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BW Businessworld

For The Long Run

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Running  a marathon is as much a mental as a physical game. It is about committing to a goal and working towards it by overcoming the obstacles that come your way. The reward lies in the sense of accomplishment and the enjoyment that comes with this experience.

What It Takes
To complete a marathon, a person needs to build his fitness and stamina levels gradually over a course of 12-16 weeks. For this, regular running should be supplemented by activities such as yoga to help improve flexibility.  On the mental front, it requires the strength to push through physical challenges and roadblocks.

Personal Regimen
I start the day with an early morning run from 5:00 to 6:00. Apart from that, I spend two hours on a fitness workout that is split between cardio activity and strength training. When I travel, I always make sure I pack my running shoes. For longer trips, light equipment such as the TRX helps me stay on track.

Building Stamina

Increasing your stamina for running requires you to build physical strength and develop lung capacity. One great way to do this is through interval training. It is a type of discontinuous physical training that involves a series of low- to high-intensity exercise workouts interspersed with rest or relief periods. Interval training sessions can help increase your VO2 max — the highest rate at which your body can transport oxygen to your muscles — which your muscles can then use to produce energy aerobically. VO2 max is a significant contributor (along with other factors such as lactate threshold pace) to performance during longer races.

Training for a Marathon
Here are some tips for preparing for a big run:

Set a realistic goal and commit to it with a positive frame of mind.
Pick a plan: There are many training programmes developed by some of the world’s best marathon runners. For example, Hal Higdon’s programme has training modules for novice, intermediate and advanced runners to help you pick a training plan that works with your goals.

Training schedule: Taking current physical conditioning into account, you should ideally start training at least four months (16 weeks) before the run. The typical weekly schedule consists of 2-3 short distance runs during, one cross training session, one tempo run or hill workout and a long run. For the long run, you can start with 12 km in week 1 and move up to 30 km in weeks 12-15. A weekly rest day is important to enable your body to recover.
Strength training: A minimum of two strength training sessions per week targeted at the lower body and core will strengthen your bones, ligaments, and muscles for an injury-free run. This will also prevent early burnout.

The right diet:  Marathon training requires a diet rich in complex carbohydrates and protein. The right foods during training provide essential nutrients, electrolytes, and energy for both runs and recovery.  A good practice in this regard is to consume complex carbohydrates before your run and simple carbohydrates following it.

The right gear: Well-fitting running shoes, comfortable t-shirts, socks and a headband/cap are must haves in your running wardrobe. It is also good to practice running with a refillable water bottle for hydration.
Motivating company: A running group or an experienced running partner can be an invaluable source of support. From time to time, every runner hits a wall in his/her progress. Your running group or partner can inspire you to get past these physical and mental hurdles.

Conserve energy closer to the run: Every good training plan should “taper” during the three weeks leading up to the run. That means you run less and rest more, thus giving your body a chance to optimise its performance for race day. The goal of tapering is to minimise accumulated fatigue.

The author is vice president and managing director of Intuit India and has run over a dozen marathons

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 25-08-2014)