|Chinmoy Roy demonstrates the workout using two parachutes, for increased resistance
Pix: Pabitra Das
Fitness junkies, now feel the wind in your hair as you sweat out in style. Give your routine workout a glamourous makeover with the parachute resistance run (or PRR) this season. A strenuous cardio-vascular routine, PRR, was initially used as a training format by short distance sprinters in order to pump up their speed on the track.
But now the workout has moved out of the sporting domain and has been adopted by the urban gym geek to add a funky touch to the workout schedule. The prop for this drill is a parachute thats tied to your waist with a harness. You are expected to break into a run with the parachute offering resistance against the air, says Chinmoy Roy, strength and conditioning coach as well as teaching faculty at the National Cricket Academy in Calcutta.
Roy, who has national level cricketers including Sourav Ganguly and Sreevats Goswami on his training rolls, explains the science behind this routine: The parachute creates a drag (pull from behind) owing to air resistance. So you need to exert yourself more in order to overcome that resistance. Consequently, your muscles are toiling harder than they ideally would in a regular run. For a runner, this translates into an improvement in speed, power (strength multiplied by speed), and stride length (length of a single stride).
Rajesh Sawant does a single parachute
Pix: Gajanan Dudhalkar
One may argue that a high degree of agility does not top the priority list of the urban gym geek. But thats not the only benefit that you reap from the PRR regimen, says Roy, adding that PRR is a form of short burst workout (routines where you exercise vigorously for a very short period before proceeding to your slow and continuous drills).
Short burst or interval workouts are all the rage with health fanatics across the world since they increase the heart rate by anything between 90 and 100 per cent, he says. Since the heart gets stressed by such energetic yet short bouts of workouts, it also gets conditioned enough to cope with stresses. Hence, its believed that the chances of heart attacks are slimmed down considerably.
According to Amogh Pandit, conditioning specialist of the Mumbai Ranji Trophy team, though chances of cardiac arrests can be minimised, they cannot be eradicated. PRR definitely helps the heart to cope with stress better. However, the rule changes for people who are genetically susceptible to cholesterol formation in their bodies. Even highly conditioned football players who have such genetic disorders will have heart attacks despite their training.
Even Shanker Basu, managing director, Primal Patterns, Holistic Fitness Studio in Chennai has a more cautionary approach to the workout: Lowering the chances of heart attacks requires a much more holistic approach. It requires lifestyle modification, exercises, and balanced nutrition and good health, he says.
But for people with no apparent medical condition, the advantages of PRR are multiple. Says Roy: It not only burns up calories really fast and increases your heart rate as cardio vascular workouts generally tend to do, but also helps the body to store food as glucose instead of fat. Thats a great thing as fat storage makes you look ungainly, he adds.
Roy prescribes PRR for enthusiasts who have moderate to advanced levels of fitness: Clearly this is not something to be attempted by amateurs. One needs to be really conditioned before embarking on this rigorous routine. Even Ganguly doesnt opt for the parachute run at the onset of the season when he starts training. His fitness base is built for a month before he starts sprinting with the parachute twice a day, with each routine lasting 30 seconds and consisting of six to eight repetitions.
Basu advocates a 30-metres to 50- metres dash, for four to five sets once a week in a four-week programme. He also warns that its an anaerobic activity and hence shouldnt last more than a minute.
For non-sports persons, Roy recommends approximately two months of training before one can have a go at PRR. Parachutes also come in different diameters and you have to choose one based on your body weight, he says. Hence people with lower body strength should opt for parachutes with a smaller diameter which will have a lower air drag while the reverse is true for people with a higher strength capacity.
Theres a stipulated dress code for this workout. You need to be outfitted in skins, a term for super tight body-hugging sports clothing, usually made of synthetic material. When you are running against the wind, skins stay close to your body and make your workout more effective, he says. However, for more humid weather conditions of Mumbai and Chennai, one could use clothes that allow ventilation and are light in colour, says Pandit.
Practitioners of the routine also need to take into account their health parameters before venturing into an exhausting regimen such as PRR. Individuals with a history of cardiac or hypertension problems should ditch this workout. Such drills inevitably make your blood pressure shoot up. One could, however, perform such routines under observation of skilled professionals, says Pandit.
He also recommends periods of rest after such a vigorous exercise. If one engages in sprinting with the parachute tied to the waist for six seconds, he or she should follow it up with at least 30 seconds of rest to help the body heal.
To introduce more variety, as Roy advocates,one can opt for two parachutes tied to the harness. The workout, which the instructor terms double trouble offers an increased resistance as compared to one parachute, as one makes a dash. In addition to this, theres the contrast run where you start running with two parachutes but let go of one by untying the harness midway. The rest of the distance is covered with just one parachute.
Well, its a drill that helps when your fitness programme has reached a plateau. PRR helps you to get out of the groove with its short burst format, enabling you to perform better. More importantly, it brings that element of fun in your monotonous workout schedule. So, just pack that parachute in your bag and get ready to run, yes, against the wind.