ST: Reflections of a runner’s wife

Featured image (above): Mok Ying Ren and Belinda during their marathon-themed wedding gatecrash. Photo credits: RUNONE

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 11 November 2018

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Part 1: Reflections of a runner’s wife

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She says …

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BELINDA MOK – Over the past 5 years that we have been together, friends have often asked me what it’s like being in a relationship with a competitive marathon runner, especially when I initially didn’t even enjoy running. The truth is that I didn’t think much about what I was getting myself into! That may be why it felt, occasionally,  that the relationship required quite some effort to work (which we did!). But looking back, it has also been such a fulfilling and enjoyable journey as we grow and learn to support one another.

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When we first got together, Mok was training to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. He was so committed and focused that we would have to plan our dates around his training and work needs. Because he was training after work every day, it also meant we didn’t get to meet up much. This was also a rocky period for our relationship as we had to navigate our different interests and expectations in this relationship. For example, we hardly shopped together as he wanted to save his legs for training. Saturday night dates were also often an early affair as he would have to do a long run the next morning.

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Thankfully, with the experience from previous disagreement and advice from our friends and mentors, we now have something which works for us.

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Things would appear to be comparably worse now. Mok is doing his Orthopaedic Surgery residency, which is stressful enough as it comes with exams and overnight shifts. Add in daily training and other running commitments and there is even less “couple time” as his schedule perpetually packed!

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As my way of showing him support, I would watch his training sessions, which led to me deciding to join him on his runs. I also started cycling and rollerblading during his long runs at East Coast Park. As I got better, I started to enjoy running more and now we actually go for runs together! Also, the more I run the more I am impressed by what  Mok puts himself through every day. As a physiotherapist in a restructured hospital, I know how hard it is to drag yourself out of bed to run before/after a busy hospital shift, but Mok still does it anyway. He has the uncanny ability to be very focused and determined on the task at hand, be it running or at the hospital. While this was initially a point of contention for me, it is now something that I really admire about him, and that makes our relationship even stronger!

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He says …

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MOK YING REN – The biggest lesson I have learned after being married is how selfish our pursuit for excellence can be. For many years, I was so focused on challenging limits and breaking barriers on the track (and road) that I  left everything on the sidelines. It was like a game that can never end. But I have come to realize that excellence in any field, when achieved at the expense of loved ones, will invariably by a sense of emptiness in our hearts.

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Success in any form will never be able to fill this void. As I learned and recognized the sacrifices Belinda had to make, I found myself trying to prioritize her needs in my decision making. While some might think that this may cause my performance to suffer, on the contrary,  this has allowed me to do better, both at work and running. It’s interesting how things actually work contrary to what we have been conditioned by society to expect and it’s worthwhile for all to spend some time to ponder on what the purpose of life and marriage is.

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Part 2: Her tips to make a running marriage work!

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1. Be open to new experiences

I used to be someone who disliked running – I found it too hot and dirty. However, as I accompanied Mok to his training sessions and running clinics, I met so many passionate runners that I decided to join in too! As I got better, I also started to enjoy it and finally understand Mok’s passion for running!

Taking part in run events also gives you a chance to make new friends. Unlike other more specialized sports, anyone can walk/ jog/ run and runners come from all walks of life so you will easily meet people outside your social circle.

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2. Be flexible

We have had to change our plans countless times because of Mok’s schedule. Sometimes he might be asked to go into work early at the last minute and not have time to run in the morning – we will then have to cancel our dinner plans so that he can run in the evening. As a supporter, I try to be flexible to support him in meeting his training needs.

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3. Be running together (couple time)

Our running standards are vastly different, but we still try to go for a run together fortnightly. We plan it such that he does his easy runs when I’m doing my hard runs. It works for us both as I have Mok who can push me while he also has me to avoid overdoing his easy runs too quickly.

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4. Be encouraging

Being an athlete is tough;  sometimes they may have a bad training session or an injury to deal with. They may try to not talk about it but they will definitely be feeling down, so try to empathize and encourage them to continue with their rehab.

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5. Be positive

Instead of grumbling about losing your precious morning sleep because of a run, see it as a healthy lifestyle change that you’re making. For me, I like that we can get so much done before noon. In fact, Mok usually starts and finishes his long runs so early (because it would be too hot otherwise) that we usually end up beating the weekend brunch crowds!

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Mrs. Belinda Mok is the wife of high-achiever, National Marathoner and Surgeon, Mok Ying Ren. She wears different hats, as his biggest supporter, meticulous events organizer and physiotherapist at a restructured hospital. She has grown into an avid runner herself. 

ST: Every drop counts!

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 04 Nov 2018.

#AskMok

  1.  Can runners donate blood? Will it affect my performance? – Anonymous
  2.  How long will i take to completely recover and run again, if i had donated blood? – Anonymous

MOK YING REN – Every hour, the hospitals in Singapore require 14 units of blood to save lives (one unit is equivalent to about 450ml). As a surgeon-in-training, I have seen how easily blood is lost – patients bleeding from wounds, in their internal organs, and even through long and complicated surgeries. Unfortunately, the national blood supply is not as easily replenished.

Why is blood so important?

Purpose of Blood

Blood delivers oxygen from our lungs to all other parts of our bodies. Our red blood cells contain a key protein – haemoglobin (Hb). Oxygen cells in our lungs bind to Hb in red blood cells, and are transported to body cells for metabolism.

During metabolism, oxygen reacts with glucose and other chemicals obtained from food to produce energy. This also helps cells to grow and reproduce, and stay healthy.

Carbon dioxide produced during metabolism is then carried back to our lungs by blood, where it is exhaled.

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Mok Ying Ren encourages everyone including runners to donate blood, as its not necessarily a barrier to their running performances. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE

Impact of Blood Donation

Our body holds about 5 litres of blood. For every blood donation, 1 unit (or 450ml) of blood is withdrawn.

According to a 2016 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Blood Transfusion, the Hb concentration in our bodies is reduced by 7% after making a blood donation. The Hb concentration in our bodies then gradually returns to normal over the next 2 weeks.

This is expected, but how exactly does this impact your performance as a runner?

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Mok Ying Ren trying to smile for the photos amidst the process. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE

Effect of Blood Donation on Performance

A reduced Hb concentration will result in lower oxygen carrying capacity. There is no doubt that your running prowess will be affected.

In 1995, a study published in the American Heart Journal evaluated 10 male cyclists before and after donating blood to test the effect of blood donations on exercise performance. Results showed a decrease in the maximal performance of all the cyclists for at least a week.

More recently, in 2016, a randomised controlled trial published in the Sports Medicine Journal found that maximal power output, peak oxygen consumption and Hb mass all decreased for up to 4 weeks after making the blood donation.

Interestingly, both studies found that the submaximal performance of their test subjects was not affected. Therefore if you are a recreational athlete exercising at submaximal intensity, you should not have any negative experiences other than a higher than usual heart rate.

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Mok Ying Ren still looking fresh towards the end of the 60min process. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE

 


Recovering from a Blood Donation

To recover faster after a blood donation, you may consider taking iron supplements.

A randomised controlled trial was conducted to investigate the effectiveness of iron supplements post-blood donation. The results were published in the highly-regarded Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2015 – it was found that with iron supplementation, Hb recovery time was halved from a mean of 78 days to 31 days.

More drastically, for people who usually have low iron levels, their Hb recovery time dropped from a mean of 158 days to just 32 days!

Making a Blood Donation

As you can see, your running performance is not necessarily a barrier to donating blood.

If you are a competitive runner aspiring to set personal records, I would still encourage you to make a blood donation. You can plan your blood donation based on your running calendar. For example, you can do it right after a major marathon, as you would need down-time to recover from your race anyway! Once you are physically ready to get back into training, your Hb levels should be ready too!

However, if you any reservations about blood donation, an alternative would be to make a plasma donation, which will not affect your Hb levels at all.

You can run and donate blood. Let’s give our precious blood to someone who may need it for survival today.

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You can make a blood donation at any of the 4 blood banks or at a community blood donation drive near you! Click HERE to find out more! (Photo credits: Redcross Website)

ST: Taking a (sick) break from running

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 28 October 2018

DR WANG MINGCHANG – You’ve meticulously drawn up a weekly training plan in the lead-up to your race, diligently following it and clocking the mileage. The weekend’s long run is coming as you near the end of the work week. But alas, your plans are blighted when you wake up with your throat feeling like sandpaper and your nose leaky as a tap. Undeterred, you carry on with your scheduled run, dismissing your symptoms as minor.

Should one continue exercising when one is ill?

The neck check

A neck check is a quick way to determine if you should continue to train/run when unwell. If your symptoms are above the neck, e.g. teary eyes, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or a mild cough, then it is probably okay to continue. However, if your symptoms occur below the neck, e.g. fever, chills, body aches, malaise, chest congestion, nausea/vomiting or diarrhea, then I would strongly encourage you to give your body a much-needed rest.

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Dr. Wang Mingchang advises that, depending on one’s symptoms, one can continue light running even on sick days. Photo credits: RUNONE

Running with a cold

Exercise may be beneficial when one is suffering from an upper respiratory tract infection, commonly known as the common cold. Symptoms include a runny or congested nose. Adrenaline, a hormone released during exercise, is a natural decongestant and helps in relieving nasal congestion as well as the widening of our airways. Research suggests that heart and lung functions (and hence exercise tolerance) do not appear to be altered by an upper respiratory tract infection. This means that the common cold will not affect your ability to run at your usual intensity. If you’re running in a group, do be mindful that sneezing or coughing in close proximity to others can lead to their not remaining your friends for long.

Running a fever? Do not run

Exercising with a fever is dangerous. Exercise further raises one’s body temperature and heart rate, which are likely already elevated, to begin with when one is having a fever. Our heart rate increases by about 10 beats per minute for every 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature. Running whilst febrile can result in excessively fast heart rates. Viruses are a common cause of fever and side effects may include inflammation of heart muscle. This inflammation, coupled with a fast heart rate,  presents much more stress and strain to the heart than the intensity of exercise would suggest. Ultimately, this can precipitate abnormal heart rhythms and, in severe cases, even result in sudden cardiac arrest and/or death.

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Photo credits: RUNONE

Protecting your immune system

It has been well-established that regular exercise can boost one’s immunity. On the other hand, too much exercise can have the opposite effect. Prolonged high-intensity endurance exercise (e.g. running a half or full marathon) can cause one’s immunity to be weakened for up to 72 hours. The cause is not clear but one plausible reason could be the excessive free radicals and stress hormones produced during intense exercise which can suppress one’s immune system.

If you find yourself frequently falling ill on the days after an intense training, it may be helpful to take in more foods that are rich in antioxidants, such as green tea, dark chocolate, blueberries, strawberries and beetroot as part of your recovery diet, to give your immune system a boost.

Sufficient rest and sleep are also needed for a healthy immune system. Depending on how fatigued you feel, it is prudent to always listen to your body and schedule a rest day or two after a session of hard running.

Dr Wang Mingchang
Dr Wang Mingchang is a Sports Medicine Associate Consultant with the NUH Sports Centre. He has completed around 10 full marathons and continues to train for distance running. 

ST: Journeying through pain and injuries

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 21 Oct 2018.

#AskMok

  1. I have adjusted my running style and pronation. But recently I suffered pain on my calves and achilles. Is there a better way to run? – Rahul
  2. I have been trying to get back to running like before, but it’s difficult with the muscle loss. Do you have any tips for me? – Ernest
  3. I experience pain in my joints and think I cannot run. What is your advice for me to pick up running? – Malik Mehmood

MOK YING REN – In a time before I was born, the results from the 1984 Bern Grand-Prix study showed that 45.8% of 4358 runners sustained injuries over a 1-year period. Fast forward to 2014, the trend and figure remain the same, if not worse. It was published in the British Journal of Medicine then that up to (shockingly) 79.3% of runners sustained injuries within the year!

Given scientific and technological advances, why are we runners still in so much misery?

Let’s take a look at a few possible culprits.

 

Training Intensity and Volume

 

The abovementioned studies found that high weekly running volume was the biggest risk factor for injuries in running. This seems to suggest that the more you run, the higher the risk of injury. While this sounds rather intuitive, it cannot be the blanket truth – otherwise, Kenyan runners who typically run more than 200km a week would be on crutches by now!

There may be certain factors which are not accounted for, or attributed sufficiently, in scientific studies. Factors such as how one progresses into high training/running volume and the intensity of runs at such high running volume are almost impossible to measure in a consistent and objective manner.

The chase for results is also a strong, but not necessarily good, driving force – we all want to improve (quickly) but often is the case when more haste makes less speed. There may be periods in your training phase in when you will feel strong and seemingly insurmountable. It is easy then to cave in and push yourself a lot harder than planned.

I am also guilty of this, having run 2 marathons in a month in 2011, which resulted in me suffering from plantar fasciitis in both feet.

A coach once told me, “Discipline is not just in doing the training, but also in not training in order to recover.” The solution, though easier said than done, is to follow a reasonable training plan, seek help from a coach and, most of all, listen to your body.

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Weakness and Imbalance in Muscles

 

Weakness and imbalance in muscles have long been identified as a potential source of injuries in running. Studies have shown that runners who suffer from anterior knee pain appear to have weaker gluteus medius muscles.

However, this issue is made further complicated by the difficulty in determining whether the weakness and imbalance in the muscles are the cause or result of an injury. If you are already suffering from an injury, some of your muscles may be inhibited and appear “weak” during physical testing, even if it’s not directly related to or caused by such injury.

In such situations, you should consult an experienced therapist to guide you in your recovery. You may also wish to engage in pre-rehabilitation (as a preventive measure) to identify and work on your areas of weakness before the onset of any injury.

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Running Gait

 

Whether the technique of your running can cause injuries is controversial.

One school of thought is that if a proper running gait is adhered to, injuries can be eliminated or, at least, reduced. The other school of thought is that the gait should be adjusted to suit the runner’s body structure and configuration – in other words, there is no absolutely “correct” gait. Proponents of the latter would argue that no two elite runners run alike.

My personal belief is that there is possibly an “ideal” running form to adhere to, subject to variations within certain limits. If you are injured or keen to improve on your performance, it may be beneficial to have your gait analyzed by an experienced therapist. If there are any glaring abnormalities, such as overstriding, these should be adjusted. Moreover, some gait abnormalities may also be a result of weakness and imbalance in muscles, again demonstrating the interconnectedness of these factors.

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Others

 

Many medical and healthcare professionals have also suggested other risk factors, such as over-pronation, weak core muscles, imbalances in the spine, shoe types, and tight fascia. Due to the complexity of the human body, even with vast medical and technological capabilities available, it is incredibly difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for a particular injury.

Thus, your journey through pain and injury is likely to be one of humility and self-discovery.

 


Watch the video below for some tips from Mok Ying Ren on how you can prepare to prevent injuries/pains. But if you do, you could do with some support from 3M Futuro products!

Also, trackback on Singapore’s first Male Marathon Gold’s journey here:

ST: Shredding my weight to go the distance!

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 14 October 2018

BANJAMIN QUEK – When I was a primary school student, life was good – sedentary, and revolving around gaming and 3am suppers. Looking back, I was 68kg, 170cm, and neither very proud nor concerned about how my appearance. I was also encouraged, and offered, to eat more during meal times because that was how a traditional Asian family showed care and concern.

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Banjamin Quek in his younger days. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE / BANJAMIN QUEK

The turning point came when I was 13 years old and had just entered Secondary 1. I was deemed unfit (figuratively and literally) for my CCA (NCC Land) and that was my first real setback as a result of how I looked. I was sidelined during team games because no one wanted a player who couldn’t pull their weight. Needless to say, I did not have much success with relationships because of my ‘chubby’ appearance.

As a result, I became really upset because I felt unfairly judged based on superficial qualities. That got me started to read up more on food and nutrition and I realized how consuming food high in fats presents higher risks to our health and mortality.

Thus started my decision and journey to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle so that I would be able to fit into social circles and feel less inferior about myself.

DEVELOPING GOOD HABITS

I decided to pay more attention to my diet. No more 3AM suppers, less fried food,  and I opted for more vegetables and lean meat instead. The obvious choice was to cut down on sugary drinks which I had loved – each can of Coca-Cola contains 10.6 grams of sugar.I replaced soft drinks with low-calorie soft drinks, or juices, which are healthier alternatives.

My meals began to comprise more carbohydrates (rice) since I was beginning to exercise more and needed the glucose to perform, and more dietary fiber, such as vegetables and fruits. Not only does eating more vegetables and fruits help facilitate bowel movement, but it also gives the immune system a much-needed boost. I would try to have 2 servings of vegetables and 1 serving of fruits at every meal. Instead of deep-frying meat, I would choose to steam or broil it.

Besides all this, I tried not to eat past 10pm. Our body’s digestion process slows down as sleep time approaches. (Not) having supper played a big part in my weight control.

I started to have better quality sleep too because I learned that inadequate sleep upsets the balance of hunger hormones such as leptin and ghrelin. Sleep deficiency increases the production of ghrelin, which stimulates appetite.

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For Banjamin Quek, running is synonymous for overcoming the challenges in life. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE

CHOOSING TO RUN

I chose to lose weight through running, mainly because it allowed me immense freedom – rain or shine, fast or slow. Ironically, I used to hate running a lot because I never felt suited for it. My auntie would drag me along when she goes for a jog and I would find all sorts of excuses, just not the time.

It certainly took a lot of discipline to get started in running. In my sleeping shorts, white tee and my father’s oversized running shoes, I looked the part of a struggling runner barely able to complete 2.4km. However, as time went by, I was able to progress on to longer distances and with increasing ease. The key to running is consistency and to be willing to put in the hard work every day. The more you run, the better you get and it is really that simple.

Of course, it was (is) never easy to run every single day. In order to cope with the monotonous repetition in this endurance sport, setting the right mentality is important as well. Running is supposed to be enjoyable and I remind myself of this all the time. On days when I was tired, I would run at an easier pace or explore a new route. Setting milestones along the way also helped keep my motivation up. I was proud to check off the little boxes as I progressed from 2.4km to 10km, and beyond.

I would go on to represent Victoria Junior College and the National University of Singapore in competitive Cross-Country.

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Photo credits: ONEATHLETE

TRANSFORMED LIFE

Over the years, at different phases of my life, my purpose in running changed.

When I started, it was about keeping fit and losing weight. Coupled with the change in diet and lifestyle, I lost 10kg within a year and had become visibly more toned. It bolstered my self-esteem now that I was running further and faster than before. My 2.4km timing improved from 13 minutes in Secondary 1 to 8 minutes before I graduated from NUS.

In junior college, running helped to clear my mind when I was preparing for my ‘A’ level examinations. Since Victoria Junior College sits right next to East Coast Park, I would go for a run whenever I felt overwhelmed studying. The running break allowed me to focus better and be more productive when I hit the books again.

During my NS days, I used to stay in a 13-men bunk. It was hard to have time to myself but running around the camp gave me the opportunity for a few cherished, quiet moments.

Later, I joined the varsity team with the National University of Singapore. Running at a higher level of competition forced me to manage my time efficiently amidst a hectic academic schedule. It also taught me to persevere when the going gets tough and to have the discipline to stay the course to reach my goals. It was challenging to train during my undergraduate days. I would feel sore the morning after an evening workout, attend classes, train again in the evening and revise at night. I have had to turn down social gatherings and friends because I was simply too tired. Most of my peers stopped running after a year or two but I am glad that I didn’t, even though the temptation to do so was strong at times.

Besides this, running also taught me to keep going in the face of failure. There were moments when I thought I was on the verge of breaking down because of the overwhelming study load. However, every satisfying workout I have had on the track was a poignant reminder that I am more capable than I think I am. It gave me the courage and strength to deal with my doubts and insecurity.

In 2018, I decided to take a gap year to pursue my dream of running in Kenya and work towards realizing my long-held aspiration of becoming one of Singapore’s top distance runner. I hope that through my running journey, I will be able to inspire and motivate others to dare to dream and dare to chase after their dreams too.

Banjamin Quek is a mid-distance athlete with a 21.1km timing of 1:16:23. The NUS graduate is currently tutoring part-time to train full-time. The Under Armour Athlete will be competing in SCSM 2018. He is managed by ONEathlete.
Banjamin Quek is a mid-distance athlete with a 21.1km personal best timing of 1:16:23. The NUS graduate is currently tutoring part-time to train full-time. The Under Armour Athlete will be competing in SCSM 2018. He is managed by ONEathlete.
Despite a tight schedule with residency programme and marathon training, Mok Ying Ren tries to sleep at least 6-8 hours a day so that he can recover sufficiently, stay alert and compliment the training. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE

ST: Sleeping right!

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 7 Oct 2018.

#AskMok

  1. I have to juggle work and training. I try to sleep as little as possible to put in the training hours. Is this wise? How much should i sleep? – Ryan Dexter
  2. Does pre-sleeping routines really help me get better sleep? – Cindy Kuzima
  3. As the races usually start about 4am, is it okay if i run without sleeping the night before? – Anonymous

MOK YING REN – Sleep is a key aspect of recovery, although often overlooked and undervalued. It is never advertised as the “latest”, “coolest” or “best” recovery tool on the market.

But everyone still knows that sleep is essential to recovery. I am sure many of you at least feel it intuitively – when you are fatigued, every task would seem to require more effort than usual to complete.



Importance of Sleep


Sleep energizes us, but how it does so is still much of a mystery. All we know is that a myriad of hormones, such as prolactin, oxytocin, oelatonin, and growth hormones, are produced at perfectly- timed junctures throughout our sleep cycle. This then stimulates a flurry of chemical activity in our cells to repair our cells and restore our energy.

It is this wonder of the human body that allows you to wake up from a good night’s sleep feeling satisfied and rejuvenated.



Chronic Lack of Sleep


It is hardly unexpected then that a chronic lack of sleep will have negative effects on our bodies. Besides experiencing a perpetual sense of fatigue, your usual bodily functions and abilities may also be compromised.

A study was carried out on soldiers who underwent a 5-day combat course, clocking less than 4 hours of sleep each day. At the end of the course, the soldiers recorded a 14% drop in their oxygen consumption rate and an 8% decline in their anaerobic power.

The study also propounded that these adverse effects could be negated by a higher energy intake. However, to adopt this unequivocally would require us to consume more as we sleep less – not at all an ideal or practical solution given the likelihood of us putting on weight (unnecessarily)!

For runners, another pertinent issue would be that of injuries.

In a separate study conducted on adolescent athletes averaging 15 years old, it was found that those who slept for an average of fewer than 8 hours per night were 1.7 times more likely to suffer from an injury than those who had at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Although limited as a cross-sectional study, the results of this study clue us in on the profound impact of sleep on the body’s ability to recover from training stresses.

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Despite a tight schedule with residency programme and marathon training, Mok Ying Ren tries to sleep at least 6-8 hours a day so that he can recover sufficiently, stay alert and compliment the training. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE


Improving Your Sleep


Sleep hygiene is instrumental in creating an ideal environment for sleep.

Your room should be dark, cooling and low in ambient noises. If you are a light sleeper, consider using ear plugs and eye masks to help you get into the “zone”. It is also wise to avoid alcohol or caffeine too close to your bedtime, to avoid excessive stimulants which may keep you awake.

I also try to hydrate myself well 2 hours before bedtime, so that I have sufficient time to empty my bladder before sleeping and avoid having my sleep disrupted due to nature’s call.

Back when I was still training professionally, I would even go so far as to incorporate a 30-min pre-sleep routine. This routine included reading a book quietly and having a warm glass of milk to prime my body for sleep. Admittedly, it is a challenge to keep up this routine, especially as a working adult, and I hardly do so now.



Sleep Before a Race


It is common to experience difficulty in sleeping the night before a race – I am not immune to this either.

It may, however, be of some comfort to you that any lack of sleep the night before your race is unlikely to jeopardize your race performance. Experiments have found that swimmers responded well even with a single night of partial sleep deprivation (2.5 hours). For runners, their performances in endurance running remained unaffected even with 3 nights of severely restricted sleep.

Remember, running is your personal journey and race. Optimizing your sleep within your own means will enable you to train and perform better at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon!

The Road Less Taken

NEW BALANCE SG – What truly makes running iconic is the road runners take to get there. The journey is never easy, physically and mentally, but every moment shapes the runner to who they are today. Discover the stories of athletes who broke through and found their own greatness. Scroll down for Mok Ying Ren’s road less taken! 

Scroll down to end of the page on details of social media giveaway. 


 

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Image by @newbalancesg

MOK YING REN
Double SEA Games Gold Medalist 
National Marathoner & Records Holder 
Managed by ONEathlete 

 

At one point in his running career, Mok Ying Ren suffered a plantar fasciitis injury. He was pushing too hard during his training, and as a result, he had to withdraw from the 2011 SEA Games. Some thought it’ll be “too difficult” for him to return to the sporting scene.

 

But the 30-year-old orthopedic surgical resident did not let that end his career.

 

 

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Image by @newbalancesg

He not only got back in the game but also clinched the gold medal for the marathon at the 2013 SEA Games. This hard-earned victory came with struggles too – he had entered the event with a muscle strain and a bad cough while on national service.

 

The two-time SEA Games gold medalist has since learned that there is more to winning than just getting the training in. Mok is currently balancing married life, training, family, and an orthopedics surgery programme that requires 80 hours of training a week, but this is not stopping the New Balance Ambassador & ONEathlete from aiming to qualify for the 2019 SEA Games.

 

“I realized that running a race presents similarities to our life journey and it’s always about running my own race, to the best that I can. Endurance running, in more ways than one, has inadvertently molded my character.”

 

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Click HERE to check out Mok’s NB 1500T2 Boa®. Image by @newbalancesg

 

 

Check out Mok Ying Ren’s #TheRoadLessTaken journey HERE.

 

Social Media Giveaway (12 Oct onwards):

  1. Share with us your favourite/significant running moments on facebook/instagram
  2. Tag 3 of your running mates on it 
  3. Hashtag us so we know! #RunWithMok #FearlesslyIndependent #NewBalanceSG #TheRoadLessTaken #RunONE #ONEathlete
  4. Get your running mates to share their stories too! (Refer to @newbalancesg Instagram highlights for giveaway details) 

 

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(c) New Balance SG http://www.newbalance.com.sg/theroadlesstaken.html 

ST: Remember The Poor

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 30 September 2018

JED SENTHIL – Over the years, and especially in recent times, our society has evolved to become more sensitive towards the needs of the less privileged and more supportive of philanthropic causes. While MNCs and big corporates enthusiastically engage in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, social enterprises have also sprung up, promoting sustainable charitable causes. Riding on this momentum, there has also been a significant effort within the local sporting community to mobilize active individuals and runners to commit to a larger good while keeping fit at the same time.

So before you put on your shoes and go for your next run, there are ways that you can help contribute too:

Support a worthy cause

To send our future generation to school and ensure that they are in the best physical, mental and emotional state to learn while at it. This is exactly what The Straits Times Pocket Money Fund (SPMF) endeavors to do – to give every child the gift of knowledge, and an opportunity for a promising future. SPMF works with various mainstream schools, VWOs, and NGOs to identify school-going children in need and provide them with the resources to do well in school, primarily by helping them meet basic physiological needs.

Since its inception 18 years ago, SPMF has disbursed more than $60 million and supported over 160,000 underprivileged children and youth by providing them with monthly school pocket money. As someone who came from a low-income family background, I can vividly recall filling up application forms for funding when SPMF had just been rolled out. I would use the funds to pay for my meals during recess, transport, and uniforms and books.

If you were one of the 13,000 runners who participated in The Straits Times Run 2018 last weekend, then you have also made an important contribution in supporting this worthy cause.

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Jed participated with his nephew and niece in The Straits Times Run last weekend, with an aim to inculcate the habit of giving back to social causes. Photo credits: RUNONE / MOK YING REN


Impact ‘one starfish at a time’

While serving in the social services sector, I met a  primary school boy who stayed in a one-room rental flat with his single mother and four siblings. His mum was working multiple odd jobs and was unable to commit to full-time regular employment as she had to take care of her children who were frequently ill. As a result, the boy was undernourished, slept poorly, and clearly lacked the energy a young boy should have. Later, we discovered that he had been bullied and mocked at school due to his family circumstances. He refused to attend school henceforth.  

While this boy’s situation may not necessarily be representative of all underprivileged children, he is certainly not the only one. Perhaps one might be tempted to think that youths are at a stage in life where multiple stress factors are part and parcel of their maturing and that we as adults are not able to make much difference to their situation. But nothing can be further from the truth. In the case of the schoolboy mentioned earlier, with a little support, he was able to overcome his odds courageously!

As the saying goes, you might not be able to save every starfish on the beach, but to each starfish saved, you make all the difference. You too can help contribute indirectly by participating in a community run like the Straits Times Run, or directly by rallying your running group to befriend/mentor the children and youths through the VWOs (as mentioned in the 29 July article). You will be pleasantly surprised by the resilience and courage these children embody, in pursuing a life of dignity and independence.

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As the saying goes, Jed believes that you can make a difference to one starfish at a time. Photo credits: RUNONE / MOK YING REN


Give (what you can) eagerly

While more than 10,000 children and youth benefit from the SPMF every year, I also learned from my interaction with social workers that current funding support is insufficient. Furthermore, in recent years, the SPMF has revised the criteria and expanded application touch points, to support more needy households and ensure that help is readily available, especially for those who might fall through the cracks. As a result, the need for support and funding is expected to increase.

While a majority of charity and social causes depend on the donations from big corporates and philanthropists, we as individuals can also give what we can. It could be a widow’s penny, but it’s truly the thought that counts. Do consider championing a cause you feel the tug for in your running club, or your company.

If you too have the opportunity to do good and are eager to remember the children and youth from low-income families, you can also donate through SPMF’s website (www.spmf.org.sg/how-to-donate). Don’t forget to encourage your running kakis to give too!

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Jed takes part in runs that champions social causes regularly. He believes that every runner can play a part in giving back to altruistic causes through running. Photo credits: RUNONE / MOK YING REN
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Jed Senthil is a former civil servant who serves professionally in the social and social enterprise sectors. The avid runner and youth advocate is also the co-founder of the RunONE running community.

RunONE – Straits Times Run 2018 Official Training Partner

22 Sep 2018 – Returning back with RunONE as the official training partner for the Straits Times Run 2018, ONEathlete Mok Ying Ren had tailored a 16-week-long series of a training program and running-related columns to prepare runners for this event. In partnership with Straits Times, Mok also hosted a #RunWithMok column which incorporated, for the first time, an interactive #AskMok segment that invites readers and runners to ask Mok any running-related question. To cap off the series of preparation leading up to the race, Mok also hosted a race clinic on 22 Sep at the Straits Times Run race expo where he took to the stage and shared his running and training experience.

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The Sunday Times 23 Sep 2018 

As many among the audience were racing the Straits Times Run the next day, Mok peppered his talk and Q&A session with behind-the-scenes insights on the preparation he himself had gone through before his races. He also addressed queries on race day execution and provided his personal perspectives and helpful tips on training, hydration, injury prevention. Questions on running shoe selection and foot striding styles seemed to be popular too.

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Mok Ying Ren using his New Balance shoe to explain on foot striding styles.

Through his sharing, Mok hopes to help more individuals overcome their fear and reluctance and encourage them to be a part of the growing running community in Singapore. He has observed, over the past few years, a healthy sign that more Singaporeans are taking to sports as part of an active lifestyle, and wants to do his part to help promote and encourage this movement.

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The talk by Mok Ying Ren was attended by more than 60 ST Run participants.
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Mok Ying Ren with some of the non-camera shy participants who attended his talk.

RunONE would like to take the opportunity, to thank #STRun2018 Chairman & Committee, New Balance, 100PLUS and Infinitus for their support in making the session possible!

 

Read more about the ST Run 2018 race event HERE 

Read more about what you can do-post ST Run, on this week’s #AskMok HERE 

 

ST: You have done it!

This article was first published in The Straits Times on 25 Sep 2018, post-race of Straits Times Run 2018. 

MOK YING REN – Congratulations on completing your race! 

I hope you have all managed to achieve your goals! Now, it is time to treat your bodies to some well-deserved rest. 

Back in 2013, right after my SEA Games marathon race, I remember having to catch the first flight back to Singapore to return to my Medical Officer Cadet Course. Within a matter of days, I was back to carrying field packs and simulating casualty evacuation casualties with an incredibly sore body. It was definitely not an ideal recovery plan, but inevitable as I was still serving my national service then. 

Unlike what I had gone through, you need not, and should not, undertake physical stress so soon after a long and intense race.

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Mok Ying Ren running past the Sports Hub, where the Straits Times Run 2018 finishing point and festival village was held. He recommends that the participants take a break to recover and catch up on other commitments. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE

Recovery 

It is key to recover well from any bout of strenuous activity. 

I know that some of you may be feeling great now and you may even be tempted to think: what is there to recover from? Well, the bad news is that any soreness which you may experience will only come to bear, much later! (my guess is probably Tuesday)! 

If you recall the supercompensation theory which we had introduced earlier, you would be aware that your body is currently undergoing a major overhaul to bring you to the next fitness level. However, this can only happen with sufficient rest and recovery. 

Sleep plays a huge role in this process of supercompensation. It should not be a problem for you to sleep a little more now since you no longer have to wake up for early morning runs (for a while at least)! 

Once the soreness wears off, you may feel a natural urge to get back to running. Instead of falling into that temptation, do some other non-weight-bearing activities, such as swimming or cycling for another week (or two).  This will help to enhance your recovery and reduce the risk of injury. 

Even when returning to running, always err on the side of caution, and keep your initial runs to 20 to 30 minutes long at a conversational pace.

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Remember to stretch all the aches on your body! 

Work out niggles 

During the training season, you may also have suffered from various aches and pains which were simply ignored. Now is the best time for you to sort out all these issues and allow your body to heal. 

If necessary, you may also wish to visit a physical therapist and have a biomechanical assessment to identify specific areas of weakness. You may then work on these specific areas to prevent recurrence of pain or injury. From my experience, small deposits of therapy and pre-rehabilitation work on a regular basis can bring you huge gains, in terms of the number of your “running years”.

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Show appreciation

I am sure that you have spent countless hours training in preparation for your race. But I am also sure that it would not have been possible without the support of your loved ones – it is time to reciprocate their support for you. 

Too often, we take many things, like having a warm meal waiting for us at home after a long day of work and training, for granted. Show your appreciation to those who have cared for and supported you.

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Happy to take overall 7th (local 3rd) at my maiden @straits_times Run 10km yesterday. It was a great outing with fellow #ONEathlete @evanchee also placing well in the 10km and @ben_moreau on fire with his overall win in the 18.45km! 🔥 Thanks to the @onemanagementsg family including manager @jedsent (also ran the 10km) for the race opportunity and Dr @mokyingren for the support, as well as @runningtan for the write-up (see https://runone.co/2018/09/23/runone-wins-one-at-straits-times-run-2018/). Massive shoutouts to fiancée @sandrafaustinalee for now being able to keep up with me on my final 100m sprint, fellow #KampongRunners who just conquered respective marathons, sponsor @asicssg, and Dr Kelvin Ng of Family Health Chiropractic Clinic for actively checking and adjusting my spine to keep me performing optimally! Last but not least, it was an honour reconnecting with Minister @gracefu.hy, the last time being after the 2015 Southeast Asian Games Marathon when I was still a chiropractic intern at @shermancollege. Next up, starting the season towards the @sgmarathon! #STrun2018 #STrun #TheStraitsTimes #RunONE #TeamASICS #ASICSSG #IMoveMe #FamilyHealthChiroSG #SingaporeAthletics #OneTeamSG #MCCYSG #SGsportsHub #ShermanPride #SCSM2018 #OakleySG

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Length of recovery

How long should you be engaged in the above recovery process? That really depends on each individual.

I would generally recommend a recovery period of between 1 to 2 weeks for a half marathon and between 2 to 4 weeks for a marathon. However, what is most essential is for you to listen to your body – do not be afraid to adjust your recovery plan according to how your body feels and responds.

As my then-deputy headmaster in Raffles Institution, Mr. S Magendrian had always emphasized, “there is a season for everything”. Now is the season for recovery.

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@mokyingren

Read more about the ST Run 2018 race event HERE 

Read more about the STRun Festival & Mok Ying Ren’s Race Clinic HERE