Hitting on WTA!

SHAHEED ALAM – A bittersweet farewell to WTA in Singapore. 2014 – 2018. These 5 years will always be remembered by not only tennis enthusiasts but also sports fans in Singapore as the time when the top 8 Women’s Singles and Doubles Teams competed on our ‘little red dot’. As the Singapore Indoor Stadium dismantles the center court for the last time, we should cherish the experience we’ve had over these amazing 5 years.

 

I had the incredible opportunity to be  the hitting partner for these players in the last 3 years (I was too young and not good enough in the first 2 years haha) Being their hitting partner was definitely an eye-opening experience because I got to see up-close the way they practice, warm up, prepare for matches. I got to see all of it. From the extremely focused Garbine Muguruza to the relaxed Caroline Garcia, I was privileged to witness the different personalities of each player which would otherwise have been very difficult to spot on TV. Over the past 3 years, I have had many awesome experiences but 2, in particular, stood out.

 

IMG_20171003_162218_804
Martina Hingis and I after a practice session in 2016

 

In 2016, Ali and I got called to practice with the dream team of Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis! Before even stepping on the court, it was already pretty cool to even (just) think about practicing with them. The schedule was to practice for an hour on the practice courts at OCBC Arena followed by another hour on Centre Court at Singapore Indoor Stadium.

 

IMG_20171024_202920_617
Pliskova and I in 2017, the first time that we practiced together

 

Understandably nervous, we both started practicing making several mistakes as we were (a little) overwhelmed by the situation. As the session went on, they realized that we were pretty nervous but nonetheless they were still super friendly and made us feel more at home.

 

After we ended our practice at OCBC Arena, Ali and I were going to walk across to the Indoor Stadium (10minute walk) while Mirza and Hingis were going to take the car that was waiting for them. Ali and I could not enter into the pick-up area as our accreditation did not allow us and only players/coaches could enter. Looking back, I felt that Hingis and Mirza thought we were going to take the car as well so they walked out first while we were still packing our bags.

 

About 5 minutes later, Martina Hingis came running out and told the volunteers to call us back. When we got to the facilities desk, we remember Hingis waiting for us and saying “Come on guys, the car is waiting for you guys”. Looking super shocked, we laughed and followed her to the pickup point where they were 2 Porsches waiting for us. She then continued saying ‘1 follows me and the other follows Sania’. I followed Hingis and for those precious 10 minutes, we chatted about everything and anything before our second practice session on Centre Court. That was an experience like none other, which only goes to show that they were both incredibly humble and down to Earth while being absolute legends in the sport!

 

 

IMG_20181030_205629_889
Pliskova and I during her warm up before her semi-finals this year

 

The next memorable event was when I  I practiced with Karolina Pliskova this year. She has to be the most relaxed player on tour. Incredibly effortless in her play, she’s definitely a joy to watch. I had the pleasure of getting to know her team as well, comprising her Coach, Rennae Stubbs, and Fitness Trainer/Agent/Husband, Michal Hrdlicka. We practiced every day from Saturday (before Day 1) up till the following Saturday (where she played her semifinals) and it was an amazing experience. They really made me feel like I was part of their team for that week as they were super friendly and humble. Overwater breaks, they would ask me about my tennis career and gave me plenty of valuable advice and encouragement.

 

IMG_20181030_205629_888
Karolina Pliskova and teammates (Rennae Stubbs and Michal Hrdlicka) and I at the player lounge to say our goodbyes this year

 

On the day of the finals, when they were at the stadium to collect their belongings before returning home, they asked if I was in the stadium as they would like to say a few words of thanks and goodbyes in person. Fortunately (for me),  I was, and so we met at the player lounge and had a chat before they left. We promised to keep in touch and Pliskova even said that she’ll give me a call when she’s in Asia if she needs a hitting partner(not sure how true that will be though 😂) All in all, it was a superb experience and I couldn’t have wished for a better end  to the last year of the WTA Finals.

 

img_20161024_1701481-e1542104234709.jpg
Dream team – Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza with Ali and I at the practice courts

 

At this point, I would also like to thank Sports Singapore, Singapore Tourism Board, WTA and all the sponsors for hosting this prestigious tournament over the past 5 years. As they say, when one door closes, another opens so we should hope and look forward to more world-class tennis tournaments being hosted in Singapore. Perhaps even the ATP Finals.

 

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

x

a24 _3

xx


x

Part 1: Reflections of a runner’s wife

199A0397

x

She says …

x

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.

x

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.

x

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

x

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!

x

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!

x

He says …

x

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.

x

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.

x


x

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

IMG_3959

x

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.

x

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.

x

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.

x

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.

x

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!

x

199A0362
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. 

Gears get oiled for BB Blaze 2019!

03 Nov 2018 – “During the training, there were times when I questioned why I had joined Blaze in the first place, when I could have been like my peers who were having less strenuous physical training and who did not need to face the pressure of keeping physically fit.” This is how the then-14 year old Samuel Song from Zhonghua Sec felt during the preparations for BB Blaze 2017!

senior2
Photo credits: The Boys’ Brigade HQ Website

Preparations are key in an adventure race, or for that matter, any race. What more for teenage boys preparing for the adventure-based and mentally and physically challenging #BBblaze2019!

 

RunONE will be joining The Boys’ Brigade Singapore as their Official Training Partner, supporting the preparations for the 400 participants and their trainers during this pivotal stage. You can also expect for the 2019 edition to involve more pre-race and race digitalization, with an extended partnership with ONE.

 

IMG_2854.JPG

 

To kick off the preparations, the organizers arranged for a Train-the-Trainers session that was attended by officers and boys from various senior programme companies (CCA units in various secondary schools).

 

The Pierre de Coubertin IFPC Trophy Winner and National Marathoner Ashley Liew shared his experiences with the boys and officers. He started by stating his hope to inspire and went on to share how he has transcended different challenges in life, such as when transforming from fat to fit.

 

IMG_2847.JPG

 

Ashley had rushed down from his chiropractic clinic, amidst two weeks of reservist commitments. It is not surprising that the ONEathlete was very enthusiastic about speaking to the boys, as a former BB Boy of the 12I Singapore Company (ACS Independent). He has certainly not forgotten his roots, acknowledging the role of The Boys’ Brigade in shaping who he is today during his self-introduction.

 

IMG_2817.JPG

 

After throwing in some awareness of chiropractic and the nervous system, Ashley went on to share tips on running forms, injury prevention, and the importance of a training programme. He also shared how the youths could build up their endurance, strength and conditioning to be at their optimal capacity to blaze the trail, come April 2019!

 

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.

IMG_2579
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?

IMG_2582
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.

IMG_2623
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.

masthead_blood_phone.jpg
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)
Mok ying Ren Renne Ong Shaheed Alam

A good support goes a long way …

 

FUTURO SG – The 3M subsidiary rounds up their Futuro Ambassadors and three of our #ONEathlete(s), Mok Ying Ren, Shaheed Alam and Ren-ne Ong; and get them to share on their pathway as a successful competitive athlete! No flower blooms on its own, and they share who/what supported them thru their budding competitive sports endeavors.

 

“Surround yourself with people who support you. Find champions.”

– Sarah Gavron

 

Especially for athletes, you will notice that the common pattern is to share your goals and plans with your family and ask them to help encourage you to achieve the goals/plans. Consequentially, the ones closest to them are probably their biggest fans! They have seen the blood, the sweat, the tears, they have seen it all.

 

Now, with the next 6 videos, Futuro hopes to bring you a tad closer to our ONEathlete(s)!

  • We hope that each of their (Part 1) personal story video will be an inspiration to all aspiring athletes and a tribute to their fervent supporters.
  • We also hope that their (Part 2) quick exercise tips video will be a great information tool on techniques.
  • You also have some hampers for grabs (Part 3)! You can follow Futuro SG’s Facebook HERE.

 

Standby, your napkins, and click on the video links below:

x


 

REN-NE ONG

Double SEA Games Bronze Medalist

National Shuttler

Managed by ONEathlete

 

“Whatever you do, do not regret!

– Ren-ne Ong

 

Part 1 : Get inspired with Ren-ne Ong

 

Part 2 : Preparation with Ren-ne Ong

 

Part 3 : Hamper Giveaway

What is your inspiration for keeping fit and playing sports?

Share with Ren-ne on the (below) Instagram post’s comments section and stand a chance to win 5 Futuro™ hampers, worth $100 each! … leggo guys! 

 


 

SHAHEED ALAM

ITF Junior Singles Title Winner

National Tennis Player

Managed by ONEathlete

 

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”  

– Shaheed Alam

 

Part 1 : Get inspired with Shaheed Alam

 

Part 2 : Preparation with Shaheed Alam

 

Part 3 : Hamper Giveaway

What is your inspiration for keeping fit and playing sports?

Share with Shaheed on the (below) Instagram post’s comments section and stand a chance to win 5 Futuro™ hampers, worth $100 each! … Hit it now! 

 


 

MOK YING REN

Double SEA Games Gold Medalist

National Marathoner & Records Holder

Managed by ONEathlete

 

“Be patient and consistent in what you do”. 

– Mok Ying Ren

 

Part 1 : Get inspired with Mok Ying Ren

 

Part 2 : Preparation with Mok Ying Ren

 

Part 3 : Hamper Giveaway!

Caption this? Go to Mok Ying Ren’s Instagram below and post in the comment section! And stand a chance to win 5 Futuro™ hampers, worth $200 each!

 


 

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.

IMG_2342
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.

IMG_2294
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. 

The Gentleman Loser kissed Shaheed

26 Oct 2018 – Singapore’s first ITF Junior Singles Title Winner & #ONEathlete Shaheed Alam has an axe to grind with Kiss92 FM’s Jason & Arnold.

20180925_104809.jpg

As part of the new series The Gentleman Loser,  Shaheed was invited to spar with Jason on the tennis courts. Jason qualified that he has not been to the tennis court any more than ten times his whole life!

IMG_2659

Little grace was shown, but Shaheed was just adhering his brief by the SPH radio station to be “totally brutal.” No chances given then, as both Shaheed and Jason gamely put on their acting hats to play their respective roles as winner and gentleman loser. This entertaining video is now on Kiss92’s Facebook!

 

Shaheed was on air this morning to promote the video and, as Jason dug deeper, to share his experience with the beautiful female tennis pros who are now in Singapore for the WTA Finals. Shaheed was on the courts for their warm-up sessions.

 

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.

IMG_4921

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.

IMG_4310.JPG

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.

IMG_5353.JPG

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.

0314_001 - Copy 2
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.

IMG_2485
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.

IMG_2449
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.

IMG_7067
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!