Marathon Recovery – The Essential Guide

So you’ve just finished your biggest race of the year. How you recover from it is the first and crucial step to ensuring you perform even better in the next.

We’ve compiled a thorough guide to ensure that you get the best out of your post-race recovery. Read on!

A marathon is tough. There’s no denying it.

Even if you walked the full 42.195km, the sheer amount of motion and impact places an incredible amount of stress on the body.

This is only amplified the harder you run, especially for your ‘A’ Race.

If you plan to run marathons and other run events regularly–and plan to be executing them at the best of your abilities – then you will need to allow for an appropriate amount of time to recover.

This is where a smart post-marathon recovery plan can make all the difference in this crucial period.

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The Big Mistake

Runners who’ve focused a large amount of their time and energy into their training are often keen to get right back into things after a big race.

It’s not difficult to understand why; you want to keep all the fitness you’ve developed, considering the intense regimen you’ve put yourself through.

Plus, it’s good to keep the momentum, isn’t it?

Not in reality. Your enthusiasm might, in fact, be highly detrimental to your overall performance and development as an athlete.

From my experience as a coach and an athlete, those who don’t follow a post-marathon recovery plan and rush back to training often find their subsequent performances deteriorate or they suffer from symptoms of overtraining.

To help you maximise your recovery post race, and to help you ensure that future performance is not compromised, I’ve outlined a post-marathon recovery plan that you can implement after your race.

But before that…

What Happens When You Run A Marathon?

Because the marathon is so demanding, there are a number of things that happen to the body over the course of the event.

Two of the more common and severe ones are listed below.

Your Muscles Get Damaged

Besides superficial disturbances (like blisters and chafing), you will experience muscle soreness and fatigue, due to the stress caused by running such a long distance. When you run, your body breaks down muscle fibres, creating micro-tears in your muscles. The resultant muscle inflammation can take up to 2 weeks to resolve before it returns to pre-race conditions.

Your Immune System Takes a Beating

During racing your immune system takes a beating and as a result, it is not uncommon to be more susceptible to infections (colds or flu) in the days following. To mitigate this, eat high quality, whole foods, which can help limit the effects of a suppressed immune system.

If you notice that you are persistently and frequently sick after races, you may want to consider placing more focus on aerobic development during your preparation.

Getting back to your training too soon after your race will result in a deteriorated state, impacting long-term performance.

So…

How to Recover After Running a Marathon

Now that you understand some of the effects that running a marathon has on your body, let’s turn our attention to a plan for maximising your post-race recovery.

The First 24 Hours

Eat And Drink. Immediately upon finishing your race, start to refuel. The body has a small window for optimal nutrient absorption, so you want to make sure you capitalise on that by getting in a mix of carbohydrates and proteins.

Care For Damage. Muscle strain, blisters, chafing, black toenails, and grazed knees are common complaints at the finish line. Severe dehydration is also common, especially in hot climates like we have in Singapore. Assess your condition directly after the race, and seek help for serious conditions.

Dry Clothes. As soon as you can, I recommend getting out of your racing shoes and clothes and into something comfy and dry. This will help you to avoid any post-race chills and help get you more comfortable.

Sleep. When we sleep, our body releases growth hormone that stimulates muscle growth and repair, as well as bone building and fat burning. Sleep also helps protein synthesis, cell growth and division, as well as tissue repair and growth – in short, it’s extremely crucial in kick-starting your recovery.

Movement. After a good night’s sleep, you should be feeling a little recharged. Your legs are likely to be sore, and some light movement (walking) will help promote blood flow and provide an active form of recovery. Note that I said walking – and with walking, I mean very easy walking. You shouldn’t run at all. I tell our athletes that they are strictly off running for the following 7 days after the marathon.

Day 2 – 7

Cross Training. Continue to move around regularly. Movement promotes blood flow and will help with recovery. From day 4 onwards, you can also introduce some light forms of cross training. Easy cycling or a light swim are good options (probably the triathlete in me with this bias) and help to supply oxygen-rich blood to damaged muscle tissue.

Massage. Day 3 or 4 is the time to consider a massage. Make sure you communicate with your therapist and let them know you are in the early stages of recovery from a marathon. Massages at this stage should be firm but not painful, with careful treatment of injured areas, if any.

High-Quality Fuel. When your body is in a state of fatigue and your immune system is down, it’s important to focus on eating good quality, nutrient-rich foods. Up your intake of vegetables (Mmmm salad) and fruit and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water

How About Alcohol? Celebratory reasons aside, there are nearly no good reasons to consume that alcoholic beverage during your recovery. Alcohol results in slow muscular recovery, dehydration, and reduced ability to absorb the vitamins and minerals necessary for coming back to form. We’ll talk about this more thoroughly in a future piece, but for now, know that the negative effects heavily outweigh any positives.

Moving Forward

Training. Light run training can begin after 7 days. Start with 20 – 30 minutes of easy running, and alternate running days with off days for the next 7 days. Gradually increase your duration as you begin to feel better throughout the week but do not rush your progress. Also, do not exceed 60 minutes of running before day 14.

Training After Day 14. Slowly begin to build back into your usual training routine if you are feeling good. Err on the side of caution; if you feel you need more time to recover, take a few more days to progressively return to your regime.

Don’t worry about losing fitness during the recovery period. Any loss in fitness will be minimal and will do a lot less harm than rushing back into training and compromising your recovery.

Train Smart, Not Hard!

Racing Is About Execution, Not Fitness!

Getting fit is one thing. Expressing that fitness as a great race performance is another. Discovering the difference will have a fundamental impact on how you perform.

In the early years of Coached, we noticed a strange occurrence among a number of our athletes.

These athletes, who we tested in our Coached Lab, had emerged with solid test results. For some reason, however, their performance on the racecourse simply wasn’t meeting their expectations.

These were fit individuals, and we had clear data to prove it. So why weren’t their results demonstrating a matching performance?

After attending countless races and dissecting these races with our athletes, we started to see that it wasn’t their level of fitness limiting their results on race day.

It was the way they were expressing their fitness – their race execution.

Race Day Is About Execution, Not Fitness

On race day, there is no changing your fitness level. Your fitness level was determined by the preparation (or lack of preparation) that you chose to do in the months leading up to race day.

At the starting line, you’re either fit to race or you’re not. What you’re aiming for is to perform to the best of your ability, and achieve the best result you’re capable of.

To do so you’ll need to execute a smart and controlled race.

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The Challenge

While executing a smart race sounds like a simple task, doing it in the real world is not so straightforward. Race day presents us with a unique set of circumstances that are hard to replicate in training, and thus provide a real challenge when we’re on the start line.

These circumstances include:

  • Your body is in a fresh state.
  • High levels of adrenaline.
  • Everyone around you starting too fast.

These circumstances combine to give you a false sense of how you’re feeling and can lead to poor execution. Smart and experienced athletes recognise the role these circumstances play and use extreme control when executing their race.

Poor execution can lead to a sub-par performance and a less-than-ideal experience.

Why these circumstances make it hard for us.

We’ll share exactly what’s happening to you, and how it adversely affects your race.

Your Body Is In A Fresh State.
After many hard weeks of training, volume tapers down in the final weeks in preparation for race day. During this taper, you recover, rehydrate and top up the glycogen stores in your muscles leaving you feeling fresh and ready to race.

When you’re fresh, it’s easy to run too fast at the beginning because you feel much better then you have in recent training when you’ve been heavy and tired.

High Levels Of Adrenaline.
On top of feeling like a million bucks because you’re fresh, your body responds to the race atmosphere (crowds, pumping music etc), with an injection of adrenaline, a hormone your body naturally produces. Adrenaline raises your heart rate as part of our built-in fight-or-flight response.

In cases where we get over-excited, it warps our sense of how hard we’re working.

Everyone Else Starts Too Fast.
Beside you on the start line are likely hundreds, if not thousands of people who are just like you: fresh, pumped full of adrenalin, and excited to start their race. When the gun goes off, 95+ percent of these people are going to fly off the line at a pace significantly higher than they’re capable of maintaining.

If you’re not conscious of this heightened pace, it’s likely to give you a false sense of how fast you’re going and suckering you into a pace that is too high for you.

A smart athlete knows how to manage race circumstances, training a strong body and mind.

So How Can You Execute A Smart Race?

Firstly, you need to understand these circumstances. Secondly, you need to control the things within your power to control.

Master Your Mind.
It’s your mind that enables you to experience, to think, and to feel. Managing your mental state is crucial to you getting the most out of yourself on race day and performing to your potential. Just like how you train your body in preparation for your race, you should spend time training and strengthening your mind so that it is up to the challenge.

A strong mind will give you the self-discipline, control, and mental toughness needed to execute your pacing and nutrition strategies.

A strong mind will also prepare you to deal with any unexpected setbacks like cramps, chafing or any other unpredicted situations that race day throws at you.

Control Your Effort.
A well-executed race is one that starts conservatively, building in effort and pace as the race goes by. If you start too fast, a number of things happen that lead to a significant slowing of pace.

Pushing too hard early in the race leads to high levels of lactate being accumulated, precious glycogen stores being burned and your muscles breaking down at a rate faster than you have prepared for.

Starting cautiously and conserve energy, and time your efforts so you are building it at the right times in your race.

Manage Your Fuel.
As the race goes by and you begin to up your effort, ensure you fuel at the right times so that you will have fuel in the tank to support the increased demands. During long distance races, the body burns its fuel at a higher rate than it can replace it, so limiting your losses is an important part of your race day execution strategy.

Fuelling your body while it is under stress can cause bloating and nausea and as such, it is good practice to focus on getting in your nutrition while your effort level is lower (and the conditions often cooler) in the earlier stages of the race.

At the end of the day, you’re in control of how you choose to execute your race. You can either choose to do so with little thought and patience, or you can choose to exercise self-discipline and control, to maximise your fitness and achieve the best possible result of which you’re capable. It’s up to you.

Introducing Coached Advisor David Chung

David, you’ve been running a long time and are an accomplished athlete, tell us about your running background.

I only started running in my mid-30’s, and it’s been a fun and enriching 10-year journey so far! I ran to improve my fitness so that I wouldn’t get so out-of-breath while playing football… but then the football games gradually decreased and disappeared, and I started to enjoy running itself more and more until it became my primary sport and passion!

I started with 10k events, gradually moved up to the half-marathon distance, and completed my first full marathon 2 years after I started running. Along my running journey, I got introduced to trail ultramarathons, and that’s now my favourite. As a way of giving back to the running community, I volunteered 4 times as an official pacer of the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore and also help facilitate weekly public runs with Running Department.

You’re the country director at Potential Project. Please share with us a little more about this and what you do there.

Potential Project is a global provider of organisational effectiveness programs based on mindfulness. Mindfulness has become increasingly popular as a way to handle stress and improve personal well-being. Besides these benefits, Potential Project believes that it can also improve bottom-line performance and effectiveness at work. We also believe that mindfulness can help organisations achieve strategic objectives by enhancing performance, creativity, and resilience. I take care of Potential Project’s Singapore operations, where I deliver Corporate-Based Mindfulness Training to all kinds of companies and organisations in the private and public sector.

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Most athletes spend a considerable amount of time training their body but few spend time training their mind. Why do you think this is and what is the easiest way to begin training your mind?

Sports is typically thought of as “physical” activity, so it’s no surprise that we place most of our emphasis on the body. It’s also easier to focus on our body as it’s something tangible, there’s a wealth of knowledge and research on the physiology of sports, a huge range of programs on how to train our body, and it’s easier to see the changes and results brought about by training our body.

You’ve probably heard the popular saying that “running is 90% mental”… Mental training in sports has actually been around for a while but has mainly been confined to the realm of the pros or competitive athletes pushing their limits and continuously training towards performance breakthroughs. They train their minds to give themselves that extra 1% (and more!) of advantage, where the margin between winning and losing is razor-thin. However, training our minds can also help the rest of us, even if we’re just participating in sports for fun and recreation.

The easiest way to start mental training is to have an open mind and to acknowledge that your mindset has a direct and very real impact on your body, your training, your racing, and your enjoyment of your sport in general.

What is it about mindfulness that you find so beneficial?

Mindfulness is about our ability to manage our attention and focus and to become more aware of ourselves as well as what’s going on around us. To do that means learning to be present. It leads to all kinds of benefits and insights: clarity of thought, self-awareness and self-regulation, resilience, compassion, and more.

I find mindfulness incredibly helpful because it’s very holistic. It’s such a foundational skill and ability; if you invest in training your mindfulness, it can benefit you across all aspects of life – in sports, in your personal life, at work, etc.

And the good news is: we can all train ourselves to become more mindful. We can undo bad habits and mindsets that are not helpful, and rewire our brains with new habits and positive behaviour that we aspire to.

How do you apply mindfulness to your training and racing?

When I’m mindful about my running, I can connect to what really motivates me and find the motivation to train 5-6 times a week. I practice patience, manage my likes & dislikes, and can focus on executing my training program. I concentrate on the training process and let my fitness unfold, instead of getting too absorbed with chasing specific outcomes. I try to listen to my body with awareness and avoid injuries or overtraining.

I try to keep the joy of running alive by being fully present with each run and enjoying the journey. I focus on taking care of what’s within my control (like my training, rest, nutrition) while accepting things that are outside of my control (like the weather, or an erratic GPS signal on my training watch) and not stressing unnecessarily over them. Even on race day, I just keep my mind on executing to my race plan/strategy, sensing and adapting to the realities of the race (“I’m feeling more dehydrated than usual, and the hills are steeper than I thought!”), not getting too attached to a specific race result, and just focus on doing my best.

Mind Coach David Chung

And how about in day to day life?

Mindfulness is a state of being, a way of seeing and relating to the world. So, what I just shared above can easily be used to describe my strategy for day-to-day  life – just substitute “training” and “racing” with “work” or “making that important presentation” or “managing interpersonal relationships” or “planning a vacation” 🙂 I try to apply the same focus and awareness, and the same strategies of presence, patience, acceptance, etc.

What are some of the most common mental mistakes you see athletes making?

As the ex-Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, once said, “The problem is to keep the monkey mind from running off into all kinds of thoughts.” A lack of focus and concentration leads to a lack of discipline, haphazard and ineffective training execution, and potentially a loss of motivation.

Left to its own devices, our mind is highly habitual and runs on autopilot. Without mindful awareness, we tend to react on impulse — to our impatience, to our judgments, etc. — rather than respond with clarity. An unexpected setback in the middle of a race easily sparks off a spiral of unhelpful negative thoughts and ruminations. And during training, this could lead us to ignore the reality of our fitness and condition or take training shortcuts, which increases our risk of overtraining and injury.

You’ve been a Coached athlete for years and have had success with our programme. Tell us what you like about our approach and why you’re excited to now be involved as a team advisor.

I really like and agree with the Coached tagline of “train smart, not hard.” I’m not getting any younger so I can’t get away with training by brute force! And it’s good advice even for the young and robust. I find that using time/duration (instead of distance) to determine volume and heart rate zone (instead of pace/speed) to determine effort very helpful to me for 2 big reasons:

1. It takes feedback from body plus external conditions into consideration, to ensure that I’m training at the right effort. When I train for mountainous trail ultra-marathons, I run a lot of hills. For those who live in Singapore, you’ll appreciate that a “Steady” effort run up Mount Faber on a hot afternoon is NOT going to be the same as a similar “Steady” effort run along flat East Coast Park on a cool morning.

If I tried to run up Mount Faber at the same pace as what I can comfortably do at East Coast Park, I probably wouldn’t be able to complete that workout, and probably would have trained too hard to recover in time for the next day’s workout, thereby messing up the rest of my training plans for the week. However, by using my heart rate zone instead of pace, I can train at the correct intended intensity (“Steady”) and adjust for the fact that it’s a hot day and it’s a grade 20 incline by going slower. I can still get in the intended volume (for eg. 60 mins.) of training. However many kilometres I end up covering is just an output/result, but it’s not my focus or target.

2. Using time/duration x heart rate zone also gives me a lot of flexibility to adapt my training to non-typical workouts. Hong Kong trail ultra-marathons are notorious for the number of steps that you have to tackle. So, getting used to stairs is a big part of my training. It would have been really difficult to translate my running pace into a stair climbing pace (how steep are the steps?

Am I taking one or two steps at a time?). However, by working towards a target heart rate zone, it’s easy for me to adapt my stair climbing into the appropriate “Moderately Hard” hill rep workout (two steps at a time, as fast as I can) or “Easy” long duration workout (one step at a time, sometimes running and sometimes walking). Similarly, this approach allows me to adapt to and train for all kinds of terrain & conditions that I may find in my races, from the scorching sun in Thailand and Australia trail ultra-marathons, to the cold winter/spring of the Seoul Marathon

Introducing Coached Advisor Gino Ng

Two weeks ago we announced our Coached advisory board, a group of specialists who have joined our team to help us provide more holistic training programmes and support to our athletes.

Gino is the next of these advisors and he is on the team to help our athletes prevent and manage injuries. Without further ado ..

Meet Gino Ng

Gino, you’re an accomplished athlete here in Singapore and have a long history in running and triathlon. Tell us about your sporting background and how you keep fit nowadays.

I started running x-country and track and field in school and did my first triathlon when I was 16. I began training seriously for triathlon when I was 25 and working as a physiotherapist at the same time. I became a 2 time Singapore National Triathlon Champion and represented Singapore in various events before stopping training seriously in March 2008.

I still swim 1-2 times, bike once and run 2-3 times a week now – so I don’t put on too much weight and manage my health.

You hold double masters in Musculoskeletal and Sports Physiotherapy, tell us what interested you to pursue a career in physiotherapy.

It started with me thinking that I could treat myself and better manage my training and racing. Later I realised it would be nice and also useful for me to be able to treat others too.

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You work with many athletes from amateur through to professional. What are some of the most common injuries you see affecting runners and triathletes?

Running and triathlon are demanding sports and place a lot of stress on the body. I treat many injuries as a result of this but the most common complaints I see are knee pain, lower back pain and ankle sprains.

Endurance sport places a lot of stress on the body. What are some best practices that athletes can employ to lower their chances of getting injured?

Always focus on proper form and technique, quality over quantity, and have at least one rest day a week. Coached includes drills and is carefully structured to address each of these points so you’re giving yourself a good chance of limiting your injury rate by following their programme.

Many athletes don’t give a lot of thought to the structure of their training and do too much before their body is ready to handle the load. How important is having a good quality training plan in the prevention of injury?

Very important as it helps to keep you focussed on the big picture. Have a good plan but don’t be afraid to rest if you’re tired on a day where you obviously need to rest even though the training plan says do a certain workout.

Is physiotherapy only for a person who is injured? Or is it something that can help in the prevention of injury too?

Most patients come only when they are injured but there is also benefit to seeing a physio for prevention. While I was at the Sports Council (now Singapore Sports Institute) we did musculoskeletal screening for the athletes at the start and halfway through the season to screen for potential discrepancies like muscle imbalances, stiff joints etc to hopefully prevent athletes from getting injured by teaching them what to do to correct it.

Each person and injury is different, how do you determine a treatment plan and get your athletes back to training as fast as possible?

I always to try to find and treat the cause of the problem instead of treating the pain. E.g. if a runner comes in with heel pain and the cause of the pain is in the hip, I’ll treat the hip first before addressing the rest.

Please tell us what you like about the Coached approach to coaching and why you’re excited to now be involved as a team advisor.

I like the approach that training slow makes you able to race fast. Training “slower” also means less likely to get injured. We live in an instantaneous society now where you snap your fingers and expect results to come straight away. You don’t become a good athlete overnight and likewise, if you are good you don’t turn into a bad athlete overnight.

If our Singapore based athletes need to come and see you, how can they make an appointment?

Please call either of our clinics at 64751218 / 63331211

www.sportssolutions.com.sg
www.physiosolutions.com.sg

Introducing Coached Advisor Caryn Zinn

Last week we announced that three leaders in the areas of nutrition, physiotherapy and mindfulness will be joining the Coached team to support our staff and our members.

The goals of the Coached advisory board are to …f

  • Help to strengthen our coaches knowledge in their area of expertise so we can offer you better, more holistic support and training programmes
  • Provide custom content for Coached training programmes and blog
  • Interact with our members via a quarterly webinar Q&A
  • Be available for consultation to members (additional rates apply)

Caryn is the first of these advisors we’d like to introduce so without further ado ..

Meet Caryn Zinn

Caryn, you’ve been a practising dietician for 21 years now and have changed your philosophy from high carb low fat to lower carb healthy fat. Can you tell us how that came about?

It’s long story, but to cut it short, I basically took a good hard look at the evidence and reflected on my practice, and along with a whole lot of logic, it dawned on me that eating food that is whole and unprocessed and as close to how nature designed, it the way forward in nutrition. The important thing is tailoring the level of carbohydrate to people’s individual needs.

You hold a Masters in Sports Nutrition. What advice do you have for athletes who are reliant on carbohydrates/sugar as a source of fuel when training?

My advice would be to work towards becoming a “fat burner” rather than a “sugar-burner”, which is a process of reducing added sugar and total carbs (again the level to which you do this is individualised) and increase healthy fat intake. During training, athletes should be relying on fat (ideally the fat that’s sitting on the body) as fuel and then be able to use carbohydrate when it is really needed. This state if called becoming metabolically flexible.

Have you seen any evidence that LCHF impedes sports performance?

Yes, there is lots of evidence to suggest that if you do this as a “stint” i.e., for a week or two only this will reduce performance in the short term. This is definitely not what I would suggest for athletes. The way that I work with athletes is that this is a lifestyle choice and they need to be in it for the long haul. It doesn’t need to be restrictive either. The key point is getting it right for each athlete, and this means taking into consideration the duration and intensity of training and lifestyle circumstances to guide the actual carb or fat prescription.

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What are the benefits of LCHF in endurance sports?

Who wouldn’t want to use body fat (of which we have unlimited stores compared with that of glycogen (carbohydrate) as fuel? This is the main advantage, as when you become metabolically flexible, you’re able to be less reliant on carbs, you don’t hit the wall and you don’t need to constantly feed yourself sugar every 20-30 minutes during training and racing. It’s just a lot healthier for the body long term, too.

Lots of people still believe that eating fat will make you fat and cause heart problems etc. What are your thoughts on that having done a doctorate in weight loss?

Any nutrient in excess will cause weight gain, it’s not dietary fat per se that will do this. In fact, we know that carbs and refined sugar raised blood fats more than dietary fat does, so we have got this wrong I’m afraid. It doesn’t mean you can eat as much fat as you want though, total calories DO still count. On the heart disease front, we know that the saturated fat (animal fat) – heart disease relationship is not causal and never has been. The science is not settled here. But we do know that not being scared of it and including it in the context of a diet that is whole and unprocessed is not harmful.

What are the benefits of LCHF in day to day life?

The benefits are vast. Benefits I have seen with my clients include improved energy, better sleep, more even moods, reduced inflammation – that’s been a huge one (from reduced joint pain to improved skin conditions, and even a reversal of an ongoing prostate problem). You also tend to eat less food overall and fewer times per day (so not being totally dependent on food) because you feel satiated from the added fat.

We have gone through so many different diet fads and there’s so much conflicting research on diets, do you think lower carb healthy fat is here to stay or is just another fad?

In my book, it’s definitely NOT a fad, like anything, you can make it one, but the way I work with my clients it is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.

What are some of the most common nutritional mistakes you see athletes making?

Being addicted to sugar is a big mistake, but of course, this has been guided by us, and the food industry. For athletes that adopt LCHF eating, some mistakes include not doing it properly i.e. not enough vegetables, salt intake too low, eating too much protein and fat and at ties going to low carb when it’s not required.

Please tell us what you like about the Coached approach to coaching and why you’re excited to be involved as a team advisor.

I love the Coached training philosophy, in particular, the complete and supportive environment for athletes. A nice consistent message with plenty of support is the way to go to achieve goals.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Just that LCHF eating is not only for athletes; it should be for athlete’s families too. Everyone can benefit in some way by eating whole food.

Training, The Haze And Our Health

Well, it seems like it’s that time of the year again and the haze is beginning to roll in.

As I write this, the current PSI is at 128 with the PM2.5 at 129 here in Singapore. Coming from a country like New Zealand where we’re known for our crisp and fresh air, it makes me sad to be writing on this topic.

Unfortunately, we can’t control the weather, so the question becomes, how do the haze and air pollution affect us and what can we do to continue our training under these circumstances?

The Effects Of Haze And Air Pollution On Our Health

While we’re all familiar with the common symptoms of haze and air pollution-related issues such as breathing difficulties and throat irritation, there are many other health-related problems associated …

  • Damage to airways of the lungs
  • Increased risk of asthma development
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Worsening of existing asthma or other lung conditions
  • Increased risk of heart attacks and strokes
  • Increased risk of death from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease

While it’s clear there are many harmful effects caused by pollutants in the air, what’s not clear is the amount of exposure needed when training to cause a threat to our long term health. And because training comes with health benefits, it should not be a matter of simply giving up on training entirely – unless your doctor has advised you to – but rather, looking for ways to minimise your exposure to these harmful pollutants.

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Limit The Effects Of Air Pollution And Exercise

While jumping on a plane and heading to a location where the air is clear is probably the first choice for most of us, it’s simply not a practical solution. Instead, you should look to manage the things within your control …

Monitor Air Pollution Closely.  Use the Air Quality Index to closely monitor the quality of the air and make your training decisions based on the quality of the air at any given time.

When it comes to haze, it’s the particulate matter (PM) that lingers in the air that you need to monitor most closely. Particulate matter comes in various sizes from the smaller PM2.5 to the larger PM10. PM2.5 are the most dangerous of these particles as they’re so small (approximately 1/30th the average width of a human hair) that they lodge deeply into the lungs. Because of their tiny size and lightweight, they can also travel long distances and remain in the air for weeks.

Time Your Workouts Carefully. Avoid training outdoors or lower the volume and / or intensity of training when the air quality is poor. For me, and our Coached athletes, that level is when the PM2.5 reading is above 100.

Exercise Indoors. When air quality is poor and PM2.5 is above 100, consider taking your training inside and onto the treadmill, the bike trainer or the pool.

Wear A Mask. If you absolutely have to head outside for your training while the air quality is poor, wear an N95 mask (or another mask with one-way valve) to limit the nasty effects.

While the haze situation is definitely less than ideal, you have to play the cards you’re dealt. By taking note of the air quality on a regular basis and implementing guidelines recommended above that are within your control, you should be able to continue training in a way that is a safe and will continue to benefit your health and performance.

A Race Day Gear Checklist & Its Benefits For Triathletes

No wise pilot, no matter how great his talent and experience, fails to use his checklist.

— Charlie Munger

Triathlon is a complex sport that requires a significant amount of gear to participate, even in the shortest of distances. As the race length increases so too do the gear requirements and the headache of making sure you have everything you need.

To ensure you never leave anything behind that could ruin your race, it is a good idea to put in place processes that help you to eliminate silly mistakes from derailing all the hard work you have put into your preparation.

My favourite process for managing gear is… checklists.

I outlined the benefits of using a checklist in detail in a previous post that I wrote for runners but to summarise them here for you, checklists can help to…

  • Reduce anxiety and build confidence.
  • Save mental and emotional energy.
  • Save you time.
  • Form part of your pre-race ritual.

With so many things to worry about when planning and executing a race, checklists help to bring simplicity and order to a sometimes overwhelming situation. The simple act of checking items of the list as you go.

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Don’t Leave Anything Behind

To kick start your process of working to a checklist, I have put together a simple checklist that you can download and use. This checklist covers the basic items you will need and you can easily add any additional items that are specific to your race or tastes in the spaces I have left blank.

Download It, Print It And Mark Off Each Item As You Go

All You Need To Know To Run Well At The Singapore Marathon Official Warm Up

Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS) is one of Asia’s most prestigious marathons and is Singapore’s most iconic running event. This year, for the first time, the organisers are introducing an Official Warm Up race to help runners in their preparation.

To help you make the most of this opportunity we’re going to walk you through some of the most important things you need to consider and apply during this Warm Up Race.

Why Are Warm Up Races Important?

Warm up races – or secondary races as we call them at Coached – are a great tool in your preparation for a number of reasons. They allow you to …

  1. Make your silly mistakes in a race that is not important, so you don’t make them when it matters.
  2. Practice your race day routine and ‘dial in’ the timings and details.
  3. Familiarise yourself with the race day environment.
  4. Build confidence through preparation.

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Treat This Race Like A Dress Rehearsal

Warm up races are the time to go through the motions and practice your race day routine and strategies. In the end, you will know what worked and what didn’t and you can make changes prior to SCMS that will improve your chances of success there.

Food And Meal Timing. Eat the same meal you plan to eat prior to SCMS on 4 December. Ideally, you should eat 2 – 3 hours prior to the start so you have time to digest your food. See how your body responds to the food and timing and make changes for SCMS if you felt bloated or sick in the Warm Up Race.

Fuelling. Warm up races are the perfect place to practice your race day nutrition strategy. Trial the types of drinks and gels you wish to use along with the frequency and amounts.  What works for you in training often won’t work as well under race conditions so secondary races are a great place to test your strategy under race conditions. If things don’t work as planned, you learn from this and make adjustments prior to SCMS so that hopefully things will go to plan when it matters more.

Gear. Runners often buy new gear and use it for the first time on race day. This is a big mistake and can lead to many controllable, yet uncomfortable things like chafing, bloody nipples (ouch), blisters and the like. Buy any new gear that you need for SCMS early and use your training and the Warm Up Race to test that everything fits as it should and will not cause any unnecessary pains that will hamper your performance.

Planning. Have all your gear organised, packed and ready to go the night before. Work from a checklist and cross off each item as you pack it into your bag to ensure you are not missing anything crucial. Plan how you’re going to get to the race venue and where the bag deposits will be. Be mindful of road closures around the Sports Hub and understand that the crowds could significantly slow you down, so allow plenty of time to make your way to the start line.

Smart Race Execution Maximises Fitness

When it comes to racing, you have either done the training and are prepared or you haven’t. It’s really that simple. In either case, the goal of racing is to express the fitness (good or bad) you have as best as you can. When you do this, the outcome (timing) will be the best possible given the circumstances and you can feel proud of your effort.

To help you express your fitness in an optimal way, there are 3 main things you need to do …

Control Your Effort. Most runners start a race much too fast hoping to ‘bank time’ for later in the race. This is a terrible strategy that will lead to a less than optimal result – especially in a climate like Singapore where the temperature is going to rise as time goes by.

When you start too fast, you burn your fuel, accumulate lactate and fatigue your muscles at too high a rate. The net result is a significant slowing of pace over time.

Instead, the goal should be to build your effort across the race.

Manage Your Energy. When you run long distances the body burns fuel at a higher rate than it can replace it. The goal of a race nutrition strategy is to limit your losses as best as you can so that you can continue to move forward at a good pace as the distance passes and fatigue sets in.

This step works hand in hand with managing your effort because if you run too fast in the beginning, you burn your fuel at too high a rate and you will suffer. By starting at a slower pace in the beginning, you’re able to focus on your fuelling and get in much-needed calories. The body does not have a good ability to absorb these carbohydrates while running and as such, the best time to take them in is early in the race when your pace is lower, the weather is cooler and your body is generally under less stress.

Master Your Thoughts. From the start of any race we are constantly receiving feedback that can have an impact on the state of our thoughts. Runners passing us, a blister on a toe, thirst, tired legs, not being able to hold onto our goal pace etc.

Successful runners know that the best way to manage their thoughts and to keep in a positive frame of mind even when things may not be going to plan is to focus on the process of running. How’s my form and my breathing? Am I drinking enough and getting in my calories? Is my effort appropriate for this point in the race? Can I maintain it?

The mind can only think of one thing at a time so by using our energy to think process thoughts, we slow the chances of letting the negative self talk creep and get the better of us.

How To Know If You Executed A Smart Race

The second half of the race should be as fast or slightly faster than the first half. If you have been able to do this, it’s a sign that you controlled your effort, managed your fuel and mastered your thoughts to push through to a good result.

Remember, racing is a skill and you’ll get better at executing a smart race the more you practice so pick your secondary races carefully and make your ‘A’ race count.

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If you’re running the SCMS or the Warm Up race and found this useful, please share it with your friends and help them run to maximise their fitness on race day.

A Race Day Gear Checklist & Its Benefits For Runners

“No matter how expert you may be, well-designed checklists can improve outcomes

— Steven Levitt

I’m a huge fan of the process.

Good quality processes ensure that you’re doing the little things that matter. The things that when done consistently well, will lead to your desired outcome.

When it comes to packing for race day, there is one simple process that shines above all others in ensuring you don’t leave any of your important gear at home when you need it most.

The process? Working to a checklist.

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Checklists Provide A Myriad Of Benefits To Runners

Checklists Help To Reduce Anxiety And Build Confidence.
Anxiety has a physiological effect on the body. It increases heart rate, inhibits fat burning, increases cortisol levels and a whole host of other things. By working from a checklist, you help to keep your anxiety in check, knowing that you’re not going to leave anything behind that will negatively impact your race and all the hard work you have put in over the previous weeks or months. This control builds confidence that you can carry through to other areas of your preparation and race day.

Checklists Help To Save Mental And Emotional Energy.
This is one of the main reasons why having a process mindset is of such value. When you focus on the many small processes necessary for success (in this case, your checklist), you release yourself from wasting unnecessary mental and emotional energy having to remember the stupid simple stuff because there’s a checklist (or process) for that. This frees up your brain to concentrate on more important things.

Checklists Save You Time.
When you work to a checklist, you have a repeatable process that you can refer to leading into each race. You no longer need to consciously think and worry about what gear you need and this saves you time. You can simply and quickly run through your list, checking off your gear as it goes into your bag.

Checklists Can Form Part Of Your Pre-Race Ritual.
A ritual is a series of actions or type of behaviour regularly and invariably followed by someone. Rituals come with a number of benefits but the one I like most for athletes is the ability to call back states or emotions on command.

By going through your checklist the day before race day, you initiate “race mode” which helps to trigger the optimal mental and emotional state needed to perform well in your race.

Design A Checklist That Suits Your Needs

With the benefits of using a checklist now hopefully clear, it’s time to put yours together.

To get you started, I have put together a checklist with the most essential items that you need before you go, while you run and after your run. I have also left a few spots available in each section for you to add your own additional gear.

Download It, Print It And Mark Off Each Item As You Go

Jason Chao’s Success Story

Having been bitten by the running bug over six years ago, I have clocked many miles and run many races. My goal has always been to push personal boundaries aiming for continuous improvement in race times.

While the achievement of new Personal Best (PB) timings during the first couple of years came relatively easily, I found my performance reaching a plateau thereafter, making new PBs less likely and achieving only marginal improvements when hitting new records – this was despite the fact that I trained harder and longer during race preparation. Given my recent entry to the Master’s category age group, I began to wonder if the days of performance improvement might be behind me.

The old saying insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results rang true and I decided that I needed to better understand the science of endurance running in order to improve performance.

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This is when I discovered Coached with their focus on sports science and how to use this in training to train smarter and not harder. After Lactate and Fuel Efficiency testing at the Coached Lab, I signed up to Coached to commence a structured training program specific to my fitness level and focused around time and heart rate zones. This training was very low intensity compared to my previously unstructured training where I’d generally run hard over a given distance.

After three months of training, I re-tested my lactate threshold and was pleasantly surprised that it had improved by ~0.7km/h and 5 beats per min. A week later I ran a half marathon and achieved a PB shaving over 4 minutes of my previous best time. Since then, I’ve used Coached to qualify for the Boston Marathon!

Not only has Coached introduced me to a whole new way of training, but it has also introduced me to a community of like-minded athletes looking to reach new performance levels, complete their first triathlon or marathon, or just to improve their fitness levels.