Producing future Olympic champions for India – The Indian Track Foundation

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Can you name one Indian Olympic medalist in middle- or long-distance track running? No? Well, no wonder – there are not any. Read here, how Karan Singh wants to change that, dedicating his life to training and raising Indian kids to become future Olympic medalists.

“My name is Karan Singh, and I’m the Head Coach of the Indian Track Foundation in Ooty, The Nilgiris, India. My life’s mission is to produce Olympic champions for India in athletics. I, along with my family, relocated to Ooty in 2018 to start my dream for India.”

This is how 33-year-old Karan Singh introduces himself. What he doesn’t mention here is that he himself ran for professional running teams like Team Run Eugene and Eugene Health and Performance and trained in the United States for five years, winning numerous national level track and road racing titles. Apart from running, his background includes being a post-graduate from Oxford Brookes University (UK), being a state level cricket player, and having work experience with leading sports organizations like Nike and ESPN-Star Sports. We wanted to learn more about Karan and his project…

How did you become a runner in India, a country which isn’t really known for being a country of runners?

I took up running as I was a natural at it and my aim was to represent India at the 2012 Olympics. I was inspired by Steve Prefontaine, the legendary American distance runner. When I started running, I just wanted to run like him and make a difference to the sport like he did. I love running and it’s my passion. It’s so real: you get out of it exactly what you put into it and there’s no mucking around. Oh, and you’d be surprised how popular running is here! Sometimes, I get taken aback by the sheer numbers.

Then why do you think your country hasn’t won any medals at World Championships or Olympic games on track yet?

There are so many reasons, I could write a book. Our entire system doesn’t create an environment to produce those medals. We have the talent and we are slowly starting to see some good performances from Indian athletes at the global level. But we still have to build the right culture for success. The conditions in terms of training, coaching, opportunities and competition from grassroot to national level don’t allow the athletes to excel their sport at a world class level. As an athlete, you want to be part of something beautiful and special, you want to feel wanted. Of course, there must be an end goal and a career path, but most of all, there has to be a positive setup, where you work towards your goals as a team and a family. This mentality often lacks in India.

What was your motivation for founding the Indian Track Foundation and what does it look like?

After my time in the US, I moved back to India with the following mission in mind: coaching young athletes and putting India on the global athletics map. This is when the Indian Track Foundation was born. The idea of the Foundation is to scout, to house, to educate and to train tribal and rural talent from the most interior parts of India and to train them in the name of the Olympic mission. I am very passionate about both India and athletics, which is why I build my whole life around the two. One cannot muck around with big missions and goals like this one. It has to be the biggest driver of your life and comes before even your family (most of the time). This sacrifice is crucial and my wife plays the biggest role in this project, by being so understanding of my unconditioned committment. Me, my wife and my daughter also live together with the 10 athletes (aged 10-15) of our Foundation in one home like a big family. We started this project in 2017 by travelling to remote locations to hunt for raw running talent, before beginning with our full scale operations in August 2018.

You speak about tribal and rural talent. Which tribes and areas are you referring to?

We have scouted our athletes from the Munda and Birhor tribe in Jharkhand and the Siddi tribe in Gujarat. These kids are natural hunters and some are decedents of the bantu and sub Saharan tribes, who were brought in as slaves from Africa by the Arabs and the British. They possess raw natural running talent, giving them great preconditions for becoming future champions.

Is there any scientific evidence saying that members of these tribes are especially good runners?

No there is no scientific evidence to this as, due to lack of know-how and opportunity, these tribes have never come out of their villages. I have seen those young athletes run for myself in their jungles and villages. I base my choices on my observations on ground and I back myself on having an eye for the talent I’m looking for. Our foundation’s head scout plays a very important role in identifying the talent and getting them recruited from the interiors. He is one of the most experienced people in terms of talent identification.

How does the Foundation fund itself and what about education for the kids?

The Indian Track Foundation has a board and, as a team, we raise funds for our project. I use my personal funds too. All our athletes are homeschooled, but we have ties with a school where they go and give their examinations once a year. They study English, Hindi, Grammar, History, Science and Mathematics. As for the teaching person, we have found a lovely lady, who meets our requirements and is great to work with.

You live according to the mantra “Eat, pray, train, sleep, repeat”. What religions do you and the kids belong to and how do you combine the different ones?

Along with my wife and daughter, I belong to the Hindu religion, and my athletes belong to all sorts of religions: from Christianity to Hindu to Sarna’s. We pray together and there is no divide of any kind. We go to church and temple the same number of times in a month and all of us together. In our home we have a prayer area, where we have Gods and Goddesses of most religions in the world. This was my wife’s idea and we all love praying together. It brings us closer together as a family.

Is the Foundation all based in Ooty or do you have training bases in other parts of the country?

The main base is in Ooty, Tamil Nadu, India. 2,250 meters above sea level. In addition, we currently have three unstructured village centres, where we scout and recruit our athletes from. I also run a track club in New Delhi called Indian Track Club, where I travel to every 2-3 weeks and spend time with my athletes there.

Do you have fellow coaches or do you coach all by yourself?

I coach alone and am currently training my assistant coach who is also the warden and the leader of the group. She’s a 19-year-old tribal woman whom I have handpicked as my right hand for all ground components. She manages and oversees areas like cooking, cleaning, training, studying, personal issues , etc.

What does your training philosophy look like?

My philosophy is based on understanding the individual both as a person and as an athlete. The training is therefore absolutely tailored to each athlete. That’s what I learnt in the US: this can’t be a one stop programme where everyone just does the same thing. Some of the sessions are in group formats, but within those sessions, each athlete and group is working according to different guidelines and structures (see video of a group session below). I further believe in long term development and on the importance of quality. Every session has to have a purpose. I don’t see the point of going into a session without a plan or without excitement. The training has to be a mix, especially for young and developing athletes. Their body needs to recover, they need to be preserved and not at risk for overuse injuries. But most importantly, they must have the time of their lives! Enjoying the sport is key, along with having a strong work ethic. We do 2 high-intensity sessions a week. Shorter and Longer sessions vary depending on the programme. Both short and longer sessions can be either easy or tough, depending on the athletes’ mental and physical structure. But we mostly do short sessions, as the kids right now are not ready to do high intensity long sessions.  Generally, our workouts last for 2 hours and we train twice a day. From the age of 13 onwards I start focusing on distance-based running but I always keep in mind that developing athletes primarily need to build up a good base level and that their range of distances in this initial stage should still be rather wide. All my athletes will specialise in events from the 400m and above.

Are there any alternative sessions too, like biking, for example? And what about strength training, running form drills and coordination?

We do a bunch of stuff.  We do biking sometimes when recovering from injury. We work on motor skills, basic strength, flexibility and speed. We also do running based coordination and drills (see examples in videos below). The Kenyan and the Ethiopian drills are fantastic for runners! You see, running is the purest sport in the world. The talent and the raw material we have in the Indian Track Foundation is made for running. But you have to build up the right structure. Like you see with so many of the top athletes, once the structure is strong, they are like machines. However, this takes immense patience and perseverance.

How often are the kids checked medically and by whom?

Each athlete is pre-checked before entering the ITF home. All tests from HIV to TB to Malaria and other blood tests are undertaken to check if they are carrying any infections or injuries. A full medical check-up is done regularly. We have doctors we can call and we have ties with hospitals here in Ooty, including with a physio.

What about competitions for the kids?

There are some track and field competitions, but not as many as we would like. My athletes are currently preparing for their first competition season. We have three district and state level competitions coming up and a few local track meets that we will be participating in this summer. Our grassroots structure for opportunity and competition isn’t like it is in the states or in other countries. But we are slowly getting there.

For what specific reasons did you choose Ooty as the location for the Indian Track Foundation?

Most importantly, we chose Ooty due to the humble place it is in itself. Other than that, it is just perfect in terms of weather conditions. We have temperatures between 18-25 degrees Celsius most of the year. The sun is out during the day (just the right amount) and it gets a bit chilly at night, but we never have snow. June-August is the rainy season, we sometimes train indoors during that time. Overall, it’s a brilliant place for training. Of course, its altitude (2250- 2300 meters above sea level) was an important factor as well. The kids have to get used the elevation first, as they come from sea level locations. It takes a few days to get used to the altitude. But the effects of the altitude on training and development are so huge that I cannot put them into words. My athletes ran their first local track competition last week and they were so strong, they completely surpassed my expectations. Especially when you start training at a young age in such an environment, the effects are enormous. It’s not very complicated, in order to become an Olympic medallist, one must start at a young age, live a simple life, a happy life and work hard in a conducive environment.

Have you heard of Gjert Ingebrigtsen, father of the three fast Norwegian Ingebrigtsen brothers? He also started training them from a young age…

Yes, of course, I have heard of them. They are brilliant at what they do. But I believe, apart from developing athletes from a young age, our philosophies are different. Coach Brother Colm, the Irish missionary who settled down in Kenya and has produced numerous Olympic and world class athletes is one of my biggest inspirations as a coach. His art of coaching, the way he approaches each athlete’s talents and needs from a young age – he was one of the reasons why I decided to move to Ooty and to start this project.

Are you happy with how your project is going so far? How many of your athletes do you think will be competing in the Olymics in the future?

I had a vison. But the present situation surpasses all of my expectations. I am proud of the fact that we have managed to find these awesome kids and to create this great structure and environment. I don’t think something like this will be attempted by many! As for the Olympics, our targets are 2028 and 2032. I cannot put a number to it, but I believe we will have multiple athletes competing at the Olympic level in the coming years. 2024 is probably too early. But you never know, nothing is impossible….

 

Edited by: Marion Aebi

Wanders miracle – How far can he go?

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Text and pictures: Jürg Wirz – this blog entry is provided by the Swiss magazine FIT for LIFE. If you want to regularly read interesting articles about running and endurance sports, click here

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The career curve of the young Swiss Julien Wanders points steeply upwards. In the miraculous time of 59:13 minutes he outpaced the half marathon in Ras Al Khaimah in February. The 23-year-old from Geneva improved Mo Farah’s European record by 19 seconds. Subsequently, many questions have been raised about where his career could lead. FIT for LIFE tries to answer them.

Can Julien Wanders already call himself the best Swiss runner?

After his two European road running records over 10km in October in Durban (27:32) and in December in Houilles (27:25), Julien Wanders now also made it to the top of the European best list over the half marathon distance. Never before has a Swiss athlete been able to call himself a double European record holder, never before has a Swiss long-distance runner performed at such a high level – not even Markus Ryffel (whose national record of 5000 meters from 1984 is still untouched) or Viktor Röthlin. Nevertheless, Wanders still has to continue running and achieve great successes at international championships in order to be remembered by the general public as the best Swiss long-distance runner of all time. And his performances on the track are not yet at the same level as on the road. Where does Wanders stand internationally with his European record in the half marathon? On position 38 of the eternal world best list. So far, 28 Kenyans, 7 Ethiopians, 1 Eritrean and 1 Bahraini have been faster than Wanders. In the 2019 season’s best he ranks fourth behind one Kenyan and two Ethiopians. The Kenyan Abraham Kiptum was 55 seconds faster than Wanders at his world record in October 2018, the season’s best Stephen Kiprop 31 seconds faster.

How did Mo Farah react when the cheeky Swiss youngster broke a European record for the second time in just a few months?

Mo Farah didn’t make a public statement, but he can’t have been very happy. In recent months, the Briton has primarily been focusing on the marathon in London at the end of April, where he will meet world record holder Eliud Kipchoge. Kipchoge has a clear opinion on the Swiss competitor and says that Wanders is the best example that anyone with talent and unconditional will can reach the top. According to Kipchoge, the East Africans have no genetic advantages.

julien wanders running.coach 2

Does Wanders have what it takes to set the world record?

Observers of the scene agree: If Wanders stays healthy, there’s nothing he can’t achieve. Wanders has dedicated himself completely to running, living in Kenya for the rest of the year and combining the discipline and systematic approach of a European with the African mentality. Wanders focuses all his actions on sporting success, his life consists mainly of training, eating and sleeping. In addition to hard running training, Wanders regularly does coordination, flexibility and strength training. He is advised by the Swiss nutritionist Christof Mannhart on what he should eat and what nutrients are necessary. Wanders uses sophrology as a kind of mental training including meditation exercises and he gets massages several times a week. And above all: With Marco Jäger, he has a trainer who has been looking after him since his youth and knows him very well. There is no apparent reason why Wanders should not one day be one of the best in the world.

What can Wanders be expected to achieve at the supreme distance of a marathon?

A marathon has little to do with mathematics. Nevertheless, there is a mathematical rule of thumb that says: Marathon time = half marathon time times two plus three minutes. For Viktor Röthlin, the formula applied: 2× 62:16 + 3min = 2:07:32; his best time = 2:07:23. Eliud Kipchoge was somewhat faster: 2× 59:25 + 3min = 2:01:50 (best time and WR: 2:01:39). According to this formula, Mo Farah should run 2:02:04 (best time at the moment 2:05:11), Wilson Kipsang 2:00:58 (best time 2:03:13). With Wanders, you would get 2:01:26 hours. But the projections are hypothetical, because a long-term marathon training usually reduces the basic speed a bit. Consequently, the half marathon time would have to be measured if an athlete has already switched to the marathon. But one thing is clear: If you can run the half marathon in 59:13, you also have great potential on the marathon distance.

What are the biggest risks and dangers in Wanders’ career?

As with all talented young runners, it is crucial whether Wanders remains without injury and motivated in the long run. There will be no lack of motivation, because his goal is clear: World elite. The greatest danger for him – and not just since yesterday – is his impatience. Wanders has already completed the training of a world-class marathon runner. The New Zealander Jake Robertson (half marathon best time 59:57), who also lives most of the time in Iten, no longer trains with the Swiss, because he thinks he trains too hard too often. However, coach Marco Jäger is aware of the dangers. He is planning to prepare his protégé well with an eye on the future with the marathon distance. But: Wanders is a guy who never takes it easy when it comes to training; in his training group he is the boss who sets the program as well as the pace.

julien wanders running.coach

On the track, Julien Wanders is not yet where he wants to be. What are the reasons for this?

If you run the 10 kilometres on the road in 27:25 minutes, you should be able to run the 10000 metres on the track in less than 28 minutes. (Wanders’ best time at the moment is 28:06,17.) He himself thinks that so far he has not been able to perform as relaxed and confident on the track as on the road. Probably just one “coup” is needed – and he’ll also become a world-class runner on the track.

What does Wanders’ master plan for the next few years look like?

Until the Olympic Games in 2020, he wants to concentrate on the track, then switch to the marathon. However, he does not rule out being a pacesetter in a major city marathon up to the 30 or 35 kilometer mark in the Olympic year in order to get a feel for the marathon. Despite his current successes, there is little doubt that the marathon will be his best course in the future. The World Championships in Doha at the end of September will be the next concrete goal.

Which distance will he chose to run?

At the moment he’s thinking of starting on both long-distance routes in Doha, which is quite possible from the point of view of the schedule: On the first day, the qualifying runs are over 5000 meters, on the fourth the final, only on the tenth and last day the 10000 meters will take place.

How much does Julien Wanders earn with his current successes?

An athlete is just as reluctant to talk about his pay as an employee is to talk about his salary. In this respect, Julien Wanders is no exception. He doesn’t get the big starting fees yet. One of the leading managers, who has several world-class runners under contract, assumes that he will receive between 3,000 and 5,000 Euros in starting money in a street race, plus the prize money. On the track he probably only gets good money in Zurich and Lausanne, in most places nothing at all, because he lacks the international medals. Together with his sponsors, however, Wanders is already making good financial progress.

Wanders’ achievements are incredible. Is everything going quite right?

Those who observe Wanders’ path believe that he is able to do clean performances, even on this high level. Wanders is as determined and uncompromising in his commitment to running as anyone else, but at the same time he is extremely transparent and discloses all his data. According to his coach Marco Jäger, Julien Wanders was checked for doping around 50 times in 2018. Thus, there is no reason to doubt Wanders’ performance.

 

Translated to English by: Denise Kaufmann

Best drinks and foods for after your running (competition)

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The training or the competition is done, everything went according to plan. Unfortunately, the plan often ends here. A correct and timely replenishing of the energy reserves is at the core of an optimal recovery. So, when and what should you eat?

We asked Sarina Jenzer, an active top Swiss orienteer and nutritionist in training, for advice. In addition, the internationally successful Swiss marathon runner and running.COACH ambassador Viktor Röthlin told us what snacks he used to swear by after training and competitions.

Stay hydrated!

According to Sarina, after training and competitions, the compensation of the fluid deficit caused by the physical activity is her first priority. Thus, as a first step, drink to rehydrate the dehydrated body (rehydration). As long as you are thirsty, you can keep drinking. Water is best suited for this.

When should I eat what?

In general, there is a difference between higher and lower exercise loads. The more your body has to work, the greater its energy deficit and the more important it is to replenish your energy reserves on time. Right after particularly intensive or long training sessions you should eat something as quickly as possible. After a relaxed and short workout, this is less pressing. But watch out! It always depends on the total scope of the training. During training phases with generally high intensity or big training scopes, you should also pay attention to a quick supply of energy in addition to your fluid intake, even during short and rather easy sessions.

After an easy training session

After an easier workout (low intensity or length) with a smaller scope (time until the next workout equals more than 24h), hydration in the form of water is usually sufficient directly after the workout. Eating is not absolutely necessary if a larger meal is eaten within one hour after the end of the workout.

After a demanding training or competition

When eating after a hard workout, after a competition or during high training volumes (next workout on the same day or less than 24 hours later): the faster the better. In concrete terms, this means that within 15-20 minutes after training, food should be consumed in addition to liquid so that the recovery before the next session is optimal. But what is best suited as a regeneration snack?

Ideal recovery snacks

According to Sarina Jenzer, the optimal recovery snack contains both carbohydrates (20-50g) and protein (15-20g). The carbohydrates ensure that our glycogen stores are replenished, while protein helps to set muscle regeneration in motion as quickly as possible. Viktor Röthlin used to solve this problem by taking carbohydrates in the form of an energy gel in addition to water immediately after an interval workout or competition and then meet the need for protein with a protein bar after the cool down. Today, there is an almost infinite selection of products to support the regeneration phase. The most common are recovery drinks or bars. On the one hand, there are products that contain both carbohydrates and protein, and on the other hand, there are products covering only the protein requirement. With the latter, you should make sure to eat something that contains carbohydrates in addition, says Sarina.

As an alternative to these ready-made products, commercial foods can of course also be used as wonderful recovery snacks in the right combination! Sarina suggests the following options as examples:

1) Chocolate milk

2) Banana with quark (curd cheese)

3) Muesli with yoghurt

4) Sandwich with cheese or ham

We hope these tips will help you and we wish you a good workout with optimal regeneration! 😉

 

Sarina Jenzer (28) is a member of the Swiss national orienteering team and has already celebrated several successes at European and World Championships. She lives in Bern and studies nutrition and dietetics at the Bern University of Applied Sciences with the goal of becoming a certified nutritionist.

 

 

 

Article by: Marion Aebi

Translated to English by: Denise Kaufmann 

 

How can I lose weight by running?

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Some do it for aesthetical reasons, some for reasons of health – losing weight. Especially in spring, people try to get rid of some extra kilos. Can running help? Yes, if you follow some simple rules!

A lot of people are constantly concerned with how they can lose weight. It is commonly known that, in order to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. This can either happen through a reduced intake of food, or trough increased physical activity, by which we can burn more calories. It is all about the calorie balance, really. So, how can I achieve a negative calorie balance through running? And what do I have to take into account? Gommaar D’Hulst, Post doc in the Laboratory of Exercise and Health at the Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich, has helped us answer these questions.

1) In what way does running help people to lose weight?

Increasing your energy expenditure by any form of physical activity, including running, can help to decrease body weight.

2) Can anyone lose weight with the help of running? 

Anyone can lose weight, as long as he/she expends more energy (kcals) than he/she consumes. The difference between people will be how hunger is regulated after (or in between) running sessions. People who get very hungry and compensate for the expended calories will have a harder time losing weight (more on this in question 6).

3) Can you continue eating normally when you start running (or run more than before) and still lose weight, or do you always have to change your eating habits as well?

No, you do not necessarily have to change your diet. It all depends where you come from. If you already eat healthy and stay away from processed food, there is no need for change. However, if you have an unhealthy diet, it might be worth to see a registered dietitian who can put you on the right track. A healthy eating pattern, of course, makes it easier to lose weight with running.

4) So, what do you think is the ideal diet if you want to lose weight but still have enough energy for running?

Adherence is the most important thing in any diet. If you want to choose a diet, choose one you can stick to. However, as already mentioned, I would not drastically change much when the eating pattern is already healthy. By healthy I mean 35-40% carbs, 25-30% fat, 1.4g/kg protein, little sugar and a varied eating pattern. I am not in favour, and also the research is inconclusive, in completely deleting one macronutrient (like carbohydrates).

5) Is it true that you lose weight faster if you don’t eat anything a few hours before and after your runs?

This is a slippery slope since this kind of eating pattern can induce food cravings (and weight gain). Another route worth considering is intermittent fasting. Here you will have all your food intake in 8-10h time-span, for instance from 9AM to 7PM. Research is very positive (certainly in animals) about intermittent fasting. In fact, even when total calories were matched, metabolic health parameters such as the sensitivity to insulin and certain liver parameters are positively influenced by intermittent fasting. This is certainly an interesting area of research, but the combination of intermittent fasting and exercise are not fully elucidated yet.

6) Is there any formula for how many calories you burn by running?

There are probably a lot, but here is one:

MEN: Calories Burned = [(Age x 0.2017) + (Weight x 0.09036) + (Heart Rate x 0.6309) — 55.0969] x Time / 4.184.

WOMEN: Calories Burned = [(Age x 0.074) — (Weight x 0.05741) + (Heart Rate x 0.4472) — 20.4022] x Time / 4.184.

However, I personally think these formulas are mostly nonsense because there are big differences between people (large standard deviations). Generally, people tend to think that they burn more than they actually do. That is, the food compensation after a run (or other type of activity) is often too high, by which the negative calorie balance is destroyed. This is something people MUST be aware of if they want to lose weight.

7) Will your body at some point adapt to increased physical activity and not burn calories as fast anymore, like it is with diets sometimes?

There is some data indicating that very active people unconsciously adapt to the increased physical activity in two ways: 1/ they start moving around less, decrease ‘fidgeting’ and 2/ get more efficient in using the energy for a variety of bodely functions such as food digesting and immune system, thereby decreasing basal metabolic rate (what you burn in a resting state). Moreover, one of the adaptations to exercise is that the muscle will be more efficient in producing energy for a given amount of oxygen. So, after a while, people will burn less calories for a given speed than before (also because they lose body weight and therefore use less energy to move their body). Thus, in order to keep the weight loss going, a person will have to run slightly faster (and longer) over time (or, of course, eat less).

8) Is it better to run fast, slow, for a short or a long period of time if you want to lose weight?

In general, it does not matter much. Losing weight is almost exclusively determined by energy balance. Some people will like interval training more, while others will opt for long easy runs. Again, it all comes down to adherence. Of note, because the intensity is higher, interval training will burn as many calories as longer slow runs, making it perhaps a more time-efficient method for losing weight.

9) What role does your heart rate play in terms of what your body burns or how fast?

Heart rate will be an indication for when the body is in the ‘aerobic’ zone (low HR) or in the more anaerobic (high HR) zone. So, it is a good measurement of intensity.

However, that you have to stay in the ‘easy’ zone to lose weight is a myth. Let me explain briefly by the following graph:

   

It represents fuel utilization at different exercise intensities, 40% is easy and 75% is hard. While muscle glycogen and plasma glucose are carbohydrate related energy sources (sugar taken from the muscle and blood), muscle and plasma TG (triglycerides within the muscle or derived from the blood, “other fat sources” in the graph) and plasma FFA (blood derived fatty acids) are fat related energy sources. As it is true that at easy pace you are RELATIVELY burning more fat (around 50% carbs and 50% fats) compared to running fast (85% carbs and 15% fat), ABSOLUTELY you are still burning less or the same amount of fat than when you are exercising at harder paces. In fact, at a harder pace, the relative contribution of carbohydrates is increased and together with the fact that you are expending more energy, you will 1/burn more or a similar amount of fat and 2/ burn way more carbohydrates at high intensities as compared to lower intensities.

A side effect of high intensity training this is that the emptied energy stores will have to be refilled and your body has to recover more from a hard run. The body thus taps the energy savings in form of fat. The aerobic energy systems (fat burning) will thereofre be increased the hours after a hard training session, meaning that your body is still burning more calories than normally when at rest. This will positively influence the energy balance for weight loss.

10) Is there a certain time of the day which is best for our body to run in order to lose weight?

There is recent research indicating that PM exercise might be better performance wise, but these studies did not look into weight loss. Fasted training (after a long period without food intake, i.e. before breakfast) is popular indeed, because the body will learn to rely more (albeit slightly) on free fatty acids (fat) for energy and it will increase metabolic pathways which rely more on fat oxidation (mitochondria and select enzymes). BUT: Solely because the body gets better in metabolizing fat, that the person will NOT lose fat more quickly! You still only lose it when your overall energy balance is negative. Think about it, it is similar as with the ketogenic diet. On the ketogenic diet, you will oxidize (burn) more fat, than on a normal diet, BUT you also take in much more fat. Thus, again, it winds down to energy balance, on the ketogenic diet or when training fasted, you can gain weight if you eat more than what you expend.

11) Should one combine running with a different form of exercise in order to achieve the biggest effect?

I would suggest that strength training should always be incorporated in a training scheme of a runner. Not only because its possible beneficial effects on losing weight, but most surely because of its effect on injury prevention. Stronger muscles, together with better biomechanics will have a positive effect on the longevity of a runner’s career. Additionally, proper strength training can lead to a more favourable body composition, meaning more muscles and less fat. On the long term, this will result in a slightly higher resting metabolic rate and thus more efficient weight loss.

 

Gommaar D’Hulst studied Sport Sciences and Biomedical Kinesiology at the University of Leuven, Belgium where he also gained his PhD. Currently he is working as a post-doctoral researcher at state-of-the-art “Exercise and Health” lab at ETH Zürich where his research concentrates on topics like muscle health and nutrient sensing. In his spare time you can find him in CrossFit Kreis9 for his daily Workout Of the Day. Follow Gommaar and his colleague Henning Langer on their Instagram-Account (@wod_science) for daily posts about the science behind strength training, endurance and CrossFit.

 

Edited  by: Marion Aebi

Running faster and better – coordination helps!

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When we think about running, keywords such as endurance, speed or strength often cross our minds. But one important piece of the mosaic for efficient and successful running is often forgotten: coordination.

Coordination refers to the interaction of certain muscle groups for the optimal utilization of available forces and is geared toward a resulting maximization of performance. Thus, coordination can help runners to channel the trained muscle power correctly and to achieve the highest possible speed with the smallest possible loss of energy. With better coordination you can economize your running style. Another goal of coordination training is injury prevention. The most beautiful and dynamic movement possible during running can help to prevent overstraining.

Now, how do you actually train coordination? For runners, running form drills are particularly suitable. Running form drills is the term we use to describe exercises in which certain parts of the running movement are more or less isolated and exaggerated. The aim is again to improve the interaction of the muscle groups needed for the various movements. In the following videos, multiple orienteering World champion and one of the best female mountain and trail runners in the world, will show you how:

Ankle drill

The basic exercise for your ankles. The whole movement in the ankle is important here. The ball of the foot hardly lifts off the ground. The heel is responsible for the whole movement from bottom to top and back again. A stable upper body is important. The hip should not move sideways and the pelvis should not tilt. Also focus on arm work.

Walk like a stork

The stork walk is the perfect basic exercise for more stability, good hip extension and conscious walking. Our showcase model, multiple orienteering world champion and active runner Judith Wyder, shows this exercise in two variations: 1) flat foot and 2) on the toes.

Pogo jumps

With this exercise you train a strong kick from the calves. The whole movement mainly comes from the lower legs. The knees are as straight as possible. The tips of the toes point upwards during the flight phase and provide an active pre-tension. Keep an upright posture during the whole execution of this exercise.

Butt kicks

Being a popular running drill, this exercise promotes an active knee stroke and a longer stride length while running. Make sure that the foot is pulled under the buttocks and that the knee is slightly raised in front of you. The faster the cadence, the better the exercise.

With this exercise you can also play around a little and change the rhythm at will. You can find an example of how to do this here.

Skipping

Make sure your body’s center of gravity remains upright and that the knee or thigh reaches the horizontal. Try to stay stable in the torso and use your arms. The higher the cadence and knee height, the harder and more effective the exercise. This exercise can also be varied like the butt kickers exercise for example with several repetitions in a row on the same side.

For advanced users, the knee lift-hopper run and the heel-knee lift combination exercise are also recommended.

Pogo jumps with knee drive

This exercise is quite demanding in that it requires high concentration for the correct timing. The legs land at the same time, but the left and right leg are lifted alternately. The main work comes from the calves. This exercise can be done in a first form with only slightly bent legs (towards the skipping position). Then the height of the skipping can slowly be increased. Make sure that the ground contact is as short as possible.

Straight leg bounds

During this running form drill, we generate propulsion below the body’s center of gravity. The effort comes from the buttocks, the rear thighs and during an active running step also from the calves. Run this way over a distance of about 20 meters and then bend the legs a little more from step to step until you are in a brisk pace with high knees and a high cadence. Keep the pace up for a few seconds and make sure you have good coordination! When you hear a kind of dragging of the shoes on the ground, you’re doing it perfectly.

Jumping jacks

Again, here goes an exercise that needs a little sense of rhythm and, depending on the situation, a little bit of mobility. The height of the leg can and should be adjusted individually. The leg should only be lifted to a height where the upper body is still stable and does not bend. Also, make sure the arms do not move and that the shoulders are relaxed. At first sight this exercise may not have much to do with running, but we promise you it does!

For this exercise, we present you two variations as well. On the one hand there is a variation in which the jumping jack is moved forward and sideways (Link DE) and on the other hand there is a variation in which the arms are moved in addition to the legs (propeller).

In your running.COACH training schedule, some of these exercises will be suggested to you on predefined days and displayed in the form of training videos. That way, you are provided with both ideas and clear instructions for exercises in the fields of strength, foot gymnastics, relaxation or stretching for your training.

Those who have not yet been convinced by the arguments of an economizing of the running style and injury prevention should at the latest let themselves be persuaded by the following: It makes your running look better! When was the last time you asked yourself who this worn and slumped creature with your starting number on their chest is supposed to be on your finisher photo? Right? Told you… 😉 So, let’s go!

Have fun trying it out!

 

Composed by: Marion Aebi (Content Manager), based on inputs from Gabriel Lombriser (running coach and running.COACH product manager)