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“Fast” or “Faster”- Ramzan run fever with Dream runners

Time management is often referred to as a management jargon. But the true essence of how well you live is based on this age old concept of “How well you prioritize your time”. This is when I realized that the thin line that connects the sacred holy month of our Muslim fraternity- Ramadan& Run is the immense potential of “Time management”.

Preparing for a race is a daunting task, especially if you have a goal in mind to hit your ideal time with a plethora of accessories& gadgets to help you set and test your race strategy in real-time. So does Ramadan, where time of the day is most crucial to strategize the way you dedicate yourself towards being a better spiritual being. Apart from the abstinence from food and liquids, the month of Ramadan makes it difficult to have a normal sleep cycle. A typical day starts as early as 3.30 in the morning with a short meal called Sehri, which is all the nutrients one receives till they break their fast at 6.30 in the evening. Thooli, made of broken wheat is a porridge like dish mixed with milk and jaggery which is an abundant source of carbohydrates that keeps the tummy filled and pumps energy throughout the day. Between the start and finish of the fast, there are regular prayers, with the first one at 5 a.m. The day concludes with a longer-than-normal final prayer ending at 10.30 p.m. The schedule of early to bed and early to rise makes it nearly impossible to find a perfect time to run. That is why most runners, who observe the holy month, abstain from running and go on a sabbatical during this time. But, there are some who refuse to give it up, and want to persevere running even when fasting.

To get a perspective, Dream runners bumped into a rare breed of fitness freaks of Marina dreamers who has devised a separate schedule to “be on the move” even during their fasting schedules. Whether it’s a pair of running shoes or riding buddies on their wheels, they hit the roads of Marina at 10pm thrice a week logging their miles and improvising their timings.

“Make up your mind and take off your feet” is what Marina’s runner Tasneem Ali Hussain had to say when asked whether Ramzan and runs go together. An entrepreneur in making juggling between daily chores at home, Tasneem& her better half Ali hussain joined us for the free structured training programme 2 months back. So how did the training help them? I could actually feel the excitement when she goes on to narrate “Smitten by the run bug, Ramadan run has mentally made us stronger and physically active. All these years we always had a mind block that post Iftaar we become more tired and drained of energy. But it was all a mind game. After taking up these runs and cycling as cross trainings with Dream runners we realize that, it’s not our body but our mind that has to be conditioned”. As we narrate, Ali hussain & his bunch of fitness buddies Murtaza, Mustansir, Muffadal, Hatim and the likes are gleaming with the victory of completing their maiden 2 hour aerobic run/cycling the previous night along the famed Marina beach with the waves playing music to their ears and the gentle breeze caressing& cooling their tired bodies.

Precisely how I felt during my runs without training vis-à-vis with proper structured training. Everything that you see in reality happens twice is what I believe. 1st , in your brain and then in reality. Training is not meant just for the body but for the mind too. It makes you believe that your body can travel along with your mind.

The retired Nigerian-American basketball player Hakeem Olajuwon was always at his peak performance during the NBA championships, even while fasting during Ramadan. When quizzed about how staying away from food and water for long hours affected his game, he told the Los Angeles Times in 1996 that he never felt better. "I feel lighter, faster, much more mentally focused," he said.

The month of Ramadan is a great opportunity to focus on bringing back a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Through fasting one learns how to manage your eating habits and improve self-discipline. Dream runners takes pride in introducing a few healthy& hearty tips for Ramadan fitness duly guided by Abbas Lehry (avid runner himself, one of the earliest members of the DR family& who has been mentoring the Ramzan runs at Marina ):-

1. Hydrate Well-Drink a lot of water and fill up on fruit at every opportunity: with iftar, after iftar, after taraweeh, and with suhoor. Fruits high in water contents:- watermelon, pineapples, grapefruit, and oranges. Fruits that are high in potassium to help maintain electrolytes for running: dates, figs, bananas, and peaches. Coconut water with suhoor helps, too.

2. Eat Smart. Quantity and quality matter more than usual during Ramadan because the meals are fewer, so every morsel makes a difference. Avoid foods full of sugar and salt because these foods don’t sit well in stomach and will come back to haunt on the run. 

3. Break the fast with dates. Dates are high in calories and composed largely of simple sugars which are easily digestible, rapidly replenishing the body after a run and fast. Dates are essential for a runner, and especially so for a fasting runner!

4. Find a time that works best for you.  Runners need to be careful, and either run at a time when water is permissible or right before iftar. Some of our Muslim friends prefer running after iftar, either before taraweeh, after taraweeh, or even right before suhoor

5. Running route. During Ramadan, plan to run through areas with lot of trees or past bodies of water because these routes physically and mentally make the miles cooler. Trees could decrease the temperature by up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The sights and sounds of moving water also makes one refreshed.

6. Run for fun. Running is fun, and this mantra is no different during Ramadan. If it feels exhausting after a day’s fast, then review hydration, nutrition, the weather, and your sleep schedule.

For years, many of the innovations in the technical fabrics used in running apparel and running shoe uppers have come from the innovations developed for women’s lingerie. Seriously. Think stretchy, soft, form-fitting and supportive.

Women and health niggles - overcome and run

Several women runners in Chennai have taken to running like fish takes to water! Many of these runners are above 40 years and have overcome several medical barriers in their life that comes with age, childbirth and well, just being a woman. She is now confident, assured and takes her own decisions, both professional & personal. She has time for herself and has taken charge of her life and her fitness goals. But with this come unseen medical barriers that may prevent her from fully enjoying the benefits of physical training and running. Most frequently posed reasons and excuses apart from genuine barriers are below.

Incontinence

A very high incidence of urinary incontinence exist amongst women runners. This could be ascribed primarily to stress on the pelvic floor during pregnancy or use of forceps during delivery. The stress advances with age and can cause embarrassing moments during exercises and running. But hold your thought here.. Even a past sedentary lifestyle can debilitate your gluteus and your pelvic floor. And if you are overweight too, it can cause women not even wanting to run.

There are several strengthening routines that can be diligently practised over time and this stress can be controlled to a great extent. The pelvis can be strengthened, along with core, knees and glutes. Pilates is another form of exercise routine that helps strengthening those pelvic muscles.

Handy Tips to overcome incontinence

  • Hit the loo before you leave
  • Cut the caffeine
  • Pad your pants
  • Kick it with kegels
  • Set a schedule
  • Think about therapy
  • Save surgery for last

Menopause

With hot flushes, sweats and irregular bleeding, running during the menopause has its fair share of problems! It is, however, the ideal time to be increasing your fitness and activity levels. Women’s weight naturally increases around this time of life. Bone strength and muscle mass starts to reduce. Running will help you control all of these issues, as well as giving your potentially volatile mood a boost of happy hormones.

Shake up your exercise regime when you’re menopausal. Add lots of strength work to maintain your declining muscle mass. Weights and resistance exercises are a perfect way to do this. Building muscle will increase your metabolic rate, which helps to keep your weight under control, and these types of exercise will help your bone strength too. Aim for two sessions a week on top of your normal running schedule. There are some promising studies suggesting that improving your fitness may reduce the number and intensity of hot flushes.

Thyroid disorder

A thyroid disorder can be a vexing problem for a runner. The initial symptoms of a problem with thyroid hormone levels are quite vague, and even once its diagnosed, thyroid levels have to be closely monitored and managed to ensure good health. The thyroid hormone essentially sets the “speedometer” for many of the body’s intrinsic functions. When thyroid hormone levels are too high, a condition termed hyperthyroidism, you will experience symptoms like weight loss, tremors, anxiety, and a racing heart rate. In hypothyroidism, when thyroid hormone levels are too low, you might gain weight, become constipated, be overly sensitive to cold temperatures, and feel fatigued or depressed.

A solution may not present immediately, you should consistently take care of your body the old-fashioned way (a healthy diet and enough sleep), and modulate thyroid dosage with an endocrinologist. Do not let up on your exercises and running as the activity controls your metabolism, which goes haywire with a thyroid issue. Be aware of the resultant outcomes, like an elevated heart rate, which is normal in such situations. If you cannot cure it, you beat it!

Periods

Always a million dollar question, hotly debated and contested among most women runners.. Should I run or rest during my periods? My vote is for continued training and unless you are violently sick, sticking to your workout schedule. I run & train better on those days. I do concede that some of you may be more affected than others but there is always a solution to ease yourself off the discomfort. Drink a lot of fluids, eat well, train well and believe me, the pain and discomfort becomes that much more manageable. It’s a mind game!

Cancer/ Diabetes/ CV disease/ Depression The health benefits of regular exercise are nothing short of phenomenal: reduced risk of cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Weight bearing exercises such as running and walking build and maintain bone, a key element in reducing the risk or severity of osteoporosis. Sustained aerobic exercise released natural chemical mood enhances called endorphins. It breaks the cycle of depression that often comes with aging.

Ask me! With advancing age, I can never be away from my daily cup of cheer, a high that no bottle of alcohol can replace, a release of natural hormones that keep depression and other diseases at bay.. Haven’t you heard of how even elite runners have been able to overcome debilitating illnesses and turned their upside down life into one of success & triumph?

It takes 200 muscles to take a step when you run.

Travel and still run

It was a fun trip to places around Mysore. I had recently started DRHM 10k training with full josh. Right in the middle of it came this trip. Family holiday was non-negotiable. Interestingly, so was running time. Without batting an eye, I shopped for a shoe bag and diligently packed my running shoes. The cold stare from better half as we went through baggage inventory is still fresh in my mind, but hey – aren’t we a breed that doesn’t really mind those (or we grow numb over time!). It was a beautiful cold morning and I was up at 5 am, as my entire family was in deep slumber. When I hit the road, I realized I was the only one as far as I could see that was even out there. I had checked out the route the previous evening because I prefer having a mind map. So there I was, stretching right by the side of the main road and the odd biker and auto rickshaw that passed me had curious pairs of eyes staring at me like an alien. It was a nice and winding hilly road and I was reasonable to myself – wanted to do a relaxed 5k. I noticed small communities and odd bus stops that I was passing by. It was fun because the weather was amazing. The air was fresh and clean. I knew I was not in the city and I had to make the best use of this opportunity. A few dogs found me very unappealing too. I downed my tempo and walked a bit until both the parties were comfortable enough and then took off again. I had planned a loop as I had to get back to the hotel. Trust me, the stares were less intrusive this time or maybe I got used to them little more. When I got back to the room, my sister was up and she gave me a big thumbs up. In my heart, I knew what I did was something different. I felt so good that I actually managed to run when I was on a pleasure trip.

My friends here aren’t half as lucky. They travel on work. They travel so much that they actually carry a mini-home in their suitcases. However, they are fabulous simply because they keep their running plan almost intact irrespective of all their travel. Whenever I meet Jai (Annanagar Dreamers), it is clearly me that feels low on energy. I know that he would have clocked many more kilometres than me though he had visited 3 cities in the week. Jai travels almost half the working time. For him though, it is the positive spiral that running injects into his life which keeps him on the road irrespective of the location. He thinks the key is for an aspiring runner to learn to wake up early in the initial days. Once that is done, one easily finds ways to sleep early and the whole world then conspires for you to be able to go running anywhere. Running at different places has brought new experiences and made him more adaptable to situations and surprises. Jai recollects his run at Kolkata where he ended up far from hotel after a breezy aerobic run only to realize that he did not have the energy or the money to get back in comfort. He did manage to find a cab eventually. While there are so many unknowns and hurdles that can come up as a runner-traveller, Jai feels it is all about the motivation, discipline and passion that you carry inside. The outside then ceases to matter.

Dinesh (Dream Runners), incidentally Jai’s colleague, travels as much across the country. His rule is simple – 6 hours of sleep and he’s ready for the run next day, anywhere! He lives through my ‘alien’ experience all the time but he doesn’t mind being the odd specimen who’s on the road early in the morning in an otherwise sleepy town. His issue however is different – the stinky clothes that he has to carry back. Something that needs to be planned for else you run the risk of being blacklisted by carriers. While he doesn’t plan much about the runs at new places, he cautions about being aware of the context of the location. He ran in a cold winter morning in New Delhi once and almost in literal darkness that he found it pretty bizarre as he wrapped up. Without lights, he wasn’t even sure whether he was on a road at times and resolved not to run in such weather and in darkness ever again. Dinesh suggests having a rough plan the prior night and also getting good sleep. Importantly, he recommends an aerobic run in new places since you’re mostly not sure of the route and planning something like an interval could put you in a spot in an unknown location.

Balaji (Annanagar Dreamers) travels relatively lesser but his experiences are on similar lines. However, he does plan his schedule well and runs only in known/ planned routes. When travel places constraints, he sometimes chooses to run in alternate times (other than morning). His motivation for running anywhere is a simple one too – his shoes. He avers that the moment a runner sees it, he or she will want to wear it and get on the road.

In today’s context, travelling is an integral part of many careers. If you’re one of those that can resonate, you will do well to note down these tips for the ‘runner-traveller’:

  • - Pack your shoes, always!
  • - Get good sleep
  • - Keep the run enjoyable and simple (go aerobic)
  • - Loops are better - it is a new place and you should get back to the hotel
  • - Carry an ID and emergency cash
  • - Know the context of the place (weather, safety etc.)
  • - Respect dogs!

The record for most marathons run on consecutive days is 365! Belgian runner Stefaan Engels, knows as the “Marathon Man” set the record in 2011, aged 49!

How to salvage your race from training sabotage

Runner Friendly Doc

All of us are feeling this pressure now of somehow being inadequately prepared for the pb shattering race we had planned at the start of the season. A lot of this can be put down to nerves but some of us are actually underprepared and have missed a few sessions to illness, travel and just hectic work.

Training sabotage is relatively common in recreational runners who need to be juggling many things to manage the time and energy to complete workouts as prescribed. God forbid that short viral illness or cough puts training out for a few more days. Or that unseasonal rain at the holiday location that cancels the tempo run.

Clearly, the remedy for training sabotage is not cramming all the missed workouts in the next few days. This is infact the easiest way to land up in injury and permanent layoff.

First, take stock of how much time you have till race day. If you have more than a month, you may still have time to rework your training plan to be in shape for the race if it is a 10k. If, however, you have registered for a half marathon, you can decide to change your race category and thus be in good shape to run a stronger shorter race, saving yourself for a better showing later in the season.

If changing your race category is not an option, you can then use the race for recalibrating your fitness levels and understanding your current levels of fitness. This would mean making this A race, a B race and using it as a stepping stone for the next race.

Running, however, gives you so many options to make a race enjoyable other than just a personal best. Pacing a fellow runner, running for charity or just soaking in the atmosphere and running without technology is an equally fulfilling endeavour. And if your training has been sabotaged beyond redemption, you still have the most fulfilling and selfless option of volunteering as a race marshal or a water station volunteer, bringing joy and succour to many a tired runner.

Whatever happens before race day, show up, stand up and enjoy the festival that is running!

Train hard, not too hard, not hardly!

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