Fit­ness Fo­cus:

Ex­pert tips on how to be­come a run­ner

Expat Living (Singapore) - - Contents - BY AMY GREEN­BURG


“Ask your­self what you want to achieve from run­ning,” says MÁIRE NIC AMH­LAOIBH, Run­fit Coach and Se­nior Phys­io­ther­a­pist at UFIT. “Do you want to cover a cer­tain dis­tance, or set a cer­tain time for that dis­tance? Or, do you want to achieve a per­sonal goal like ‘me time’ or re­lax­ation?”

While set­ting goals will keep you on track and mo­ti­vated, they need to be clearly de­fined. For this, Máire rec­om­mends the SMART sys­tem: “Your goals need to be Spe­cific, Mea­sur­able, Achiev­able, Re­al­is­tic and Timed,” she says. “For ex­am­ple, some­one who wants to run 10km in less than an hour would need to look at set­ting a SMART goal like this: ‘I would like to run a sub-60-minute 10km in the Stan­dard Char­tered event on 8 De­cem­ber 2018.’ This is very clear, and meets all the cri­te­ria for the SMART goals sys­tem. It makes plan­ning a train­ing pro­gramme to achieve this goal very easy, and keeps the run­ner mo­ti­vated to stick to that plan.”


Dif­fer­ent foot struc­tures re­quire dif­fer­ent sup­port, which means shoes are not one size fits all, ex­plains or­thopaedic sur­geon DR BERNARD LEE of Sportsin Or­thopaedic Clinic at Gle­nea­gles Med­i­cal Cen­tre. “If you have struc­tural is­sues in your feet such as flat feet or a high-arched foot, you may re­quire spe­cialised shoes to pro­tect you from in­juries. The shape of the shoe (or the ‘last’, as it’s known) and the width also vary de­pend­ing on the run­ner’s foot struc­ture,” he says. “You’ll also need to con­sider what ter­rain you will be run­ning on, as most run­ning shoes are cus­tomised for dif­fer­ent run­ning sur­faces. A po­di­a­trist or good shoe fit­ter can help you find the right shoe for your feet.”

Dr Lee also points out that if you start run­ning a lot, it’s a good idea to change your shoes fre­quently, as they may lose their cush­ion­ing ef­fects with in­creased mileage.


Many new run­ners are un­der the im­pres­sion that they have to run ev­ery day, but, in fact, it’s quite the op­po­site. Dr Lee says that a day or two of rest after a long-dis­tance run will al­low mi­nor in­juries to heal. Un­der­tak­ing another bout of heavy ex­er­cise with­out a pe­riod of rest can cause per­ma­nent dam­age, he ex­plains. “Small, stacked in­juries may re­sult in se­vere in­juries in the long run. Re­mem­ber that flex­i­bil­ity and rest are im­por­tant in re­duc­ing the chances of get­ting repet­i­tive stress in­juries in our ten­dons, such as Achilles ten­dini­tis.”

Máire rec­om­mends start­ing out by run­ning three times a week on al­ter­nat­ing days. “This al­lows enough time for tis­sues to re­cover and adapt to train­ing loads, and pre­vents in­juries. From there, a new run­ner can build grad­u­ally by ad­ding in a fourth train­ing day ev­ery sec­ond week,” she says.

How­ever, if pain per­sists de­spite a pe­riod of rest, Dr Lee says it may sig­nify a more per­ma­nent in­jury rather than the reg­u­lar mus­cle or ten­don strains that you can get after in­tense ex­er­cise. “A spe­cial­ist’s as­sess­ment of your per­sis­tent symp­toms of pain may be help­ful in di­ag­nos­ing more se­ri­ous prob­lems such as tears in your car­ti­lage, ten­dons or menisci,” he says. “Oc­ca­sion­ally, you may even get sig­nif­i­cant bruis­ing in the bones of your knee joint, which may re­quire a longer pe­riod of rest in or­der for it to heal. You may also have some un­der­ly­ing, un­di­ag­nosed is­sue that is pre­dis­pos­ing you to in­jury when you run.”

While re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion with a phys­io­ther­a­pist can of­ten fa­cil­i­tate your body’s healing and re­con­di­tion­ing, Dr Lee adds that, for se­ri­ous prob­lems, “sur­gi­cal in­ter­ven­tion may be nec­es­sary to set you back on the path of re­cov­ery and your re­turn to run­ning.”


One very com­mon mis­take that new run­ners make is in­creas­ing their dis­tance too soon. “Pro­gress­ing too fast may pre­dis­pose you to stress in­juries,” says Dr Lee. “Al­ways start slow, and build up your dis­tance and pace.”

Máire agrees, point­ing out that the big­gest cause of in­juries in run­ners, new and ex­pe­ri­enced alike, is overload, where the run­ner in­creases his or her train­ing by too much mileage, too soon. She there­fore sug­gests grad­u­ally in­creas­ing your weekly train­ing mileage by 10 per­cent to avoid in­jury. “This is why you need to plan your train­ing in ad­vance of an event or race, in or­der to al­low for this slow build,” she says. “As they say, ‘slow and steady wins the race’. It’s a marathon, not a sprint – you want to have a long ca­reer run­ning, not a short one.”


Not only does run­ning with a group add a fun so­cial as­pect, but it can also make you more ac­count­able, which, in turn, makes you more mo­ti­vated to get off the couch and out the door. UFIT’S Run­fit, for in­stance, helps peo­ple spark their pas­sion for run­ning, tak­ing run­ners out­side their com­fort zones and mix­ing things up with dif­fer­ent ter­rains and in­ter­vals to keep things in­ter­est­ing. The group of­ten par­tic­i­pates in races around Sin­ga­pore and has also trav­elled to other parts of Asia for var­i­ous runs.

“Join­ing a so­cial run­ning group is a healthy way to catch up with friends and an ex­cel­lent way to make new friends and get to know a new coun­try,” says Máire. “You can meet like-minded peo­ple who share the same goal of want­ing to get fit­ter, health­ier and faster, and it also of­fers some healthy com­pe­ti­tion.”


“Run­ning is a great form of ex­er­cise for our bod­ies for many rea­sons,” says Máire. “It’s the most ef­fec­tive form of car­dio, and it tones our body, im­proves our mood and in­creases bone den­sity. But, it is a high-im­pact ex­er­cise, which can be chal­leng­ing and tough on our bod­ies.”

Run­ning is also very repet­i­tive. “When you think about it, we turn our legs over 170 to 180 times per minute when run­ning, so, for a 40-minute run, we are re­peat­ing the same move­ment 6,800 to 7,200 times. This rep­e­ti­tion can in­cur strain in­juries, and the best way to avoid these in­juries while start­ing out is cross train­ing on a non-run­ning day.”

Cross train­ing can mean any other form of ex­er­cise, prefer­ably a lower im­pact ex­er­cise that can carry over the same ben­e­fits as run­ning – for ex­am­ple, swim­ming or cy­cling. Máire also ad­vises do­ing low-im­pact core train­ing ex­er­cises such as Pi­lates and sus­pen­sion ca­ble train­ing. “The core is very in­volved in run­ning and is the main sys­tem keep­ing the torso up­right and the pelvis and hips stable through­out the run; it’s vi­tal for cor­rect trans­fer of load from the lower body to the up­per body – with­out a strong, stable core, a new run­ner will most likely ex­pe­ri­ence in­juries as they in­crease their train­ing,” she says.

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