ST: Getting into the right kicks!

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

#AskMok

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

Dear Alice and Wayne, thank you for the question.

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

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

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Google image on the anatomy of running shoe.

Upper

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

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

Midsole

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outsole

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

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

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

Comfort above all

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

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

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


Week 12 Giveaway:

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

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

ST: Running the right way

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

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

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

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

1. Overstriding

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

2. Poor spinal posture

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

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

3. Insufficient/ delayed hip extension

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

4. Too much bounce

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

5. Holding arms and trunk too rigid

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

6. Habits from running in other sports

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

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Tips

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

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

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

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

Week 11 Question:

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

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

ST: Outdo yourself with proper hydration!

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

#AskMok

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

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

    Dehydration

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

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

    Overhydration

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

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

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

    1. Optimal Hydration Tips

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

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

    2. Behavioral Tips

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

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

    3. ‘Bonus- Effect’ Tips

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

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

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

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

    4. Practical Tips

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

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

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    Signed up for ST run?

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


    Week 10 Giveaway:

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

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

    Encouraging ONE to Keep Fit Through Running!

    Over the weekend of 21 – 22 July, ONE was proud to be part of the inaugural Feel Fab Fest (F3) event organized by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), in conjunction with Sport Singapore. The carnival event targeted at individuals of all ages who share a common goal to be fit and healthy. It also offered health and fitness partners an exciting platform to reach out to this rapidly-growing sports and wellness market.

     

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    Seats were filled at this cosy event as the session got underway.

     

    With an exciting array of events and activities lined up for everyone including the young and young-at-heart, ONE was pleased to be part of F3 and hosting a panel discussion comprising 3 of Singapore’s fastest marathoners, Mok Ying Ren, Ashley Liew and Evan Chee. The 1-hour session offered insights into how fitness and health could be incorporated into one’s (hectic) lifestyle, as well as tips on training which would help active individuals avoid common problems such as injury and over-training.

     

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    Jed (left-most), co-founder of ONE,  moderating the panel discussion with marathoners (from left to right) Evan Chee, Ashley Liew and Mok Ying Ren.

     

    Camaraderie of the fastest

    With a combined experience of over 4 decades of running and training assembled on stage, the engaging discussion, moderated by Jed, was enlivened by light-hearted moments when they reflected on each other’s career highs and lows. Ashley spoke about how Mok had won the 2013 SEA Games Marathon Gold in spite of an incessant cough and inadequate preparation. Mok then touched on how impressed he was by Ashley’s deeply-held values about maximizing one’s gift of potential. Ashley represented Singapore at the 2015 SEA Games Marathon and was the first Singaporean to receive the international fair play accolade “Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy” for his act of sportsmanship.

     

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    Ashley sharing a moment with an avid runner after the session to autograph words of well-wishes.

     

    Overcoming personal challenges to fitness

    When asked about balancing work and training, Evan brought up the challenges he faced in preparing for overseas races such as the Berlin Marathon while having to work around a packed work schedule that involved frequent traveling. He also encouraged runners to join a group of running buddies, or a training club, to keep the motivation going during trying times.

     

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    The audience enjoyed the rare opportunity to ask anything they wanted to know, about running (mostly) and everything else under the sky (after the session)

     

    In relation to sports injury Mok, who’s had to work through his plantar fasciitis and other untimely issues that threatened to derail his race preparation, advocated a patient-and-consistent mentality. From his experience, most runners tend to be overly impatient in regaining pre-injury fitness. In their eagerness and anxiety, the adage ‘more haste, less speed’ is often thrown to the winds. His advice is to take injuries seriously and allow sufficient time for complete recovery before jumping back into action.

     

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    Mok shows that running may be his forte but he can go to ‘great lengths’ for a good we-fie.

     

    Key to fitness 

    Throughout the lively session punctuated with harmless jabs and interesting anecdotes, a consistent theme that emerged was the need for patience and consistency when it comes to building running fitness. Motivation is what gets one started but habit is what keeps one moving. As Mok puts it, anyone could start running, but “the way to start running is to really start slow in an easy-pace, build your fitness and be patient about it… have a target, such as signing up for a race and strive towards it.”

     

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    Keeping fit and healthy through running, as ONE

     

    Join us 

    Readers and runners who are keen to learn more about running tips can follow our weekly feature #RunwithMok column in the Sunday edition of Straits Times! You can also send in any running-related questions and #AskMok!

    ONE will like to acknowledge our heartfelt gratitude to SPH and event sponsors, partners for the invaluable opportunity and experience to be part of Feel Fab Fest 2018! We are also proud to be the official training partner for the Straits Times Run, and hope to see you at the race on 23 September!

    ST: To outlast … run in a community!

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

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

    Against Odds

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

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

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

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

    Here are my four reasons to run in a community:

    1. Establish accountability for growth

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

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

    2. Create memories with one another

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

    Jed running at The Straits Times Run 2017

    3. Learn to look out for others

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

    4. Serve others beyond running

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

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

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    Communities in Singapore

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

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

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

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

    # LEARN WITH MOK

    Week 9 Question:

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

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

    ST: Why runners run … away

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

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

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

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

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

    Strengthens mental capabilities

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

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

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

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

    Improves race tactics

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

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

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

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

    Offers unique experiences

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

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    Mok Ying Ren running on Davidson Mesa, Colorado, USA

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

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

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

    Sharpens foresight and planning

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

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

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

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

    Presents a memorable opportunity to relax

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

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

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

    ST: Music to the ears!

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

    #AskMok

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

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

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

    Technique Correction

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

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

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

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

    Performance Enhancement

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

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

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

    IMG_9023
    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!


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    ST: Minimising risks in running

    This article was first published on Sunday Times on 7 July 2018.

    Dr Malcolm Mahadevan – When a runner is forced out of action, more often than not, it usually involves minor issues such as muscle injuries, sprains, skin lesions such as blisters and abrasions. Acute injuries are rare. More than 8 in 10 running injuries are caused by overuse, often a mismatch between the strength and resilience of the connective and supporting tissue and the demands of running. How can we avoid them?

    Follow a training plan

    In my area of practice, I have seen many poorly prepared athletes suffer from swollen joints and muscle injury. I remembered a patient who was sedentary most of the time and had decided to participate in a mass run. She overstrained herself to the extent that her leg muscles swelled and broke down. The pressure resulting from the swelling of the tissues was so great that it impeded blood flow to both legs. She needed emergency surgery to relieve the swelling and save her legs. The damaged muscle had also released proteins and other by-products from the breakdown that clogged and failed her kidneys, thus necessitating dialysis treatment. While she recovered eventually, it was a traumatic experience that could have been avoided with proper training.

    Thus far, research has turned up contradictory conclusions on the risk that running imposes on developing joint and muscle injuries per se. However, it has been recognized that running is one of the fastest ways to fitness and associated benefits such as health and longevity. A good gradual training plan (like #runwithmok) leading up to a race can help participants minimize their risks of running injuries. When I wanted to return to running, I too, approached my colleague, Dr. Mok Ying Ren for a training plan, so that I can ease in progressively.

    Mok and Malcolm
    Dr Malcolm follows the RunONE training plan himself and came back to running through a #runwithmok session. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE

    Condition to dissipate heat

    Heat stroke is a severe form of heat-related illness that happens under extreme and rare circumstances, usually a result of several contributing factors. The majority of us do not overheat as our bodies are able to balance and regulate heat generation through bodily dissipation, such as through skin. However, if either side of the equation is tipped over then that’s when we have a problem.

    Under hot humid conditions like in Singapore, race planners generally plan races early or late in the day to mitigate the effect of heat and weather on runners.

    What runners can do to help themselves, is to condition for the race through structured race preparation and training. This is just as in a car where the engine cooling system depends on coolant fluid for heat transfer and dissipation, our body depends on water to play the similar role. As we run, most of the water is lost through perspiration and respiration. Keeping ourselves well hydrated before, during and after a race is, therefore, the key to ensuring that our bodies are able to cope with the heat stress of exercising on top of the hot humid conditions we face.

    Hydrate during the run

    While training for my half marathon in Gold Coast, I have had the first-hand experience of the likelihood and risks amateur runners like myself face in dealing with heat-related illness.

    While I was away in the Netherlands,  the chilly weather meant my long runs were comfortable affairs and I was afforded the illusion of luxury of not hydrating myself  Upon return to Singapore, the difference was apparent when my heart rate was significantly ramped up during a similar effort long run. I also quickly felt thirsty and had to stop often to rehydrate myself to prevent heat-related illness. The stark difference was a somber reminder of how easily the humidity and heat can dehydrate us while exercising under our hot tropical conditions

    As most of our races in Singapore are well planned with hydration points spaced out at regular intervals, let’s make the best use of them to replenish our dehydrated and depleted bodies.

    Participate in pre-race screening

    While mass events such as run races are well organized with good first aid posts, emergency ambulance services and evacuation plans for contingencies, there have been unfortunate incidents where runners collapsed due to undiagnosed pre-existing cardiac conditions.

    Recently a runner in his 40’s collapsed while running  While the security guards reacted quickly to start cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the paramedics arrived soon after to deliver the life-sustaining electrical shock to treat an otherwise potentially-fatal arrhythmia. He arrived in the emergency department where my colleagues and I worked to resuscitate him before sending him to the cardiac catheterization lab where our interventional cardiologist opened up his blocked coronary artery. Fortunately, he survived the whole episode. An older runner should get a proper check with their regular doctors who may refer them to a cardiologist for further evaluation.

    Malcom at GCM 18
    Dr Malcom’s flatlay before participating in the Half marathon at Gold Coast Marathon 2018 last sunday. Photo Credits: Dr Malcolm

    Acclimatise to the race location

    Proper training building up a solid base prior to a race, as well as proper acclimatization, are all essential elements for a runner’s safety. I recall having read about a young athlete who had just flown in from a temperate region and did not had enough race preparation and sleep before his race in Singapore. In the end, he overstretched himself only to collapse near the finish line. Unfortunately, he did not survive.

    As runners, we need to respect the race we participate in, be mindful of our own bodies and know our limits whether we are young or not.

    Practice good race discipline

    IMG_7325
    Dr Malcolm looking spiffy during his half marathon at Gold Coast last sunday! Photo credits: Dr Malcom

    Unlike competitive cycling where cyclists are bunched up together and a tumble can easily set off a chain reaction collision, It is rare to see runners collide and sustain injuries in this manner.

    However, in some of the mass runs/races that I have participated in, I did notice that slower runners tend to congregate and walk abreast, blocking up a large part of the route. As a result,  faster runners had to swerve to overtake which can lead to collisions and injuries. Sprains and strains, or even more serious injuries like a fractured bone, are also possibilities arising from such accidents. This is where participants should exercise good race discipline by moving to the side and allowing others the opportunity of clear passage.

    Conclusion

    Generally, mass runs/races are safe. It is encouraging to see that more Singaporeans are participating and it is in line with all our efforts to stay healthy. A healthy dose of common-sense, graduated training, and preparation, as well as adherence to race guidelines, will go a long way in ensuring safe and enjoyable races for all of us.

     

    Dr Malcolm
    Associate Professor Malcolm Mahadevan is a Senior Consultant and Head of Emergency Medicine Department at National University Hospital. He undertook the RunONE training plan to get back into running.

     

    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: Preparations to tackle an overseas run!

    First published in The Sunday Times on 24 June 2018

    img_7155

    ASHLEY LIEW – The 2018 Gold Coast Marathon (GCM) on 1st July 2018 will be my 5th time racing there, as well as my 30th full marathon. I have learned things the hard way, but I have also been blessed to have received sound advice through others’ sharing. I hope to pass this on,  especially to those running this upcoming IAAF Gold Label Road Race.

    Packing list

    One of the most important things, when I am packing for an overseas race, is to find a previous race photograph (the 2012 Gold Coast Marathon finish line shot where I clocked 2h35m40s is one of my favorite – purely coincidental). The race photo acts as my race packing checklist and makes sure I do not miss out items such as shoes, socks, running attire, and watch.

    Another important consideration is the destination weather forecast which I always check in advance so that I can bring along appropriate attire (which may vary according to one’s personal and varied needs). While I am used to running in a singlet, shorts, and maybe gloves in cold weather, everyone is different. Having said that, overdressing is a common problem at overseas races, which brings with it risks of overheating once the race starts and the sun comes out.

    The trick, then, is to stay warm till just before the gun goes off. Often, on the pre-race morning, I see runners shivering due to inadequate warm clothing and that wastes energy unnecessarily. My advice is to layer up with old or cheap pieces of clothing that you are willing to part with, wear them to the start line to stay warm, then discard them appropriately just before the race. Many races have also started to collect and donate these discarded clothing for charitable causes.

    Settle-in early

    If given a choice, I would also want to arrive at least two full days before the Sunday race for two important reasons. First, I need my Friday night’s sleep to be sound and uninterrupted such that my circadian rhythm synchronizes with the overseas time zone.  It is also likely that Saturday night’s sleep would not be restful, due to pre-race nerves and excitement, so the rest two nights out is crucial. Second, I need my body acclimatized to the “wintery” weather that goes as low as 10 degrees Celsius early dawn.

    Choosing an accommodation with good location and accessibility is an equally important consideration. Ideally, it should be close to the start line, to minimize uncontrollable factors such as traffic delays. If this is not possible, seek out accommodation that is well-connected to the transportation network. For example, my accommodation at GCM 2018 will be less than 300m away from the nearest G:link tram station. I also always plan to reach the race site at least an hour pre-race, so factor in the traveling time and work backward to decide the time you need to leave your accommodation. I cannot overemphasize the importance of orienting yourself by visualizing beforehand the flow of race morning, to avoid any unnecessary panic setting in.

    2011 - credit GCM organizers
    National Marathoner Ashley Liew roaring to the finish line during the Gold Coast Marathon (GCM) for a personal best in the cool weather in 2011. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE / GCM

    Pre-race rituals

    Usually, after touching down at the airport and checking-in at the accommodation, I might opt for a short nap if needed, after which my priority will be the collection of the race pack. Once you have collected your running bib and timing chip, I will encourage you to immediately affix them (onto your race attire), then lay out all your race gear and nutrition for race morning. I will never forget the friend who had everything ready on the morning of the 2011 GCM but left her bib in the hotel room. You want to have peace of mind on race morning.

    As a rule of thumb in planning your race-cation itinerary, always prioritize and settle the important things first. Plan accordingly so you do not zap energy from your legs before the race, which you have spent a long time preparing for. I will always remember my mistake of committing to a jumping photo shoot days before my 2011 Singapore Marathon which caused fatigue even before the race started. Save your legs for the race by minimizing time on your feet. Unfortunately, this means you will likely have to save your shopping and sightseeing for post-race. Personally, I find it beneficial to “hibernate” in your room in the two days leading up to race morning, where you can visualize race success, read a book (I like “The Champion’s Mind”), and even unwind to non-running thoughts (I watched Mr. Bean on television the night before the 2011 GCM).

    Never try anything new close to race day. This applies to new shoes, attire,  and even your pre-race routine meals. I make it a point to recce my pre-race dinner location to find a menu I am comfortable with, so as to avoid unnecessary gastrointestinal issues.

    Hang out with others

    Running is a community event so you may want to link up with other Singaporeans before the race to tap on each other’s experience and encourage each other with positive vibes. However, if you are serious about your race, I would suggest keeping this group you hang out with small. It is easier to coordinate a smaller group which is less draining mentally too. However, after the race, give yourself the latitude to hang out and rejoice with as many people as you want! You’ve earned it!

    Enjoy the process

    The Serenity Prayer goes like this: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” While we cannot change several elements about overseas races, we can control other factors to make it the best experience possible.
    Wake up early on race day, get yourself healthy and on time to the start line, then go out with courage and grit to run the race of your life. For the 450 Singaporeans going to the Gold Coast, see you there at the start line!

    Ashley Liew ONE
    Ashley Liew is a national marathoner and Doctor of Chiropractic. He has a personal best of 2:32:12 and is managed by ONEathlete.