The best part about running as a recreational sport is that it is inclusive. That probably explains its popularity the world over. Anybody can run, it’s that simple. And the more runners I meet, I realise how therapeutic it is and how it forces you to take note of yourself. For me, it was as if I connected with myself for the first time when I started running. Even pregnancy had failed to do that for me. However, nowadays it also comes with a lot of noise and commotion. There is pressure of what races are you signing up for, your finish time, how much you are running in a week etc. It feels good initially as a new runner but slowly the pressure builds up. Of course, it’s great if you want to improve continuously and important to strength train to remain injury free but it’s not ok to constantly compare yourself with others. Continue Reading
The views expressed are guest author’s personal.
Most of us have had phases of quick 5Ks to Ultra-marathons, cycling obsession/cross training, DNFs through which we’ve fumbled, injured, been through pain, fallen into the ‘No Pain No Gain’ culture and more often gone through phases of confusion interacting with runner turned Gurus in addition to a lot of running theories and information on the web and books.
In an era of information sans knowledge and wisdom, it only makes sense to take a pause and give a thought as to why a primitive and natural activity like Running has been made so complicated? Or is it really so complicated that we need to ponder over it so much? A three-year old runs all-day without talking about recovery, training programs, compression gears, dry-fit clothes, recovery drinks etc. but for us adults running becomes rocket science.
So what happened to the natural runner within us then?
1. The dysfunctional breakdown of the Human anatomy due to the culture of new smoking (sitting) in front of TV, phone, computer, and most often in wrong postures.
2. The era of modern day food taking over the real food we ate “those days” depriving us of essential nutrients and pumping in excess glucose, sugar, and carbs leading to overweight issues, poor absorption ability, and obesity coupled with nutritional deficiencies.
Naturally with the above issues, poor postures leading to under usage and over usage of a certain group muscles and shortage of those important vitamins and minerals it is not surprising that running has become a complicated study. As a running and fitness coach with integrity at the core of my approach and factoring the longevity of my trainees it is my responsibility to ensure running and fitness experience is simple, holistic, realistic, and sustainable. To achieve these goals we first need to look into the essentials of fitness and running before getting into the training and injury loop.
1. Understand past and present fitness, health conditions and lifestyle.
2. Determine future fitness goals and draw a line between short and long-term goals.
3. Understand the nature of job, stress-levels, no of hours available per week for fitness, and food habits.
4. Perform necessary tests: BP, Insulin sensitivity vs. resistance, Vitamin (D, D3, C, and B12 importantly), zinc, magnesium, potassium, iron etc. I’m surely able to connect a lot of dots here!
5. Perform an in-body analysis to determine the BMI, muscle, fat, and visceral fat %.
6. Based on the information work on basic fitness essentials through:
a.) Strength and flexibility training
b.) Cardiovascular health
c.) Yoga and meditation for better mind and body connection
d.) Design a diet based on test results to bring a balance in the body
e.) Correct postures through a series of posture correction and improvement exercises
f.) Achieve ideal weight based on age, body-type and height
g.) Monitor progress time to time.
When the body sets right it evolves back to its true nature and form running efficiency comes a bit more naturally. Without addressing what I call Running Essentials no amount of running specific training will help become a better runner but can back-fire and damage the body further.
Shreyas Karnad is a running, weight loss, and fitness coach at Runners360 with an experience of 8 years in the running and fitness world. In the process he has lost 57 kilos overcoming obesity, run a number of marathons and ultra marathons, cycling long distances and raising funds for several causes. Currently, he coaches a group of over 50 people through his fitness venture Runners360 in Bangalore and virtually for marathons, weight loss, and general fitness as strives towards bringing in culture of Holistic Fitness for Fit, Body, and Soul. Besides, he practices Yoga as a part of his Hatha Yoga teachers course and works with an MNC as a Content Engineer.
In my article, ‘5 stages of grief’ (read here) I had discussed the emotional turmoil we go through when we are injured. But what if you are out of the running scene for really long? I have been out practically for the last six months except a few decent 10kms and 5kms.
I have come to believe that an injured runner is like a caged animal. No matter how you might treat it, it will never be truly happy until it is set free.
However, this time around I have not struggled to reach the “acceptance” stage. Of course, it’s everything to do with how I choose to deal with it. I have finally realised that running is life long. It’s a way of life rather than short term obsessive goals.
So here are some of those things that help me and might just be of some use to you:
1) Find another recreational fitness activity – And there are plenty only if we runners are ready to give it a fair chance. It’s ok to not be out there for everything you choose to do. For me it’s stationary cycling which I find extremely boring but it’s safe and at least it tires me out.
2) Shut off yourself from running whatsapp groups if it’s making you feel miserable. Even though I’m still a part of it, I rarely ever check it. Continue Reading
I think over the last few years I have made all sort of mistakes – over-training, not training enough, wrong shoes, not enough strength training, no foam rolling. And I have been injured time and again except last year (when I behaved). No matter how many times I get injured, it always seems to follow the same cycle, just the time spent on different stages varies. So, it goes like this (inspired from the Kubler-Ross model) –
Denial – Nah, it’s just a niggle .Oh! this pain is temporary, it will go. My head is making up this pain as it wants my body to stop. Yes, I’m living in denial.
Anger – Is it really happening to me? – It’s been a few days and let me press where it’s hurting and see. Damn, the pain is for real. And it’s here to stay. Why me? I have a run coming up?
Bargaining – Let me just do short runs. No harm really. This is the worst stage where I’m trying to fool myself in to believing that short runs won’t worsen the injury. But they actually do. Let me try, ice and foam roll, which I should have done after stage one!
Depression – Too late, shit has happened. Now what! Physio asks me to take a couple of weeks off. With too much time in my hand, I don’t know what to do. I’m already perceived as anti-social, how will I explain myself? I will put on weight. Worse still, I will forget how to run! Damn, it’s the end of the world.
Acceptance – It is what it is. After a few days of sulking, loitering around without any sense of purpose, I get into the yoga and do-any-exercise-to-stay-active mode. Only once I accept it’s going to take time, do I relax before getting restless again.
What is it like for you?
I did my first full marathon on road this Jan, followed by another full marathon (this time on trail) in Feb.
I was feeling completely sapped post the back to back runs, so I decided to give my body as much recovery time as it demanded.
I didn’t run in March. And started running a bit recently. I was told yesterday by a fellow runner, you are “slipping out”. Just the way, I don’t understand why the “finish time” is so important to everyone around in our running community here, I don’t understand the obsession with “being seen” at all events. Riding high on runners’ high we tend to forget that running 42 kms takes a toll on the body and mind.
I have made a lot of mistakes in the last few years. I ran too much too soon. I had’t given my body enough time to recover from injuries in the past. Every body is different, some might need longer time to recover than others. I love to run and I want to be able to run over a longer period of time than to burn out.
I know it’s a tough call in today’s anytime-anywhere world or should I say everytime-everywhere world!. I have finally learned to say “no” and don’t let the feeling of being “left-out” bother me. Taking a break isn’t a sign of weakness or aloofness.
Over a period of time I have realised that “resting” has little negative impact on the current fitness, and the long-term gains in any case outweighs any temporary reduction in fitness. So now I strictly base my running on how I feel.
I read a very interesting article yesterday about how anyone seeking happiness should spend money on experiences and not things. I loved the line “we are but a sum total of our experiences”. How true is that! I have always believed that you need things for comfort but beyond a certain level they are just well things. A diamond ring or a designer bag will make me happy but after a while it will become, as the article said “my new normal” and I will move on. But the trip I made to run the Bangkok International Half or StanChart Mumbai Full will stay with me forever. I’ve got memories, stories to be shared, conversation starters and connections that were formed. And with these experiences negative or positive – I evolve and they make me who I am.
Deep down, it’s something we all know but we do get carried away and caught up trying to fit in. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against brands or labels but I’m just glad that I’m equally happy shopping at Sarojini as I would be at a Mango/Zara sale (my upper limit). My latest acquisition is a recently launched not-so-expensive phone called Honor 4x*. I can use it for clicking decent pictures, facebooking, browsing (screen is as big as an iPhone 6 plus), google maps (damn I’m always lost) and for all the other high-end smart phone functions (I can vouch for that as I was using an iPhone for the longest time). Now, would I have been happier had I bought the latest high end phone? Yes, but may be only for one or two weeks. How far could I have taken a conversation about my new phone with friends? I could so relate to the article (link given below) as it was something I always believed in. I now plan to allocate the fund that I saved (I spent 10,499 on this one!) by planning my next runcation (running vacation). Dreaming about running in Ladakh already!
As one starts running longer distances, one starts recognizing the difference between an ache (muscles and body getting used to new work-out) and pain. 2014 was a year of all sort of painful injuries and, as a result, a lot of learning (not).
A runner friend once told me to cut down on the distance I was planning to run – in case of paucity of time – but never to miss out on dynamic stretches and foam rolling before and static stretches post the run. I paid a very heavy price for not following her advise. But then runners are a stubborn bunch (that also explains why we are able to run unfathomable distances). I kept running on tight calves despite knowing it’s foolish to run in so much pain. It resulted in a micro fibre tear! (What now?)
My physiotherapist suggested that in order to release the knots formed around my calves (trigger points which are extremely painful and from where the pain radiates), we use the dry needling method*.
Dry needling is used for dysfunctional muscles, encouraging the muscles to release chemicals. The release of these chemicals helps the muscles loosen and relax. Think of it as the deepest deep tissue
massage you have ever experienced.
I put all my faith in him and went ahead with it. He inserted about 5-6 needles into certain knotted areas (and moved the needles slightly) to release the muscle.
Overall the experience of needling wasn’t too bad except it left my legs sore for a few days. But the relief I felt was tremendous, as if a lot of weight has been lifted from my ankles. I felt really light and ran a very happy half marathon in Bangkok. So, I’m kind of sold to the idea of this alternative technique to release tight muscles, if it comes to that. But I also believe that the right chiropractor or physiotherapist is the key.
Having said that, now I’m serious about my stretches. It is critical to warm up before a run to ensure proper blood flow to the working area, it also improves the flexibility of muscles and range of motion.
While static stretching post a run is to help the body relax and return to a steady state of rest. There is decrease in muscle tension and increase in muscle relaxation which is important to avoid injuries.
I will write a blog entry soon enough on dynamic and static stretching which has helped me.
* According to the Dry Needling Institute:
“Traditional Acupuncture is used for the diagnosis and treatment of pathological conditions including visceral and systemic dysfunction, while dry needling is used for the assessment and treatment of
myofacial pain syndromes and dysfunction due to myofacial trigger points / tension areas / muscle spasm / increased tonicity.”
Ask any long distance runner, and they would have at least one black-toe-nail story to share. This used to happen to me a bit too often until recently. Any 20 km run or more meant coming back home with at least one black beauty. I have always flaunted them. Never once have I tried to hide them under a coat of nail polish or by wearing closed shoes. But unlike a lot of runners I have never clicked pictures of them and shared them on FB/Instragram. Eww!!!
The best way to treat them is to let the damaged ones to drop off and wait for the new ones to grow. But I can’t deny being scared of getting an infection. So, I did a lot of reading on the internet and mostly the causes stated for Subungal Hematoma* (medical term for runner’s toe) were – socks being too thick/thin, socks being too tight, shoes being too tight and constant action of the foot coming forward and hitting the roof of the shoe.
I changed my shoes (for several other reasons as well), kept my nails filed and trimmed and tried various brands of not so loose and not so tight Dry fit socks. Without even logging in excessive mileage, my feet still managed to look ‘pretty’ ugly and hardcore!! However, recently I switched to Marks and Spencer basic sports cotton socks. I have done several long runs (between 20-30 kms) post the switch and voila no more blackies!
At the end of the day, it is all about finding what works for you and what doesn’t.
*A subungual hematoma is a collection of blood (hematoma) underneath a toenail or fingernail (black toenail). It can be extremely painful for an injury of its size, although otherwise it is not a serious medical condition.
A running related injury is like the dementors in Harry Potter for me, it completely drains and sucks the happiness and soul out of me. All of a sudden, I don’t know what to do and a very big part of my life comes to a standstill. There is nothing for me to share on FB (the addict that I’m) and all running related updates make me irritable.
In the month of March, post my first full marathon, my left foot was swollen and I was in extreme pain. I still went ahead and did an obstacle race a week post that. I still don’t know if it was a stress fracture or tendon sheath inflammation alone. Despite feeling miserable, I refused to acknowledge the seriousness of the injury. I started living in denial and continued working out (squats, lunges, burpees etc), running and standing for long hours (baking). I made myself believe that I’m over thinking a minor pain. To further make a point that all is well, I went out dancing wearing heels several times. Big mistake.
At that time, I was looking for answers, reasons for my existence, and the one thing that kept me going was my long runs. I couldn’t fathom letting go of it. But what is worse than an injury is running with an injury. I was being plain foolish.
I reached a point where the physiotherapist threatened to make me immobile by putting a cast on my leg. That’s when I decided if I have to run in the, well, long run, then I need to do things right. I followed RICE to the T and got my physiotherapy done regularly. RICE is Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevate – Since I’m from a non-athletic background, I didn’t understand how that can help, but it does work wonders.
Here are couple of things I learned the hard way-
– Stretch, Stretch, Stretch – pre run and post run. Even if it means running half or one km less than your targeted distance.
– Listen to your body and know your body. Give it rest if you are not feeling completely up and about. Don’t confuse it with “I’m just being lazy, I should be out running”. It’s not about being a hero.
– Dip your feet in ice cold water after every long run within 24 hours.
– Vary the pace to avoid injuries. I can run at the same pace for hours and that’s what I had been doing. I don’t do tempo, hill or interval training as I find it too technical. But Fartleks, not only sounds funny, it is fun to do as well. It’s basically “speed play” involving unstructured and alternate moderate-to-hard efforts with easy throughout. You can read more about it in the link provided below.
– Don’t shy away from Orthopedics and physiotherapists. Knowing good ones is critical.
– It’s good to have crazy goals but running too much too soon is just plain foolish.