Series 1 of these guidebooks will zoom in on various standalone topics as shown below:
- How to find the right running gears such as your outfit and shoes to enhance performance
- How to improve your fitness through cultivating small habits
- How to ramp up your performance in 100M, 200M and 400M sprints
- How to excel in 5KM and 10KM races
- How to achieve your personal best in marathons and ultramarathons?
- Tips from your veteran peers on how to improve your running performance
Now that we have established the scope of the guidebook series, are you guys excited for our first guidebook on running gear? Let’s dive right into it.
Forget about HITT sessions: finding the right running gear – outfit and shoes – is easily the most daunting task for any runner. From fabric material to cut, let’s break down the information for you so that you can focus on what’s more important: running.
While curating and buying the right running gear takes precious time and effort, we promise it’s all worth it. Apart from helping to achieve optimal runs, proper running gear is a crucial issue of safety.
We are sure no one likes to end up with a bleeding abrasion or sprained ankles, which is why we are here to help you navigate your way around the labyrinth of running gear.
Running outfits can be broadly categorised into two types: tops and bottoms. Tops include the much-loved singlets (some say, “vests”) and tees, while bottoms are running shorts of various kinds.
Because both feature across a range of cuts, length and fabrics, there is an option for everyone.
For tops, it is advisable to wear short-sleeved options. This prevents moisture and heat retention, which can result in heat injuries.
Given the stifling humidity and searing heat levels in Singapore, this is a particularly important point to take note of. For this reason, the humble singlet is a runner’s absolute best friend.
The cut of a singlet and lack of sleeves ensure optimal airflow, providing that ‘shiok’ airy feeling embraced by runners and non-runners alike.
For those of us not keen on liberalizing our armpits, there is the classic option: the tee shirt – just be sure to don them short-sleeved!
When one is deciding about material for tops, it pays to choose an option that wicks sweat efficiently.
If this isn’t obvious enough, cotton should be your last resort. Unless you’re looking to be weighed down by your own sweat or be chafed to death (more on that in a while), leave the cotton top at home.
This is because cotton retains a lot of moisture, keeping it trapped in the fabric and unevaporated. The optimal fabric choice would be synthetic fibres, AKA polyester, which offer the highest levels of breathability by wicking moisture away from the body and out through the permeable fabric to the exterior, where it evaporates more easily.
A downside to 100% synthetic fibre tops is the slight decrease in comfort levels.
For those of use sensitive to the touch of polyester, an in-between option of synthetic-cotton blend tops will offer us the much-loved touch of cotton with a moderate level of breathability.
For bottoms, the cut makes the biggest difference. There are 3 general types of cut: regular, v-notched and split.
Regular shorts are typical “rectangular” ones; while ubiquitous, they restrict your legs’ range of motion unnecessarily.
Apart from discomfort, this can kill your last “kick” before you can even start to think of dropping that one runner (who has been more than happy to let you lead). For this reason, we usually opt for the other 2 cuts.
An exception to the cons of the regular cut is compression shorts (some say, tights).
Despite its cut, the body-wrapping nature of compression shorts overcomes any obstruction to one’s range of motion – working almost like a second skin.
Compression shorts have been thought to hold muscles snugly in place and improve blood flow to them. However, studies have been conflicting.
Our advice? If you believe that it helps you, then go for it!
Next, we look into V-notched and split shorts, which are familiar sights in Singapore – most of us refer to them collectively as “FBT shorts”.
The difference between the both is merely an issue of cut and corresponding length. While v-notched shorts feature a small inverted “v” at the bottom of either side of the shorts, split shorts feature an even wider inverted “v” cut, bringing the length of shorts much higher up for a wider range of motion.
It is for this reason that makes split shorts a favourite among elite athletes.
An additional feature to most running shorts is the much-appreciated in-built lining. While this has encouraged some to go commando, we urge you to go through trial-and-error phase to find out your own preference.
This inner netting also provides additional coverage for our friends down under, especially when doing the essential stretches can often compromise decency.
Material-wise, most shorts feature 100% synthetic or synthetic-cotton blends for the proven sweat-wicking properties and comfort.
We’ll be hard-pressed to find a pair of 100% cotton shorts made for running – if you do find them, drop us a message! We’d want to poll if anyone would even want to don them.
Other extra features to consider include pockets sewn into shorts and reflective material on both tops and bottoms.
Pockets in shorts are for convenience. It is usually either an inner pocket on the underside of your shorts or a larger zipped back pocket on the outer side of the shorts.
Both allow you to carry small items like keys.
Reflective material, on the other hand, is for your safety. As its name suggests, it reflects light (emitted by nearby vehicles and public lamps) to enhance visibility of your profile to alert motorists. If you are a frequent night runner, a feature like this is best for you!
You might have noticed that our suggested options feature minimal clothing for comfort, range of motion and breathability.
But we offer a caveat: if you’re looking to warm up extensively for a race, a pair of windbreaker and running pants over your race outfit is always a delightful option.
Just a reminder: be sure to choose clothing with the same sweat-wicking properties mentioned earlier – you don’t want to be doused in sweat even before your race starts.
Having mentioned tops and bottoms, we wish there were no other aspect else to mention – but a runner’s life is not that simple.
The biggest and often recurring nightmare is chafing, which is why we strongly reiterate our choice of synthetic or at least synthetic-cotton blend options.
Chafing occurs when skin rubs against skin or when skin rubs against fabric. The former occurs in areas like the groin, underarms etc., while the latter happens when the fabric sticks to your skin and rubs against it.
The good news? Friction can be avoided; when it comes to chafing, prevention is always better than cure.
Firstly, choosing the right fabric is the first step to combating chafing. Using breathable clothing prevents sweat from causing skin to stick on skin, thereby preventing the chance for friction.
Also, this prevents sweat from drying out on the skin since it will be wicked away – this prevents crystallisation of sweat into salt bits, which offer potent exfoliation of the skin.
Additionally, the right fabric (i.e. polyester) will not be doused in sweat and cling onto your skin, potentially rubbing against it.
Secondly, using a gel-based lubricant (e.g. Vaseline) on areas prone to chafing can protect against friction. These areas include the groin, armpits thighs, neck, nipples – and for the ladies – the underside of the breasts.
Diligent application of such buffers will offer protection against friction. If you need any further motivation to add this into your running routine, a quick Google search on chafing horrors ought to do the trick.
Now that we’ve covered you from head to leg, let’s go back to basics with footwear, which is perhaps the most important constituent in the entire running gear set-up. It is crucial to note that – if there’s anything to invest in as a runner – it is a good pair of shoes.
Before you even buy a pair of shoes, you have to first know how your foot pronates.
Pronation is the way your foot rolls upon landing on the ground, which is a natural action that aids the lower leg in coping with shock. Pronation is largely influenced by the arch of your foot, which is that little cave (or the lack there of) at the bottom of your sole.
There are several ways to determine your arch type (and corresponding pronation), ranging from simple at-home tests to more comprehensive specialist check-ups.
Diagnostic Tests for Arch Types and Pronation
Firstly, you may start with the oft-touted “wet test” to determine your arch type. As its name suggest, it requires you to have your feet drenched before stepping onto a piece of paper or cardboard stock.
A variation of this test uses olive oil and brown paper, which is a good alternative if you find that water drips complicate the test results.
The resulting water or oil marks on the surface of the paper or cardboard stock will show you one of four arch types: collapsed, low, medium (normal) or high arches.
A collapsed arch will show an imprint of your entire sole, which is the bottom of your foot.
This condition is often referred to as flat footedness. This arch type causes severe over-pronation, where the foot rolls inwards too much upon landing and exposes the runner to injuries.
A low arch will show an imprint slightly less than your entire sole, which is anything upwards of 80% of the whole foot base shown on the test surface.
This arch type causes over-pronation as well but to a lesser degree.
Medium Arch (Normal)
A medium arch shows approximately 60% of the foot as imprint. It is the most biomechanically efficient arch, causing neutral pronation.
This is when your foot rolls inwards and the arch collapses lightly to absorb impact efficiently. A high arch shows about less than 40% of the entire foot as imprint.
This causes under-pronation, which is the insufficient inward roll of the foot, rendering contact with the ground more stressful to the foot.
Secondly, for those of us more well-heeled (get it?), a trip to a podiatrist or sports science specialist can give us more comprehensive tests to ascertain our arch types and pronation.
This usually involves a special gait test using video recording, where said video will be reviewed and analysed for results.
Type of Shoes for the Right Type of Feet
Assuming that you now know your arch type and pronation – what now? The natural thing to do is to apply that knowledge to buy the right pair of shoes for you. Remember, every foot is different and requires different types of shoes!This causes under-pronation, which is the insufficient inward roll of the foot, rendering contact with the ground more stressful to the foot.
Secondly, for those of us more well-heeled (get it?), a trip to a podiatrist or sports science specialist can give us more comprehensive tests to ascertain our arch types and pronation.
This usually involves a special gait test using video recording, where said video will be reviewed and analysed for results.
For low or collapsed arches and over-pronation, we’d recommend motion control shoes, where the emphasis is placed on additional cushioning on the inside for medial support. This slows down the rate of over-pronation.Some examples of motion control shoes are
For medium arches and neutral pronation, normal stability shoes would suffice. These provide additional cushioning support against the stress of impact and ergonomic features in general.
For high arches and over-pronation, cushioning shoes are recommended.
As the name suggests, the emphasis of such shoes is on cushioning to enhance shock dispersion, since under-pronation is the insufficient natural inward roll of the foot to absorb impact well.
Now that we have covered arch types & pronation, and the corresponding shoe types, you’re all ready to hit the stores.
Except one thing – do you know how well running shoes should fit your feet? It’s okay, we’ve got you covered from head to legs to toes, remember?
When it comes to proper fitting, it’s all about “the right feel” of the foot in shoe. Admittedly, this is needlessly vague. Which is why we have provided some general guidelines so that you won’t have to walk in the dark.
Typically, your running shoe size should be half a size larger than casual shoes. This is to account for the expansion of the foot while running, as well as the increased movement of the foot in the shoe.
However, that’s not to say that you should accord so much allowance that the fit becomes unnecessarily loose.
Length-wise, a good gauge is to have a thumb’s width of space from the longest toe to the front of the shoe, but your heel must be touching the back of the shoe while you ensure this space.
When laced up, the shoe should not be slipping at the heel but it also should not be too tight such that the instep (which is the top part of your foot in between the toes and the ankle) experiences a throbbing pain. This happens when the veins on your foot are compressed due to over-tightness, which can happen either when your shoes are too small or when you have laced up too tightly.
A rule of thumb is that a shoe is better when it is more flexible, since flexibility allows natural motion of the foot to take place.
However, flexibility can be a tradeoff for cushioning (ever wondered why heavily cushioned shoes are so stiff?) This is where you decide, based on your arch and pronation type, whether your foot can handle less cushioning for more flexibility.
For beginners, it is better to be conservative and stick to more cushioning. Subsequently, as your foot muscles become more developed and used to the varying terrains, you can then opt for something for flexible.
The idea? Always let your body get used to something new first.
With our running gear taken care of in LIV3LY’s first guidebook, the next thing to is to run the race itself, of course! Plenty has been said and written about the many ways to improve performance in a race. Plenty. But, in a deep, bottomless pool of information on the Web full of funny cat videos and news of reality stars getting robbed, useful tips and tricks can be easily buried. So, we have decided to scour the deepest knowledge banks to compile the best advice on performance we have come across. Let’s get started!
Start with Small Habits
We all know the importance of starting a run with the right foot. What better way to start than to cultivate small habits that could do wonder to our speed and strength.
Get enough sleep
Ironic, we know, that one of the best ways to make us a better runner is by investing more time in snoozing. But, there is a reason why getting seven to nine hours of sleep is crucial. Poor sleep quality has been known to cause higher injury risk and bad mood.
Not the most optimal condition if we are on the quest to break our personal record or qualify for the next marathon. Also, sleep deprivation is like a debt with a stiff interest rate. The more we neglect sleeping, the harder it will be to wake ourselves up for our morning training. If you find yourself dozing off during lecture or at work and if you are knocked out cold as soon as your head lands on the pillow, it’s time to put sleeping on your to-do list.
It’s not going to be a light jog in the park to discipline ourselves on sleeping well, especially in Singapore where most people don’t sleep that much.
But, it can be done.
For starters, put away all of your gadgets one hour before going to bed and spend your time doing something relaxing such as reading or talking to other people (in person that is). Resist the itch to check that work email or to open your laptop.
Also, try to pass on that 1-for-1 deal from coffee joints nearby on late afternoons. The effects of caffeine could last for four to six hours which may interfere with your early slumber goal. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day will also greatly help you to wake up more energetically.
Experts say that food should be treated like any other running equipment. Just like how we would not want to run 5 km in high heels, we also would not want to start running without properly fuelling our body. It is recommended to take a fist-size amount of food, or to be precise, food that is within 150-200 calories one hour before clocking the miles or doing strength training.
If you are going for a long run that is more than one hour, take some gels, sugar cubes or honey with you as you need to replenish the energy with 30-60 grams of carbs every hour.
We may also want to scrape char kway teow or cheese burger from our post-run meal. It is important to eat within the first 15 minutes after an intensive training as the enzymes that help the body to resynthesize glycogen is most active in the first 15 minutes.
But, we should not aim for a heavy meal straight away as it will upset the stomach and we may end up with cramps instead. Opt for light food such as trail mix or sandwich.
But, workout snacks should never replace the actual meals we should have in a day. To ensure that we’re always in a tip-top shape, we should eat at the very least three meals a day.
Add a long run to the routine
Although not all of us are marathoners, we can still benefit from adding a long run to our running routine. Long runs help to build endurance and strength.
It helps to grow capillaries that transport more oxygen to the muscles and it strengthens our heart, ligaments as well as leg muscles. Even runners who will eventually spend less than a minute racing on the track can benefit from running longer distances. Relax now, we do not have to do long runs every single week. It is, after all, a more taxing exercise that would probably take up half our precious downtime on weekends.
A simple rule of thumb would be to take a rest for every one mile (1.6 km) we cover.
If we run for 12 miles, then we can get away with not running long distance for 12 days without losing all the benefits that we have gained from the training. Coaches advise those who just start dipping their toes in the long distance game to limit their running time to 90 minutes to get the body accustomed to longer exercise.
Some of us, however, may just lose our mind out of boredom from running that long. In that case, we can break up our long runs to two sessions in the week. The first session is 20-25 percent of our weekly mileage and the second is 15 percent of our weekly mileage. Sounds great?
Sprint performance (100M, 200M, and 400M)
For a race that ends within a blip, sprinting requires a great deal of investment in training. It’s not just a matter of running fast. In the race of brute muscular strength, we will also have to maintain our maximum speed for as long as possible before our neuromuscular coordination breaks down.
Yes, it is as serious as it sounds, which is why the world is so enamoured of the champ who can still smile for the camera while running on bullet speed.
The hard work begins way before we even step onto the track.
Way before Your Race
Training Plan for 100M
Before doing any exercise, it is crucial to spend a few minutes stretching. The last thing that we want is to work a stiff muscle and end up having to limp from one place to another for the rest of the week or worse still, a month.
While static stretching, one in which we hold our positions for a period of time, can improve flexibility, for runners, it’s best to do dynamic stretching, such as walking lunges or arm circles, whereby we move our muscles through a series of full-range motions.
Dynamic stretching wakes up our system, it increases our heart rate and body temperature, which allows our muscles to move more efficiently.
Nothing would be as effective in building our muscle strength as weight training. In order to pull what seems to be a superhuman power from our body, it is recommended to include weight training in our routine at least three times a week for the duration of four weeks.
Weight training will ensure that we train our body as a whole and there will be no muscle imbalance which may impair our performance.
To train our speed, these two exercises may be right up our alley to train our energy system and neuromuscular pattern so that we can accelerate to our maximum speed faster.
The first exercise is Fly 30’s, whereby we will accelerate to our maximum speed in the first 30 metres, dash through the next 30 metres, also known as the fly zone, at full speed (imagine running on hot coals) and then slowly decelerating. It’s recommended to do three sets with three repetitions each of Fly 30’s at 95-100 percent of your target speed.
The second exercise is ‘Ins and Outs’, where we will accelerate in the first 30 metres, then maintain our full speed using arm swings to help us run faster for the next 20 metres in the ‘In’ zone.
Finally, in the last 20 metres called the ‘out’ zone, we should run at maximum speed still, however we can relax our arms before going into another ‘In’ zone. Try doing three sets with three repetitions each of ‘Ins and Outs’ at 95-100 percent of your target speed.
There are many other exercises that can be included in the training. But, for some of us who are not so much a timetable builder, here’s a full schedule already built and endorsed by running coaches just for you.
Training Plan for 200M
The main aspect that we need to zoom in when planning for a 200-metre race is to strategize our running tempo. This race is like the brunch of the running world.
It’s neither here nor there and yet is tremendously popular. It is not long enough that we can use our long distance pace, but it is not short enough to rely on the “explosion” of energy from our muscles.
Seasoned 200-metre runner, Latif Thomas, broke down the race in four segments to help out with the pacing. Run segment one, which is from the start to the first 40 metres, with maximum effort.
From 40-110 metres, we can lower the speed a little to the point where we can run comfortably yet still quickly. We should gradually accelerate to our maximum speed from 110-140 metres and maintain this speed until the end of the race.
On top of planning our race tempo, we also have to focus on building our core strength, quads, glutes and hamstrings so as to achieve and maintain a good running posture for the race day. Plyometric exercises, which include a lot of jumping movements, are great to build lower-body strength.
Other exercises, such as bench press and squats, are also oldies but goodies among 200-metre runners.
Of course, we can’t neglect track training, the spinach to our running Popeye. Due to the neither-here-nor-there nature of a 200 metre race, it is recommended to do both short sprints (30-60 metres) and long sprint (100-400 metres) training.
The short sprints will train us for faster acceleration during the first 40 metres of the race while the long sprint helps with endurance for the rest of the race.
Training Plan for 400M
Training for 400-metre race is tricky as it does not only call for strength and speed but also high tolerance to lactic acid which is produced when we work our muscles so hard that our body cannot replenish the oxygen in the muscles sufficiently (be right back getting our newfound respect for all these sprinters).
How exactly can we build tolerance to lactic acid? Well, it follows the logic of “spend money to make more money”.
We need to spend our energy to “make” more energy. During training, sprint coaches would suggest inducing fatigue in order to produce more lactic acid and condition our body to clear it out more quickly.
This can be done by running 300-metres as hard as possible and resting for 15 minutes before doing a couple more repetitions. Plyometric exercises can also be included in this training. Perform 150-200 metre runs slightly below the 400-metre speed followed by a set of five hurdle jumps.
Lactic acid tolerance is especially important in the last 100 metres of the race. The best 400-metre runners such as Michael Johnson would start outrunning his competitors in the last 100 metres, not because he speeds up, but because everyone else starts slowing down due to fatigue.
It goes without saying that increasing our maximum speed through track training and strength building is important, but more time in the pre-race should be geared to developing tolerance to lactic acid.
Any specific warm up exercises for sprints?
Surprise, surprise! Stretching has been found to improve the performance of sprinters. But, not just any kind of stretching. As mentioned above, dynamic stretching is preferred as it can effectively warm up our muscles.
It should also be done in small doses, which means we probably need to spend less than 15 minutes doing small jumps, high kicks, arm rotations and the likes.
Jogging around the track also makes a good warm-up, plus it makes a good distraction from standing and listening to our own loud, thumping heart before the race.
Useful mental preparation tips?
Running a race in general can be nerve-wrecking, but having only a few minute window to perform after a full year of hard work? Talk about pressure.
So, mental preparation is just as important as any other trainings we have. Try not to stress about the end result of the race so much.
Take the time to talk to yourself.
Have a mantra or a quote to motivate yourself before the race. Athletes have often tried to visualise how they can win the game, such as picturing themselves executing a perfect technique.
Sport psychologists found that mental rehearsal or visualisation helps to create a mental blueprint which will facilitate better performance. So, why don’t we give it a go?
Other great preparation steps for before-race
Also, one great tip that may put a lid on the pre-run jittery is not to anticipate when the pistol is going to go off. This could lead to a false start and we may get disqualified. We would really bang our head on the table for that. Instead, when we get on the track, try to simulate the start so we get used to propelling our body into action.
If the race is in the wee hours of the day, laying out our gears on the day before could be helpful. We don’t have to tumble around half-awake rummaging through our drawers finding things and risking leaving important stuff behind (yes, that happened).
Let’s start from the very beginning of the race, because in a sprint race, we have to start strong to finish strong. When assuming the four-point stance at the starting block, put most pressure on the toes and your fingers on the line.
Lean slightly forward. When the gun goes off, push hard on the bent knees and propel ourselves forward. Refrain from standing upright too quickly as it would prevent us from accelerating to the top speed. Imagine ourselves like a plane taking off the runway. Gradual is key.
We’re sure you have seen the following movement countless times be it on running race or action movies. When runners sprint, they use their arms to aid their movements.
This is not an exaggerated move for cinematic purposes. Swinging our arms with each stride can indeed help us to get more push when our feet hit the ground. Make sure to keep our hands and elbows in a 90-degree angle and as we swing our arms, the fists should reach shoulder level.
Two words: High knee. If this post is too long to read, then that is the main takeaway on how to improve speed during the dash.
Sprinters are a breed of their own in terms of speeding. The best sprinters have been found to apply more ground force to maximize speed. They do this by cocking their knee high and locking the ankle before delivering a forceful punch to the ground. By doing this, they elevate the ground force with every stride that helps them to speed up.
Sprinters are often fatigued because they are short of breath. They push their bodies to move so fast that their muscles do not have enough time to be re-oxygenated. So, even breathing will require strategies.
To relieve us from getting out of breath while running, we can use belly breathing instead of the regular chest breathing.
This is one tough habit to break, unless you are a tai chi master, because we are conditioned to use our chest more to breath. Belly breathing allows the lungs to expand more by pushing the diaphragm down to the abdomen.
We can do this by tightening our abs, drawing our stomach to our spine, while exhaling. As such, more we can inhale more oxygen which helps to prevent fatigue.
Another useful tip is to breathe through our mouth rather than nose. The logic behind this is simple: our mouth is bigger than our nose, thus enabling greater exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
Breathing through the mouth also relaxes our facial muscles which allows deeper inhaling. Plus, relaxed facial muscles make greater running photos, no more untagging weird faces on Facebook.
Other important elements of running form
We have talked at length about the need to start with the right form, especially for sprinters. However, our running form and, to a certain extent, our gait depend on the flexibility of our hip flexors.
Hip flexors store elastic energy which is to be used during propulsion. Think of the extension of your hip flexor like drawing back a slingshot. The more elastic the hip flexor is, the more propulsion we will get. Therefore, having an elastic hip flexor is paramount. However, since life is raining lemons and we sometime need to spend more hours sitting down working, our hip flexors can lose its elasticity.
In short, we need to spend some quality time getting to know the range of movement of our hip flexors and training them too.
To successfully overcome a curve on the track, we can lean slightly into the curve with our left shoulder and tilt our head in the opposite direction. We also should not swing our left arm so aggressively but balance it with more movements in the right arm. Focus on where you want to go in the turn and the body will follow.
Running experts also recommend putting our maximum effort in the initial stretches and clock in lower time.
The further we go in the race, the more worn down we are, both physically and mentally. So, it’s best if we lift up the pressure of having to run faster to make up for the time nearing the end of the race.
5KM and 10KM Races
One of the pitfalls of 5K and 10K race training is wanting to do too much in a short period of time. We want to cover the distance and do so at our goal pace on the first try, which is the kind of accomplishment that we can only get if we have released a genie from a bottle or we are seasoned 5K and 10K runners. Otherwise, 5K and 10K trainings call for gradual progress and endurance development.
Way Before Your Race
Training Plan for 5KM
It is natural to think that when training for 5K race, we are training on the basis of distance. But experts conclude that this may not be the smartest way to go about it.
To train for the race, we should indeed run long and often, but long here refers to time and not distance. The gist of the training, apart from building fitness, is to induce our body to work with at a moderate level for a sustained time thus allowing it to develop aerobic endurance.
To find the perfect 5K pace, we can do a middle distance training. This is when we can perform a few laps of running, ranging from 800 metres to 3.2 kilometres.
Pick and maintain a pace to run one full lap. Then assess if the pace we have chosen can be maintained for the entire 5K. If we feel like we’re in need of a new pair of lungs and a wheelchair to take us home, then we’re likely running too fast. So, for the next lap, we ought to take our pace down a notch.
How do we know if we have found the right pace? By the end of the lap, we should feel like we have energy to keep running a little further but at the same time we cannot repeat that lap again with the same pace.
Since this exercise is meant for us to test the waters and not go into full dive, make sure you do not over exert yourself. Take enough rest in between the laps and wait until our heart and respiration rate return to normal before attempting another run.
Middle distance running is also perfect time to do some hard talk with ourselves. Be honest when answering,
“Can I sustain this effort for the entire 5K run?” Effort is different from pace because our pace will get faster as we get fitter, but perceived effort to sustain or even get to that pace while running may still be the same.
Often we are too fixated at achieving our pace that we don’t pay much attention on whether we have the mental and physiological capacity to sustain such pace.
Training Plan for 10KM
Even if it is a charity run, 10K is no easy distance to cover and it calls for proper training to be able to cross the finish line without injury or nagging muscle pain for the next couple of weeks.
During training, we need to include a running session that stretches longer than 10K to get our body accustomed to long distance running.
Good news is we don’t need to run on our 10K goal pace. We can run one minute per mile slower than the goal pace to cover 12 km distance, for instance. It does not have to be done in every single training session either, that would be an overdose.
One longer run per week should be enough to give physiological and mental boost to finish 10K race.
In other training sessions, we can run a shorter distance which focus more on the speedwork and endurance.
Running uphill, for one, can be just what we need to build strength and power. Fartleks training which consists of an interval of runs with varying speed and intensity could also help to improve our stamina and strength for 10K race.
Running coaches also encourage both 5K and 10K runners to train outside of the track. This is because long distance runs are rarely conducted on track and thank heaven for that.
The thought of running 20 consecutive laps on the track is already making some of us dizzy.
Since the main aim of 5K and 10K training is to make our body work at a certain level for a sustained period of time, it will be more effective if we can run on the actual route of the race.
We could adjust our energy level and perceived effort to overcome hilly roads, sharp turns or uneven grounds along the route of the race.
Since few of us can fit “make a timetable for 10K training” in our already crowded timetable, a pre-made training schedule may come in handy.
Any specific warm up exercises for 5km and 10km races?
Timing is crucial in 5K and 10K races warm up. We want to stop warming up just before the actual race to prevent our muscles from getting “cold”. Start the warm-up by jogging for 10-15 minutes, followed by dynamic stretches.
To improve our coordination and mobility, we can do ABC drill which include exercises such as butt kicks, high knee run and skips.
These are classic basics, hence the name, which cause little stress to the body but at the same time isolate the different muscles that we’ll be relying on when we are running and prepping them up.
Accelerations is another great warm-up to have up our sleeve before the race. To perform accelerations, we should start off with a slow jog and slowly speed up until we reach 90% of our sprinting speed.
Sixty metres of accelerations with 2-3- repetitions should be sufficient. Caution: we want to keep this short. As this is a rather taxing warm-up, we don’t want to drain our energy before the race by overdoing the drill.
Useful mental preparation tips?
Long distance, such as 10K, can be daunting to some, especially those who are new in the game. To ease that mental pressure, elite runner, Susan Partridge, recommends breaking the race into sections.
Instead of aiming to finish the long and seemingly endless 10K, aim to finish one km at a time.
As mentioned above, visualizing ourselves crossing that finish line and posing with our finisher t-shirt and medal can also give the much needed motivation boost, especially when our legs start getting a little wobbly as we go further into the race.
When we are after breaking a personal record or when we go to our first race, we should prepare for pain and discomfort.
In a 10KM race, particularly, we may feel one or two stinging sensation in different parts of our body. Rather than cursing the pain away, which could mess up our running morale too, learn to anticipate the pain.
Chanting “stronger, faster, stronger, faster” or the likes can aid us to focus on our performance rather than the discomfort.
Other great preparation steps for before-race
Unlike 100-m dash which will end in seconds, 5K and 10K challenges us to endure longer. That’s why comfort is everything. From head to toe, make sure the gear that we choose to run in can afford us the highest level of comfort possible.
Stick with what you know will work.
Race day is not the time to test out our new shoes, no matter how many technologically advanced they are. Some pro-runners even avoid wearing the race t-shirt.
Many say it’s because they don’t want to jinx it, but it also makes sense to not run with a kit that they have not tried before. The shirt can be too short, too long, not airy enough, not cooling enough.
One runner even described running in the race t-shirt was like having a cheese grater on his chest. After a race, we want to celebrate with good food and a sleep fest instead of a painful shower session from all the chafing. So, when in doubt, choose comfort.
According to a running coach, a good running posture is like being suspended with strings like a puppet: head high and shoulders back.
When we are too focused on taking over a group of runners in front of us or when we are nervous, we tend to put a lot of tension on our shoulders. We need remember to relax our upper body and to relax our shoulders when we see them raising to meet our ears.
The success of the race is literally in our hands. Some of us may be accustomed to swinging our arms in a crisscross manner.
This could hamper our movement. Instead, lock our hands and elbows in a 90-degree angle and swing them forward and backward from the waist to the nipples. This movement helps to propel us forward and it could be just the technique which can shave the extra 5 seconds off our record.
Unlike sprinters who champion the high-knee technique, runners in the longer distance category only require a light knee lift and shorter strides.
Many runners try to extend their stride, so that they can cover longer distances with each stride. However, experts have found this to be counter-productive.
When we attempt to take longer strides, our feet will land in front of our body creating a negative force that can impede our subsequent movement and also make us more prone to injury.
Instead of diverting the energy to covering distance, we should create a more fluid movement by landing directly underneath the body and have our knees slightly flexed so it will bend naturally upon touching the ground.
The stride length of seasoned distance runners is about six feet long, whereas ultra-marathoners’ average stride length is about one to three feet long.
We also should not create mini earthquakes upon impact. Our feet should be light and springy as we run.
With each step, we have to land somewhere between the heels and the midfoot before rolling forward toward the toes. As we roll towards our toes, it’s best if we can keep our ankle flexed to create more push-off force.
A telling sign that we’ve got this right is when we can feel our calf muscles working to propel us forward.
Belly breathing is the buzzword among elite runners and running coaches when it comes to the best breathing technique.
As explained, belly breathing could facilitate more exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide when running than the chest breathing that we usually practise.
For some of us who sometimes forget to breathe when we are running (we’re not making this up, some of us do hold our breath for far too long when we are engrossed in running), we could synchronize our breathing with our steps. A 2:2 rhythm is recommended for distance running. That means we inhale in the first two steps and exhale in the next two steps. We can also shift to a 2:1 rhythm in the last minutes as we dash to the finish line.
But, don’t get too caught up on synchronizing our breathing though. Being too obsessed with getting it right may result in slower run. Do what’s best for you, as long as you don’t feel like you’re being choked by invisible hands, you can run with any rhythm you prefer.
Other important elements of running form
“Old habits die hard.” Although, we have promised ourselves that we will commit to a good posture when running, we might still start off with a slouch and the worst part is we don’t even know it until it’s too late.
Then, we start feeling like someone is scraping our internal organs, a phenomenon called side stitch.
If you feel a cramp-like sensation in your abdomen during the race, don’t go into a panic mode.
Take a deep breath, arch your back and start running in a more upright position. However, if the pain does not go away after a while, do seek help once it gets severe.
As 5K and 10K runs are the more mainstream and popular runs due to its less intense nature, race events could be packed with people.
Many are experienced runners, but many others may not be. So, if you are after a time goal, you may want to scrum (and side elbow a little) for a better starting spot.
You don’t want to start too way back because the crowd would not thin out until you reach half of the race and you wouldn’t want to spend your time and energy at the start to swerve around throngs of people.
Marathons: it is a race in another level that many runners will get pumped up about, but it will also make runners question their life-decision making as they enter the third quarter of the race.
All jokes aside though, marathons are highly demanding races that will push our endurance and strength to the edge. We could surely say that one doesn’t walk into the race without proper training and come out walking straight.
Way before Your Race
Training Plan for Half-Marathons (21.0975KM)
There is really no way around training for half marathons other than long distance running because endurance is key.
Unlike in 5K and 10K race whereby there may still be a chance where we can find that extra surge of energy by relying on Rihanna’s new beat, during marathons we cannot just fake our way through.
So, for marathon beginners, you may want to start training earlier because you need to slowly incorporate long runs (10-15 km) to your running routine every week. Then, 12-20 weeks before the race, you can add one km every week, but do take a recovery week every 4-6 weeks of training when you run a shorter distance.
Runners who are no strangers to marathons may want to keep up running more than 21 km for their long runs.
The idea here is to ensure that you can cover the half marathon distance at ease so that you can focus on speed for the race day.
Another building block of endurance is tempo run.
This drill conditions our body to remove lactic acid from our system more quickly, thus we can maintain faster pace for a longer period of time. Tempo runs can be executed by doing hard/easy run whereby runners will run hard at maximum effort (for those who run by perceived effort) or at 85-90 percent of their maximum heart rate for three minutes.
Then, they will perform an easier run to recover from the hard run for another three minutes. Advanced runners may cut the recovery time to one or two minutes. There are also a number of other variations for tempo run training should you want to change it up.
About four to six weeks before the race, you can focus on half-marathon specific training. Experts recommend trying to run at the goal pace for about 10-13 km.
This could be done by doing two repetitions of 5K run with a 2-minute recovery run in between or completing the last 5-8 km of the race at goal pace to condition ourselves to run with tired legs.
Training Plan for Full Marathons (42.195KM)
Apart from developing a strong base as described above, training for a more rigorous race such as a full marathon that works your body to the bone calls for runners to pay attention to nutrition as well.
We will burn a lot of calories and work our muscles more training for marathons, which is why it is important to replenish the lost nutrients in order to give our body sufficient materials to rejuvenate our cells and muscles.
Many runners gain weight during the training course, but this is not a cause for worry. As long as you feel fit and strong, the digits on the scale should not tip you off. However, this does not license us to start on a french fries and chips binge.
During training, it is best if we can consume more whole food such as butter, red meat, coconut oil, etc, instead of processed food which typically replace all the good nutrients with fillers such as sugar.
Runners on marathon training should also plan for how they are going to take in their food during the race and start simulating it in training.
Yes, we need dedicated training on taking our food for race day. Having a mental map on what we are going to take and when is not sufficient.
There are a lot of factors that we need to take into account, such as whether our body reacts well to consuming certain gels or energy drinks, the amount of these energy supplies that we need to take in and how this amount will change in different weathers.
The last thing we want is to run with cramps or bloating (as if sore muscles are not enough). So, take the time to find the right combination and test it out.
Weeks before the race, we could also try to run at the actual time of the race. This is because as we run consistently at the same time, our bodily system will adjust itself around this schedule. From the time we get hungry to our bathroom breaks, we can safely predict and anticipate them which will be a great benefit during race day.
Any specific warm up exercises for half and full marathons
Set your alarm two and a half hours or even four hours before the race time. It’s shakeout run time! If saying “it’s shakeout run time!” doesn’t excite, you’ll definitely be excited after you’ve done it.
What is a shakeout run? It is a light jog of 10-15 minutes in duration that you should consider doing first thing in the morning when you have a long-distance run scheduled for the day. Consider shakeout run as your pre-warm up.
What shakeout run does is that is helps you to shake off your sleepiness and grogginess when you wake up in the morning so that you can hit the starting line fresh and enthusiastically.
It also wakes up your central nervous system and promotes blood flow so when you start the actual race, your body will not be startled with the sudden surge of oxygen demand. This will prevent you going into a premature oxygen debt which increases lactic acid production.
Shortly before the race, do a light dynamic stretch, however be careful not to overdo it. In long-distance running, less is more.
The slow opening pace of long distance running and its long distance will provide sufficient time for you to warm up as you go. So, it’s best to conserve as much energy as possible before the gun goes off.
Other great preparation steps for pre-races
Get a quick fix of easily digestible carbs and protein before the race to avoid runners’ hunger (or ‘runger’ as commonly termed among runners). But lock up your high-fibre fruits and avoid eating raw veggies 24 to 48 hours leading to the race. We seriously do not want to count the distance we run to the nearest restroom in our mileage.
Other important elements of running form
This may be a common knowledge among many advanced runners but we feel like we need to stress this again because it is that important.
Stick to your training pace.
We understand that during the race day, adrenaline and a cheering crowd could buoy our steps a little and we are tempted to hit the race off with a faster pace.
However, long-distance runners who release their inner Flash too early in the race have higher risk of getting cramp due to fatigue. So, be disciplined and enjoy the race. Pay close attention to the weather when you’re running. You don’t have to know the exact temperatures and humidity percentage like a weather forecaster though. Gauge with your feeling how hot or humid it is and adjust your water intake accordingly. Drinking the right amount of water is necessary as dehydration can have fatal consequences. Also, you can consider customizing and bringing your own food kit to ensure that you supply your body with specific nutrients that you know you’ll need.
Some runners for instance will bring salt pills to the race as they know most energy bars and drinks do not have enough sodium to replenish what has been lost during the race. Race organisers may not be able to accommodate your exact needs and that’s when having your own kit can be helpful.
To many, “How to train for ultramarathons” and “how to be a superhuman” are basically the same question. We used to agree, but a closer look at the advice and experience of ultramarathon runners show that it is attainable. Sure, we need to invest more time in training and be committed to it, but the sense of achievement and satisfaction from passing a 100K race would blow the roof.
Way before Your Race
Forget running the actual race distance during training, instead focus on running often. We know this does not make a convincing advice, especially to advanced marathon runners who are used to running even longer distance than the actual race for training.
But, for ultramarathons which cover insanely long distances, we’re setting ourselves up for injury if we run the distance every week. What we want to focus on is to break the run into different sessions.
Two most popular ways among seasoned ultra-runners are to run two days back-to-back or to run twice a day. In the first run, we can do elevation training which is running on the hill with a comfortable pace. The second run is usually a tempo run on an even and flat ground.
The purpose of the double run is to train ourselves in running even as we see our legs turning into Jell-O and find a way to recover from fatigue quickly. This is the bread and butter for ultramarathon running.
Try to train in different weather conditions and terrains. If possible, when the race takes place close to home, we can even try to run on the actual race route. Due to the distance and length of the race period, ultramarathons often take place on varied terrain and the weather on the race day may change as well.
Thus, studying the course is paramount so that we know what to expect. If the terrain is hilly, train on the hills for elevation gain.
To acclimatise ourselves to the weather, we can do heat training in the sauna or run in colder areas when we expect the race to take place in a low-temperature region. Even the most advanced ultra-runners could still end with a DNF (Did Not Finish) because they are not adjusted to the race environment.
Switch up your training. Include cross training such as swimming or biking in between the long runs. It is advisable to give parts of our body which have been hammered from the long runs and hikes a break.
But, taking a break does not equate to being a couch potato. You can still have an active rest and this is when cross training plays a role. Exercise such as biking could help to improve strength and aerobic capacity.
Pilates, for one, can strengthen your core thus improving your running posture. The point of cross training is that you want to train your body with the same intensity but lower impact exercises.
Planning when you should eat during the race and simulating it during the training as have been explained above is also crucial for ultramarathons.
Any specific warm up exercises for ultramarathons
Ultramarathon warm-up exercises follow the rule of thumb of marathon warm-up: less is more. Advanced ultra-runners advised against overthinking and over-analysing the smallest details before the race. Just keep it simple.
Shakeout run and a short dynamic stretching session would help to warm up your muscles and prepare them for the high-intensity race, but complicated and elaborate warm-ups are big no-no.
Useful mental preparation tips
An ultramarathon is probably the one race when our mental strength plays just as a big a role as our physical capacity. Most ultra-runners would just focus on one goal on the starting line: to survive the race. Finishing time takes the passenger seat.
Most ultra-veteran runners would also take it easy on themselves and not to beat themselves down when they make mistakes along the way.
Even if you slip, fall and lose a little bit of time in the 20-km mark, you will still have another 80 km or 30 km to make up for it.
Prepare ourselves for trouble too. Tell ourselves that this is not going to be a smooth running race. This is not to make us be a pessimist though, but to allow us to mentally anticipate problems and not to wilt in the face of it.
Marathoners would be familiar with “hitting the wall”. Well, in ultramarathon there will be many walls and as Anton Krupicka, two-time 100K winner, puts it, all we have to do is “believe in your training, believe in yourself, grit your teeth and do it.”
Other great preparation steps for before-race
And we’re not talking about lite meal here as suggested for other races. For many marathoners, dousing ourselves with calories before the race is cardinal sin with harsh punishment too (hello, cramp and stitch!). But, for ultramarathons, our body is going to be running on energy deficit all day long, so we’ll need all the calories we can take in. Granted fuller stomach means that we cannot start the race fast, but according to veteran runners, starting slow is the way to go in this race anyway.
Do consume food with fat content, such as nuts, chocolates, and peanut butters. In ultramarathon, the excessive amount of energy spent means that we’re no longer relying on temporary glycogen storage for energy, but also fat storage.
So, it’s good to have something on hand with high fat content.
An ultramarathon calls for all kinds of exceptions that defy everything we’ve learnt in previous, shorter distance races. Although this is a running race, we don’t really need to run all the time. Seasoned ultra-runners opt to give up speed and just hike the steep uphill. This is a better way to conserve energy. Rather than jogging up the steep hills which will drain our energy fast, runners prefer to go slow and make up for the time on the even, flat ground later on.
Other important elements for during-race performance
Bring your own food. The importance of keeping yourself full and restoring energy throughout the course of the race cannot be highlighted more, which is why you cannot depend on aid stations to refuel you. In some races, the aid stations may be so far apart, 16-20 km far, as compared to the ones in marathon race which are only 2-5 km apart. Aid stations can also run out of the good food supplies. So, better be safe than hungry.
The packing list for ultramarathon should read like a minimalist version of a camping pack list.
Small first aid kit, allergy medication, duct tape, pain killers, wet wipes, these are just to name a few. Ultra-runners need to be more self-sufficient than any other runners.
In ultramarathons, we need to take care of even the smallest issues, such as having a rock in our shoes, before they get blown up. Sure, rock in the shoes sound harmless, right? Leave it for another 30 km and we’ll end up with a huge, searing blister. Put a lid on it before it’s too late.
You hear us enough. It’s time for us and you to hear from your peers. We’ve opened this section of the guidebook to the ground and sourced over 100 responses. We have, to our best, summarised all the advice and credit everyone who has contributed. Take a look at what your peers recommend, and join them in providing advice to the next guidebook’s section.
- How to warm up or cool down the proper way
- How to eat right as a runner, with sample meal plans
- How to recover from running injuries fast, with insights from Dr Roger Tian, medical director and consultant of Singapore Sports Medicine Centre
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