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 For every blood donation, 1 unit (or 450ml) of blood is withdrawn.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: 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:

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!

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.

View this post on Instagram

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

A post shared by Ashley Liew, DC, CACCP (@ashleyliewchiro) on

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 

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: 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!

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: 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: 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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