“Leave your water bottles there, along with your weakness”

Quote of the day.

From the one & only Coach Vijay Shukla.

How he manages to come up with such quotable quotes, always at the right moment, I don’t know, but this morning’s gem was bang on target.

In God-alone-knows-how-much humidity (but I’d say 85%-90%) we all trotted up to the top of the slope in Nehru Park, where we would start a KILLER series of hill reps.

Coach pointed at a park bench & uttered his immortal words:

“Leave your water bottles there, along with your weakness” 🙂

What a session we had.

Superb.

We were a larger group than usual, and so Coach divided us up into 3 groups for our hill repetitions, and made us stick together, and at times, as I watched my ASICS tribe run fast up the hill and walk back down to the start point, in a non-stop flow, we were like a human conveyor belt.

And yes, a sweaty conveyor belt, let’s be honest.

 

Coach divided us into groups as follows:

Group one:- 16 – 20 reps.
Group two:- 14 reps.
Group three:- 12 reps.

I was in the 2nd group but most of us did 16 anyway, with a great amount of mutual encouragement and support his morning.

Even though we do hill repetitions every Saturday – well, most Saturdays – every week, I notice a little extra “tightening up” of the routine.

Today, for example, we were told not to have a water break till half way through.

Little by little, we are gradually getting stronger, and so Coach keeps pushing our limits.

Which is a great feeling.

Exhausting, but great 🙂

By the way, the guys are not goofing off here, but walking back down to the starting point.  I have NO idea what Bhuwan is saying…I’m sure its something like “Only 2 more reps to go” and nothing remotely rude 😛

Last Saturday, I shared with you in this blog a link to a very good technical article about the value of hill repetitions – here, I’m sharing the link again here.

I have found another very good explanation of the value of this kind of workout, which I’m also sharing here.  It’s good to understand the science behind the training.

The following paragraph from today’s article struck me:

“Simply put, most runners don’t understand how to train on hills. We pick hills that are too long or too steep. We run them too fast. We allow too little time afterward to recover.”

 

In the context of Coach’s insistence that we recover by walking back down the slope, as well as his gradual build-up of the number of repeats we do – I can see that this training is slowly progressing. Along with us.

Our “hill” – well, it’s more like a slope, to be honest, but steep in its own way, I assure you – is “not too long or too steep” as the article says.

We had preceded this killer training with our customary stretching, then a warm up jog around the park, and then our regular drills.

 

 

 

After the hill training, the mood became more festive, since we were celebrating 2 birthdays today –  Mohinder’s from yesterday & Abhishek’s today.  A whole gang from the Delhi Elite Cyclists rocked up, and we partied away, at 7 o’clock in the morning.  As one does 🙂

 

Oe thing I noticed even more today than other days, is that a real team spirit that has developed amongst us.

The way everyone was cheering everyone else during the hill workout this morning, was testimony to the sense of camaraderie that is very much in evidence. I have a feeling that, come the winter when the race season gets into gear, we are going to be quite a formidable bunch, egging each other on. (And partying up a storm, let’s not forget!!)

To help digest the birthday cake, we finished off with stretching:

If one image sums up today – other than cake! – it’s this, I think.

Sweat.  Stretching.  Smiles.

And last but not least, our group photo:

Great turnout 🙂

Discovering that there’s more to running than just running

This whole running thing just doesn’t stop, does it?

When I started running in September 2013, as a bucket list thingy, I never, ever expected that it would lead me in so many different directions.

And I’m not talking running routes here.

I’m talking metaphorically.

From thinking that just the simple act of “going for a run” would make me fitter – which it has, no doubt about it – running has led me, gradually, to reappraise my overall fitness & my flexibility.

BUT.

Here’s the thing.

I’m absolutely not a fan of gym and stuff.

I’m sort-of-interested in yoga but haven’t found the right class/the right teacher/and I get a bit put off by all the hype around yoga these days.

So, yes, it’s taken me a while, but this morning was a light-bulb moment.

A group of us from our ASICS Running Club met in Nehru Park to run.  Nothing too dramatic or energetic – just 2 rounds of the park, which is about 5.5km.

So far, so good.

Then, after the run, Bhuwan led us in a brilliant but eye-opening 15 minute high intensity workout, when I realised that I’m stiff, can’t bend, and certainly can’t do that Spiderman kind of exercise where you virtually crawl across the floor.  Well, damp grass in our case.

It’s a bit like the mountain climber exercise, only you’re touching the ground.  Well, everyone else was.  I had my bottom sticking up in the air as I hobbled across inelegantly.

Talk about feeling my age… 🙁

Then there were jump-y things, which I couldn’t do at all.  Now I felt like an ancient monument.

So, what’s the solution?

Get stiffer & less flexible the older I get?

Or deal with it?

Feeling reasonably chuffed that, nevertheless, I managed some of the exercises – I tend to goof off in our regular sessions, but with just 8 of us this morning, it was more difficult to skip exercises…then everyone else started doing yoga poses and headstands and complicated stuff and I sat there, open-mouthed at how fit these runners are.  Like so:

Our birthday boy, Mohinder (below)

Which ever way I looked, these guys were doing amazing things…

Ram showing how it’s done.  Like a boss.

Even Ripu Daman, who’d just flown from San Francisco and ran 11km to prepare for a 25km race he’s doing in Maharashtra this weekend…even this jet-lagged young man was in super stretchy form:

Stunned.

I’m a slow learner, folks.

It’s taken me this long to realise that to be a better runner I need to be more flexible, fitter, stronger – all-round fit, in other words.

Just “going for a run” clearly isn’t enough.

Watch this space.

#journeytofitness

What’s on your running playlist? “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie

There are songs you hear, that you remember so well, but somehow don’t think of in a “running playlist” kinda way.

And then all of a sudden…

Well, that’s what happened when I read a guest blog post written by one of my running friends, Navi Singh.  He wrote a very eloquent and impassioned post about ASICS running shoes in general, and in praise of his red Nimbus 18 in particular, and he ended his review by talking about “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie.

Bingo!

What a super funky track to run to, with great lines like  “If you say run, I’ll run with you…”

In case you don’t know this song by the late, great David Bowie, here’s a YouTube clip, with him looking impossibly young, by the way…

You want that song on your playlist, now, don’t you?

Couldn’t be easier.  The link below takes you to the iTunes store.

How good are ASICS Nimbus running shoes?

Yesterday, I was chatting to one of the lovely fellas in my running group, Navi Singh, as we ran our warm-up laps, & he was singing the praises of ASICS running shoes.

Now before you jump to any conclusions, this was nothing to do with the fact that we are part of the ASICS Running Club, since the club is only a few months old and Navi, as you will see in a moment, has been a loyal ASICS fan since 2011.

He waxed so eloquent on the subject of his running shoes, that I arm-twisted him into writing it up for the blog.

I expected a re-hash of what we’d chatted about.

But no!

This is a product review like no other 🙂  Just read it and see what I mean.

Navi, my friend, this is such a fun review!

And now, let’s hear his thoughts.

Over to Navi.

“My run buddy Asics was introduced to me in the year 2011.

I was never an athlete in school. My flirtation with running started in college days as evening runs, listening to 80’s music on the cassette player Walkman.

Typically while growing up in the 80’s, the sneaker brands known to us were Adidas and Nike.

Reebok and Puma came in around late 80’s.The sneakers were brought more as a lifestyle fashion statement. The interesting thing about running shoes was, you buy new sneakers and then wear them sparingly while going out, partying etc. They were used for running after 2-3 years, ie. when they got old.

Now it’s the other way around. I use the new shoes for my runs, and after few years use it for everyday wear.

Fast forward to 2011.

I tried Asics shoes by default and fell in love with them instantaneously. The first ever model I brought was Cumulus 13, even ran my first half marathon in them. The feeling you get after wearing them is like floating in the air, thanks to the gel technology of Asics. I used them for almost 3 years of road running and the damn shoes still bounced back. The mid sole has the longest life compared to any other brand available at least to my knowledge.

It is unbelievable that I still have that shoe and is going strong.

My second pair of Asics was again Cumulus (15).

Another amazing aspect of Asics is you need very less time to ease into the shoes. The 2014 ADHM I ran in my new Cumulus 15, was only 15km old. (Not that I recommend/advocate anyone doing that!)

The love affair with Asics continued, and I brought Nimbus (17) for the first time in 2016. And fell all the more in love with them. It would be not wrong to say they are the most cushioned neutral shoes available.

The cushioning in Nimbus is out of the world.

I have compared it personally with Nike Cushlon and even the latest Adidas Ultra boost, & the gel cushion of Asics Nimbus way surpasses both the brands. And when you compare the price with other brands, it’s a steal. Typically the competition brands are around Rs17-20k range whereas Nimbus is in Rs12-14k range.

I would like to point out another misconception about Asics that runners typically have is that Asics is a heavier shoe. I have personally compared it with other brands, mind you it’s lighter compared to any shoe with that kind of cushion. Anyway, I could never understand the concept of 20gm here and there in a shoe, when you weigh around 50-75kg.

The Nimbus is so, so, so amazing that I have brought another one, this time the Red Nimbus 18, and it reminds me of the late David Bowie song “Let’s Dance” :

“Let’s dance put on your red shoes and dance the blues

Let’s dance to the song

they’re playin’ on the radio

Let’s sway

while color lights up your face

Let’s sway

sway through the crowd to an empty space

 

If you say run, I’ll run with you

If you say hide, we’ll hide

Because my love for you

Would break my heart in two

If you should fall

Into my arms

And tremble like a flower

 

Let’s dance for fear

your grace should fall

Let’s dance for fear tonight is all

 

Let’s sway you could look into my eyes

Let’s sway under the moonlight,

this serious moonlight

 

If you say run, I’ll run with you

If you say hide, we’ll hide

Because my love for you

Would break my heart in two

If you should fall

Into my arms

And tremble like a flower

 

Let’s dance put on your red shoes

and dance the blues

 

Let’s dance to the song

they’re playin’ on the radio

 

Let’s sway you could look into my eyes

Let’s sway under the moonlight,

this serious moon light.”

 

Told ya.

Isn’t that the best review ever, complete with musical accompaniment?

 

I liked this post so much, that I have added “Let’s Dance” to my own running playlist (why wasn’t it there in the first place, of course…) & written a short blog post about the song, with a link should you wish to download it, too.

So a second thank you to Navi is in order 🙂

“If you have knees, you can do it!”

Today’s gem from Coach Vijay Shukla.

He’d called on me to demonstrate a drill – high knees – to the group, and I was trying to get out of it, saying I couldn’t lift my knees that high.

Quick as a flash came the reply,”If you have knees, you can do it!”

Moral of the story – no arguing with Coach 😛

Today, we were a large group from the ASICS Running Club to meet, and drill, and train in super humid conditions. I was secretly hoping for some of that lovely rain we all ran in on Sunday, but it wasn’t to be.

Just humid.

Today we did interval training, and Coach divided us into 3 groups, with different distances and recovery times for each group.  My group was supposed to do 600m intervals but I quickly moved myself back to the 400m group, feeling tired and quite drained by the humidity.

When I told Coach what I was doing & why, he looked at me in his usual serious, reflective way and said “The whole point of training is to build up, not tear down what you have accomplished”.

For a split second I thought it was an uncharacteristic rebuke from this calm and always-positive young man.

But not at all.

What he meant was that I had made the right decision.  No point ruining what could be accomplished in this morning’s training if I wasn’t feeling fit enough.

Before our intervals, we dd our usual nice slow warm up laps around the sports ground which is now looking all lovely and green after the recent rain:

I always enjoy the warm up laps, because it’s a chance to chat with friends, and today’s chat with Navi Singh was fascinating – all about a TED talk regarding running, and how women are potentially better distance runners than men.  Fascinating stuff at 5.50 in the morning.

I’m being self-indulgent and including this 3 Musketeers photo (below).  We just happened to end up running together for the warm up laps, in our matching T shirts.

Then we drilled, in the nice long grass:

And then we did interval training.

I give you Wikipedia on intervals:

“Interval training is a type of training that involves a series of low- to high-intensity workouts interspersed with rest or relief periods. The high-intensity periods are typically at or close to anaerobic exercise, while the recovery periods involve activity of lower intensity. Varying the intensity of effort exercises the heart muscle, providing a cardiovascular workout, improving aerobic capacity and permitting the person to exercise for longer and/or at more intense levels.

Interval training can refer to the organization of any cardiovascular workout (e.g., cycling, running, rowing). It is prominent in training routines for many sports, but is particularly employed by runners.”

 

The stronger group did 1km intervals, and just look at them chomping at the bit, ready to start.

 

Please note how green it all looks & also please note how we don’t do “fancy” – a water bottle on the track marks our start & finish line.

Young Megha (below) demonstrating what Coach decreed to be perfect running form.  Looking good 🙂

As I mentioned earlier, I did 7 x 400m – though actually it was 5 x 400 and, then, because I actually felt stronger the more I ran (#gofigure) I did 800m for the last lap & felt mighty pleased with myself.  And I thought of what Coach had said:

“The whole point of training is to build up, not tear down what you have accomplished” – it worked.

After the interval training there was a cool down 2 laps of the sports centre, then the usual agonising session of planks and leg stretches.

Those of us who’d run in Sunday’s rainy event in Sanjay Van collected our certificates:

And then we did our group photo.

My tribe 🙂

If there is an image of the day, it is this.

Humid humid humid – but we all ran.

Why do you run? “It gives me mental fortitude”

Today we are Q & A-ing with one of my tribe members 😛
Translation
Akhil Ahuja is one of the members of our ASICS Running Club and since he is such a serious runner, in the sense of being dedicated and always very focused during our training sessions, I thought we should ask him about his running motivation.
So, let’s listen to Akhil’s answers to a few quick-fire questions.
Q  Why do you run?
A   It gives me mental fortitude

Q  When did you start running?

A  November 2015

Q  Morning/evening runner?

A  Morning 

Q  With or without music?

A  Nature’s music (without music)

Q  Next running goal?

A  To keep running injury free for decades to come
 I have asked these same questions of many runners, and what is fascinating is that the answers run along similar lines and yet are always different.
I love the simplicity of Akhil’s replies.
Thank you, my friend, and #keeprunning #keepinspiring

What did you see on your run today? #318 stars the monsoons

A couple of days ago, a group of us went for a mad, spontaneous run in a torrential downpour & had THE most brilliant time.  One of the runners, Bhuwan Bhatt, shared his thoughts in my blog that day.

Bhuwan was super excited by the rain and wanted us all to go run at India Gate, but since it was a work day, everyone reluctantly declined.

Fast forward to Sunday, yesterday, when we all ran again together, in torrential rain again, but this time in Sanjay Van, a forest in Delhi.

We ran 14km, we all went and had breakfast, and then Bhuwan got his wish, and off he went to India Gate to run in the rain.

When I saw his stunning photos on Facebook, I SO regretted declining his invitation to join them.

Bhuwan, Ram & Mahendra clearly had a whale of a time 🙂

Listen to the pure joy in Bhuwan’s words:

“Running in the rain is just the most magical, stimulating experience for me. I absolutely love running in the rain at Rajpath in teeming rain, splashing through the puddles, rain running down my face and off my nose, hair and clothes soaked – awesome! Just loved it.

Get out there you might enjoy it!”

What I LOVE about these photos below is the sheer joy.

Never have yoga poses looked so cool.

And the contrast between the grey buildings and their fluorescent T shirts is stunning.


And when you think that these 3 had already run 14km…well, shabash my friends, on having so much energy!

“The who’s who of Delhi running is here…”

Quoted, verbatim.

Young Deeksha Gahlaut, one of the members of the ASICS Running Club, made this comment early this morning, as we stood in the crowd, waiting for the annual Sanjay Van half marathon to start.

Deeksha was right.

It was, indeed, a total friend-fest this morning, as running friends greeted each other, posed for photos and (if I may presume to speak for others) had an absolute blast.

The atmosphere of this 3rd edition of this run was every bit as brilliant as the other 2, and it is all due to the amazing folk at the Delhi Runners Group who pull it all together.

Way, way better organised than many paid events I’ve attended, this run is free, yet there was water, energy drinks, bananas, biscuits, a snack at the finishing line and – best of all –  a personalised certificate drawn by the children of DRG members.

WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?

It’s quite clear to me, having had the privilege of running all 3 of the DRG Sanjay Van runs, that this race is conceived for and by runners, who have lots of love for their fellow runners.  And it shows.  You feel loved the whole time.

This morning DRG had a big team of volunteers at the water stands, and at the start point/7km marker, doling out bananas & biscuits.  There were photographers all over the track, despite the initially super humid weather which then morphed into gentle rain which then became a torrential downpour.  Volunteer photographers, even though I know one of them at least  – the charming Chetan Singh Gill –  is a professional, but they give their time.  Just like that.

Runners know what runners need – a good safe place to run, water, a snack and a bit of loud cheering never hurt 🙂

To every single friend there this morning, it was FAB to see you, and sweaty-hug-you, or later, dripping-wet-hug you!  And to those I didn’t greet on the second loop, my bad – took my specs off against the rain, so was blind as a bat.

To every single wonderful volunteer, marshal, photographer – you are all total rock stars.  T.O.T.A.L.

Most of my ASICS Running Club called it a day after 14km, ie after 2 loops, because it was absolutely pouring down and our coach, Vijay Shukla, was concerned about the risk of slipping.  Oh yes, did I mention – I passed a man who had fallen, and after a group of us assured ourselves he was OK, despite the blood, we left him in the capable hands of a marshal who called up for first aid.  There were marshals on motor-bikes, you see, to get quickly to wherever they were needed.  See what I mean about super organisation?

To everyone who was involved in staging this run this morning – take a bow.

Fabulous morning.

Let me also give a special shout out to some of my ASICS Running Club.  Especially Ram and Bhuwan.  Without going into too much detail, I had to go for a pee, in the forest (since there are no loos in Sanjay Van).

So I told the 2 of ’em to carry on and that I’d catch them up on the trail.  But no, as I emerged from the bushes, there they both were.

“How could we leave you?”” asked Bhuwan

And when I chided Ram, who is usually such a fast runner, for holding back to run with me at my snail-like-pace, his reply?

“I’m enjoying the beautiful weather and the beautiful scenery.”

I ask you.

What more can one ask?

So, to sum up today’s monsoon-soaked run.

The who’s who of Delhi running organised it for their friends.  And it showed.

Thank you.

Team work at its best

This morning’s ASICS Running Club meet in Nehru Park marked, for me at least, a watershed, as I saw how we have grown beyond just being an ad-hoc running group and become a truly homogenous group.

Our coach, Vijay Shukla, couldn’t be with us this morning, but Whatsapped us all to tell us not to goof off, what we were to do, how many reps etc, and who was to lead the session.

Thus Balbir Singh Gandhi led the session, and when it came time for the cool down stretches at the end, he deputed Bhuvan Bhatt, and everything went like clockwork, and – oh, I don’t know how to express it properly, but the atmosphere was one of total cooperation.

Not sure I’m making much sense, so let me move right along.

Today was hot & seriously humid.  85%, to be precise.  Like so:

But, undeterred, we ran our warm-up lap –  all 2.7km of it – and drilled away, sometimes with one of the park’s resident strays for company, like here:

Then we did killer hill reps.  Coach had suggested 15 repetitions which nearly all of us did, though I know I got slower and slower, but that’s just me.

Here’s a link to an interesting analysis I found online about the benefits of hill repetitions.

I found today that half way through the series I really hit my stride as it were, and could sort of keep up with the faster runners in our group – but then I started flagging, despite my mantra repeated on every hill rep “Pedder Road…Pedder Road…Pedder Road…”.

Pedder Road, for readers unfamiliar with Mumbai, is the infamous climb during the Mumbai marathon/half marathon and it is dreaded by everyone.  Although the hill reps today are nowhere as steep as Pedder Road, it’s a game I play.

Here we are running up that hill & then walking back down to the starting point, in an exhausting, continuous loop:

We ended with planks.

I am a big fat zero at planks, whingeing in pain after about 20 seconds – when I manage to get the right position, that is.  Kanwal was opposite me, and put me to shame with her perfect positions:

And then as, one by one, we all collapsed on the grass, this amazing lady just kept on and on and on, for a staggering 3 1/2 minutes.  Here are the closing moments of one heck of a plank, which ends in cheers all round as Kanwal floored us all.  It might take a while to buffer, but it’s really worth the wait:

[jwplayer mediaid=”27210″]

Finally, all we need to do is change the last word “ride” on this T to “run” and I think we have our running club logo 😛

Reviewing the Newton Motion IV Running Shoes

Exactly 3 months ago today, on 1 April, I won a pair of Newton Motion IV running shoes in a lucky draw in New Delhi, India, where I live. (SO not an April Fool, then!).

As my lovely shoes turn 3 months old today, and have probably racked up some 200km since, it’s time to share my thoughts on these beauties.

Because, let’s not fool ourselves, these shoes are beauties.

They are a fab colour, and there are so many cool design features –  yes, I know they are also super technical and functional features, obviously, but there are details which are stylish as well.

Like so:

The shoe felt instantly comfortable from Day One.  There was not one second of “new shoes” feeling.

The sole is super cushioned, with the lugs that are a hallmark of Newton shoes:

The lugs really do make a difference – I feel lighter when I run in these shoes. I know that’s a horribly untechnical expression, but it’s truly the way I feel – lighter and bouncier.

Here’s the technical low-down from Newton:

Another great feature of these shoes is the heel cushioning.  It’s also super stylish, in keeping with the whole look of these shoes.

And here’s Newton’s own info:

There is also excellent sole cushioning:

I do not use these shoes every day, but alternate with the other shoes in my cupboard, but when I return to my Motion IVs, I definitely feel as though my feet are more protected and “surrounded” –  does that make any sense?

In the 3 months I have owned these shoes, I have run in them many times in Delhi, where I live, and up in the Himalayas, running up and down damp trails in the hills of Himachal Pradesh.  I have run in the rain, in the blistering heat, on grass, in slush, on roads, on trail runs…and these shoes have not given me a moment’s discomfort.  Nor do they show any evidence of wear and tear.  They’ve been washed a few times, after a particularly muddy trail run, and they always come out looking as good as new:

Super happy with them.

Though I won these shoes, neither Newton nor the organisers of the lucky draw asked me to write anything, and I came under no pressure whatsoever to review them.

Will I buy Newton in the future?

Definitely.

And happy 3 month anniversary to us!  

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