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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    ST: How to maximise your recovery period?

    This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 1 July 2018.

    #AskMok

    1. Your fav recovery regime? One that you would do if you have time to spare and one when the time is not on your side. – Kendrick
    2. How do I find out what nutrition/food & meals I need for training and rest day? –  Chad Lim
    3. Where can I get the roller which you used to roll/massage your leg? How much is it? – Terence 

    Hi Kendrick, Terence and Chad, thank you for your questions.

    The topic of routines for optimized recovery is a popular one among runners. The purpose of a recovery period is to allow the body some time to repair and strengthen itself after a training session. Contrary to popular belief, your body gets stronger duringthe recovery period, rather than during the training session. The recovery period gives your body an opportunity to replenish energy stores lost during exercise, and to build and repair muscles. If you deny your body sufficient time to recover, you will only become increasingly fatigued!

    Get a good sleep

    The best recovery tool, but also the least talked about, is sleep. Sleep plays a key role in the regulation of many types of hormones in our bodies, such as cortisol, growth hormones and thyroid hormones. These hormones are crucial in the recovery process post- workout.

    Studies have shown that sleep deprivation results in an increased insulin resistance and decreased glucose tolerance. This then translates to low energy levels and a decrease in the time to exhaustion (i.e. you experience exhaustion during exercise much quicker).

    During sleep, our bodies release growth hormones to repair and strengthen our muscles and bones. Without sufficient sleep, you may be limiting your body’s ability to recover from an intense workout or make your muscles and bones stronger. Getting regular, sufficient sleep is therefore paramount to achieving an optimal recovery.

    Go for a massage

    Sports massages theoretically increase local blood circulation and reduce muscle tightness. The increased circulation to muscles also aids to eliminate waste products such as lactic acid build up in muscles after exercise. Despite little scientific evidence in the literature of sports medicine to conclusively determine the efficacy of sports massage in enhancing recovery, there are individuals who feel that they reap tremendous benefits from sports massages and many elite runners go for regular sports massages to enhance their recovery following intense workouts.

    A downside of sports massages is that they are often quite pricey. An alternative would be to self-massage by employing various tools which may be easily procured. Such tools include foam rollers, massage sticks and trigger balls (which you can easily purchase from any sports retailer or online stores). In order to utilize these tools effectively, it is best to learn the techniques for using such tools from a trained physiotherapist or trainer.

    Eat a nutritious diet

    It is a no-brainer that you will need to complement your workouts with adequate nutrition. One aspect of nutrition is nutrition timing – the time window in which you consume your nutrition. Most sports scientists recommend that the “window of opportunity” is 30 minutes after your workout, meaning that you should consume your recovery food within 30 minutes post-workout.

    Another aspect of nutrition is the content of the nutrition. Generally, you should choose foods which contain protein, carbohydrates, and (good) fat. Choosing easily-digestible foods will also promote faster nutrient absorption. In a recent meta-analysis of 12 studies in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was found that the consumption of chocolate milk post-workout lowered blood lactate and offered an improved time to exhaustion (i.e. lasts longer) at the next training session.

    Thus, an easy way to improve your nutrition is to bring along a packet of chocolate milk to your workouts and to consume it immediately after the session. This replenishes the electrolytes and carbohydrates lost during your workout and provides a dose of protein to kick-start your recovery process.

    Spend quality time on work and family

    Your mental and emotional well-being are also an important aspect of recovery. Personally, I used to find that many of my other personal commitments, such as study, work, and family, were a hindrance to my recovery – perhaps that time could have been better used for precious sleep. However, I have come to realize that even work and studying could be a form of recovery.

    To me, spending time with my loved ones (especially my wife), seeing patients and operating in the surgical theatre gives me a break from running. These activities pose a different challenge to the mind and heart, which I absolutely relish. Investing your time and effort in other aspects of life (other than running) can be a great form of “recovery”, in the physical, mental and emotional sense. After all, we all need some balance in life.

    Now, as you #RunWithMok, do remember to prioritize your recovery days to maximize your training!

    ST: How do i manage my training sessions?

    First published on The Sunday Times on 17 June 2018

     

    #AskMok

    1. What is/are examples of a bad training plan? How do you / should we space out “hard” workouts in a week? – Andy Kek
    2. How can I integrate double training sessions into my training program (i.e. running twice a day)? Do you have any recommendations for double sessions? – Leow Wen Jun

     

    Hi Andy and Wenjun, thank you for your questions (see top).

    Last week, we learnt from Dr Ivan Low that the key components of a good training plan are; (1) individuality (customised to one’s self), (2) specificity (specific to the race one is preparing for), (3) progressive overload (graduated increase in intensity and volume), (4) variation (not monotonous), and lastly, (5) recovery (allowing the body to regenerate and restore). However, it would be over-simplistic to deem every training plan which lacks any of the above components as “bad”.

    Adopt a suitable plan


    The definition of “bad”, in this context, is subjective. Whether a training plan is considered “bad” is highly dependent on the individual – there is no “one size fits all”.

    For example, there are some people who are able to load their bodies with high-intensity and high-volume workouts within a short span of time, and yet manage to avoid injuries. There are also some who repeat the exact same workout every day for a whole year, and yet manage to improve their physical performance.

    A “bad” training plan is simply a training plan that just does not work for you. Give yourself some flexibility to adjust your training plans as and when required to suit your body’s needs, and pay attention to how your body responds.

    Allow Supercompensation


    To address the question on spacing out hard workouts, let me first explain the principle of supercompensation.

    When training, your fitness levels can be broken down into 4 phases in the following order:
    1. The baseline level of fitness – where you start off;
    2. Fatigue – you get tired;
    3. Recovery – your body regenerates and repairs damaged tissues; and
    4. Supercompensation – brings your fitness to a higher level than before.

    Supercompensation occurs when the human body automatically adjusts itself to a higher level of fitness in anticipation of the next training session. It is why after a couple of consistent runs, you no longer experience the same body soreness which came with your first run. However, if you do not capitalize on your newfound fitness due to supercompensation, you will return to a baseline level of fitness (phase 1). So, if you only run once a month, you should expect to feel sore every time you run!


    The graph above illustrates how your fitness level changes when training. Note that there are 2 variables which affect the optimal amount of supercompensation – time and training load.

    The first variable is time – “X”. The time between each hard session is crucial. Ideally, the next hard session should take place at the end of time “X”. “X” is highly variable, depending on each individual. You will need to experiment to find your “X”, but when you do find it, keep to this sweet spot. For me, “X” is equivalent to 3 days. Therefore, I run my hard sessions on Mondays and Thursdays!

    The next variable is the training load. The larger the training load, the larger the drop in fitness level (“Y”) after the training session. Think about how fatigued you are after a hard workout! The larger “Y” is, the more fatigued you will be, but also the higher the potential amount of supercompensation.

    Training load is in turn affected by two factors: volume and intensity. A load of an easy 2-hour long run may even be equivalent to the load of eight 1-min high-intensity interval runs.

    Prioritize active recovery

    Clocking double training sessions a day increases the training load for the day in a cumulative manner. Personally, if and when I incorporate double sessions into my training schedule, it is solely for active recovery. My main session for that day would be a 70-min easy long run or workout, and the second session would be a 30-min jog. Most runners do well without having to do double sessions a day, so avoid this unless you really need to.

    To add to the complexity, “X” and “Y” are largely co-dependent – a change in “Y” is likely to affect “X” (The more fatigued you are, the more time you need to recover and compensate!).

    Mok Ying Ren squeezing out an easy run amidst an overseas trip, to retain the fitness baseline. (Image by: ONEATHLETE)

    As complex as this scientific approach seems, this is really foundational to a good run! Running is simple but can be as difficult as it is made to be. But you will do fine if you follow RunONE on the #runwithmok programme!