Sunday, March 23, 2014

Color 5k Run at Seven Lakes High School

Yesterday morning my dad woke me up around 7 AM so we could get ready and head to the color run. Although I was quite reluctant to wake up at first, he managed to convince me that it would be a worthwhile experience. After getting to the color run, which was being held at Seven Lakes High School (My school!), my excitement was elevated even more when I saw that so many of my friends were taking part in this endeavor for charity. The organization that was handling the color run was the “Unite for Health” club and all proceeds were going towards children who have cleft lip and are in need of surgery.

During the run, I jogged alongside my dad, and every half-mile there was a LARGE group of volunteers from the high school cheering us on and shooting us with a plethora of colors from red, to green, to yellow and orange. The part that surprised me the most was that this color run, which had more than 1000 participants, was originally inspired by our own Hindu festival of Holi. When we reached the halfway point, I was more than relieved. Since this was my first run EVER I got tired rather quickly and was ready to head to the finish line. Finally, as my dad and I reached the finish, everyone was cheering, throwing colors, playing music and having a good time. I’m so glad that I was able to wake up in the morning, be productive and actually complete a full 5K run.

Afterwards, a few of my friends and I went to eat kolaches and donuts together for breakfast right before heading to the neighborhood water park for a morning full of fun. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Let’s bust myth#3: “Long distance running is impossible for me"

Happy Holi to all the readers!

These days in any gathering with our friends, we talk about running for sure even if it is ephemeral. Whatever the occasion is, I have noticed, that people ask questions - some out of curiosity other just as a formality and a few because they truly appreciate my effort to encourage others to run. A few of them have acknowledged that they read my blog and feel motivated to start jogging or running. Personally, this is all I wished for when I started this blog a couple of months ago. As a novice runner, I am aware that the idea of running scratched in a subconscious mind is the first step to the running world. Sooner or later, many people will give it a try.  

Running is one of the simplest activities you can do to stay fit—just lace up your shoes and get moving. Right? Nothing complicated about that. This is where many of us have reservations - there are still plenty of misconceptions about the sport, from old wives' tales (don’t run in cold weather or you'll get sick!) to faulty online "facts" about conditioning, age factor, joint pain and race etiquette. The common one I hear is – “It is impossible for me to run long distances because I have never ran in my life”.

That’s absolutely untrue- the only thing you have to do is “Start running” and you will improve little by little.
Now that you’re a runner, you can work on being a better runner because chances are you’re going to be pretty bad at first. Sorry, but it’s true. Unless you’re ethiopian, you’re probably not a born natural runner – the good news is most people aren’t. You aren’t born a runner, you become one. But, if you’ve never ran before, your first run might be tough. That’s okay. Focus on improving.

With my experience and by completely unscientific methods of testing, I know one thing now for sure. You need to be able to run 5 miles. 

That’s it.

If you can run 5 miles, you can run as far as you want – whether that’s a 10k, half marathon or full marathon. If you can run 5 miles, you can run forever. Because – after you cross 4 miles or so it is like meditation and you will want to be in that mode for ever.

P.S - If you wish to support the drive to encourage Indians to the world of running – please join me.
Like and share the page -  Fit Indian Run

Saturday, March 8, 2014

It's All Good - Running

Recently, I have noticed lot of interest in our community towards running. 8000 hits to “Fit Indian Run” blog - which is relatively unknown to our community is one proof. However, I must admit that progress is sluggish due to lack of awareness. There are people out there who in their mind have apprehensions and still averse to running. They often question about the risk and reward associated with running.

Last week, I met one elite runner from Kentucky who happened to be in Texas for some energy conference. He suggested me to collect more information on scientifically proven benefits of running from Internet and share with readers to alleviate some of the concerns and spur more interest. Result is here below with scientific proof that running keeps you healthy and rational. I hope you will find it useful and worthy reading.

British workers were surveyed on a day they worked out and a day they didn't. People said they made fewer mistakes, concentrated better, and were more productive on the day they were active.

A study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reported that humans who were physically active by running or swimming or biking were less likely to develop dementia later in life.

Insomniacs fell asleep in 17 minutes on days they ran compared to 38 minutes on days they didn't. They also slept for an extra hour on days they exercised.

Scientists have discovered the fountain of youth—it's running. If you run for atleast 10 miles a week consistently – you will notice the increase in energy level enough to suggest you that you had that energy and self-confidence when you were 10 years younger. Studies continue to find that hitting the roads improves health and well-being. "The biggest benefits come from vigorous exercise like running," says JoAnn Manson, M.D., chief of preventive medicine at Brigham Hospital.

People who run more than 35 miles a week are 54 percent less likely to suffer age-related vision loss than those who cover 10 miles a week.

Runners who log a weekly run of 10 miles (or more) are 39 percent less likely to use high-blood-pressure meds and 34 percent less likely to need cholesterol meds compared with those who don't go farther than three miles.

Running strengthens bones better than other aerobic activities, say University of Missouri researchers who compared the bone density of runners and cyclists. Sixty-three percent of the cyclists had low density in their spine or hips; only 19 percent of runners did.

People who exercise for an hour a day are 18 percent less likely to suffer upper-respiratory-tract infections than those who are inactive, according to a study from Sweden. Moderate activity boosts immunity.

Men who burn at least 3,000 calories per week (equal to about five hours of running) are 83 percent less likely to have severe erectile dysfunction.

Researchers had asthmatics do two cardio workouts and one strength session a week. After three months, they reported less wheezing and shortness of breath.

A review of 22 studies found that people who work out 2.5 hours a week are 19 percent less likely to die prematurely than those who don't exercise. A separate study found that active people have a 50 percent lower risk of premature death.

A college students who exercise at least 20 minutes 7 days a week do fairly better in their overall performance and more poised than those who are sedentary.

P.S - If you wish to support the drive to encourage Indians to the world of running – please join me.
Like and share the page -  Fit Indian Run

Thursday, March 6, 2014

My walking, jogging and running experience

I weighed myself in January and I was way over my target weight. Rather I had gained 6 lbs in 4 months since I stopped tracking my weight back in October. Last year  walked for few months to lose some weight and it returned results and geared up to start walking this year as well. I think I may have had a walk or two and then I saw Sanjeev has started blog about Fit Indian Run. Although I was not,and not sure even if I am, a big fan for running I was kind of slightly interested reading the blog. I had known Sanjeev and was surprised to see that Sanjeev had run 100's of miles with pace of under 11 min per mile. I had never been a runner. Although I do walk at a brisk pace and I could run quick small distances but running for distances like miles was impossible for me and it still is. In last month or so I have increased my running time but I still mix running, jogging and walking.

Since I started new so I have some inputs which may be helpful for beginners. Its easy to start and even get motivated for few days, but real challenge comes on how to stay motivated and injury free for a longer lasting experience. I am listing down things which helped me start and are helping me stay motivated so far.

If you read any articles or blogs on running the first recommendation to start running is buy a new pair of shoes. I feel need for new shoes is not to start big bang on running but regular shoes that you have been wearing would have adjusted their shape based on your walking habits. For example my regular shoes wear down from the outer side of the heel. Worn out shoes may put your feet in uncomfortable positions based on how much they are out of shape. Getting new shoes will ensure that your shoes get adjusted based on how you run not based on how you walk on a day to day basis.

Second important thing to start is to measure your performance over time. Idea is to compare your performance over time and not to compare your performance with others. I will come to it later but I feel like comparing your performance with others leads you to push yourself outside your limits and makes you feel uncomfortable or even may get you injured. There are lot of mobile apps in the market to measure your distance, time, pace. I use Nike+ as I had seen one of my friends use it. Although Nike+ has some bugs I wish they had sorted but but it captures distance, time and pace of running over time.

Third important thing to keep in mind is where to run and what time to run. I have done walking on the treadmill and I feel uncomfortable on the treadmill. Again its my personal experience and if treadmill works better for you then that's the way to go. I prefer going on the trail as it is nice to see things changing around you as you run. Although people recommend using new trails I prefer to use the same as I know how much I can cover in the trail. The trail I selected is around my house and a 5K trail so I can walk in increments of 5K. Select a time when you can commit to running wherein you have least chances of getting distracted by day to day activities. I prefer in the evening, half an hour after coming back from office. That helps me take some rest before running and also divert mind from office stuff.

Once you have started on three above things, new shoes, time / distance / pace measuring app and time and place to run then your fun starts. Again I would like to repeat this is my personal experience and may or may not work for you but may be worth trying.

Day 1 of running experience start with walking briskly for a comfortable distance. Avoid extending the distance or time or pace the first day. Choose what you are comfortable with like a kilometer or a mile. If you havent walked or run in a while avoid going too far from your start point or rather repeat the distance 2-3 times from the start point i,e if you want to cover 2 miles go only half mile and come back from starting point and then repeat same distance again. This will give you confidence that even if you get tired or don't feel well you come back to starting point quicker.

First day walk is your baseline what you need to beat every day. From day 2 you can start changing the permutations and combinations of distance, time and pace and beat your previous best in any of these three. So for example first day you covered 2 miles in half an hour with a pace of 15 mins per mile. Second day try to increase your distance or time or pace (only one of them) incrementally say cover 2.25 miles or walk for 33 mins or target a pace of 14 mins 50 seconds. Even if you feel like increasing distance and time try to increase pace marginally only to avoid injuries. For example if you walked 30 mins for first day try to run for 3 mins and walk for 27 minutes second day with 1 min run after 9 mins walk. Change you walk and run time as you feel comfortable. Although you are more excited initially but try to control your initial excitement and let the experience improve over time by going over longer period of time. Its important to keep two of things same (time, distance or pace) as before and extend the other one incrementally. This will give you confidence that you were able to do this last time and you are only incrementally increasing your running or walking. Another benefit of doing this is your Nike+ app will highlight your achievements every time and trust me this will keep you motivated. I have had 22 runs and still get new achievement every time in terms of maximum distance, time or pace. I was reading my run diary a month ago, my initial distance was 2.5 miles my goal was to cover 3 miles in 36 minutes and on my last run I had 3.1 miles in 30 mins and my farthest mile was 7 mile distance (mix of walk, jog and run). On the weekends your incremental time or distance (not pace) can be higher if you feel comfortable.

Last point is that avoid competing with others. Every individual has their own strengths and weaknesses. So if person X can run a distance of 10 miles or can run at a pace of 10 miles per min don't make that as your goal. Your goal is to beat your own previous best time, distance and pace incrementally. Pushing yourself over your limits may help you in short term but may result in injury or demotivate you if you are not reaching those goals. People have preferences over running together vs running alone. I prefer to run alone as I can adjust my pace, distance and time based on my comfort.

Thanks for your time in reading this post. Hope this gives you some insight from a beginner perspective and not from an expert runner for whom things may be much easier.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Born To Run

I have been an on and off runner for many years. The first time I started running was when I was 12 years old. Considering I am 24 right now, that is a significant fraction of my life. I have always enjoyed running and the benefits that come with it, but what I always lacked is the consistency. This probably stems from my lack of motivation often times to go out and run. Sometimes I am just a lazy bum and I am very sure a lot of people can relate to this. Sometimes the comfort of your couch is just too overwhelming. So I decided to join and contribute to the blog as a way to keep myself motivated. It also gives me a sense of community with other fellow runners who also want to take up the sport. 

I think I do not need to reiterate the benefits of running, give you advice/tips on how to run and so on and so forth. The blog already has a lot of information about that. Being a student of science, what I want to cover in this post is the evolutionary science behind running. I hope to make this post as interesting as possible. So here it goes...

I hope everyone is familiar with the idea of evolution. A short gist would be "survival of the fittest". It's a powerful idea given by Charles Darwin which explains the diversity and the complexity of life we see around us. It can also be used to explain a lot of traits specifically suited for running in humans, some of which include
  • Hairlessness and an abundance of sweat glands, as a heat loss mechanism.
  • Ability to tolerate somewhat greater changes in body water content than many other animals - a marathon runner may sweat off 3% of their body mass during a race.
  • Short toes to allow gripping on soft surfaces, but not obstructing a good running stride.
  • Ability to store fat very efficiently. (We do get fat pretty quickly, don't we?)
  • Intolerance of sedentary lifestyle, regarding obesity and diabetes related pathologies.
  • Ability to breathe through the mouth while running.
  • Long legs with springy tendons (long legs mean long stride, and springy tendons allows for a faster stride).
Scientists believe that being able to run for extended lengths of time is an adapted trait, most likely for obtaining food, and was the catalyst that forced Homo erectus (our ancestors, we are Homo sapiens) to evolve from its apelike ancestors. Over time, the survival of the swift-footed shaped the anatomy of modern humans, giving us a body that is difficult to explain absent a marathoning past. Our toes, for instance, are shorter and stubbier than those of nearly all other primates, including chimpanzees, a trait that has long been attributed to our committed bipedalism. In a study, it was shown that even an increase in the toe size by 20% increased the amount of energy and shock on the feet drastically. There are tons of other evidence in our skeletal structure to provide endurance and stability while running, the energy storing mechanism of our body etc. to suggest that our ancestors were very good runners.

The short version of the story is 

          Humans' ability to run is unique among primates.
Why running? Because that's how we killed our food. 
Experts call it persistence hunting. The Homo genus did not develop the most basic projectile – the spear – until 200,000-300,000 years ago. That left our ancestors equipped with little more than sharpened sticks for nearly two million years of carnivorous prehistory.
Why is that important? Quadrupeds (four footed animals) cannot pant and gallop at the same time. Their guts are too busy sloshing around like a piston. So, every 10 or 15 minutes, they overheat.
When they overheat, animals must stop to cool. But their bipedal pursuers keep on coming. After several stops and starts, the prey succumbs to heat exhaustion or its heart gives out.
This is the only explanation of how humans were capable of killing large game before developing projectile weapons.
Of course, I can't go to all the details in this single blog post. So, if you find this interesting, please let me know and I will try to do a couple more posts on this. And remember, the next time you think that you can't run, know that you were specifically designed to run marathons and ultra marathons, "Born to Run". If that does not motivate and empower you, then I don't know what will! 

Thanks for reading.