by John McCawley (May 2001)
Running is a commitment to time. We all value time particularly as urbanites and if you want to reach your potential, it all boils down to how much time you have available. If you are single or have an understanding partner or better still a running partner, then there may not be much of a problem. However if you are married with small children, and a non-running partner then tread lightly. Balance your family life with your running, don’t let either dominate for too long.
Here are a handful of tips in no particular order:
Run three days a week as a minimum and six days a week as a maximum
Run for 20 minutes minimum each time and build up to occasional 2 hour runs if you can.
Learn to run as well as jog, a decent stride length and foot plant is important but don’t overstride and feel uncomfortable. Malaysians used to say to me, “Aahh you go jogging lah,…” My response was, “I go running” “No difference!” “Big difference”
Breathing is important – studies in Russia showed that if you suck in in two or three short breaths you get more oxygen, breathe out in a similar way. That is instead of a single inhalation and a single exhalation. Follow my rhythm: suck,suck (all in) blow,blow (all out)
Run with your head up and look straight ahead – studies show that your speed decreases if your head is down or looking at the ground. Shorten your stride up the hills, but if it is a short hill try not to lose the rhythm, generally body and shoulders upright and relaxed, although lean slightly into hills. Take advantage of the gravity of downhills to lengthen your stride. If the downhill is not too steep don’t change the nature of your foot plant, use the gravity. Plant your feet heel-toe. If you can hear your feet making contact with the ground then friction is absorbing your available energy. Try to run silently grasshopper. Try to run at an even pace throughout your run.
Keep a running log – useful to track your improvements and work backwards to recognise why you ran well or conversely why you became injured; also makes a good diary for years to come
Don’t clock watch every run. Some people time their every run and try and get faster every time they step out of the door. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself or you won’t be able to maintain your running more than a few months. Time your favourite runs now and then but not every day.
No more than 10% increase a week on distance or time – hence you need a log to track this. Increase faster than this and you are liable to become injured – shin splints (front of the shin) is one example of a common injury if you increase your distance too quickly
Reduce your weight – being able to see your ribs and collar bone you will enjoy running so much more and be less prone to injuries. If you think you are comfortable at 60kg then it is likely you can reach 55kg. I always thought 74 kg was healthy for me as a runner and 72kg was special, now that I’m running again after a 7 year absence I’m 68/69kg and at 40 running almost as well as ten years ago. I believe if I reach 67kg I will be flying. But what is a bonus to losing weight is a reduction in joint pains and injuries
Keep hydrated – a 2% loss of water is followed by a marked reduction in ability to run; your blood thickens and your heart has to work harder to pump your viscous blood. 2% is probably about a litre to a litre and a half for most people. As a test weigh yourself before a long run and immediately after (1 litre weighs 1 kilogram. I, a matt salleh, can lose around 4 litres on a long run. To compensate I drink perhaps 1.5 - 2 litres in the hour before my run and also buy a litre (2 x 500ml) on my run if I’m running close to 2 hours. For runs like Penang Bridge, I’ll be full of water before I start, it is uncomfortable over the first quarter but pays dividends over the last quarter.
Teach your body to burn fat by running long runs on an empty stomach. For a while you may feel light-headed, but your body will get used to it if you do it regularly and instead of burning up blood sugar will break down body fat to supply energy
Vary your training for enjoyment. Running can be tedious especially when you build up to regular hour and a half to two-hour runs. My week consists of 6 days running – two long runs of around 25km each one run of about 20km, two hash runs of about 12km each and a visit to the track for speedwork where I cover a total of about 10km. My normal weeks are thus around 100km +. What I lack possibly right now is a tempo run 3, 4, 5 or 6k running flat out at your 10km race pace – a little over 20 minutes should be your aim. I also lack hill training – 150-200 metres fast uphill with a jog down, repeat ten times
Hash began in Malaysia in 1938 and now has 100,000 hashers worldwide. Hash in Malaysia is running and provides variety. Soft underfoot, rough terrain, short bursts of speed for 1-1.5hrs is perfect. Because of the terrain it builds very strong ankles that are unlikely to sprain/tear. Hash is pure fartlek (speedplay) a Norwegian word.
Track Some say it is the icing on the cake for good running. Others that it is the bread and butter of good running ie that track work should form the core of your training. Either way it is a vital ingredient to a training week and can be very satisfying. It teaches you to run at a particular pace because it is so easy to measure. If you would like to run a 50 minute 10k, then train at 5 mins/km. Set yourself running at 120 seconds a 400m lap and maintain it for whatever distance you are using the track for from 200m up to 2km. You will also get the feel of this pace and translate it to your road running, giving you more accurate feedback as to how far you are running based on how long a run takes. It is also a good idea to set your speedwork pace a little faster than the race pace you aspire to. For example let us choose 42 minutes as the 10k pace you would like to run. In which case your speedwork should be carried out at around 4 mins a km. In between your bursts of speed you have recovery periods. As a rule of thumb your recovery period should not be greater than the burst of speed period. If for example you run 400metres in 100 seconds (about 42 min/10k pace) then your recovery should not be more than 100 seconds. It is better to reduce your recovery period initially rather than increase the speed of your running. A good digital watch with a timer is essential for trackwork. I set my Timex Ironman to go off every 38 seconds for example, 38 seconds being my speedwork pace through 200 metres. So whether I am running 200metres or 2000metres, I ensure that as I am running around the track, I cross each 200m mark as the timer goes off. My recovery periods are also governed by the timer sounding. I run entirely to the beeps on my watch.
Examples of what to do at the track
5 lap gentle warm up (2km), then 10 x 400m at 96sec lap with a 1 minute rest between laps, 5 lap gentle warm down, total distance 8km (for a person aspiring to run 40 minutes for 10k).
warm up and down as above then do pyramids – again assuming 4min/km pace run 200m / 400m / 600m / 800m / 800m / 600m / 400m / 200m with a half to one and a half min rest between runs. Pyramids could build up to 1600m all at the same pace. It teaches your body to run at the pace you aspire to and also through this training, reduces the amount of lactic acid build up in your muscles which is what makes them feel sor.e
w/u and w/d with 5 x 1000m in between, give yourself a 3 min gap between each
same as above but 8x 800m
Where to use a track – Kampung Pandan. I use Bukit Jalil but know the right person to get in.
Either way some pace work has to come into your training. If you can’t find a track find a quiet, measured section of road or park track
Know your body to avoid injuries. If your have an ache that is more than worrying, don’t run. Learn to read your aches to know which are serious and which can be trained through. I trained through a serious pain 12 years ago as an inexperienced runner and now have a hamstring problem apparently for life.
Distance How far is far enough? The more distance you put in the better your cardiovascular system. In the 70s top runners were doing in excess of 160km a week and guaranteed that that was the road to success. Studies in recent years showed that 120-125km/ week is about the optimum. Above that the gains are minimal. If you can’t manage that, build up to 50km a week if you can.
Footwear – change your shoes about once every six months
Stretch, use deep heat and buy leg supports
Taper prior to a race. Run less distance and at a slower speed in the final 5 days before a race. Have at least one full days rest before a race if not two.
Well that is it for now. I may write a sequel some time.