Curious, are you?

| Tuesday, August 11, 2015 | |
Late President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam's quotes came out in the dozens when he passed away last month. But, the one quote of Dr. Kalam that really stuck with me was - "Don’t take rest after your first victory because if you fail in second, more lips are waiting to say that your first victory was just luck."

Performance Improvement in my running started when I won the coveted Nike Finisher T-Shirt at the TCS 10K this year, clocking 46:45 min. I went from 1147 overall finisher rank in 2014 to 257 finisher rank in 2015 in the TCS 10K (as per results on I am probably second in the list of most improved runners behind my best runner friend Prashanth Rao (aka Dr. Rao). Dr. Rao's timings were much more staggering than mine. As my performance kept improving, I had my first ever podium finish when the Goldman Sachs (GS) India Men's team won the silver medal at the Ajmera Thump! 4x5km Corporate Relay on June 28, 2015. I clocked a PB of 22:56 at this event for a 5K.

Now it was time to repeat and prove that lame luck had nothing to do with the above two successes. Keeping up to Dr. Kalam's "this is not luck" criteria, I clocked 46:01 in the Bengaluru 10K Challenge on July 12, 2015.

In the 4x5K Corporate Relay category, I was part of the GS India Mixed Team that won the gold in the prestigious Puma Urban Stampede (PUS) on Aug 2, 2015. I once again clocked a PB of 22:04 at the PUS for a 5K.

Many, from my high school classmates to even the founding members of Runners For Life recently asked me this question -- "Patrick, you were not a fast runner in 2014, how did you improve your pace so much in 2015?" The answer to that question comes in the form of a fourfold reply - Weight Loss, Proper Nutrition, Consistent Training and Core Strengthening. I will not include going Barefoot as one of my success criteria yet. My Barefoot Running experiences would be a different blog (or blogs) altogether in the future.

I had addressed the first two -- weight loss & nutrition in my previous blog here ->, In this blog, let me touch on the next two success criteria.

Consistent Training

When I missed the coveted Nike Finisher T-Shirt in the 2014 TCS 10K, Pani Sir (my beloved & most respected coach) took me aside and told me that my family vacation three weeks before the TCS 10K could be the major contributor towards my sluggish run at the 2014 TCS 10K. And, as always, he was right. I had taken a full week off and gone to Munnar with my family for our annual summer vacation. That put a big dent into my consistency and training schedule. When I returned, I couldn't catch up with the rest of the PaceMakers. One of the resolutions I made after the 2014 TCS 10K heartbreak was to be consistent in training. I hardly missed training after that. I also made it a point not to miss my weekly strengthening sessions in the gym (more about that a bit later). More importantly, my wife & I planned our annual Summer vacation for the year 2015 -- after the TCS 10K this year!

As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect... my biggest surprise (or should I say promotion/success) came when one day I opened the training schedule and did not find my name among my old training sub-group. I thought Pani Sir had somehow missed my name in the training schedule. As I was about to click on the x on the top right of the spreadsheet, my eyes caught my name a few rows above on the same spreadsheet. A chill ran down my spine when I discovered that I was now part of Pani Sir's training sub-group and training with the likes of elites like Karthik Anand. Success in the PaceMakers group is measured not just by the number of podium finishes and Personal Best (PB) timings, but also on how much we are improving in endurance, stamina and pace.

In any field, any advice about training consistently is a cliché. Hence, quoting it as a success criteria may sound cheesy. But then, it is a vital truth that cannot be ignored. I don't want to spend too much time in preaching to the choir on this one. I am sure you get the point.

Core Strengthening

That brings me to the next point, which is Core Strengthening. When I started running back in 2010, nobody told me anything about core strengthening. Many of my running buddies asked me to build up more mileage than strengthening. Last year, during a visit to Dr. Gladson for a minor backache is when Gladson made me realize how important it is for a runner to concentrate on Core Strengthening and Circuit Training. Without going too much into an Anatomy Class, the core can be thought of as all the muscles minus the arms and legs. The major muscles of the core reside in the area of the belly and the mid and lower back (not the shoulders), and peripherally include the hips, the shoulders and the neck. (Source: Wikipedia). For long distance running, the core strength of the runner's body plays a vital role in maintaining the running posture and thus ensuring a strong finish of the race. If you want more information on Core Strengthening for Runners, please google it. There is plenty of reading material available online on this subject.

When I got this concept into my head, I started regular core strengthening in the gym from Oct 2014 onwards. I talked to the gym trainers and asked them to design a workout schedule for me which concentrates on strengthening my core muscles. Again, consistency played a crucial role in getting better core strength into my body. I started seeing results at SCMM 2015. Then later when Pani Sir started the training schedule for the TCS 10K 2015, I started getting into more rigorous core strengthening exercises such as TRX. Thus, the results started showing in terms of PBs and Podium Finishes.

Nowadays, if somebody asks me how to start running, I tell them to begin both running and core strengthening together. The two cannot be and should not be separated. Core Strengthening really compliments long distance running, rest assured!

To conclude, the answer to those who are curious about the improvement in my performance is that -- it is all hard work and not luck! I am sure Late Dr. Kalam would approve that as well.

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