How Dr Pushpa Chandra prepares for extreme ultramarathons

By Dr Pushpa Chandra

Jun 28
Dr Pushpa Chandra World Marathon Challenge 2018

The key ingredient many runners fail to consider

To celebrate her 50th birthday, Dr Pushpa Chandra, an extreme ultramarathoner, successfully competed on all 7 continents over a period of several months. For her 60th birthday, she went more extreme! Dr Chandra ran 7 marathons of 42.2 km (26.2 miles) on each of 7 continents in just 6 days and 9 hours, as the oldest female competitor ever to do this.

During the 7-day event, competitors started their first race on a glacier in Antarctica, then flew in a private chartered plane to run in South Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe, South America and, finally, North America.

Flying for 52.5 hrs, crossing 16 time zones and facing temp variations of 50 Celsius was challenging, to say the least, when running a total distance of 295km. For most races, marathon participants are able to simulate the conditions, to some extent, and train. However, it’s impossible to train adequately when they are required to fly, land to run 7 marathons where conditions vary this much!

Traditional training simply isn’t enough

“Running this kind of distance, in such varying conditions and under such time pressures, requires a special type of training”, says Dr Chandra. “It’s all about training, for sure. Your body has to be extremely fit and your mind totally focused and positive”, she says, “but there’s also another ingredient that must be included in a training regime for success, and that’s adaptability.”

 Dr Chandra goes on to explain that even with all the training she does, it is simply not enough. The body and mind also have to be able to adapt quickly to challenging and continually disrupted sleep/wake cycles, as well as changes in temperature, humidity and other environmental conditions such as running surfaces. “On a run like this one, spanning several time zones, jet lag and disorientation are also major factors”, she explains.

Marathon fatigue, jet lag, sleep deprivation, nausea, swollen feet, …Dr Pushpa’s surreal and epic journey to completion.

Marathon 1 – Novo, Antarctica – Temp  -20°C
The most inhospitable, frozen continent. Surface – glacier

Marathon 2 – Capetown, South Africa -20°C to +30°C
50°C temperature variation in an 8-hour period

Marathon 3 – Perth, Australia
11 hours of flying time from Capetown and a 11-hour time change. A tough start for a run that started near midnight. Feel the feet! By now, runners’ shoe size have grown 3 sizes.

Marathon 4 – Dubai, Asia
Another great night run ...although its not something the runners ever trained for!

Marathon 5 – Portugal, Europe
Dark, cold and another midnight run on the slippery cobblestones of Lisbon

Marathon 6 – Columbia, South America
Light at the end of the tunnel! Warm and inviting…soaked in the culture and colors of Cartagena.

Marathon 7 – Miami, USA
The Finale. Fuelled by the crowds and even though she is exhausted, it is Dr Pushpa’s fastest marathon.

The systemic effects of adaptogens

In order to cope with such extreme conditions and achieve peak performance, Dr Pushpa takes AWAKE and ASLEEP as essential parts of her training regime. They contain the best completely natural and powerful adaptogens, and are key supports for her training routine and the marathons themselves. They have been part of her supplements regime since the 1980s and they provide all the necessary ingredients to ensure that she gets the best, restorative sleep, and energy, alertness and endurance when she most needs it. In this way, her body can adapt to face the physical and mental challenges she faces.

Adaptogens, and their energy-boosting effects, have been known about for hundreds of years but, more recently, research and clinical trials have validated their qualities and benefits for running marathons, doing shift work and for overall vitality. Before developing AWAKE and ASLEEP, Dr Chandra used to take most of the adaptogens that she has included in them, separately.

Adaptogens act as a low molecular ‘stress vaccine’ by acting as self defense mechanisms by adapting the cells and organisms to mitigate stress-induced harmful effects. This protective effect benefits all systems, including cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neurological, endocrine and the entire immune system.

 Dr Pushpa explains: “As years passed, I noticed my energy increased and my race times on extreme ultramarathons improved. It made me think about what I was doing different from other runners and that led me to formulating these adaptogens for what I personally used them for—high-octane fuel for energy.” Dr Pushpa’s global marathon-running track record certainly demonstrates their effectiveness. But, as she says, they are not just for marathon runners. “They work for anyone, and I know if they can help marathon runners and people in high-stress jobs, such as shift workers, they can help us all.”
​Many of the premium natural ingredients in AWAKE and ASLEEP are described here.

AWAKE

Eleuthrococcus

‘The King’

  • Enhances physical endurance by improving oxygen uptake in muscles during exercise
  • Anabolic effect by synthesizing proteins by liver, pancreas and adrenals
  • Increases nor adrenalin and serotonin for quicker recovery from acute stress
  • Normalizes blood sugar
  • Normalizes body temperature
  • Improves circadian rhythm

Rhodiola

  • Top herb for endurance athletes (including olympians) – increases oxygen carrying capacity
  • Amps your energy, vitality and stamina during stress
  • Reduces fatigue and exhaustion in prolonged stressful situations
  • Regulates key chemicals such as serotonin and other ‘feel good’ opoids

Schisandra

  • 5-flavor berry as an energy booster.
  • Improves mental efficacy and increases physical stamina, especially in fatigued subjects (in one study, working capacity was increased by 222% when compared to the control group)

Bacopa M

  • Gateway to intelligence, a ‘smart’ herb
  • Relieves anxiety, speeds up attention, focus and cognitive function
  • Great stress buster, liver de-toxer and renowned for longevity

ASLEEP

Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha)

‘Wired and Tired’

  • Powerful anti-inflammatory response to tired and painful muscles
  • Stamina and endurance
  • Analgesic effect and can be consumed with alcohol
  • Sedating herb, best in the evening or at night due to its anti-inflammatory effects on joints and overall immune system

Melatonin

‘More than restorative sleep’

  • Ameliorates oxidative stress and inflammation in ultra – endurance events
  • The top jet lag hormone and potent antioxidant and antiaging hormone

Add AWAKE and ASLEEP
to your training programme
​See the difference for yourself!

For July, AWAKE and ASLEEP are available 20% off.
Use code ULTRA to receive your discount.
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About the Author

Dr. Pushpa Chandra is a Vancouver based Naturopathic Physician with an integrative approach to healthcare. Her background includes over 27 years of acute care hospital experience as a registered nurse and 22 years at BC Children's Hospital in critical care, working with the province's sickest children. Her special interests include research in circadian rhythm disruption, sports medicine and pediatrics. As a competitive sports enthusiast, Dr Pushpa completed ultramarathons and marathons in all 7 continents including North Pole, Antarctica and Mt Everest. As a shift worker she has been using the ingredients of AWAKE and ASLEEP to boost her performance, endurance and overall health.

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