Running

In every living being rests a soul. Our body is a temple where this soul resides. It is our duty to worship and cleanse the soul and keep this temple and its soul in good health. Body means – body as a whole and not just the skin. We shouldn’t forget the other vital organs – heart, liver, kidneys, stomach, limbs, etc.

Generous and kind thoughts, simple living, moderate eating, regular exercise, meditation and proper sleep are some things you can do towards achieving this goal.

I consider Running to also be a form of worship. In this blog I want to write down my thoughts on running, how I do it and what it helps me achieve.  I have not learnt any of this under any trainer and everything in this blog is my experiment with running.

I have been running regularly for more than 2 years now and have never felt any of the things below to harm me in any way. I can run for around 5 kms in 35 to 40 min. I am quite happy with this. The benefits are numerous and side effects none.

If you feel this is a long blog or are in a hurry, I suggest that you take a print out or save it for later. As it would be better to read it with a bit of patience. I sincerely feel you’ll benefit from it. If nothing then at-least it will be a good read and surely thought provoking!

Even if you don’t run, read this, a day will come when you start running and you will remember the words in this blog retrospectively.

Enjoy….

Apart from keeping me fit, running is also like meditation to me.  Though I have practiced Yog also fairly regularly, I still feel that the peace and calm that a good run can give me is hard to beat. It silences the constant, mindless chatter and once I finish running I can ‘hear’ silence. Its like somebody just muted a loud TV.

 In a movie, I once saw an ad film being made on ‘running shoes’. They created a beautiful idea. It was on the lines that, road is some place you can be yourself. It doesn’t judge you on your clothes, on your makeup or anything else. Be yourself, be you!

I couldn’t have agreed more.

Running always is a great test of my will. Five minutes before running my heart starts pounding. My body starts feeling heavy and every inch of me, tries to resist being put to this seemingly strenuous task. I have to refresh the memories of “post run” euphoria and keep coaxing myself.

First five min into the run, I feel a lot of fatigue and feel like I cannot go on.  I feel the need to stop and gasp for air. This is the time I need to focus hard on my breathing. Only doing this can sail me through. And once the body is warmed up and breathing is in rhythm, it just seems so natural. Now I can enjoy the nature around me and in between check my posture.

I feel everything around us is a source of cosmic  energy. Sometimes when I feel tired, I request for some energy from nature, from trees. Whether its simply placebo effect or not – but it does energize me.

After 15 min or so, its time to go on boost mode. I run full throttle for 200 -300 meters. This is the most pleasurable part and the MOST taxing. Even better, if there is an incline!

Now it is the time for lower half of the body to take over. I’ve never read about this, but discovered it gradually. It makes running easier and effortless. This I do by contracting few muscles in the lower half of the body and then let the thighs do the running. It gives me so much more energy that I don’t even need to swing my arms. My arms can hang loosely on the sides and focus is completely on the lower half. I’ve never heard of anyone else do it, nor have I verified its pros n cons with any expert. So I’d suggest reader to follow this only if they are comfortable doing so and it feels right when you do so. See ‘Running from abs’ below for more details.

I can continue this way till the finish line . This phase is quite effortless – and everything is in auto mode. My breathing, my posture, my strides. Sometimes I chant ‘namokar mantra’ in between and sometimes I start writing in my mind. I am bombarded with ideas. The sad thing is that I don’t make any effort to come home and jot them down and they are lost back to the mysterious place that they come from. But sometimes I am wise enough to note them and all  thoughts in this blog is also written on my run – from inception to this final version!

Just few hundred meters before finishing I run full throttle – this is called ‘last josh’ in army slang. So I do last josh, where every muscle in the body runs and gives up. Then its cool down jog for another minute or two and done!

On stopping I feel blood rush to my cheeks and palms. When I come home and hubby is around, he pecks my sweaty cheek and calls me a tomato.

Few details I’d like to go in.

Posture:

  1. Posture is important aspect – Hips tucked in, abs contracted slightly, arms swinging by the side (not criss-crossing in front of you).
  2. I try to use as less swing as possible and save the swing for fast running and incline running only.
  3. Incorrect posture can strain your lower back and neck. In fact from many people I’ve heard complaints of pain in these area post any exercise. The culprit is not the exercise you did, but incorrect posture.
  4. Consciously keep your neck tucked in line with the spine and slightly tuck in the hips while contracting your abdomen muscles. This helps remove any strain from my lower back and I feel that this makes a great difference.

Breathing and strides:

  1. As a rule I breathe with nose only and keep my mouth closed for most of the time except when I run in full throttle. With mouth breathing I find it hard to maintain a breathing rhythm and also sometimes it causes my sides of the stomach to ache.
  1. Long step or Short Step? When I sync my breathing with my strides then it best to take long steps. On incline too I take long steps. I breathe in 3 times, breathe out 3 times, then breathe in 2 times and breathe out 2 times – 3-3-2-2. Repeat.
  2. Syncing breathing with strides is also a reason why I don’t listen to music. The beat confuses me and breaks my rhythm. Anyway I have so much going on, that there is hardly any time to listen to music. It also defeats my idea of using it as a meditation technique.

Running from abs:

Here’s what I do:

  1. Contract muscles in the pelvic floor like we do in ‘Mool bandh’  in yog asan.  In lay man language it means contracting your muscles in a way that you  do when you really need to ‘go’ and there is no washroom around 🙂
  2. Contract abdomen muscles and tuck in your hips.  It also involves slightly lifting your pelvis a bit.
  3. Let the entire air you breathe go in your lungs. Its like you don’t want even a slight bubble of air in your stomach.
  4. Focus on your thighs and hips. You will feel them in control. They’ll run for you. Your upper half can relax.
  5. Unlike in yog asan where you have to release the mool bandh, while running you release it sub-consciously. So focus on regaining it every now and then.

While writing, it seems too much to do. But when I do it, it is quite easy and simple.

Incline:

  1. This is difficult but very effective in toning the entire body. Thumb rule is to bend forward. I have seen some people running on treadmill with maximum incline, holding the front rails and bending backward!
  2.  By not doing 2 most vital things of incline run, I don’t know what they achieve and if they don’t end up with some side effects.
  3. Bend forward and take swing with your arms. Run faster than normal speed, take long strides.
  4. I love this part of the run. There is a track in Pune which has about 20 meters of stretch with steep incline. When I run there I reserve all my energy for this stretch and run here with a burst. Fast and long strides, arms in full swing from shoulders, body bent forward, abs contracted, steps as light as possible. Wow! Hubby says I like look like mountain goat on a prowl in this mode 🙂

General tips:

  1. Eating before work out vs empty stomach: Empty stomach – I’d advice not to exercise or run if you are constipated or immediately after a meal. Wait at-least 2 hrs after a light meal and 4 hours after a heavy meal. If you do work out first thing in the morning then its best. In my case I am hungry within 5 min of waking up, as I usually have light dinner. So I eat a small banana or half of it or a 4-5 nuts or a slice of any fruit or half cup of milk, as per availability and wait for 15-20 min before starting. I have water before I eat anything and after eating – small sips and only when thirsty.
  1. Eating after work out – It must be a mix of carbohydrates and proteins. A banana with curd or milk would do. There are many options – fruits, nuts (almonds, walnut, groundnut), slice of toasted bread and cheese etc . If you are in hurry take 4-5nuts and 1 cup milk.
  2. Bottom line is that you must eat post work out – if you can’t find the right combination, just eat something. And yes you just need a little, not an entire meal. Mind the serving. We are not trying to tax the stomach.
  3. Cool down after the run. This is important. My legs ache if I don’t cool down properly.
  4. While running keep a vigil on your posture. Abs contracted, hips tucked in, knees pointed right. Neck, arms and shoulders placed correctly. You need to re-evaluate every now and then. Just doing it in the beginning will not help.
  5. No jerk – keep movement smooth.
  6. I generally carry a tissue while running for nose run. It is a good test to find out if you are running hard enough. If there is no nose run, you aren’t pushing yourself enough! It doesn’t depend on weather – even in peak of summers you will have nose run if you run at a decent speed and breathe from nose.

 Factors that have influenced my fitness related thoughts:

  1. Hubby, who is well trained in this field since his days in NDA (National Defense Academy)
  2. Rujuta Diwekar’s ‘Don’t lose your mind, lose your weight’ – (I wish she had named this novel ‘Gut feeling’ as she originally intended’)
  3. Yog practice – (learnt from different teachers)
  4. Bipasha’s ‘Love yourself’ – fitness CD.
  5. My own experiments

Quote Unquote:

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” – George Sheehan

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