Manavi Siddhanti with Dr Rajat Chauhan

LATE NIGHTS at work, household chores or lack of motivation-we have all been there. Combine that with aches and pains, obesity, diabetes or even poor heart health and taking out time to run and be consistent with it, sometimes doesn't even make it to our bucket list. But with multiplying lifestyle diseases in India, it's about time we bring a little change to our lives and start running. In a bid to stay healthy and in shape, Prevention and Rajat Chauhan, ultramarathoner, Sports-Exercise Medicine and Musculo-Skeletal Medicine physician, MBBS, MSc Sports-Exercise medicine, have come together this year to train Prevention readers for Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, 2013. While they start their training, here's the lowdown on what you can do. And if you're already thinking of an excuse, we've busted them.

Excuse 1: Your joints hurt and you might think you'll wear them out by running. On the contrary, a study conducted at University of California found that sports such as running and walking strengthen your hips and knees by depositing more cartilage in these areas.

Excuse 2: You are diabetic and worried about a sudden drop in blood sugar by exercising. If you're diabetic, increased physical activity and exercises are mandatory for you. It increases the rate of glucose in the blood to be taken up by muscle cells, effectively lowering your blood glucose. It also improves insulin sensitivity. In fact, latest guides recommend 60 minutes of dedicated exercise time daily, along with additional physical activity (daily chores).

Excuse 3: You are comfortable with your sedentary lifestyle. Hear this: after heart disease and cancer, a sedentary lifestyle is the biggest cause of death amongst Americans. Lack of physical activity
exacerbates 35 known conditions including breast cancer, colon cancer, congestive heart failure, depression, heart attack, hypertension, obesity and osteoporosis. In fact, Prof Frank Booth from the University of Missouri has coined a term for this SeDS or sedentary death syndrome

Excuse 4: You're overweight or obese, which makes running difficult. But not exercising or running, means carrying extra weight which causes wear and tear of the joints and puts pressure on your hips, back and kidneys. A Gallup Organization survey of over 1 million Americans found obesity was associated with a greater risk of experiencing daily pain. To break this vicious cycle, train with a professional.

Excuse 5: You've never run before. Unlike swimming, karate, martial arts or cycling for that matter, running is not a skill that needs to be learnt. Start out with walking, progress to brisk walking and then running. All you need is a good pair of shoes and the zest to run. Remember, it doesn't matter how fast you go, as long as you keep going.

Step Smart To Slim Faster

Want to boost your burn? Perfect your form because using proper alignment helps you walk faster. Here are some simple tips to follow.

1 Keep your gaze focussed directly ahead, not down at your feet. 
2 Stand tall, head straight and chin up; avoid leaning forward. 
3 Roll your shoulders back and down, not scrunched up by your ears. 
4 Make a relaxed fist, as though cupping a fragile potato chip. 
5 Tighten your abs, pulling belly button toward spine. 6 Bend your arms; naturally swing them forward and back without crossing the center of your body. 7 With each step, land on your mid-foot and push off with your toes.

The Bare Minimum

You'd be training every day, so… Get comfortable fitness wear. Look for sweatproof, breathable fabrics, they are available easily. Do some research and try out different pairs of running shoes before buying one. Look for a pair that provides forefoot flexibility, cushioning, proper heel support and is lightweight. Keep a sipper with you in times of training to be well hydrated before, during and after a run.

4 Try an online app to help you track speed, distance and timing. Try ITune's Half Marathon: 21 K runner training and Nike Training Club.

Moves To Help You Walk Faster

Power up your walking muscles and tone trouble spots with these super simple exercises. Do 2 or 3 sets.

SQUAT Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding 1 dumb-bell in each hand. Bend knees slowly and lower body into a squat, keeping knees behind toes. Come up slow as well. Repeat for 30 to 60 seconds.

MODIFIED PLANK Start with belly on mat, elbows under shoulders. Tightening abs, lift torso off floor, supporting weight on forearms and knees. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

KNEE PUSH-UP Start with knees bent, palms under shoulders, head in line with hips. Slowly lower body till almost touching floor; then slowly push back up. Repeat for 30 to 60 seconds.

Nutrition and Hydration

To improve endurance and stamina, aim for 7 to 9 servings of veggies and fruits, 3 servings of low-fat dairy (milk/curd/paneer), 2 to 3 servings pulses or chicken, fish, lean meat with a handful of nuts every day. Consume salt in moderation and sugar as per calorie requirements.

1. Cut down on carbs that form your regular diet like bread, roti, rice, potatoes. Professor Timothy Noakes, sports physiologist and medical director for Comrades Ultra marathon had popularised carb-loading in his book, Lore Of Running. In his new book, Challenging Beliefs: Memoirs of a Career, openly apologises to the running community for the information he shared about carbohydrates. The gist: an unrestricted intake of especially refined and hence addictive, carbohydrates fuels an overconsumption of calories. Instead of high-carb diets, an increase in protein combined with low carbs help cut hunger pangs down.

2. It's important to hydrate before, during and after a session. Have about half a litre before you start running, keep sipping during the run and have 1 litre or more after the run. Avoid aerated or caffeinated drinks during the run since they can hinder your performance. The day you train, it is very important to consume a protein drink like soya milk within half an hour of exercise. While training, take care of your water consumption. Rather than plain water, have an electrolyte drink instead.

3. Indulge in protein-rich foods, espcially for strength training and to avoid muscle loss. Non-vegetarians can have chicken, fish, eggs; vegetarians should load up on cottage cheese, lentils and tofu.

4. Fish oil, Omega 3, calcium and vitamin supplements may help boost your performance, but check with your GP before popping these.

5. The day before the big day, focus on having an early dinner which is high on carbs and is rich in fats. Go on, conquer!