begin anew.

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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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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