Fitness Running

Woodlands Half Marathon Prep Week 4: Progress

It is the inability to practice what I preach that lead to the fiasco that was last week. Last Saturday as soon as i woke up made tea I decided that I needed to run a few miles to make up for the days i did not. I did not warm up, did not wear the proper attire and went out thinking that my body was ready to accept whatever i threw at it because i have been training for a few weeks. Yes, the human body can do great things but it also needs nutrition, conditioning and rest to be able to work efficiently. I had made the mistake of not attending to the three basic principles and paid the price. The IT band acted up, my ankles hurt and my legs were as heavy as lead when i stopped.

I was forced to rest the next three days to make the tightness go away. I went back to the foam rolling, and dynamic stretching to alleviate the muscle strain. Thursday i managed to do some strength training before my mind folded completely. I think it was the fear that I would injure myself and stop the training program that was limiting me. The wife decided that I was not being reasonable enough and goaded me into getting a run on Friday morning. She ran along with me along the Briar Forest trail. I was quite surprised by her running stride, and her pace. I kept trying to catch up with her and convinced her to go slow as I did not want to burn out and stop. The run was for 2.5 miles at 13.26 minutes per mile. I did not feel any discomfort, but my wife did comment on my gait. Apparently, I swayed a lot when I ran. I had to make a mental note to correct this as really you are not gaining anything while you move sideways while running. It helps to minimize any sort of movement you are really expending energy in useless fashion. There is a video on YouTube that shows the Kenyan runners training routine. These runners mechanics are something that i only can dream to achieve.

More foam rolling and stretching on Saturday helped set the resolve that I was ready to do this again. Sunday morning. The weather was a miserly 1 degree C. this is the first time we are seeing the Sun come out in a week. I got to the gym and locked the doors up. The atmosphere was so liberating that I was tuned in to get the maximum out of my workout. I started off with the warm up routine that included forward and reverse lunges to activate my legs. Did the side switches and stretches to activate my hips and quads. 10 minutes later i stepped on the treadmill and set the machine to roll at 3.5 miles an hour. I walked for the first five minutes, before i started feeling the warmth in my chest. I ran. When i stopped i had run 5.01 miles in about 55 minutes at a 11:19 pace. The average cadence was 161 strikes per minute. This run alone burned through 600 calories.

I was so warm from the run that I had to walk back to the house with my hoodie off. Did the cool down routine for 10 minutes and slipped on the compression socks to aid recovery. The last two weeks have not been ideal in the long-term prep for the half marathon but boy you are not giving up. Not yet, not now.

Fitness Running

Woodlands Half Marathon Prep Week 3: Reset

Shin Splints, Tight IT Band, Extreme Cold Weather and a run without a proper warm up offset 3 weeks of progress. 2 Miles logged at 12: 23 with cadence of 161. 2 35 minute workouts to focus on toning and functional strength helped little. Need to include more foam rolling routines and include dynamic stretching before the warm up routine. Let us see next week.

Fitness Running

Woodlands Half Marathon Prep Week 2: It’s not the age but the miles

I feel i have been doing this training plan forever but it is only week 3. There is solace in the fact that this will end soon. The first two weeks were all right, and my body seems to be holding up so far. I have already clocked the most miles in a month and it is only going to get worse from here. Being the year end, I had enough time off work and the workout plan was to do 3 runs totaling 12 miles and do a couple of workouts to strengthen the body.

The first run was on Tuesday, the day after Christmas. The weather was extremely pleasant and the afternoon session seemed apt for the workout. I had planned to run 3.5 miles. The chance of precipitation was listed at 60%. The weather men here do make Mr.Ramanan look good at times, and apparently they do not stop a race for the rain. I decided to take a chance and went out with a rain coat. A little onto the run it literally started pouring, the coat did withstand the initial burst, but the water did manage to seep through and made me feel cold. I had to stop under the beltway bridge after a mile and a half as the water started getting into my eyes. The salt from the sweat stings like crazy when it gets  into the eyes so please do more to protect the eyes. Note to self use a cap the next time. I waited for the rain to subside and ran back home. I was not able to focus on the cadence but the rain did help with the pace and helped me clock an average 10:57 for 2.5 miles.

The fitness blender toning exercise came next. Kelli’s body weight exercises training focused on the core and lower body. I cant help think that she is a beast when it comes to these toning exercises. I was grunting my way through some of the exercises. The core seems to be the weakest link in the body, not that the rest is strong enough. The three magic exercises for runners are Planks, Push-ups and Lunges. I suck at 2 out of the three. The stretches helped alleviate the DOMS for a while but i did feel a bit sore the next day. The wind chill dropped the temperature to single digits and the cold made me feel my bones. The Thursday run was for 3.5 Miles at a 12:24 pace. I was able to hold the cadence at 161 and did manage a steady breathing rhythm. The three workouts felt good, but boy do these things make you feel hungry and tired. I decided to walk the next two days to alleviate any soreness. The “runger” is back and i am devouring food at a crazy pace as well.

I needed another 6 miles to hit the target this week. The weather forecast for Sunday was for a cloudy morning and then all hell was expected to break loose in the evening. I trusted the weathermen after their accurate prediction earlier and did go to the bayou equipped with the right gear. There was a steady drizzle and Victor assured me that it was for the best. The first five miles were fantastic i think i clocked 5 miles in about an hour. I had high hopes of finishing a 10 K within the 72 minute mark before i was laid waste by a couple of hills (elation of about 50 ft) and by the freezing wind towards the end. Ended up running the remaining 1.2 miles in 18 minutes. I was so upset that i ended up eating two tacos right after the run. The taco shop is strategically placed to fatten anyone leaving the park.

Foam rolling, stretching and a long nap seems to have set the body up for now. The temperature has been falling steadily all day and we are looking at negative temperatures tonight. I think i have done enough to earn the extra cup of tea and laze around all day. The forecast for next week is extremely bleak but you know what we got 12 more miles to go.

It was also extremely funny to see the laundry bag this weekend. It had all my workout clothes and a single workday shirt. 🙂

Happy New Year Guys!

Fitness Running

Woodlands Half Marathon Prep Week 1: Speed and Distance conundrum

From a training perspective this was supposed to be exactly like week 1. I had to log 3 runs, 2 workouts and total 10 miles. Things did not go exactly to plan, had to run several errands this week and for sure it did affect the workouts. So i had to compensate with brisk walks for about 4 days and gave up on strength training for the week. I sure hope to God that i don’t regret this.

Got two runs in for the week. The First run was for 3.05 miles, managed to keep the cadence around 161 the entire run. Zero Stops. The pace was 11.47 did have to breathe hard towards the end. It was extremely windy so did struggle to keep the temperature up all the time. The second run was what it was meant to be. The plan was to do to 5 miles along the bayou with Victor. The temperature drop was substantial and had think about the tacos a lot to get motivated. The cold helped me start briskly and i tried to focus on the cadence. The higher cadence did leave me feel a little bit more energized and also helped with the pace (12.09) a bit, i was able to look straight and breathe more easily. I had to switch to the kinder foot trails after mile 3. I wanted my knees to hold and the hard concrete trails were not helping. Completed five miles in an hour this time. I think i have got to the point where i can run for about an hour without stopping but i am concerned at the distance covered. At this pace i am looking at 2.5 hours of running (at least). Not good bruh!. Need to find ways to improve the speed and ability to run longer. I think i need to take the strength work outs far more seriously.

Ended up with 70K steps and placed second in the Garmin step challenge. So off we go now!

Fitness Running

Woodlands Half Marathon Prep Week 0: 10 Miles

Week 0: Preparation

All right. Done with Week 1. This would be week 0 for me. I have been following Hal Higdon’s novice half marathon plan and the first week plan includes 3 runs, 2 cross training days and 2 days of rest.  A cold and rainy start to the week ensured that I stayed indoors on Monday. Tuesday was colder, but I got the ball rolling with a round of body weight and strength training exercises at home. A combination of lunges, squats and pushups followed by some good old dumbbell training. My trainers are a couple in YouTube and more often than not I struggle to keep up with their reps and pace as well. I do hope that this improves as I work on it.

Wednesday, was kind of a disappointing day at work. Thanks to the daylight savings, it gets pretty dark up here by 6.00. The cold, traffic and my own laziness made me get home late and I had to contend with the broken elliptical machine in the apartment gym. 30 minutes of aerobic activity with the HR in zone 2 and zone 3 (40-60% of the max HR) made me feel much better though. Thursday, was the first run for the week. I felt a little tight in the calf and I had to foam roll for a good ten minutes before I felt ready. I ran 2.1 miles with an average pace of 12.24. The cadence was scattered all over the place partly due to the broken pavements and lack of light. Either way finished the run and ate a hearty meal. I don’t think burning more calories than what I am eating is going to go the right way this time.

Friday we reinforced our commitment towards healthy eating and restocked the supplies with vegetables and fruits. The sun was out the first time this week and I started early. The plan was to do a 3 mile run and I wanted to run the whole thing with no stops at a decent pace. Started off slower than usual and focused on the cadence and breathing, I think I started to feel the rhythm close to mile 2 and I did finish strong with a 9 minute pace. 3 miles in 36 minutes.

Two runs in two days was a little hard on the ankles. The concrete pavements are not particularly kind to the knees. Used the copper fit ankle wrap and had to pop in an advil to fight the inflammation. Rested the whole day and ended up missing my step goal target for the first time in 61 days. I did feel bad at first but then these are just numbers so you know what screw it.

Sunday Long run day. The last time I ran along the bayou my legs cramped around mile 4 and had to walk the way back. This time I wanted to run the entire loop (~5 miles). I had to take a bottle of Gatorade along with me so that I could fuel myself along the run. The weather was beautiful, and yeas I was able to run 4.69 miles before I stopped to take a call from HISD (on a Sunday morning really?). So there you go 10 miles in 3 runs. See you next week!



The Existential Crisis Phenomenon

Time flies! Busy Day! I hear these statements a lot. I have also wondered as how I can spend days, weeks, months and yet have the overwhelming feeling that I have done nothing special. In the recent past, I have found solace in order. I have a schedule that I have tried to keep up (for the most part). I set myself up to only do things I absolutely cared about at this point and I go about my day taking care of business one at a time. While, this approach has kept me busy doing thing I have wanted to do it also has given birth to a nagging line of thought. It is exactly like a fly that is in your house. It does not bother me for the most part, but when it does start buzzing near me it drives me nuts. May be this is the existential crisis phenomenon! So just like that just to bring some purpose back in life and to get the nagging thought away from my head I signed up for a half marathon. 13.1 miles. The race is in 12 weeks. Over the course of the next twelve weeks let us see how we get going. I think I probably will write a post to cover the progress for the week, If something memorable happens I will share that too.


The importance of Kindness

Some time ago, my dad was conned in a bus ride back from work. A crook picked his pocket while another distracted him with a story that he saw money fall out from my Dad’s bag. He only had a photo copy of his drivers license and a few spare change for the bus fare so no major harm done there. My dad was sure not thrilled and he was quite angry with himself for letting his guard down and trusting the word of a stranger. The thing is my father grew up in a small town, every body knew every body and they talked about every thing. So his natural instinct is to trust people. He would usually tell people his life story the fifth minute he met someone. We have always made fun of his for being so easy going and like-able but this was different he was sort of blaming himself for being nice in today’s world. No matter what we said, he refused to believe it was sheer bad luck and decided to be more selective in his company and choice of words. Though at times i had wished he had shown better judgement in his company, i absolutely did not like it when he became a grumpy version of himself. I thought that he would get over the incident over time, but he was pretty shaken up and refused to give up his grouchy self.

Two weeks later he received a call from an unknown number. My dad being his new self refused to answer the phone from the unknown number, but three or four rings later my mother picked up the phone. The call was for my dad from a person in Sankari (45 minutes away from home). He was a trucker and he had found my dad’s wallet near the bus stand. Apparently the crooks had thrown the wallet away finding nothing worthwhile in it. The guy had come upon the wallet lying in the ground and upon finding the emergency contact details safely stashed in the wallet he called the number to tell us that he had found the wallet. He said he was currently on his way to another town and he told us that he could either ship the wallet over post or hold on to it and deliver to him the next week when he was back in town. My dad of course did not trust a word he said, he even had a theory that the crooks were trying to con him again as they were not happy with what they got the first time. I think he managed to say that since there was nothing of use there he did not particularly care about the missing wallet. My mother started to give my dad a hard time for putting his own details in the emergency contact card details. yeah! right.

Three days later, we received a package and inside was the missing wallet. The trucker had sent it to the address on the license copy and along with it a note to my dad. Translated it read something like this. Dear sir, I know one can go through some bad experiences in life, but do not let these stray incidents affect your trust in humanity. Hope this reaches you and makes you feel better. My dad immediately called him back, thanked him and even offered to reimburse the cost to send the package. The stranger refused and just asked my dad to not let go of his goodness that easily. Now i don’t know if he had tears of happiness or if he was just overcome with emotion. But he was smiling for sure and now does like to claim that he knew that good things would eventually happen to him. yeah! right.

A couple of crooks and a gentleman taught me a valuable lesson that day. The importance of Kindness. Sure courage, loyalty, intelligence are all virtues that assist one in the quest for perfection, but kindness and loyalty are what makes you a better human.


There is an app for that

So every company is at promoting the buzzwords Digital, Mobility, Analytics, Cloud to employees and customers alike. The place i work at is also seeing a digital revolution and the upper management has asked us to come up with innovative mobile apps that disrupt the regular lives. I do understand the smart phone has changed our lives forever. Call me old school, but i still like to put some trust in my memory and self over an app to do things. Now a couple of my colleagues (let us call them 1 and 2) i believe have sold their souls to the smart phone. They claim that their phone has the potential to do every single thing that i can think of. Oh come on that is stretch for sure right, you cannot have an app for every single thing you like to do in your day to day life. Like what says 2. I did not want to give them easy wins so i told them not to reel of apps that i had used up to the point and i also asked them to ignore the broad categories of apps under news, photography, social media, life style, weather etc . 1 & 2 still seemed pretty confident that they would find an app for anything i threw at them.

Since we were having the conversation at a pub, I asked how about an app to find out about beers? “Untappd” says 2. 2 tells me about the app that allows one to track and rate beers tasted. The app then generates a recommendation list based on your likes and also lists the pubs nearby that sell the drink you want. Wow, as i take in the details i see the metro bus pull over at the corner of the street. I knew that there was an app to track the bus schedules but then the bus just groaned as it went over one of the numerous potholes in the city. I bet you there cannot be an app to track pot holes in the city said I. There is one for that says 1 after a few seconds on his phone. This time i am shocked Really? who builds an app for that? The city of Houston does beams 1.

I clearly had underestimated the Digital warriors. I was unable to think of anything at that point and struggling to come up with new ideas. Seeing my predicament 1 & 2 decided to intervene. They decided to take several creative liberties to make the search more challenging. Let us see if there are apps to rack places where i have… begins 2. oh No, I knew where this was going. Yup…says 1 before i could respond. I meant….begins 2. Yup for that one as well says 1. I sat dumbfounded. why would you know about these i ask? why not? asks 1.

2 pulls out an website that lists the weirdest apps ever built. He reads out as 1 finishes up his beer

  • An app to block out the Kardashians content from appearing on your browser.
  • An app to tell if the picture that you just took was that of an hot dog?
  • An app that allows you type using only four words ****, yes, no, you.
  • An app that allows you to type only with 1000 simple words.
  • An app that allows you to pop pimples on the phone screen.
  • An app that tells you when to go pee when you are watching a movie.

The evening was definitely not going the way i intended, i surely was toast. For an IT engineer i was so not embracing technology to the extent others were. It sort of popped the bubble for me and i let a volley of cuss words.

And yeah i now know that There is an app for that too.

P.S The apps that i absolutely love and use are Good Reads, Weather – Go Run, Run Keeper, Black Player, Spotify, and YouTube.

Fitness Running

Getting on Track

Three years after I started playing tennis, I noticed that my shot making skills had improved yet my fitness levels remained the same. I would start getting tired towards the end of the first hour and then get progressively worse with each passing second. I blamed the heat, the lack of food, too much food and even my desk job for not being able to outlast my training sessions. I do hit the gym once in a while and do about 20 minutes of cardio and another 20-30 minutes of random strength/weight training. I have a BMI of 22 and i can still fit in pant from my college days, these trivial reasons made me believe that I was fit enough. It took a few more rubbish sessions and a fitness assessment to make me realize that I lacked endurance and my mental focus was absolutely ridiculous when under duress. The fitness assessment report was not very flattering, most of my “numbers” were in the slightly above or average category. My blood pressure, cholesterol, body fat percentage, strength test result numbers looked shaky for the most part.

I am not a competitive person, but I do like to believe that i like to do a thorough job. i was not honestly impressed by my numbers and i did want to know ways to improve them as well. Running I was told was the best way to improve, so I decided to put myself up to it. I signed up for a race as an incentive to train. The 20 minutes of cardio that I used to do in the gym did include running on a treadmill, so I was not exactly worried about completing a 5K race. The first few days felt good, I was so excited about the prospect of winning the race that I ran every other day. I finished my first 5K in 34 minutes and was in the 30th percentile. The guy who won the race did it in 15 minutes. While I was happy that I finished, the finish time bothered me. I signed up for another race and trained even harder. I took off a few more seconds from my finish time and somewhere along the lines I fell in love with running. I enjoyed the activity so much that tennis became my second interest.

I stopped worrying about the finish times, I ran for the feel. I ran along parks, sidewalks, asphalt roads, dirt trails and boy did i feel good. It was very different from running on the treadmill, the scenery, the broken pavements, twigs, lizards on the sidewalk all somehow contrive to help you move. I started to work on a breathing pattern, I would take breath in for a two count step and breathe out for a two count step. I started to work on exercises to improve my stride length, and cadence. At the end of my first year I had run 180 miles, finished 3 5k and 2 10K road races. I only lost two pounds from the last year, but i did lose 5% body fat, and my tennis sessions no longer seem to be brutal anymore. I ran a 5K in 30.31 minutes, a 10 K in 72 minutes. I know these numbers are not great and I am still so far away from the winner but now I have edged myself to the 50th percentile.
So if you are like me and want to get started on running here are a few lessons that I picked up along the way

  • Wear the right clothes, do not wear tight/loose fitting clothes, do not wear cotton, wear dri-fit shirts that fit. Ill fitting clothes cause chaffing, will make you hate running.
  • Buy a pair of running shoes, a good running shoe will provide comfort, cushion and prevent injuries so get to a shop that watches your foot strike and get you shoe-fitted.
  • Hydrate – Running is hard on your body. Drink water and hydrate yourself before and after every run.
  • Fuel – Like I said before running is hard on your body, if you do not provide your body with the necessary food, your body will break down. Choose food that is a combination of high fiber (greens), with high protein (lentils, beans, meat, dairy). Carbohydrates are essential but do limit the amount of rice and bread you take. Try to avoid processed food and reduce sugar intake. Remember Nuts, Fruits and vegetables are your best friends.
  • Breathe – Sounds silly, but remember to breathe through your nose. Taking in air through the mouth will cause bloating and well gastrointestinal difficulties.
  • Effort – Watch for the effort that you are putting while you train. If you have difficulty breathing or if you feel discomfort at any level the please stop. A reasonable indicator of effort is if to try talking sentences without gasping while running. If you can then the effort level is good, if not try to slow it down a touch.
    • Warm up and Cool Down – Every run should be preceded by a warm up and finish with a cool down
      • Chris Henshaw warm up – Best warm up routine out there.
      • Cool down stretches, walk until your HR is low, or until you can talk without difficulty
      • Foam rolling is another great way of relaxing your muscles.
  • Alternate – Running is a very mechanical activity, once you get your posture and technique right you end up exercising the same muscles over and over again. Do something else like strength training, swimming or play a sport like tennis, basket ball that exercises other parts of your body.
  • Rest – The value of rest is often overlooked. The body needs time to recover from a run. Over training or over working will not help you in any way.

Go ahead tie your boots and get on a track and run see if it makes you any wiser and stronger. Either way If you pass me on the road I will say this to you Good day!.

Fitness Tennis

Tennis Racquets

Tennis has been a sport that I have watched for long, yet surprisingly I had only attempted to play the game twice in 28 years. Yet in the last few years tennis has become a favorite hobby. Here is a list of pointers to help you choose a racquet and get started on this wonderful game. The first racquet that I ever got was from a sports store in Chennai, I picked the racquet based on the color and the price range. If you ever want to play the game seriously I can tell you from experience that this approach is not going to get you far. Picking up an expensive racquets is not probably going to help you a lot as well. It also does not help that the racquets come in all forms, shapes and price ranges.

Tennis racquets are broadly categorized into Power based, Control based or Tweeners (combination of both). The racquet is ideally an extension of your arm and it has to complement your playing style and strengths. A fairly good indicator of your game style is as how you approach sports (cricket, badminton,etc). If your plan is to beat the opponent into submission then you will be better served by racquet that allows for powerful strokes, whereas if your game plan is to wear your opponent with well crafted points then you are more likely to perform better with a control oriented racquet. If you think that you are a bit of both styles then I would recommend a tweener stick. Note control based racquest will have lesser power and power based racquest will have less control.

Understanding the following technical specifications will also help you pick the right stick.

  • Head Size
  • Balance
  • Length
  • Weight
  • Swing weight
  • Stiffness
  • String Tension
  • String Pattern

There have been papers written about each of these parameters and how they affect performance, but I believe that we can cover another day. Today let us look at how these parameters affect the racquets.

Head Size: Racquet’s are categorized as standard, mid-plus and over sized. The smaller the head size the better the racquet control, but it is less forgiving as well as the sweet spot is smaller. The over sized racquet’s are ideal for beginners as you have a larger sweet spot. Most racquet’s today are mid-plus (100 Sq)
Weight/Balance/Stiffness: Control oriented racquest are generally on the heavier side, are more balanced, less stiff and offer more swing weight. This allows the player to have really big swings and ensures that the ball does not fly off the court. Power based racquets are the opposite and these expect players to take low Note most advanced players prefer low power racquets. Tweener racquets are slightly stiffer, are not very heavy and allows the players to take medium – fast swings.
String Pattern: Denser string patterns offer more contact points and hence more control.
String Tension: String tension is yet another parameter that helps the racquet perform better. General rule of the thumb is lesser the tension more the power and therefore less control. Each racquet has a recommended tension range and can be strung at the preferred tension to get optimal results.

The following table compares three racquets and their specifications.

Racquet Level Category Unstrung Weight (g) Head size (sq in) tension (lbs) string pattern head balance Stiffness
Head Prestige MP Adanced Control 320 98 53 18 X 20 -12 64
Dunlop Aerogel 4d5 Fifty Beginner Power 270 100 60 16 x 19 4 70
Babolat AeroPro Drive Intermediate Tweener 300 100 53 16 x 19 -7 68

Hope this overview has provided you with sufficient insights to go into the store, demo out a few racquest and pick the one that suits your game the most.

Until the next one, see ya.