Having completed 12 marathons in 3 years, Rahul is just getting warmed up. Here, he shares the lessons he’s learnt on how to be a happier, fitter athlete.
1. Make it a lifestyle change
“Running for a marathon isn’t something that you decided at the click of a mouse and it is done. It requires preparation and a 360-degree lifestyle change. It isn’t just about running. It’s about leading a disciplined life with the right habits—whether it’s eating right, sleeping well, having a good exercise routine, etc. To cultivate the habit of running you need to set these patterns in place. But you don’t have to be fanatical about this. Even if you’re watching out for them 80 per cent of the time you’re good.”
2. Take it slow and easy
“Don’t expect to run a full 21 km the first time. You need to baseline your run. People tend to run 1 km on the first day of training and then jump to 5-10 km the next day. That isn’t good. Your body will start giving up, you start thinking you can’t do it and you abandon the plan. You also leave yourself vulnerable to knee and ankle injuries. Neither is the result you want. So go slow and easy. Start with 1 km and gradually increase it as your speed and stamina improves. Add 1-1.5 km every 15 days and keep to a pace that’s comfortable to maintain.”
3. Remember: stamina is more important than strength
“Distance matters over time taken and stamina is more important than strength. Just because people say the marathon should be completed in two hours doesn’t mean you need to. That is the time given for professional marathoners. You can start off at a run and slow down to a walk if you feel yourself tiring, and alternate between running and walking. Don’t push yourself beyond your body’s capability.”
4. Prepare your body
“Be aware of the different types of training available to better yourself. I do both cross training and weight training which work on my lower back, thighs and calves. Running is a full body exercise and you should prepare your body in the best way possible. There are people who run for six days straight; that isn’t advisable. It puts too much pressure on your knee and ankle joints. Run for three to four days a week and alternate between interval, tempo, base, progression and recovery runs so that you keep things interesting.”
5. Regulate your diet
“Your regular diet should be a combination of carbs and proteins. Closer to race day increase your intake of proteins. And the day before the marathon have complex carbs and proteins. Your diet is an important part of running and recovery, so do not neglect this. Read articles online devoted to runners and arm yourself with the right knowledge to boost your performance.”
6. Rest before the race
“Before race day, give your body plenty of rest, and time to store and conserve energy. Don’t run for three to four days before. Many people think the more they practice before a race, the better they’ll do. That is not the case. You body is your best gauging tool. It tells you when it is tired, when it needs to be taken care of. So closely observe your body before, during and after a run.”
7. Join a group
“It helps if you’re part of running groups or have a running companion to keep you motivated and on target. After I started running I convinced some of my gym friends to join me and now we have a running support group of three to four people. There are also lots of sites and social media groups devoted to runners; go through them, approach them for advice, imbibe the practices they are recommending. Don’t try to reinvent the practice of running, learn from what others are doing.”
Rahul Mahajan is VP – IT at K Raheja Corp.