Tag Archives: running

Fitness hacks: What if you are too busy to be fit?


You’re busy. You have long hours at work or an unruly child or are an internet addiction. There never seems to be enough time. Not just for exercise but for anything. How do you stay fit? 

Guardian guide to running - GPS watches - video


The long term solution is, of course, to smartly rearrange your day and make time for things that matter i.e. getting your priorities right. But what about the short term? 

Option 1 

Wear your shoes, carry a watch and get out of the house. Set a 20-30 minute timer. Start walking or running based on your capability. Every 2-4 minutes stop and do a few pushups or burpees. Yes, people will stare. At the 10-15 minute mark, turn around. Make it back on time. Don’t worry. The mess at home will wait for you.

Option 2 

Do 100 burpees. Pick a version of the burpee based on your capabilities – Beginner burpees or with pushups or with pushups and pullups. Do 100. It should take you anywhere from 6 to 20 minutes based on your fitness level and the kind of burpee you’ve chosen.

Option 3 

Set a 10 minute timer. Do as many burpees as possible. Push as hard as you can on that day. Some days you’ll get 50 and some days you’ll get 150. Doesn’t matter. Just work as hard and safely as you can for 10 straight minutes.

Option 4 

Set a 20 minute timer and do as many rounds as possible of  (7 squats, 5 pushups, 3 pullups) or (3 squats, 2 pushups and 1 pullup) if you can’t do too many pullups at once.

Option 5 

Find a building with 3 to 5 floors. Run from the ground level to the terrace as fast as safely possible. Walk back down slowly. Repeat for a total of 6 to 10 rounds.

Truth is, you don’t need a gym or 2 undisturbed hours everyday or the latest and greatest equipment to get fit. All you need is the will to be fit and you will find a way to get there and stay there!

When in doubt, keep it simple.

Beyond miles, minutes and medals

On Sunday, 1st December 2013, more than 7,500 folks gathered to run what was possibly Chennai’s largest fitness event – The Wipro Chennai Marathon. Firstly, kudos to the organizers for such a wonderful event. I didn’t get to run this one, but the word on the street is that the run was beautifully planned and executed. Secondly, congrats to everyone who participated in the event.

So how did you do? Awesome or awful? Did you blast through it or did you suffer your way to the finish? Did you make yourself proud or did you walk out feeling defeated?

If it’s the former, I’m here to offer you a different perspective on running. If it’s the latter, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t matter. Because the joy of running is beyond what miles, minutes and medals can capture.


Photo credit: Weekend Studios, The Wipro Chennai Marathon 2013

Most of you who have followed me know that I started my journey towards health and fitness with running. I was a running junkie and enjoyed every second of being one. For the runners who don’t know me, I’m the guy who writes about smart training and how to not be a dumb runner- something running junkies are never fond of. More on the subject here, here and here.

Thanks to a lifetime of sedentarism and asthma, my entry into running was dominated by suffering. My first run lasted an amazing 100m at the end of which I found myself sitting on the pavement panicking and hurriedly taking puffs from my inhaler. A month of relentless consistent running and I broke the 1 mile barrier in (a painful) 23 minutes. It took me 6 months of hidden-running (on the side-roads post 10pm) before I could muster the courage to sign up for an official run and boy do I remember that one vividly.

It was the Skyline Ridge 14 km Trail Run which took place in Palo Alto, California. I had set myself a goal of 85 minutes.

I land up at the start all excited and I see a total of just about 150 people. Most of these folks were in pretty good shape, had hydration packs, compression shorts, dry-fit tees, funky shoes, crazy watches and no ear phones. And there I was wearing tracks I’d bought the previous week, a zipped hoodie that I wore to work, an old heavy pair of Reebok sneakers, a regular water bottle with water and a heavy-ass 1st generation iPod in my pocket that threatened to pull my pants down anytime. Excellent. I’d brought a knife bunch of old rusty crap to a gun fight.

Nevertheless, I present myself at the start line and listen to the organizer explain the running route as he points up to a, ummmm, moutain! No maps. No directions. Just a couple of colored ribbons tied to branches which are meant to keep you on track. In other words, if you’re left behind, you could be lost.

The whistle blows. I turn on the first song on my playlist and start running. With sub-zero temperatures and altitude, I instantly find myself struggling to run and in about 15 minutes a feeling of over-expanded lungs forces me to stop and use my inhaler. I see people of various ages and sizes zip past me and I can’t help but feel small. So I decide to pick up my feet.

I turn up the volume, focus harder and accelerate. I overtake a good number of folks. I feel alright. I’m at mile # 2 and I keep this going for another 2 miles. At mile 5, an unexpected hill presents itself and I’m hit. And this time I’m down and the inhaler doesn’t seem to help either. I realize I don’t have it in me to get back up.

I start to really panic. How am I going to finish within 85 minutes? What if I’m among the last few? What if I finish so late there is no one to cheer at the finish line? What if they publish the results? What if I get lost? What if this asthma episode is real bad? Do I have to call for help?

I decide to calm down and breathe. Almost completely broken, for the very first time in the last 50 minutes of turmoil, I look around me and I was breathless. But this time, in a whole other way.


Photo credit: www.atrailrunnersblog.com

Everything that is right about the world was right in front of my eyes but I refused to open my eyes. Silence in all it’s glory encapsulated me but I rebelled with music. Water in it’s purest form hydrated me but I said no thanks to the mist and wiped myself dry.

What am I doing here? What am I trying to prove here? Who am I trying to prove it to? Who am I racing against? Is it the 70 year old man running ahead of me? The ultramarathoners who ran their way from home to the start line? The world that talks but doesn’t care?

I said, fuck it. I’m going to live this run. I’m not going remember my first run as the one that made me feel miserable. I’m going to love every remaining second of this trail. It doesn’t matter if I have to walk it or even if I have to call for help, but I was going to savour every remaining moment.


Photo credit: www.atrailrunnersblog.com

And so I did.  I finished the run in about an hour and 40 minutes. Not the first. Not the last. I placed 41 among 71. But that didn’t matter anymore. It was not about ranking and timing anymore but about collecting memories. And from then on, for me, running was about the experience.

You see, running is a sport. How fast your run your 10k means something. Running your first half marathon or full marathon is definitely something you should train meticulously for. But before all that, running is a passion driven activity and it is important that you enjoy it for the right reasons.

So for a minute, forget how well or badly you did. Forget your timing. Forget how far you ran. Forget the difference between you and the overweight unfit runners who huffed and puffed their way to the finish. Forget the many miles between you and the faster runners who you barely caught sight of.

Take a moment to look beyond numbers. Remember the weather, the rain, the darkness, the sound of your heart pounding, the bounce from each step, the wind, the views, the excitement, the motivation, the smiles, the sweat, the grit and, finally, that feeling of liberation.

Take a moment to relive the experience ‘cos at the end of the day, it’s all about the experience.

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Born to run, but…

… did you learn to run?

Just because you have evolved to be able to do a certain movement, that in no way means you are capable of doing it safely and efficiently especially in a competition/race type setting. Humans can swim. No question. But without really learning to swim, would you jump into a lake assuming all will be well?

More than 95% of recreational distance runners today are sadly only worried about running longer and faster. Very very few runners actually take the time to learn to run better.

Do you have random niggles? Do any of your joints hurt? Do you need to ice your joint(s) multiple times a week? If yes, it is time to drop your running mileage and spend some quality time learning to run.

Any idiot can go out and start running. But do you care enough to get better at running and to continue running injury free for a long time to come? If yes, quit mindless running and start learning.

Here are some resources that will help you start off on the right foot.

Time Efficient Training – Reduce your 5k time by more than 20% in just 4 weeks

5k runs are pretty amazing really. They are long enough to test endurance and short enough to test speed. And for most people, 5k walk/runs are the gateway into fitness. While I never really started with a 5k, I started to grow more and more fond of them as I started working on speed. But I realized I had a tiny problem. If I had to train for a 5k run, I needed to put in some running time and that would, one, interfere with my regular workouts and, two, adversely affect my recovery from my usual workouts leaving me sore and unable to progress on strength and speed! This royally sucked ‘cos I basically ended up spinning my wheels.

Was this just a case of trying to do everything at once? Could one not train to grow stronger and run a faster 5k? Like I mentioned above, the 5k run is short enough to be a good test of anaerobic capacity and speed and hence, unlike distance running, should be trainable using methods than aren’t necessarily catabolic. So I decided to try out a few different training protocols and find one that worked best to help me achieve my goal of running a (much) faster 5k while not compromising lean mass or strength gains.

I tried a whole bunch of stuff like 400m repeats, mile sprints, hill sprints, train runs, cross trainers and more, but the one protocol that gave me the best results in the shortest time is the one I’m going to explain now. I’ve had my clients try this with great success and I’ve tried this twice myself with great results. The first time I tried it my 5k time dropped from 25:45 to 23:20 and the next time it dropped from 24:10 to 21:10.

The Plan:

  • If you already know your 5k time and pace, write them down. If you don’t know your 5k time and pace, run a best effort 5k and use those numbers below.
  • Now subtract 0.5 mph (0.8 kmph) off your 5k pace number. This will be X. Calculate 40% of your 5k time in minutes. This will be Y.
  • Day 1: Run for Y minutes at X pace.

If your 5k time is 40min, Y=16 min and X=4.2 mph (6.7 kmph).

If your 5k time is 30min, Y=12 min and X=5.75 mph (9.2 kmph).

If your 5k time is 20min, Y=8 min and X= 8.8 mph (14.2 kmph)

  • Day 2: Run for Y minutes at X + 0.15 mph (0.25 kmph)
  • Day 3: Run for Y minutes at X + 0.30 mph (0.50 kmph)
  • Day 4: Perform a full body (bodyweight/dumbbell/barbell/kettlebell) circuit that lasts for 75% of your initial 5k time. Intensity should be moderate (~ 70-80% MHR).
  • Day 5: Run for Y minutes at X + 0.45 mph (0.75 kmph)
  • Day 6: Run for Y minutes at X + 0.60 mph (1.00 kmph)
  • Day 7: Rest

Repeat this for 4 weeks. Test your 5k pace.

Q & A:

1. Do I need a treadmill for this? If yes, why?

Yes. Preferably. Because you can use the treadmill to progressively increase training speed by small yet accurate increments resulting in controllable and predictable endurance progression.

2. What do I do if I don’t have a treadmill?

Choose a route that is long enough.

  • On Day 1 run (not jog) for Y minutes at a comfortable pace. You should be working moderately hard. It shouldn’t be a relaxed job neither should it be a max intensity run. Mark the spot where you end the run after Y minutes.
  • On Day 2, run for the same Y minutes, but pace your run such that you finish slightly ahead of the spot you finished at on day 2. Use distance run as a tracker. This approach won’t be as well controlled as the treamill approach due to lack of quantifiable feedback, but will still help you get faster nevertheless.

3. What if I am unable to progress after, say, 2 weeks?

If you are unable to progress fast enough to run at the increasing speeds, drop the pace by 5% and continue. If you fuel your runs just right (i.e. neither eat too less becoming skinny and weak nor eat too much and gain fat), you will definitely progress.

4. Running 5 days a week? Isn’t this too much?

Its not. Though the frequency is high, the volume (run time) is super low.

5. How does this jive with the rest of my training?

You can continue with your usual workouts while doing this. Its up to you to figure out the best time to do these short runs (pre-workout or post, AM or PM etc.)

6. Will my regular training affect my progression on this?

It shouldn’t. But it depends on what you mean by ‘regular training’. If you mean running multiple miles for hours everyday, then yes it will affect your progression (and in turn kill your chances of becomes a faster runner). But if you are doing a good mix of resistance training, short high intensity work and low intensity cardio like walking or yoga, then you have nothing to worry about.

More questions? Hit me up in the comments section. No more questions? Well, watcha waitin for? Start training! Enjoyed the article? Please share the knowledge! Buttons below.


Running – The Reality

Note: This post is dedicated to my bud KK – a great entrepreneur, a role model for thousands of students in India, a social worker and an awesome dude in general – who is insane about running but, for whatever reason, never ever listens to me when I talk about training smart! In the interest of keeping my ass from getting ripped, I’ll not go into his history of running injuries!

Let me start off by saying running is awesome! And I’ll be honest with you – I love running! It is one of the most natural human movements, needs literally no equipment/gear, can be done anytime, can be done anywhere and lends itself to progressive improvement! Whats not to love?

Granted I haven’t run much lately but that’s only because it does line up with my goals. But if you’ve read my story, you know I used run a lot – a lot more than is required for my own good! I called it the best activity ever. I encouraged people to run more and invited people on runs and caught up with friends while running and ran many many races. If I have to explain how I feel about running in one word it would be “Home”! Every time I run I felt at home! So familiar, so comfortable, so liberating and always so very my own!

But since my running days, as I have reduced my mileage, I have increased my knowledge about health and fitness and I’ll share that with you today.

The Good

A simple Google search of  ‘Benefits of Running’ will take you to websites that say running does everything from building muscles to preventing cancer to increasing sex drive to slowing down the aging process! While such claims exist from pretty much any physical activity from yoga to olympic lifting, we’ll just stick to the legit potential benefits of running as an exercise.

  • Weight loss
  • Cardiovascular benefits
  • Improved lower body strength
  • Improved fitness

The Bad

Another simple Google search of ‘Drawbacks of Running’, will take you to websites that call running the Satan! In this case too, we’ll stick to the legit potential drawbacks of running for the regular running/fitness enthusiast.

  • Chronic joint pain due to overuse/abuse
  • Muscle wastage
  • Enlargement of the heart resulting in arrhythmia (potentially causing heart attacks)
  • Over-hydration resulting in hyponatremia (potentially resulting in death)
  • Fat storage due to increased cortisol release
  • Increased oxidative stress and systemic inflammation
  • Weakness

Hmmm! Like every other thing in the nutrition and fitness field, this one too has completely opposing views and evidence supporting each view. How can something that makes you fit make you weak? And how can something that builds strength result in muscle wastage? And, for the love of God, how can something that has cardiovascular benefits potentially cause heart attacks? Read on.

The Reality

As weird as it seems, both the benefits and the drawbacks are real! How? It all comes down to three things…

  1. Frequency, volume and intensity of training
  2. Running Technique
  3. Nutrition and hydration

Naturally, if all three are spot on, you will reap most of the benefits of running and almost none of the drawbacks. As you screw up each one of these, you will be gifting yourself to more and more of the drawbacks and hence, none of the benefits. Like everything else, running is an awesome activity… but ONLY when done right and when done in the right amounts! And, again like everything else, running is poison when overdone and/or done wrong! Let me give you 2 examples.

  • You all know how much I love deadlifts and how much I tout its awesomeness. But what happens if I deadlift 7 days a week, twice a day for 100 reps each session at close to max intensity using bad technique? Well, I get messed up and end up with a broken spine is what happens! In other words, I can hurt myself, acutely and chronically, so bad that I might never ever be train again in my life.
  • Everyone knows spinach is awesome and that it has more nutrients than almost any other food item! But what happens if I eat 10 lb of spinach everyday? Two words – Kidney stones!

Similarly, running is an amazing activity with multiple benefits. But what happens if you run multiple times a week for distances longer than you can handle using bad running form at heart rates that are higher than recommended? Well, chronic joint pain, muscle wastage, heart enlargement, fat storage, oxidative stress and weakness! You see what I mean?

Clearly, while the benefits are all super legit, the drawbacks of running are due to a severe case of too-much-of-a-good-thing! So then, running is no different from any other exercise right? Overdoing anything will make it harmful right? So why not warn folks about the perils of eating too  much spinach or about the dark possibilities of  too many deadlift reps? Why the hatred and warning towards running alone?

Because very rarely does one seems to overdo the deadlift or eat spinach by the kilogram, but too many folks seem to over do the running too often! Why? Because… running is one of the most natural human movements, needs literally no equipment/gear, can be done anytime, can be done anywhere and lends itself to progressive improvement! Its kind of sad but, the reasons that make running awesome are the same reasons that make it conducive to overtraining!

So whats the deal then? Can running be a part of a good workout program? What id your recommendation?

The Verdict

Like my answers to all other questions, the answer to this question also changes drastically based on goals and current physical condition!

If you have no goals but run because you enjoy running

  • use your common sense and train for your goal (which is recreation). modify your mileage such that you don’t have any nagging joint/ligament/tendon/muscle pains. This might be 5 miles/week for some and 45 miles/week for others. Find what works for you. Your goal is to be able to enjoy running for a long time to come. So be smart about it and run enough to make yourself better and don’t run so much that you end up in pain all day everyday!
  • invest time in mobility work – I know its boring, but you’ve got to do it!
  • on at least one day during the week, do something that is not endurance – this could be resistance training or yoga or HIT or walking.
  • on at least two days during the week, rest plenty and stretch.
  • eat real food.

If your goal is general health (or longevity)…

  • run moderate distances at a low heart rate (65-70% Max Heart Rate) once a week.
  • run short distances (40-200 m) at a high heart rate (90-95% Max Heart Rate) once a week.
  • do resistance training 1-2 times a week.
  • do yoga once a week
  • eat real food per appetite/hunger

If your goal is fat loss (or to get ripped/shredded or get toned or to have abs)…

If your goal is strength gain (or muscle gain or to get big or to get strong)…

  • drop the distance running
  • lift heavy weights
  • walk for 30-45 min on rest days
  • eat a tonne of real food

If your goal is competitive running

And lastly, if your definition of a workout is running on the treadmill (or “doing” the elliptical/stepper/stationary bike) for 40+ minutes everyday…

  • get off the damn machine
  • meet/make some friends, go outside, run and have some fun. Or, in simpler words, get a life!

There you have it – an honest and legit review on running. Though I work with endurance athletes, this is my first post on running and if there is enough interest I’ll be happy to write more about how to train for your first marathon or how to train to beat your previous best or how to recover from running related injuries or how to fuel yourself right and hence improve performance. Let me know in the comments section.

And considering there are more runners than any other athletes today, I’m sure all of you know folks who are into running. Please share this with them. I’m definitely like to hear their take on this.

Peace out.

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