Run The World #7 – GERDA STEYN

The 2019 edition of the Comrades Marathon finds itself in the record books, thanks to  Gerda Steyn who became the first woman to break six hours in the up-run race, knocking more than ten minutes off the previous mark.

“I had never won this race before, so that was my first goal. Breaking the record was just a big bonus on top of the win.”

The Comrades Marathon is an ultramarathon run annually in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. It is the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon race. The direction of the race alternates each year between the “up” run (87 km with more uphills) starting from Durban, and the “down” run (90 km with more downhills) starting from Pietermaritzburg. South African runner Gerda had a record-shattering day in June this year at the 98-year old Comrades. The 29-year-old broke the women’s up-run record by more than 10 minutes when she finished in 5:58:53. This made her the first women ever to break the six-hour mark in the up-run at the 90K (55 mile). She even placed 17th overall.

trophy
Winner of the 94th Comrades Marathon – June 9th 2019, Durban, South Africa

In an interview with The Independent, Gerda shares, “This year, I sort of didn’t plan and decided to go with my ability. When I got to halfway, I was looking at my watch, and I knew I was on a course record, so I knew my race would start now. I gave it my all, and I left it all on the road.”

The previous mark was set in 2006 by Russian Elena Nurgalieva who ran a 6:09:23. In addition, Steyn also became the first woman since 1989 to win both Comrades and Two Oceans Marathon (South Africa’s gruelling ultramarathons) titles in the same year.

Born in 1990 and raised in the small town of Bothaville in the Free State, Gerda Steyn studied Quantity Surveying and Construction Management at the University of the Free State (UFS) between 2009 and 2012. She ran a couple of cross country races while studying, and played soccer and hockey for her university. Gerda grew up on a farm and like many South Africans used to watch the Comrades Marathon on TV. “It wasn’t as much the winners who inspired me the most, but rather the size of the field. I was convinced if all those thousands of South Africans could do it, I could too.” And though Comrades fascinated her year after year, she never ran consistently or even joined a running club.

In 2014, she moved from Johannesburg to Dubai to work as a quantity surveyor, and joined a running club there to meet new people and make friends in a new country. It was during this time that she met other runners from around the world who had participated in the Comrades Marathon before and were gearing up to participate again that year. Being from South Africa, she felt she had to join them. One of the members of the group, British pilot Duncan Ross, would later become her husband, and the activity which brought them together would ultimately unearth Steyn’s remarkable hidden talent. As preparation for her debut Comrades, she entered the Dubai Marathon in 2015. Runners over the age of twenty qualify when they are able to complete an officially recognized marathon (42.2 km) in under five hours (The criteria for 2019 was 4h50). During the event an athlete must also reach five cut-off points in specified times to complete the race. The full-time worker and part-time runner successfully recorded her first ever Comrades Marathon finish, her maiden attempt at the 87km  in 2015 in an unremarkable (according to her) time of 8:19:08. Returning the following year, she covered the gruelling course more than an hour quicker in 7:08:23, and in 2017 she displayed her full potential for the first time, stunning the elite women’s field to take fourth position on the Comrades ‘up’ run.

2017
Women’s fourth position at Comrades 2017

Gerda says she started taking running seriously in 2018, and came second to Ann Ashworth in a terrific women’s race. She also won the popular 56km Two Oceans ultra-marathon in Cape Town last year. In October the same year, she set a personal best of 33:36 to finish fifth at the FNB CitySurfRun 10km race in Durban, and in the following month made her international marathon debut, recording the best time for a South African entrant in the New York Marathon, stopping the clock at 2:31:04 over the 42.2km distance and ranking 13th overall. Irrespective of which distance she competes in, Gerda believes, “it is a matter of digging deep and stepping out of my comfort zone with no regrets after crossing the finish line”.

dubai
First lady overall at the 10km event of the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon 2018 in a new PB of 34:29
2018
Second position among women in Comrades 2018

To help boost her time and performance, Steyn reached out to running coach, legendary former Comrades winner Nick Bester of the Nedbank Running Club in South Africa, who helped shaped her daily running routine. Post her 2018 runner-up position at Comrades, Gerda said, “I think that I can still improve physically and emotionally. But I am enjoying the process and extremely excited to see what I can do.” Her finesse at the Two Oceans in April 2019 catapulted Steyn’s career into a new realm, outclassing a strong field to retain her title in 3:31:29. Completing the race just 53 seconds outside the 30-year-old record held by local ultra-distance icon Frith van der Merwe, she proved that the long-standing mark could be broken. Her 2019 wins have made her just the third woman ever to win the Two Oceans Marathon and the Comrades in the same year and the first woman to complete an up-run in less than six hours. Spending time in the French Alps, preparing for rigours of the Comrades, she came into the race confident that she had a fast time in her.

france
Rhône-Alpes, France
cape town
Cape Town

Steyn anticipated an early race and she got one from 2018 winner Ashworth. The pair pushed each other forward from the gun and set a pace that enabled Steyn to ultimately shatter the up-run record by over ten minutes. She felt like she had a record-breaking run in her after increasing her fitness levels between the Two Oceans win and the Comrades. Club runners praise her tremendous positivity, and almost always find her with a smile on her face, giving her the moniker of The Smiling Assassin – smiling her way to the podium.

2019 Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon: Ultra Marathon 56km

“2018 has been a fantastic year for me. After Comrades I have been training specifically to improve my speed over shorter distances. I surprised myself in the last two months racing against the top runners over 10km and definitely feel like it comes down to the training.”

oceans
Crossing the finish line at Two Oceans 2018
Gerda-Steyn-300x200-364x350
Two Oceans 2018

The secret to her success, Steyn explains, is mixing up the type of training she does which allows her body to better recover from the inevitable strain of road running. “I am a big believer in cross training – running takes a lot out of your body and therefore I mix my training up with cycling and other exercises. I find that it not only keeps me less prone  to injury, but also makes my training more exciting. The most important thing is to believe in your training, and to to stick with what works for you.”

7845221fa6b2eee056c32be04c30170a

Steyn begins her day between 5am and 6am, with a breakfast of a bowl of oats and coffee. “I never skip breakfast.” She then goes on a run that can take between an hour and two hours. “For soft runs (when she’s focusing on building fitness), I don’t focus on kilometres, I focus on the allocated time for running,” she says. When she’s at peak training for an event, she starts focusing on mileage. After the run, Steyn goes home to freshen up, and then it’s gym time. This includes weights, swimming, cycling and various other types of strength training. She then goes home for a hearty lunch. With the morning’s gruelling routine, it is important for her to wind down later in the day. For Steyn this includes a nap and, possibly, a physiotherapy session after lunch. She says coach Bester taught her the importance of remaining injury free. Running can take its toll on one’s body, any form of self-care during the training period is very important.  Steyn loves to go for walks at the end of the day in order to unwind. She emphasizes the importance of nutrition – “For me, it is important to put in what you take out of your body at all times.”

11858e6018cf43fb9a50e1ea2ed19548

Her fledgling career has risen to spectacular heights in just a few years, with the 29-year-old quickly cementing her place as the country’s top women’s ultra-distance runner. Record-breaking performances notwithstanding, Steyn has decided to put the ultra distance on hold to pursue an Olympic dream. “This was a big goal for me and it’s a dream come true, so it’ll be hard to top this, but I have a lot of goals.” Steyn will be dropping down to standard marathon distance in a bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Marathon in 2020. A Comrades record won’t count for the Olympics and Steyn will need to earn her place in Tokyo. Steyn will need to adjust to shorter distances and put up the kind of times that not only allow her to qualify for the Olympic marathon but suggest that she can do well in the race. Her tactical approach to the Comrades suggests that she has the ability to turn herself into an Olympic medal contender. “The marathon for me is a whole new world, but after today I will take some time to figure out where I go to from here”, she had  said after the win last month.

Steyn splits her time between Dubai, Johannesburg and France. She goes hiking in the French Alps, but says Lesotho’s Maloti Mountains as well as Johannesburg are her favourite places to train and hike.

france2
Tignes, France
mountain
Afriski Mountain Resort

Regardless of whatever targets she sets herself down the line, however, there is no doubt she will be back. “Comrades is part of me, part of who I am and part of who I want to be in the future, and I think there is more I can put into this race, so it’s a very exciting time for me.”

gerda-steyn

 

Sources:

~www.businessinsider.co.za

~www.runnersworld.com

~www.thesouthafrican.com

~www.comrades.com

~www.citizen.co.za

~www.iol.co.za

 

Advertisements

Run The World #6 – Abebe Bikila

Abebe Bikila couldn’t find a comfortable pair of shoes for the 1960 Rome Olympics. So he ran barefoot. He won gold. Set a world record. And created history in the sport of long distance running, making East Africans a force to reckon with ever since.

Abebe_Bikila_1968b

The sixth in our series on international runners, Ethiopian marathoner Abebe Bikila was the first sub-Saharan African Olympic gold medallist, and the first back-to-back Olympic champion. He won his first gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome while running barefoot, and won his second gold at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which made him the first athlete to successfully defend an Olympic marathon title.

Abebe was a member of the Ethiopian Imperial Guard – an elite infantry division that safeguarded the Emperor of Ethiopia. He was a soldier before he became an athlete, rising to the rank of a captain (shambel in Amharic); therefore his formal designation was Shambel Abebe Bikila. He was instrumental in establishing East Africa as a force in long distance running. Abebe participated in a total of sixteen marathons in his athletics career, winning twelve. According to Olympian and sports journalist Kenny Moore, Abebe was responsible for the great African distance running avalanche. He brought to the forefront the relationship between endurance and high-altitude training in all kinds of sports. The Abebe Bikila Award is presented to individuals for their contributions to long-distance running. Mamo Wolde, Juma Ikangaa, Tegla Loroupe, Paul Tergat, and Haile Gebrselassie are all recipients of the Abebe Bikila Award.

Abebe Bikila was born on August 7, 1932 in the small community of Jato. His birthday coincided with the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Marathon. As a young boy, Abebe played gena, a traditional hockey game. In 1952, he joined the 5th Infantry Regiment of the Imperial Guard in Addis Ababa. During the mid-1950s, Abebe ran 20 km (12 miles) from the hills of Sululta to Addis Ababa and back every dayOnni Niskanen, a Swedish coach employed by the Ethiopian government to train the Imperial Guard, soon noticed the twenty-four year old, and began training him for the marathon. In the 6,000-foot high mountains, he led Bikila and others through grueling workouts. Runs were up to twenty miles, including repeated sprints of 1,500 meters and barefoot runs over the rocky soil. In 1956, Abebe finished second to Wami Biratu in the Ethiopian Armed Forces championship.

In July 1960, Abebe won his first marathon in Addis Ababa. A month later he won again in Addis Ababa with a time of 2:21:23, which was faster than the existing Olympic record held by Emil Zátopek. Coach Niskanen entered both Wami Biratu and Abebe Bikila in the marathon at the 1960 Rome Olympics, which would be run on 10th September. In Rome, Abebe purchased new running shoes, but they did not fit well and gave him blisters, leading to the decision to run barefoot instead. The race started late-afternoon and finished at night. Abebe’s winning time was 2:15:16, twenty-five seconds faster than runner-up Ben Abdesselam at 2:15:41 and breaking Russian marathoner Sergei Popov’s 1958 world record by eight tenths of a second. On crossing the finish line, Abebe began to run in place, saying that he could have run another 10–15 km (6–9 miles). He returned to his homeland a hero. The emperor awarded him the Star of Ethiopia and promoted him to the rank of asiraleqa (corporal). Bikila’s gold was the first Olympic medal by a black man, and marked the beginning of a new era in international competition.

Abebe_Bikila_1960_Olympics
Bikila, with bib number 11, at the back of the pack
Abebe_Bikila_sprints_away_from_Rhadi_Ben_Abdesselam
Breaking away from the pack to get into lead position
Abebe_Bikila_maratona_olimpica_Roma_1960
Finish line of the 1960 Rome Olympics
Abebe_Bikila_-_Star_of_Ethiopia
Receiving the Star of Ethiopia from the Emperor
rome
On the podium of the 1960 Rome Olympics, with silver medallist Abdeslon Rhadi of Morocco and bronze winner Barry Magee of New Zealand.

In the 1961 Athens Classical Marathon, Abebe again won while running barefootThis was the second and last event in which he competed barefooted. The same year he won the marathons in Osaka (Japan) and Košice (Slovakia). While in Japan, he was approached by a Japanese shoe company, Onitsuka Tiger, with the possibility of wearing its shoes; Coach Niskanen declined the offer. Between his Olympic wins in 1960 and 1964, Abebe also ran the 1963 Boston Marathon —and finished fifth in 2:24:43. This was the only time in his competitive career that he completed an international marathon without winning. The race was won by Belgium’s Aurele Vandendriessche in a course record of 2:18:58.

tokyo4
Training for the Tokyo Olympics with team mate Mamo Wolde

Forty days before the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Abebe felt pain while training. He was diagnosed with acute appendicitis, had an appendectomy on September 16, left the hospital within a week, and was all set to run the marathon on 21st October, this time wearing Puma shoes. Abebe began the race at the back of the pack until about the 10 km (6 miles) mark, when he slowly increased his pace. He entered the Olympic stadium alone, to the cheers of 75,000 spectators, finishing with a time of 2:12:11.2, four minutes and eight seconds ahead of silver medalist Basil Heatley of Great Britain. Abebe did not appear exhausted after the finish, and he again performed a routine of calisthenics, which included touching his toes twice then lying down on his back, cycling his legs in the air.

tokyo3
At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

tokyo

tokyo2

In the book “Olympic Marathon: A Centennial History of the Games”, Charlie Lovett writes, For Bikila, no strategy was necessary. He slowly increased his lead, running with total concentration and precision. His body seemed to float down the streets. He ran  using the least amount of energy and his smooth strides and motionless head made the race appear effortless.

tokyo5
On the podium of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics with silver medallist Basil Heatley of Great British and bronze winner Kokichi Tsuburaya of Japan.

He was the first runner to successfully defend an Olympic marathon titleAs of the 2016 Olympic marathon, Abebe and Waldemar Cierpinski are the only athletes to have won two gold medals in the event, and they both did it back-to-back. For the second time, Abebe received Ethiopia’s only gold medal and again returned home to a hero’s welcome. The Emperor promoted him to the commissioned-officer rank of   metoaleqa  (lieutenant). He received the Order of Menelik II, a Volkswagen Beetle and a house.

In May 1965, Abebe returned to Japan and won his second Mainichi Marathon. In 1966 he ran marathons at Zarautz (Spain) and Inchon Seoul (South Korea), winning both. The 1966 Incheon–Seoul Marathon was the last marathon he ever completed. He did not finish the Zarautz International Marathon in July 1967 due to a hamstring injury, from which he never recovered.

In July 1968, he joined the rest of the Ethiopian Olympic team training for the Mexico Olympics. A week before the race, Abebe developed pain in his left leg. Doctors discovered a fracture in his fibula, and he was advised to stay off his feet until the day of the race. Abebe had to drop out of the race after approximately 16 km (10 miles) and Mamo Wolde won that year in 2:20:26.4. This was Bikila’s last marathon appearance. He was rewarded with a promotion to the rank of shambel (captain) upon his return to Ethiopia.

On the night of March 22, 1969, Abebe lost control of his Volkswagen Beetle while trying to avoid an oncoming car. It overturned, trapping him inside, and he was only freed the following morning where the Imperial Guard hospital declared him quadriplegic –  paralyzed from the neck downOn March 29, Abebe was transferred to Stoke Mandeville Hospital in England, where he spent eight months receiving treatment. Although he could not move his head at first, his condition eventually improved to paraplegia, regaining the use of his arms, though he was paralyzed from the waist down and never walked again.

In 1970, Abebe began training for wheelchair-athlete archery competitionsIn July that year, he competed in archery and table tennis at the Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Games in London. The Stoke Mandeville Games were an early predecessor of the Paralympic Games. In April 1971, Abebe participated in games for the disabled in Norway. He competed in archery and table tennis and defeated a field of sixteen in cross-country sled dog racing with a time of 1:16:17.

archery
At the International Paraplegic Games in Norway, 1971

Abebe was invited to the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich as a special guest, and received a standing ovation during the opening ceremony. Speaking about his accident in a 1973 interview, Bikila said, “Men of success meet with tragedy. It was the will of God that I won the Olympics, and it was the will of God that I met with my accident. I accepted those victories as I accept this tragedy. I have to accept both circumstances as facts of life and live happily.

Abebe Bikila died at age 41 on 25th October 1973, of a cerebral hemorrhage related to his accident four years earlier. He received a state funeral, was buried with full military honors, and Emperor Haile Selassie declared a national day of mourning. Many schools, venues, and events, including Abebe Bikila Stadium in Addis Ababa, are named after him. The American Community School of Addis Ababa dedicated its gymnasium (which included facilities for the disabled) to Abebe. Bikila was not only one of the greatest marathoners of all time, but also won at paraplegic games post his accident – truly a source of inspiration the world over.

On March 21, 2010, the Rome Marathon observed the 50th anniversary of his Olympic victoryWinner and fellow Ethiopian runner Siraj Gena, ran the last 300 meters (984 ft) of the race barefoot and received a €5,000 bonus. A plaque commemorating the anniversary is mounted on a wall on the Via di San Gregorio, and a footbridge in Ladispoli was named in Abebe’s honour. In 2010, the Italian company Vibram introduced the “Bikila” model of its FiveFingers line of minimalist shoes.

Plaque_celebrating_Abebe_Bikila_on_Via_di_San_Gregorio (1)
Plaque at Via di san Gregorio, commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Bikila’s Olympic gold win.
800px-FiveFingers_Bikila_outer_side_2
Italian footwear company Vibram’s “Bikila” model of minimalist shoes.

 

A clip of Bikila running the 1960 and 1964 Olympic marathons:

https://www.olympic.org/videos/abebe-bikila-barefoot-to-olympic-gold

 

Sources:

~www.biography.yourdictionary.com

~www.olympic.org

When Wonder Woman Turns Long Distance Runner

A belated write-up of the Halloween Run I had participated in earlier this month. Every edition of the fear n’ fun themed event is held on the first Sunday of November – the weekend nearest to Halloween. While last year I had to orchestrate the event myself in the capacity of SPOC (Specific Point of Contact), free from organizational tasks this year, I could dress up and run. The run is organized on a 21 km route from the Otter’s Club in the Western suburbs to the NCPA in the South of Mumbai, on which participants can run varying distances either as a point to point run or in any desired loop pattern within these points. Being racing season, many runners did a half marathon or distances above 30 kms ( for those training for full marathons). I did a 15 km run – a little after the start point, and up to the end tip of the city. A large number of runners opted for distances of 10 km and below, on account of this being a costume event.

Runners were required to run in costume, in keeping with the Halloween theme. We had Two Face, Batman, Catwoman, Superman, giving company to the great many vampires, witches, zombies and devils.  I went as Wonder Woman! In consideration of the distance required to be run in costume, I settled for a handmade costume constructed out of readily available materials – comfort in long distance running being the priority. The Wonder Woman costume comprised a basic red racerback top, and blue skorts – both in dri-fit fabric. The ‘W’ logo, bracelets and tiara were crafted from glitter foam, and star stickers were used for the skirt, bracelets and tiara. I didn’t make the belt on account of the running pouch occupying space on the waist. Here’s what I ended up with:

1
Protecting the bay!

Overall, it was a fun event, racing through the city dressed as Wonder Woman, and receiving peculiar glances from morning runners who were not part of the event and/or not in costume.

45517267_2263045987063447_3140420472689131520_o
At the early morning start point.

15 km was the longest distance I had attempted since the accident, and pleasantly received company from the halfway mark onward, with a runner attempting 32 km. Step by step we trotted along to the finish point.

45484581_10156918450521177_5991251366696189952_n
When you feel like you’re the only one racing around like a weirdo!

It was a joy to see volunteers at the various water stations dressed up in their spine-tingling best, hiding behind parked cars, jumping out and scaring runners, and capturing a cornucopia of expressions.

45447401_10156918450836177_5746400370687475712_n
When Wonder Woman meets the Devil.

A common sight on Sundays are the vintage car rallies that occur within South Mumbai. Clicking pictures and taking in the sights on the seafront, the never ending run finally came to an end.

rodman (4)
Appreciating beauty on the route.

The only disheartening feature of the event was that many runners didn’t really run, but only showed up at the end point to click pictures dressed in costume. The idea behind a Halloween Run was to run the distance in spooky or fun attire. Merely showing up in costume for the sake of pictures defeats the purpose of a running event. Ah! The flip-side of social media.

45491632_10156918459751177_3857178436250370048_n
The ghosts and ghouls at the finish point.
kavita (4)
With Captain America cum Wonder Woman cum Super Girl

NavRun 2018 – Adding Color To Fitness

Another year, another edition. The fitness based concept by the Mumbai Road Runners (MRR) recently concluded its sixth edition of the Navratri challenge called “NavRun“. Navratri is a nine nights (and ten days) Hindu festival, celebrated differently in various parts of the Indian subcontinent. A color is fixed for each of the days, symbolizing the nine avatars of Goddess Durga. The running community celebrates all festivals as a means of bringing people together, irrespective of religious affiliations.

43385733_2307183312643546_8016504214001811456_o
Image courtesy MRR

The goal of NavRun is to run nine kilometers or engage in any other workout for nine consecutive days, wearing the color of the day. Workout details need to be submitted to the organizers at the end of each day, along with a brief description of what the color of the day means to you. A leeway was allowed for submissions since people were participating from around the world, across different time zones. On certain days, the organizers threw surprise challenges which we had to undertake in addition to our planned workout of the day. Here’s a summary of what I accomplished this year:

Day 1 – Royal Blue

The challenge began with a flag off two weeks ago, on a Wednesday, which is a strength training day. I accommodated the run with a modest 4 kilometer run, and upper body weight training.
Chest – 4 exercises – 3 sets, 15 reps each
Shoulders – 3 exercises – 3 sets, 15 reps each
Triceps – 3 exercises – 2 sets, 15 reps each

True blue stands for loyalty, trust and faithfulness. Royal blue (or imperial blue) manifests at the convergence of violet and blue, and represents superiority. The perfect color to kickstart the NavRun challenge, with a workout mix of endurance and strength training.

Day 2 – Yellow

Sunshine yellow on Leg Day! Hence no running here. Being a classical dancer and runner, lower body strength, balance, flexibility are very crucial for me. Here’s what I did with my yellow tee. (Incidentally the official tee of a hill half marathon💪)

Quadriceps – 4 exercises – 2 sets, 20 reps each
Hamstrings – 2 exercises – 4 sets, 20 reps
Calves – 3 exercises – 2 sets, 20 reps each
Single-leg variations for all the above exercises – 2 sets, 10 reps each
Abductors – 2 exercises – 2 sets, 20 reps each
Adductors – 2 exercises – 2 sets, 20 reps each

Yellow is the color of positivity, optimism, clarity, energy, warmth and friendliness. The brightest color on the visible spectrum signifies creativity and cheerfulness. The perfect color for a day of lower body strength training – high energy workouts comprising some of the largest muscle groups of the body.

Day 3 – Green

Celebrating the color of life, renewal, harmony, freshness. How better to workout with green than in the lap of nature. A short run in a park with pretty little bonsais dotting the landscape. Cardio and Core in verdant surroundings.

6k run
Skipping – 5 variations – 3 sets, 200 skips each 
Hanging abs – 2 variations – 3 sets, 15 reps each
Planks – 6 variations – 3 sets, 1 minute each
Pushups – 1 set, 15 reps (as requested; I had already completed my chest workout for the week).

The color associated with eternal life is soothing and refreshing, and evokes a feeling of abundance. A simple routine for cardiovascular endurance and core strength, which provides tremendous fitness returns. Cardiovascular fitness enhances the ability of the heart and lungs to supply oxygen-rich blood to the muscles, and improves the muscle’s ability to use this oxygen for movement. The transverse abdominis, erector spinae, obliques, pelvic floor muscles, glutes work as stabilizers for the entire body and play an important role in everything the body does. It’s the simple things in life that yield the maximum joy/benefits, as proven by the color and workout of the day. 🐢

Day 4 – Grey

Rest Day. It’s a grey and gloomy day when one has absolutely nothing to do. But rest and recuperation are imperative to growing stronger for the days ahead. 🐱

The following day was going to be a busy one – a run followed by a dance show. Accommodated an hour of structural training here, to keep the joints well lubricated. Even the fittest of bodies display some kind of imbalances or structural kinks, as a result of regular wear and tear. The basic framework of the human body consists of bone, cartilage, ligament, tendon and muscle. The vital feature of the body’s structure is its joints, and their integrity determines structural fitness. There was no fixed exercise routine, but a variety of movements covering the major and minor joints of the body. 

Grey is a neutral and balanced color, emotionless and conservative. It can be viewed as drab and depressing, or elegant and formal. It does not have a personality of its own, and is associated with conformism. Structural fitness is essential fitness on which all other fitness depends, making us more structurally and bio-mechanically aware. Like the color grey, a structural routine might not look or sound impressive, but goes a long way in prepping up the body and keeping it sound for other forms of activities. 🐩

Day 5 – Orange

My church feast, plus the 19th anniversary of my Odissi dance institute. (More dance details in another blog-post.) While one event was the celebration of Mother Mary as Our Lady of Fatima, the other was an invocation of myriad gods and goddesses through classical dance. That’s what I love about the NavRun challenge too – it goes beyond religion and brings people together. And the color of the day was perfect – orange being associated with kinship.

A run couldn’t be accommodated in the morning, and I settled for a modest 5 kilometer night run. Nocturnal running takes you into another world, physically and mentally. It goes against the human circadian rhythm, and the absence of ambient light amplifies the challenges faced during a day run. But it also brings perspective – a whole new world of nocturnal creatures all prepped up as darkness dawns. It makes us think beyond ourselves, about those different from us. 🐹

Orange is associated with sunshine, light, brightness. But it is also said, “Be the light you want to see in the world”. I could not manage a morning run, so donned flaming tangerine and ran around like a ball of sunshine in the dark. Orange is known to be extroverted and uninhibited, after all. It also corresponds to a thirst for action, proven by the additional squats post a highly active day.

2 sets of squats, 30 reps each (as requested in the challenge of the day)

Margaret Thatcher’s words rang true as I sipped on some golden-orange colored chamomile tea. “Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing: it’s a day you’ve had everything to do and you’ve done it.” 🧡

Day 6 – White

Kickstarted the week with a Back workout. The back plays a huge role in how the entire body functions, since it attaches to the neck, shoulders, chest, abdominals, and hips. A strong back keeps posture aligned, helps performance and prevents injury, thereby being critical to fitness. The day’s workout comprised a mix of Weight training, Pilates and Yoga – rotational movements and flexibility being as important as building muscle and strength. 🐼

Dumbbells – 3 exercises – 3 sets, 15 reps each
Resistance bands – 3 exercises – 3 sets, 15 reps each
Pilates – Prone series, 4 exercises
Yoga – Backbend series – 4 asanas
Concluded the routine with a few roll downs to neutralize the spine, and a forward bend as a counterpose. 

A strong and flexible back is invigorating to the entire spine. It releases tension along the front of the body, leaving you uplifted and energized. White is considered to be the color of perfection, and a strong spine keeps the body perfectly aligned.The color of light, goodness, purity, brilliance and illumination was a perfect start to the week. White is everything and nothing. The day’s workout could be seen as everything (strength, flexibility, mobility) or nothing (just one muscle group – the Back). But it leaves one feeling fresh and serene, like snow or white kittens or fluffy clouds.💭💭💭

Day 7 – Red

Red Day following White is a pleasant sequence. As an Odissi dancer, red and white are important colors for our saree costume; red also finding its place in the red bindi and red alta. 👣

Started the day with 10 Surya Namaskars, as requested in the challenge of the day. My workout was originally planned for the evening. The nocturnal regime included an hour of cycling on the stationary bike, followed by ab exercises to counteract yesterday’s back routine.
Planks – 6 variations – 1 set, 90 seconds each
Pilates – 4 exercises
Concluded the session with 4 rounds of Chandra Namaskar. 

Red is associated with energy, power, determination. It is an emotionally intense color, raises metabolism, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. Surya Namaskars in red offered a stimulant to kickstart the day. I, subsequently, toned down the evening workout to balance energy levels closer to bedtime. Sipped on some rose tisane to unwind after a long day.

Day 8 – Sky Blue

Cardio Circuit in true blue attire, with matching skipping rope and hula hoop.
~5k run
~Skipping – 3 variations – 3 sets, 60 seconds each
~Hula hooping – 3 times clockwise and anti-clockwise, 100 rotations each set
~Agility ladder drills – 9 variations, 2 rounds each
~Shadow boxing – 3 rounds, 3 minutes each round
~Capoeira – 3 movements – 30 counts each

Sky blue or azure is the hue halfway between blue and cyan. It signifies contentment, inspiration, determination, freedom and intuition. Like a clear, cloudless sky, the color encourages you to be free and fearless. The day’s workout was set around agility and proprioception – bringing together balance, speed, strength and control; sense movement and be aware of how the body is moving as a co-ordinated unit. Like the color of the day, there is no limit to how much we can do, if only we challenge ourselves each day. 🏊‍♀️

Day 9 – Pink 🐷

Culmination of the nine-day running/fitness challenge. Leg day! I usually don’t run on leg days, but needed to collect the official Pinkathon tee for their event on Sunday (more on this in another blog-post) and decided to run at the venue. The day’s workout was therefore split – Running in the morning, Strength training in the evening. 🌸

~5k run
~Lower body strength, balance and flexibility training:
Pilates
Yoga
Structural training 

My favorite color, pink, is associated with playfulness, charm, innocence and laughter; the color of universal love for oneself and others. The delicate color was completely in contrast with the workout of the day, but that itself was the perfect combination – donning a color symbolic of tenderness, while working out some of the largest and strongest muscle groups of the body. Reinstating the belief that one can be fierce and feminine, delicate and dynamic. Pink is a color of compassion and is associated with giving and receiving care. And how better than to blend it into a workout – we take care of our health and our bodies support us in return. 🎁

BeFunky-collage
An assortment of workouts in the nine colors of the festival.

Day 10 – Camouflage

Navratri is celebrated for nine nights and ten days. A bonus day was allotted with a special color, as a tribute to the armed forces – the people who strive tirelessly to keep our country safe.

A Chest and Shoulder strength workout: 
~Dumbbells
~Resistance bands
~Yoga – Arm balancers
~Pilates – Mobility and strength for the Chest, Pectorals, Rotator Cuff, Deltoids

The camouflage color was selected as an ode to the armed forces. Nothing compares to their physical, mental and emotional strength – where the nation is considered more important than self or family. ☘️

Day 10 - Camouflage (6)

 

All in all, a holistic conclusion to the festive based fitness challenge. From cardiovascular and muscular strength and endurance, to flexibility, mobility, balance and proprioception, various elements of fitness were catered to. Health and fitness are, after all, lifelong endeavors. We haven’t received our medals yet. I will share a picture of that too when I receive mine. 🙂

 

Come Back Stronger Than The Setback

“It’s never too late, it’s never too bad, and you’re never too old or sick to start from scratch once again.”

Post-accident racing mode on! 

The week took off with a spectacular start. I ran my first timed race on Sunday, since the accident last year. For those who are unfamiliar or have recently begun following this blog, I had an accident last August and suffered from nerve damage with subsequent paralysis of the right leg – from hip to foot. I had resumed running earlier but wasn’t yet racing. Sunday’s event marked a comeback to racing. A measly distance compared to the marathon distance I am usually accustomed to, but some start is better than no improvement at all.

The race was tricky, as expected. I had practiced the distance in training runs, but in events one needs to be aware of other racers as well. Some runners overtake you and suddenly stop right in front of you, others sway from one side of the road to the other when they spot photographers, not to forget those who throw disposable water bottles in the middle of the road. Racing throws its own set of challenges, besides the training the body and mind undergo. The weather on Sunday was 34°C, with a humidity of 59% – the monsoons began waning a few weeks ago with some abrupt showers in between, but overall the weather was hot and humid. I did take several walk breaks through the course – the race strategy being more of a walk-jog rather than high speed running. The goal here was to return to race mode and finish injury free. I’m working with distances at the moment instead of speed, having being warned of a possible nerve compression recurring.

Each medal comes with it’s own story, and means much more than merely the name of the place or date of the race. A medal is a reminder of how the run was, the people you met, the challenges you overcame, and your entire journey to get to that place and pace. Another cherished one added to the seven year old collection.

20180930_110018

And of course, one can’t fail to mention the support of the running community, where friends are almost like family. Long distance runners have their own training routes, and events bring everyone on the road together. I had met many people on practice runs, but had missed many others who would usually connect through races. It was great catching up with all. The official race pictures are not yet out – I’ll post some running ones when I get my hands on them. Just a few friendly ones for now.

20181003_191138