ST: The Final Countdown

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 16 Sep 2018.

#AskMok

  1. What’s your secret to training for a sub 3hour marathon? – Jason Tan
  2. I’m a 47-year-old runner, running about 30-40km a week, for 10 years. I run a marathon in 4.5hrs. What changes to my diet, training programme or pace should I make to become sub-4hrs? – David Pong

MOK YING REN – Wow, time flies! Race day is just a week away! If you are feeling nervous, don’t worry – I can assure you it’s normal. I still get the nerves even though I have completed about 100 road races in my lifetime. Here is some of my key advice to having a positive race experience.

Start Slow

Most runners make the mistake of starting the race at a pace that is too fast.

As you take your position behind the starting line, you can expect there to be loud music booming in the background, and the atmosphere during the countdown before the start of the race will definitely be hyped up and emotionally-charged. Once the race horn goes off, you will suddenly find yourself surrounded by a throng of other excited runners.

The unfamiliarity of the whole situation may elevate your adrenaline levels, and you may even feel rejuvenated, akin to having a fresh breath of life. Suddenly, the impossible no longer seems impossible.

Experienced runners will, however, tell you to hold your horses, and to take it easy for the first half of your race. This is sound advice, but by no means easy to heed.

To ensure that you start the race at the correct pace, seek out the pacers who will be running at your goal pace. Follow these pacers right from the start of the race, and try not to get ahead of them, especially in the first three-quarters of the race!

Unfortunately, if there are no suitable pacers, you will need to be your own pacer. To do so, calculate your race pace, and note down the split times that you will need to achieve at each kilometer marker. You will need to be extremely disciplined and stick as closely as possible to your planned splits.

This method, of course, depends on the accuracy of the race markers. To help with pacing accuracy and precision, you may want to use a watch with GPS capabilities, which can help keep you on target every step of the way.

If ever in doubt, go slower – there is always time to catch up later in the race!

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Mok Ying Ren during the ST Run race clinic in July 2017. This year, he will be available to fire some last minute tips at the festival village! Photo credits: ONEATHLETE

Prepare Well

Assemble your race equipment well in advance and check that they are all in order.

It is unwise to try out new equipment (such as shoes or socks) on race day. It is also a misconception that wearing a brand new pair of shoes with a fresh grip and fully intact cushion will help you earn that personal best time. Instead, you are taking a risk for blisters to form, and for blood (literally), sweat and tears to flow.

Wear only shoes and socks that have been properly broken into (i.e. you have done a few runs in them). So if you have just bought a pair of shoes with the intention of wearing them for the first time on race day, please think twice!

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Mok Ying Ren answering questions and preparing runners for a recent race at a similar race clinic. He will be available to fire some last minute tips at the festival village! Photo credits: ONEATHLETE

Race Etiquette

Your consideration for other runners will make the race experience a positive one for all. Small thoughtful acts, such as keeping to the left to allow for others to overtake on the right, will go a long way towards helping everyone achieve their personal bests.

While listening to music is a great way to stay motivated during the race, it may be best to turn the volume down a notch so that you remain aware of the situation around you at all times.

During long races, gestures of encouragement are always welcome and, sometimes, a godsend. Giving a thumbs-up or cheers of encouragement to a fellow runner while you are overtaking or making a U-turn can vastly uplift his or her spirit.

Remember, everyone is in the same boat and share the same goal – to complete the race in as short a time as possible and in the most enjoyable manner.

#AskMok Live! 

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If you might have any last minute questions, do come down to The Straits Times Run – Race Clinic on 22 September at 3.30pm! If you will be there to collect your race packs at the festive village, please be seated at the stage area by 3.15pm! Sign up HERE!
I’m looking forward to meeting all of you who have been following the #RunONE Training Plan for 16 weeks!

Otherwise, do race smart, stay safe and be considerate! See you on race day!

ST: Back in the days

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 09 Sep 2018

PROF LOW CHENG HOCK – My friends from primary and secondary school still meet up frequently to catch up and stay active by going for walks together. While we talk about anything and everything under the sun, a large part of our conversations revolves around nostalgic memories of our younger days spent outdoors.

In fact, when we look back, the only vivid memories for me are often of my experience doing sports, or just being out there in the great outdoors, in general. Looking back at my younger self, I could describe myself as a ‘jack of all trades’ because I would readily take on the challenge in any sports, even though I was never quite proficient in any. It is still a fond part of my memory that I’m glad to share with readers of our #RunWithMok column.

Memories of enjoying life

Running or just merely being outdoors has always been a big part of my life. During my time in primary school, our teacher would bring us running at 5.30am. Unfortunately (or fortunately), children nowadays are so busy studying around the clock that they no longer can afford the luxury of time for such simple ‘pleasures’ of life.) At that time, running was totally voluntary and, judging from the turnout, we all simply enjoyed it! In fact, our teacher and his wife were inspirational figures who led by example They coached us to run, motivated us to train, and rallied us to do our part for society and raise funds for charity (through running, of course).

I was an avid sports fan, just not the spectator-kind. I had an eye for the graceful footwork of badminton and also enjoyed the rigors of a heart-thumping soccer match. I have also cycled to Malaysia with my cycling ‘kakis’. In fact, the bicycle was my go-to choice to commute during medical school. I started exercising and playing sports to keep fit, but the leisure and pleasure of good company kept me going. Being the non-athlete I am, the social undertones of sports took some (not all) pressure off me and allowed me to immerse myself in whatever sports I had chosen as my poison.

Memories of adventures

In my younger days, I liked sailing and would sail in the waters off West Coast Park with my medical school classmates. I remember  Dr. Ben Tan, who introduced the sport to me and taught me the basics. On one such voyage, our rowing boat (with a makeup sail) had capsized somewhere near Pulau Bukom, at a particularly high-traffic part in the middle of (apparently) nowhere! But being young, we were fearless in that situation and just calmly floated in the choppy waters, until rescue came to some 30 mins later.

Some years ago, I went to visit an old friend who was a surgeon-turned-missionary and ran a rural hospital at a dizzying altitude of 5000 feet up in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. During this ‘holiday’, I helped out at the hospital and treated a Masai (local native) patient with several wounds, some of which even needed surgery. I later found out that he had wrestled with a lion that had attacked his cattle. Fortunately, he recovered well enough to return to his hometown up in the mountains. It was a blessing in disguise because I got to accompany this gentleman on an unforgettable long and scenic hike through some of the most breathtaking views and wilderness Mother Earth can offer. I’m glad I had scaled Mount Kinabalu with a group of young doctors, as the experience came in handy too.

Being able to even conquer such challenging terrain at my age, was a blessing, that allowed me to meet fellow explorers who, more often than not, would have adventurous stories to share. I used to tackle the trails at Bukit Timah, starting from the dairy farm side and leading up to the summit. On a good day, this would give me about an hour or so to catch up with my friends. Till today, I still swim, walk and hike whenever possible.

Mok Ying Ren (seen in picture) was inspired by his medical teacher and mentor, Prof Low’s life philosophy, shaped by the latter’s experience with the outdoors and active lifestyle. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE
Mok Ying Ren (seen in picture) was inspired by his medical teacher and mentor, Prof Low’s life philosophy, shaped by the latter’s experience with the outdoors and active lifestyle. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE

Memories of being time efficient

The time we have is for us to decide, but definitely within us to manage As a doctor, I would always try to finish rounds and necessities so that I can have time for exercise. I didn’t want to be too desk-bound and would try, schedule permitting, to slot in a visit to the beach, arrange a picnic or a camping trip over the weekends.

Looking back, it was really about setting priorities. If something was important, then it would only be logical to make time for it. Being physically active is one of these things. But you think you have time and can wait for important things, it will one day become urgent. When you are lying on the hospital bed clutching your chest, suffering from a heart attack, your health becomes an urgent condition that needs to be treated. Taking care of the important things regularly prevents them from becoming urgent.

Memories of running my race

In my years as a doctor, I remember vividly there was once a runner and conquered a marathon 3 months after completing his chemotherapy therapy for leukemia. This despite finishing last, and in visible pain as he crossed that finish line. He did his level best and won HIS race! He taught me that winning the race is not always about coming in first, and we can’t be first all the time.  Finishing the race is also winning the race. It’s just as important!

The story of Rick (who suffers from cerebral palsy) and his ‘triathlon’ dad, Dick Hoyt, is equally inspiring. To fulfill his son’s wishes, Dick had completed a triathlon, his first, while towing Rick along with him. A race completed to the best of his own abilities, no less and the pair were later inducted to the Ironman Hall of Fame in 2008.

In both cases, neither age nor physical ability was a limiting factor in running their race. My experience and belief have shown me that there is no ‘right’ age, but a correct mentality for anything and everything we seek to accomplish and achieve. Every age is the right age, in its own way. Whether one chooses to run, jog or walk, as long as you enjoy ‘running my race’ leisurely and complete or compete, to the best of your abilities, that’s what matters the most.

Conclusion

So you can see how running, sports and the great outdoors can be physically beneficial, as well as memorable in more ways than one. Don’t worry about getting old; worry about thinking old. Regardless of age, the outdoors hold much in its promise, as it is for you, and me.

Professor Low Cheng Hock is an Emeritus Consultant for General Surgery. The 73 year old educator leads an independent and active lifestyle, and is renowned for inspiring many young medical students/professionals, like Mok Ying Ren.
Professor Low Cheng Hock is an Emeritus Consultant for General Surgery. The 73 year old educator leads an independent and active lifestyle, and is renowned for inspiring many young medical students/professionals, like Mok Ying Ren.
The article was scribed by Mok Ying Ren and Jed Senthil for Professor Low Cheng Hock.
The article was scribed by Mok Ying Ren and Jed Senthil for Professor Low Cheng Hock.

ST: Not an uphill task!

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 02 Sep 2018.

#AskMok

  1. Do we really need to do slope training? My coach wants us to do this often but I’m wondering if it might cause injuries. – Anonymous
  2. In what way is slope training beneficial? Or how can we use this to our benefit? –  Yulin

Champion of the 1972 Olympic marathon, Frank Shorter, once said,“Hills are speedwork in disguise”. Hills training was introduced to me by my training partner, Jason Lawrence, early in my running journey. Since then, we would then integrate hills into our weekly training programme without fail.

Some of the more “memorable” hills I have tackled –” in terms of the pain level – are Mount Faber, Vigilante Drive (a small slip of road off South Buona Vista Road), and just about every other corner within the National University of Singapore.

I was once told, “When you are fit, every hill is flat”. Truth be said, no hill has ever felt flat to me, not even when I had just won the 2013 SEA Games marathon. So, either I was never truly fit enough, or that statement was meant more to encourage than motivate. Regardless, hill training does greatly benefit runners. Here’s how:

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1. Increases your speed

Running on short hills between 50 to 80 meters long allows you to work on your power and speed. For this kind of workout, begin by leaning in, and then sprint up the hill at your maximum speed. You may walk back down the hill slowly until you feel ready to repeat the sprint. Repeat them for 5 to 10 times as you progress over the weeks.

Do note that this workout may be rather intensive and, to avoid muscle injury, should only be tackled after completing a thorough warm up.

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2. Enhances your form

Running on hills forces you to focus on your running form in a natural manner. When running uphill, your body’s natural response is to lean forward and run “into” the hill – it is quite impossible to run uphill with your body leaning backward. Over time, this optimal natural running form may be adopted and carry over to your regular runs on flat surfaces.

For this workout, find a hill between 100 to 200 meters long and practice running smoothly uphill with your body leaning slightly forward. Focus on running tall, while driving your knees forwards and swinging your arms. Do not worry about your speed!

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3. Builds your endurance

Hill training builds great muscular endurance in your legs and boosts your overall physical fitness levels, as you are required to work against gravity. Gradually, these improvements will become apparent in your runs on flatter routes. s.

My preferred hill to perform this type of workout would be  Mount Faber. I usually start from the bottom of the hill at Morse Road, and run all the way up to the peak of Mount Faber, before jogging back down slowly. This cycle is repeated 3 to 8 times, depending on my training stage.

Do expect to experience some soreness after each of your first few workouts! But fret not – by your 5th visit to the hill, you should not feel as much fatigue after the session.  However, do not get your hopes up (too quickly) and expect each run up the hill to feel easier within a short period of time – it took me a while and even then I still had a healthy respect (and fear) of hills! Your progression can be measured against the amount the time taken to tackle the slope or hill, all while running at the same level of intensity.

Safety Tips : Its a double-edged sword!
Despite its immense benefits, hill workouts may result in onset of injuries if not executed sensibly, most commonly strains to the muscles and tendons.

It is key to ensure adequate recovery between each hill workout session. I would strongly advise that you engage in intensive hill training only once every fortnight.

All that said, it’s evident that hill training injects variety into your training programme and causes less trauma and stress to the joints with its upward motion. Do it wisely and you will reap great benefits from the arduous workout sessions!


Week 14 Giveaway:

Running on short hills between _____ meters long allows you to work on your power and speed. 

Submit your answer to the question on #LearnWithMok and stand to win a race slot for ST Run, happening on 23 Sep 2018!

Evan during his Gold Coast Marathon in July 2018. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE / CHEW JEE KENG

ST: Master running as you age

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 26 Aug 2018

EVAN CHEE – Running for me is a sport and a journey that started in 1990. Changi Airport Terminal 2 had only started operations that year, and our East-West MRT line was just completed. That also happened to be the year I raced with my Primary 4 class 4x100m relay team, in what felt like a lifetime ago.

Fast forward 28 years later, I still put on my racing shoes and compete regularly in both local and overseas races, taking on distances which include the fabled 42.195km marathon. At this age, it is natural to ask whether one can be too old to run a marathon, or do better results await in the days (and miles) ahead? Unfortunately for those young-at-heart, existing literature and research seem to suggest the former. Seize the moment. Time and tide wait for no man, let alone an athlete. While a runner’s aerobic capacity, muscles mass, and recovery inevitably decline with age, not all is lost. At least that’s how my story would read.

Believe that it’s possible

At the age of 35, I clocked my (then) personal best marathon timing of 2:56 at the 2015 Singapore Marathon and placed 3rd in the local men’s open category. Barely 12 months ago, I lowered that mark by 14 mins to attain my current personal best record of 2:42 at the 2017 Berlin Marathon. Today, my passion for running still burns strongly as ever. Just as I am clocking faster timings across all race distances, than my legs ever did in their youth, I’m looking forward eagerly towards sub 2:40. Benjamin Button is real, as it would appear.

My sister, Yvonne Chee, similarly ran her personal best marathon (3:23) last year at the age of 37. I recall that she was visibly pregnant during the Straits Times Run 2017. Even after giving birth to my niece this year, she is becoming fitter than ever and even ran the 2018 London marathon 5 months postpartum.

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The Chee Siblings, Evan, and Yvonne. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE

Be aware of potential challenges

As we age, our muscles and tendons become more injury-prone due to accumulated wear and tear. Recognising this helped me manage the issue before it gets out of hand. I would always allow time for my body to be conditioned during the start of any training cycle before ramping up the intensity. It also helps if you can build up a strong aerobic base with 3 months of easy runs (conversational pace) under your belt. Here are some of the key training principles that have guided me along the way:

  • Progressive – Increase your weekly mileage progressively till you reach your target peak training mileage. Rule of thumb for weekly increment – about 10%. The ceiling to which you increase your mileage to will be dependant on your fitness and experience level. It will be wise to seek help from a coach if in doubt.
  • Effective – 80% of training should be easy runs. Mix in good quality speed sessions with enjoyable easy runs. You don’t have to always run hard.
  • Variety – Vary the terrain you run on and don’t stick to the same type of running surface. Adding gravel, trails, and grass to your list is good for training and also helps with fitness maintenance.
  • Consistency – Make regular running a part of your lifestyle. This is key to improving and building up fitness. Find time to run, not excuses.

As Dr. Malcolm Mahadevan had mentioned in his earlier article, an aged body is less forgiving to intensive training and therefore it is important to know your body and not overstrain it. Here are some training safety tips, especially for masters/senior runners in the box insert, by Associate Consultant of NUH Sports Centre, Dr. Wang Mingchang.

SAFETY TIPS FOR SENIOR RUNNERS

  • Undergo Pre-participation Screening

Atherosclerotic coronary artery disease is more common in older athletes, especially if there is a preexisting family history. It is recommended for older endurance athletes to undergo pre-participation cardiac screening. They are also advised to seek medical help if they develop exertional chest pains, unexplained breathlessness or fainting spells during exercise.

  • Tweak your running volume

Degeneration of articular cartilage(e.g. in the knee joint) occurs with age and is the most common cause of musculoskeletal pain and disability in senior runners. Running can still be done with adjustments in running volume depending on symptoms. By strengthening the hip and core muscles, improving running biomechanics and reducing stresses to the knee joint, physical therapy may also help to alleviate and/or address the symptoms.

  • Maintain muscle strength

Tendons, such as the Achilles’ tendon in the heel, tend to become stiffer with age and are therefore more prone to injury. Older endurance athletes are encouraged to maintain muscular strength through resistance training and flexibility routines (e.g. stretching after runs) to reduce the risk of tendon injury.
Dr. Wang Mingchang

Associate Consultant, NUH Sports Centre

Be conscious of recovery

Over the years, I have come to realize that my recovery has become slower while taking up more time and mindful attention. What has greatly benefited me is a keen knowledge of my body, and its limits, and the clockwork-like recovery sessions in my training regime. For as long as I can remember, there would always be a rest day (usually Monday) after an entire week of training. On occasions, I have also replaced training runs with cross training sessions such as cycling or core strengthening exercises when I have felt the need to afford more rest for my fatigued body. In triathlon, there’s a saying that besides swim, bike, and run, recovery is the 4th and most important discipline. Having a regular recovery maintenance regime is definitely an integral, and important, part of training. Let’s not forget – your body also needs to be ‘pampered’ regularly and this is why I make it a point to arrange for a sports massage session fortnightly.

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Evan during a training run with the Adidas Runners. Photo credits: AIK SOON / Adidas Singapore

Make time for personal commitments

As we grow and mature, our lives are hardly run single-mindedly with a child-like insistence and innocence (much as some of us would have preferred). Instead, we have come to realize, and for reasons good and bad, that there is more to our lives that exist outside of the track, like friends, family, food, and work (unfortunately). For me, I have a habit of scheduling most of my runs first thing in the morning before everyone else is awake. This way, I allow myself quality time during later parts of the day to bond and socialize with family, attend to work commitments, or simply to relax and unwind.

If this story of one (mine) is of any encouragement, there is still a light at the end of the tunnel for runners to keep chasing, whether you are 35 years old, or young! In fact, hitting the tracks and roads regularly might just help to slow down your body clock or even wind back time. Age is nothing but a number. Someone once told me that running is a game of mind over matter – if you don’t mind, then it doesn’t matter. So lace up and run on!

Evan during a training run in July 2018. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE / LIM SHU ZHEN
Evan Chee is a National Marathoner and was the 2nd Runner-up at SCSM 2018. He works as an engineering manager. The 37 year old runner has a personal best of 2:42 hrs and is managed by ONEathlete.

Week 13 Question:

“Barely 12 months ago, I lowered that mark by ___ mins to attain my current personal best record of 2:42 at the 2017 Berlin Marathon.”

Submit your answer to the question on #LearnWithMok and stand to win a race slot for ST Run, happening on 23 Sep 2018!

ST: Getting into the right kicks!

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 19 Aug 2018.

#AskMok

  1. Why does buying a suitable running shoe seem to be so hard? any tips? – Alice Lee
  2. What’s your favorite running shoes brand and model? – @wayne_wcw

Dear Alice and Wayne, thank you for the question.

Running shoes serve the primary purpose of protecting your feet while you run. Of course, with the myriad of aesthetically-pleasing shoes on the market nowadays, running shoes can also be used to make a fashion statement!

In any case, shoe selection is highly dependent on each individual, but it is not a difficult process. A shoe is comprised of a few key components and each component should play a role in your shoe selection.

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Google image on the anatomy of running shoe.

Upper

The upper of the shoe is the material which completely covers over and around your foot. With its distinct colour and design, it is probably what attracts you to a particular shoe the most.

However, pay attention to the design and mould of the upper. Many current shoe models, such as the New Balance Fuel Cell Impulse model uses a “bootie construction” fit, which caters to your foot’s curvature and gives a more snug fit. These days, uppers are also made using mesh materials which allow greater airflow. This reduces the weight of the shoe and, from a practical perspective, allows the shoe to dry faster after washing!

Midsole

The midsole of the shoe is where you will find the cushion for your foot. Different shoe brands have different cushioning materials and systems for runners to achieve different experiences while running.

For example, New Balance’s latest Fresh Foam Beacon model adopts the brand’s signature Fresh Foam cushioning technology for its midsole, providing its wearers a “soft pillow” type of cushion. In contrast, the New Balance FuelCore 5000 model features the REVlite foam for its midsole, to provide a more responsive and “fast” feel for its wearers.

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New Balance’s new line of running shoes. Photo: RunONE

Which midsole is the best? This depends on your preference.

One key feature of the midsole is the heel-to-toe drop or offset of the shoe. This refers to the difference in height between the heel and the forefoot of the shoe. Most shoes have an offset of 6mm to 1.2cm, although some go as low as 0mm to simulate running on a flat surface. Wearing a shoe with a low offset requires you to activate your calves more while wearing a shoe with a high offset encourages you to land on your heels more. Generally, shoes with a 6 to 8mm offset will suit most.

Another aspect to consider for the midsole is whether a neutral cushioned or a stability shoe would be more suitable. Stability shoes typically have some stiffer material on the inner side of the sole (usually coloured grey), which theoretically prevents overpronation (arches which collapse inwardly). However, the effectiveness of using stability shoes to address overpronation is not strongly supported by scientific evidence. If you find that such shoes help you with your injuries, stick to them. Otherwise, you may base your decision on your comfort level.

Outsole

The outsole of the shoe is the most bottom part of the shoe which makes direct contact with the ground. It is, admittedly, rather difficult to test the outsole in the store. Personally, it is important for my shoes to be able to handle slippery conditions, such as mud and wet drain covers.

You may through experience find that certain shoe brands are more slip-resistant than others. This is particularly important if you are looking for shoes which can handle trails and mud.

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Mok Ying Ren trying out New Balance’s new line of running shoes on an in-store treadmill. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE

Comfort above all

Notwithstanding the above, recent medical studies have found that when an athlete selects a shoe based on his level of comfort, it appears to naturally reduce the risk of injury. This interesting observation removes a lot of (unnecessary) stress associated with shoe selection.

My recommendation would be to purchase your shoes at a running specialty store with a treadmill for you to test your shoes on. For myself, I head down to the New Balance store at Kallang Wave Mall, where I can run and test the shoe on the treadmill. As weird as it may seem or sound, try going shopping for shoes in your running attire so that you can get on the treadmill for a test run! If it feels comfortable, then this may just be the shoe for you.

With The Straits Times Run approaching, it is my sincere advice that you do not wear any new shoes on race day – I have made this mistake before and paid the price dearly! Start wearing your new kicks now so that you would have had at least 1 month to break into them. If you need to buy a pair of new running shoes, New Balance (the Official Sportswear) offers a one-time 25% discount to purchase NB products, which you can leverage on as a participant of #STrun2018!


Week 12 Giveaway:

Mok Ying Ren goes to the NB store at ________ to try out the shoes on an in-store treadmill before buying.   

Submit your answer to the question on #LearnWithMok and stand to win a race slot for ST Run, happening on 23 Sep 2018!

ST: Running the right way

This article was first published on The Sunday Times on 12 Aug 2018

SHARON LIM – Which is better? Hindfoot or midfoot running? Anthropological and gait studies have long supported the notion of humans as efficient long-distance walkers with a hindfoot strike gait. Over the same distance, walking is more efficient and less taxing than running, calorically speaking. Forefoot running may be faster but it is not as energy-efficient and less sustainable over longer distances.

On the other hand, hindfoot running has been suggested to be injurious as it involves greater ground reaction forces. Chi running or other variations that involve midfoot strike have been associated with being more graceful, efficient and less likely to pose risks of harm or injury. However, midfoot runners are not immune to overuse running injuries like metatarsal stress fractures. Currently, there is no definitive evidence to support any footstrike as better for running.

Regardless of running style, there are a few running gait mistakes that have been commonly observed.

1. Overstriding

Overstriding occurs when your foot lands “too far” in front of your center of mass, which tends to happen when one is trying to increase running speed. Overstriding puts the gluteals and hamstrings muscles in a lengthened state on footstrike. Muscles are at their weakest when stretched to their extreme, and as a result, they become less able to absorb shock when you overstride. Overstriding can also result in heavier landing,  as well as rapid, and/or, overpronation. Heavier landings have been associated with lower limb stress fractures like shin splints and metatarsal stress fractures. Rapid and overpronation are common contributing factors in running injuries such as patellofemoral pain syndrome and iliotibial band friction syndrome.

2. Poor spinal posture

Every one of us has varying degrees of spinal curvature. The ideal posture when running would be to maintain one’s natural spinal curve in a position which that requires the least muscular effort to support. Runners with more pronounced upper back curves, or forward head postures, can result in harder work for back muscles, which can lead to backaches and discomforts.

Poor posture has also been observed in hindfoot strike runners who are trying to adopt a midfoot strike. During the transition of running styles, they often end up making the mistake of leaning too far forwards or slouching at the back or hip.

3. Insufficient/ delayed hip extension

Some runners run like they are ‘sitting’ down on stance phase. Others do not push back their legs to open up their strides enough. For some, it could be due to a flattened lower back or posteriorly rotated pelvis. For others, they might not know how to properly activate and use their gluteal muscles. While this may not directly result in injuries, runners end up wrongly compensating for the lack of gluteal strength by overstriding or excessively usage of the calf muscle.

4. Too much bounce

Some runners bounce when they run. Momentum is wasted when energy is lost through vertical displacements, and not translated into effective motion forward. It is a very inefficient way of running, although one might argue better for weight loss as it consumes more calories. It also places more impact on joints and tendons and can lead to overuse injuries like patellar and achilles tendinopathies.

5. Holding arms and trunk too rigid

Efficient running requires dampening at various joints, including pelvis, trunk, and arms. By allowing pelvic and trunk rotations/ de-rotation, as well as arm swings, vertical displacements (bouncing) can be minimized. Some run without much rotation, resulting in either excessive bouncing or overly forceful landing. Overly stiff arms and trunk can also lead to soreness and aches in these areas due to over-activation of the muscles.

6. Habits from running in other sports

Running is needed in other sports like football, hockey, rugby, and baseball. In these instances, running would be very different and require changes in techniques and postures e.g. running while bending over with a hockey stick, or increased trunkal lean when running bases. These variations are necessary for sports-specific performance and, if practiced over short bouts, do not pose any cause for concern. However, carrying over these sports-specific postures when running for prolonged periods could result in discomfort and, likely, injuries.

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Tips

Here are some tips to tweak your running pattern if you think that the way you run may be causing your injuries:

  • Increase your running cadence rather than striding out. Good runners have cadences in the higher ranges upwards of 180 cycles/min.
  • Do not overstride – Your foot should land within your centre of mass, which will fall somewhere at your hips/ pelvis.
  • Keep a straight spine, but do not overextend. Keep your shoulders relaxed and chin in line. Do not hinge forwards at the waist.
  • Go with the flow – Allow your arms and trunk to rotate and counter-rotate, but not excessively.
  • Run ‘light’ – Lighten the impact on landing.
  • Start slow and focus on the changes – When changing the way you run, give your mind and body time to adapt before picking up your speed.

An experienced runner friend or a running coach can be helpful in providing feedback on running gait. If you are still uncertain and your discomforts and pains persist, it is best to seek medical assistance from your sports physician or sports physiotherapist.

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Sharon Lim is a Sports Physiotherapist at Moving Space. She has been the Team Physiotherapist with Team Singapore for competitions and overseas training trips and specializes in rehabilitation and prevention of sports-related injuries. 

Week 11 Question:

______ is wasted, when runners bounce as they run, through vertical displacements. 

Submit your answer to the question on #LearnWithMok and stand to win a race slot for ST Run, happening on 23 Sep 2018!

ST: Outdo yourself with proper hydration!

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 05 Aug 2018.

#AskMok

  1. How often should I drink during the race? Should this be different from training? – Michelle
  2. Is there such a thing called ‘drinking too much’ during the race? I’m afraid of being bloated and I don’t drink. – Roger Ng
  1. What type of hydration do you intake every day? Do isotonic drinks really make a difference? – Charles Goh
  • Dear Michelle, Roger, and Charles thank you for the question.

    The gist to the questions is, ‘balance.’ We know that drinking too little is hazardous, but drinking too much is also equally dangerous. Thus, reaching the right balance for your body will aid in optimal performance during the race. But how do we know what are these markers? Here are some markers and some hydration tips I believe in:

    Dehydration

    It is widely accepted that dehydration affects our daily lives. It is not uncommon to experience fatigue if you forget to drink water throughout the day. Water is lost not just when we visit the toilet, but also subconsciously through breathing and perspiration.

    Similarly, dehydration has an adverse effect on performance in endurance sport and may reduce an athlete’s performance during training and racing. The effects are further exacerbated by the hot and humid climate in Singapore. There is thus, a strong emphasis on athletes in both schools and clubs to stay well-hydrated.

    Overhydration

    However, as with all things, consuming fluids in excessive amounts can cause overhydration and lead to dangerous medical conditions. One such medical condition is exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH), which arises when sodium in the blood is diluted. This, in turn, causes the sodium concentration in the body to drop to dangerously low levels.

    In a medical study involving runners who took part in the 2002 Boston marathon, it was found that 13% of the 488 sampled runners experienced EAH during the race. Runners who experience EAH typically report to the medical tents on-site for symptoms such as giddiness, headache, confusion, and, in severe cases, may even collapse or suffer seizures. Thus, the old adage of “drink as much as possible” does not always apply.

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    Mok Ying Ren during a training run at Sports Hub. 100PLUS is the official hydration partner for The Straits Times Run. (Image by: ONEATHLETE/ 100PLUS)

    1. Optimal Hydration Tips

    At the 2015 International Exercise-Associated Hyponatremia Consensus Development Conference, a panel of international experts recommended that runners use thirst as a real-time guide to monitoring hydration.

    Drinking according to thirst before, during and immediately following exercise is a safe and effective method to gauge hydration. Consuming sports drinks which contain sodium, such as 100PLUS (the official hydration partner for the Straits Times Run), may attenuate the fall in blood sodium concentrations. However, do not be mistaken as this cannot totally eliminate the risks of EAH – the volume of fluids consumed is more important than the type of fluid. So fret not, if you prefer to drink plain water instead!

    2. Behavioral Tips

    When at work in the hospital, I keep a bottle of water with me at all times to remind myself to stay hydrated. When I am in the operating theatre and am unable to drink water, I make a conscious effort to drink at least 500ml of water in between each operation. Just by doing so, I feel better in my evening runs. A good guide would be to drink a sufficient amount of water such that your urine is clear.

    During a marathon, I consume about 200ml of isotonic sports drink every 20 – 30 min during the 2.5 hours race. Slight dehydration is expected during long races and it is normal for your body weight to be reduced by up to 3%. There is no need to replenish every drop of water lost through sweat!

    3. ‘Bonus- Effect’ Tips

    A little-known bonus effect of consuming sports drinks containing sweet carbohydrates is that your sports performance may be boosted!

    An interesting study evaluated whether rinsing the mouth with a carbohydrate solution alters the performance of competitive cyclists. It was found that by merely rinsing the sweet solution in the mouth, the time-trial performance of the cyclists improved by an average of 1.1%. The hypothesis is that the brain responds to glucose in the mouth and mediates emotional and behavioral responses which are associated with rewarding stimuli. This then stimulates one to perform at a higher capacity.

    So, even if you don’t feel like consuming fluids during a race, it would still be a good idea to sip some sports drinks and swirl it in your mouth.

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    Mok Ying Ren armed with his preferred sports hydration drink during his training run at Sports Hub.  (Image by: ONEATHLETE/ 100PLUS)

    4. Practical Tips

    One should get used to consuming sports drinks before a race. I usually stick to one particular brand of sports drink that I like and use it throughout my entire training cycle and the race. This eliminates any potential surprises on race day. If you already know which drinks will be given out at the hydration booths during the race, be sure to try them out in your training runs to avoid having an upset stomach during the race.

    As a 100PLUS Ambassador myself, my preference is for the non-carbonated 100PLUS ACTIVE when I am training and running. The drink is formulated to help rehydrate and replenish electrolytes and minerals. I especially like to enjoy my drink ice-cold for a surge of refreshment during and after my run.

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    Signed up for ST run?

    You too, will be able to enjoy ice-cold 100PLUS at the various water points during The Straits Times Run. Remember to stay hydrated and drink to the point of thirst!


    Week 10 Giveaway:

    Stand a chance to win a 100 PLUS Premium Kit, consisting of a 100PLUS gym bag, 100PLUS shoe bag, and 1 Carton of 100PLUS cans, worth $60!

    Answer a simple question below and post (one of the above 3 images) on Instagram and tag @onemanagementsg ! 5 lucky winners will be chosen by Mok Ying Ren on Saturday, 11 Aug 2018.

    ST: To outlast … run in a community!

    This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 29 July 2018

    JED SENTHIL – As a runner, I was a late bloomer. In my childhood and even during my national service days, I faced a myriad of health conditions which impeded any form of structured training.

    Against Odds

    Thanks to my mentors and friends who dragged me to conquer Mount Kinabalu in 2007, as well as my first 10km at the NB Real Run 2011 and 21km race at the SAFRA AHM 2014, I was slowly and unknowingly inducted into the tightly-knit running community. I learnt what it meant to will the mind over body when I conquered my first 42km at the 2015 Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore, completing it in under 4 hours despite having suffered a rib fracture just 3 months earlier. The story gets better when an inspiring top national marathoner – a then-acquaintance, now turned buddy – encouraged me to improve as a runner.

    Over the last 8 years, even though I wasn’t fast, I signed up for multiple races to keep myself going. For the beginner runner that I was, the shiny finisher medal and catch up with my runner friends at race events, provided motivation for me. I eventually collected over 50 finisher medals that now serve as a reminder of a time characterized by resilience and perseverance. In recent years, I have discovered the strange phenomenon of like-minded runners and friends who come together as a small group/club and eventually form a community they call their own!

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    Jed running across the Helix (DNA) bridge. The DNA is akin to a strongly bonded running community functioning as a whole to serve its purpose. Photo credits: RUNONE/ CLAIRE YEE

    Running can be a lonely sport when it feels like it’s just you and the pavement. But as I look back on my years of running, the memories were rarely mine alone. I was fortunate to have enjoyed the company of friends/community who brought out different elements and perspectives of running, which made it much more enjoyable and meaningful.

    Here are my four reasons to run in a community:

    1. Establish accountability for growth

    Firstly, a running community urges you to be accountable and focused. During trying moments when you feel you are too busy with work or /school, it provides a platform to check in with one another and keep the discipline. While some might argue that such support is unnecessary, this the same can’t be said of runners who are either new to the sports or who see running as a long-term undertaking to improve and maintain fitness.

    You also have the safe space in which to grow without being impeded by undue fears of inadequacy, receiving feedback and well-intentioned advice to improve your running. It is largely relational and a practical way to spur each other on. Thus, we know that this is a sustainable approach for a runner to continuously improve and maintain fitness i.e. growth.

    2. Create memories with one another

    Secondly, a runners’ community allows each and everyone to journey together through the seasons of, training, injuries, and races. Lessons learnt and shared help members avoid repeating the growing pains unnecessarily. Your friends will also be the ones who constantly help you discover and rediscover your aptitude for running, by being your encouraging pillar of support or challenging motivation. As you build on each other’s experiences through the highs and lows, it creates a tapestry of memories that enrich and elevate the running experience.

    Jed running at The Straits Times Run 2017

    3. Learn to look out for others

    Within the communities, I have been a part of, everyone looks out for one another, and often will go the extra mile to ensure that everyone is taken care of. Sometimes, it could be as simple as buying additional hydration bottles for the other runners or picking each other up during the wee hours of the morning to go for a training run or race. These seemingly small acts of kindness and expression of care for one another form the scaffold upon which the community develops and flourishes.

    4. Serve others beyond running

    Last but not least, being in a group helps to redirect and drive the group’s purpose outwards, towards the community and the people around us. Recently, I got to know a group of runners who come together to run every Saturday. Eventually, they start asking themselves what more they could do with their time and love of being active and outdoors.

    This sparked their volunteering (to assist children with cancer) after their training sessions. They were able to look beyond their group’s needs and serve the needs of another community, through simple acts of planning games that helped these ill children be more active. One of them mentioned that Saturdays were “deeply satisfying” as a result.

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    Communities in Singapore

    In Singapore today, there are more than 430 running groups on record. These running groups might share different commonalities, such as an anchor sports brand sponsor,  proximity to work/home, similar backgrounds and ethnic/national identities, or even have their unity underpinned by common causes or values. While every group is likely to identify with its own sense of purpose and motivation, a unifying theme that binds them all together is their love for running itself.

    Running can do a great deal for oneself. Running in a community can bring that benefit to the next level and be a powerful force that drives social good. Driven by this belief, #RunONE hopes to unify and mobilize the various running groups as a whole community that strives towards fitness and social good.

    Running a race also strikes a parallel with journeying towards attaining our goals in life. The next time you gear up for a run, remember that you are running as one with your community! Both in life as well as your race!

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    Jed Senthil is a former civil servant who serves professionally in community work and social enterprise sectors. The avid runner and youth advocate is also the co-founder of the RunONE running community.

    # LEARN WITH MOK

    Week 9 Question:

    How did the runner who volunteered every Saturday with the children with cancer, describe the experience? 

    Submit your answer to the question on #LearnWithMok and stand to win a race slot for ST Run, happening on 23 Sep 2018!

    ST: Why runners run … away

    This article was first published on the Sunday Times on 22 July 2018

    BEN MOREAU – Racing abroad is both inevitable, and invaluable, for an elite runner – you aspire to compete in international championships and, once there, let your best performance shine through and take center stage.

    For serious recreational runners, these overseas races represent opportunities to seek out races that will (hopefully) have the right conditions, at the right point of a training cycle, and the right company of runners looking to achieve a similar goal.

    Whatever your level of athleticism, you can learn a lot from racing in other countries and the experience gained will come in extremely handy in making you a better athlete by enhancing your race-day experience and confidence.

    While penning this article, I decided to ‘interview’ my fellow ONEathlete(s) and three of Singapore’s fastest marathoners, to understand their perspectives (from a local viewpoint) on overseas races. Throughout my running career, I’ve also been extremely fortunate to have raced in over 20 countries across almost every continent. These experiences and perspectives have helped shape and frame my sharing below.  

    Strengthens mental capabilities

    First and foremost, you will gain huge psychological flexibility and resilience in terms of race preparation when you race abroad. Different countries have different approaches towards race organization, which then affects how athletes prepare themselves leading up to race day.

    Indeed, things will be different to what you are used to in a local race, especially in the final 24-48 hours before the start. Even seemingly innocuous details can throw you off your game – the race start time, how you get to the start, the drinks out on the course. What I came to realize was also how I was overly concerned with every single detail of my pre-race routine and there were just a few things that I had to focus on to get it right.

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    Ashley Liew, who had just completed his 5th Gold Coast Marathon

    National marathoner, Ashley Liew, who had just completed his 5th Gold Coast Marathon, agrees that “overseas runs take you out of your comfort zone and forces you to adapt to different climates and environments. This challenge is essential as part of any runner’s development and is what you should be striving for besides lowering your personal best”. Going through this ‘rites of passage’ also gives you the confidence to get the best out of yourself even when conditions change – hugely valuable in any race when events don’t pan out the way you expect, as they inevitably will.

    Improves race tactics

    After 2 decades of racing overseas, I also learned that my ‘racing brain’ and performance has improved. Learning to deal with the different racing conditions and race tactics can help make you a better, and more versatile, runner. Be it the Japanese races that only have 500 runners  who go out at breakneck pace, Sydney’s City to Surf with the incredible crowd atmosphere, or the physical challenge of the deep mud in an English cross-country race, what these races offer are opportunities for you to discover and learn  about yourself as an athlete – knowledge that will be greatly helpful for you in future races. I find that while runners train regularly and frequently, they often race less than they should, and that is why many often begrudge that they didn’t get the best out of themselves on race day.

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    Evan Chee raised at Bangkok Midnight Marathon and Berlin Marathon in 2017 to reduce his personal best times!

    Having finished 3rd at Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2017, and as top Asian at Bangkok Midnight Marathon 2017, Evan Chee looked back at the races he’s participated in overseas, and felt that the myriad of race experience, along with the opportunity to run with world-class professional athletes, has sharpened his technical ability to race tactically, and broadened his mind as to what his body is capable of.

    “I got carried away and went out too hard” or “I didn’t know how the hills would affect me” are common post-race complaints. Races abroad can throw up ‘curveballs’ situations that can, and will, help you discover yourself and your limits. Eventually, this knowledge will go a long way in guiding you to avoid ‘beginner’ mistakes and make better decisions in future races.

    Offers unique experiences

    As far as possible, you should also ensure the race fits into your training schedule  – it could be the pinnacle of a training program, or perhaps a stepping stone to something bigger. Whichever the case, make sure the distance and race conditions fit into your training needs and experiences you sought for.

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    Mok Ying Ren running on Davidson Mesa, Colorado, USA

    Two-time SEA Games Gold medalist and winner of Christchurch Marathon 2011, Mok Ying Ren, had this to add: ‘it is important to be well informed about race details, such as being familiar with race route, terrain, and conditions, so as to maximize overseas race experience. You wouldn’t want to be forced to drop out of the race due to poor preparation, and waste your efforts, as well as race and travel fees!”

    Depending on your race objectives, Mok recommends a fast and flat course (such as the Gold Coast Marathon) if your aim is to lower your personal best or choose one of the 6 World Marathon Majors if the allure of its exclusivity appeals to you. For young families looking for both fun and run, look for events such as the Walt Disney World Marathon.

    Pick a race in a country that you’ve always wanted to visit, and use the opportunity to immerse in a new culture, experience the countryside, or meet new people.

    Sharpens foresight and planning

    Knowing that you can gain a lot from the experience, the next logical question is how you can prepare for a race abroad if you haven’t done many (or any!).

    For starters, I would suggest you modify your training and preparation to mimic race-day conditions as far as possible. Otherwise, try switching up your usual training routine by adding in new elements – different routes, run at different times of the day, or start faster than normal. This will afford you the confidence to perform even when conditions are out-of-the-norm for you. That said, I will advise runners who are preparing for an overseas race to stick to snacks and drinks that they are used to – the last thing anyone wants is the last minute dietary issue before a much-awaited overseas race!

    While it’s not always possible to personally check out the course before race day, you can search out this information on blogs and forums. Leverage on lessons gleaned from others’ mistakes to avoid having to go through the learning pains yourself. For me, I will always try and recee the hardest parts of the course, the likely race-day weather conditions, how well organized the race is as well as any tips for race kit.

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    Ben Moreau running the Sydney Blackmores Marathon when he was based in Australia. He has run in more than 20 countries. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE / MOREAU

    Presents a memorable opportunity to relax

    As a parting note, I would strongly encourage you to just go out there and enjoy the experience! I have so many fond memories of races abroad that I wouldn’t trade for anything – running through mills in Milan, around golf courses in Algeria, or up and down mountains in Hong Kong. When you run anywhere for the first time, it is normal to feel the nerves – but, try and remember that feeling because when you look back it will be a memorable experience for times’ sake. This isn’t always easy to do when racing overseas but I will strongly encourage you to give it a try!

    Please also ensure you recover well afterward. Often the nerves and stresses of traveling can be more draining than you realize and it’s very common to feel lethargic or even under the weather for up to a week after an overseas “race-cation” – ease back into training slowly. If you can work this recovery for a few days to slowly enjoy your overseas travel by being a tourist  – all the better!

    Ben Moreau IMG_2455
    Ben Moreau is a Commonwealth Games athlete from England, and has raced in more than 20 countries. His marathon personal best is 2:15:52 (2013 Fukuoka, Japan), and is managed by ONEathlete. He is currently the Innovation Director of an MNC based in Singapore.

    ST: Music to the ears!

    This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 15 July 2018.

    #AskMok

    1. I am used to jogging while listening to music. Is this advisable? – Eunice Lai
    2. Is it safe to listen to music while running? – Ernest 
    3. What’s your favorite playlist when you’re running? – Sheryl

    Hi Eunice, Ernest and Sheryl, thank you for your question. The short answer to Eunice’s question is: yes, music has a profound effect on many aspects of our lives – including running!

    But, of course, your selection of the type of music matters, depending on what you wish to achieve for your workout.

    Technique Correction

    Music can be used to correct your running technique – when listening to music during activity, our bodies naturally undergo an “auditory-motor synchronization”. This means that the tempo of our movements (in running terms, our cadence) is adjusted to match the tempo of the music.

    Cadence is a key technical component in running and refers to the number of steps one takes per minute. Runners who run with an extremely low cadence may be over-striding (taking too large steps), which puts them at an increased risk of injury. Most coaches recommend a running cadence of 170 – 180 steps per minute.

    Without audio cues, it may be challenging to increase one’s cadence and maintain such a high step rate, especially if one is running alone. The acoustic stimuli act as an audio cue for our bodies to synchronize our movements with the music tempo. This enables one to consistently correct one’s running cadence in an almost natural manner. Try running off beat and see how frustrated you will get!

    Once you have corrected your running cadence, you can then move on to using the music of different tempi to achieve low-, medium-, and high-intensity training.

    Performance Enhancement

    Music is often said to be a performance enhancer in endurance sports. It improves physical performance by either delaying fatigue or increasing work capacity.  

    Numerous research has been done to study the effect of music on runners’ and triathletes’ performances. The result? Listening to motivational music during activity can delay the onset of exhaustion by almost 20%! The positive effect of music on running had already been recognized in the 1990s by the great Haile Gebreselassie. He credited the “Scatman” song for his world records in the 10,000m (track), and even revealed in an interview with The Guardian, “If you watch back some of my world records you can hear Scatman in the background. The rhythm was perfect for running.”

    To enhance your physical performance, listen to music with strong, energizing rhythms and uplifting melodies and harmonies. Of course, the rhythm of the music should match your movement patterns, depending on the intensity of your desired activity.

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    For Mok Ying Ren who run-commutes along noisy high-traffic routes, listening to music and audiobooks on his noise-canceling headphones helps him to focus and enjoy the run. (Image by ONEATHLETE)

    Racing

    For safety reasons, race organizers generally discourage participants from listening to music during a race. There is great concern that participants who are listening to music may not be able to hear instructions from the race officials and other runners on the race course.

    The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) considers the use of audio devices as external assistance. Elite runners who are competing for top prizes are therefore prohibited from using any form of the audio device during their race. However, it is common for race organizers to exercise their discretion to exempt non-elite runners from this rule.

    Relaxation

    If you are looking to relax during your run after a long day at work, listening to your favorite tunes while running will help you to achieve that.

    Personally, in addition to my favorite songs playlist, I also listen to audiobooks of different genres while running. I was inspired to do this by my gastroenterologist colleague from the National University Hospital, Dr. Low How Cheng, who listens to book after book on his regular runs. After all, what better way than to kill two birds with one stone?

    Moreover, my current wireless earbuds, (runONE editor’s note: the SONY WF-SP700N), carry secure fit and noise-canceling capabilities which I have found to enhance my listening experience while I listen to audiobooks during my commute (running along roads with heavy traffic) en route home. It can also boost ambient noise, helping with situational awareness when required, such as when crossing roads and manoeuvering through areas of high human traffic. In that sense, you can utilize the latest audio technologies, to focus, to relax and enhance your running experience.  

    All in all, music is a great tool for training. Select your music (and your earpieces) wisely and it can help you to achieve your running objectives. Being on the right ‘track’ has a different meaning now!


    Signed up for ST run?

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    Join us on the 21st July 2pm @ Suntec City, Room 405, Stage area!
    Click HERE for more info!

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