Road runner Fitness

Age no bar

Have you considered running but were discouraged by age? Meet Venugopalan Arunachalam, who, at 70, is one of the oldest marathoners in Chennai.

I had been running in school and college but did not get to run during my working days. A sedentary lifestyle brought with it ailments such as diabetes. I was told to exercise and control my diet. I started walking, which turned from brisk to fast then to race walking. Then, remembering my college days, I attempted to run. My legs weighed down like lead and very soon I started panting and gave up.

After retirement, I settled down in Chennai and came to know about the Chennai Runners. I joined their Google group and went through the inspiring posts shared among the runners. After about two years, I started torun.

Initially, I could not run more than 50 m. I realised that I was running much faster than I should. So I started jogging in a small park with shorter walkways. Over a period of time, my pace increased and I switched over to the larger Anna Nagar Tower Park. I the switched to the traffic laden roads, mostly during evenings and nights, to avoid bumping into children playing in the park.

The first discouragement when you begin running at my age comes from family, relatives and friends. They would try to use the family doctor’s professional influence on me. You are likely to prove them right if you increase the pace and distance too soon. As long as you are running consistently and ramp up distance and pace slowly and steadily, there should not be much of a problem.

The three dimensions of running are strength, flexibility and endurance. So it is important to devote equal attention to all the three. Flexibility is the first factor which gets a beating as you age and you can really do nothing about it. Fortunately, for running, a lack of flexibility is of least consequence. Endurance can be improved by slowly and steadily running at a comfortable pace and increasing the distance within six to twelve months.

But the most important and difficult part is strengthening of the running muscles. As the pace increases, the imbalances in the strengths of various muscles such as calf, thigh and buttocks results in the load passing to ankles, knees and pelvis, which leads to injury in those parts. One option is to join a gym and get trained by a personal trainer. But that’s not really necessary. During running, what we really do is support our whole body weight on a single leg, then hop and transfer the weight to the other leg. Typically, we would be hopping about 5000 times for a distance of 5 km, which is about 2000 times for each leg. So the best way we can strengthen these muscles is by indulging in single leg hops. A daily regiment of heel raises, squats, hops and dead lifts, all on single leg, would more than meet the requirements. Additional exercises that can be advantageous are plank and push ups to strengthen the core. Personally, I have benefitted by running in a number of ways. My general well-being, my immunity to common ailments has increased; I don’t catch common cold, cough, running nose, or fever so easily. I have more younger friends than I had before, which keeps me cheerful. Unless I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t feel that I have aged. The fear of death or age-related ailments never crosses my mind. My sleep is sound and deep. And yes, there is no restriction on diet.

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Printable version | Jul 15, 2020 10:30:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/fitness/age-no-bar/article7593953.ece

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