Thursday, February 14, 2013

5 Things I Wished I Was Told As A New Runner

I have been running for at least 10 years. I've went from knowing nothing to at least knowing "something". Like a friend said, "we have been jay-running". 

To quote a friend :
"Running is my favourite but vowed not to run with my heart ever again. Will use my head instead."

Wise words by my friend. 
I have been giving a lot of sharing in my blog and will continue to do so. If you ever want to run with your head, read this entry here. I laid out my run training routine. This is called planning
Today, I share with you 5 things I have learnt over the past 10 years racing as an amateur cyclist, runner and triathlete.
You Don't Need To Be An Athlete In School 
The believe that you need to be an athlete to start running is not true. I grew up as an overweight kid and no way anyone would had thought I would be doing all these sports?
Spot Me. Age 12.
Many I know that has been running in the past 10 years started only after school or university. Many started due to health reasons (of being overweight or already starting to have lifestyle diseases). To start running, you only need to ensure you are in good health condition. Start easy and set realistic target for your level of fitness. There is no shame in able to run 1km in your first attempt - or walk it. You will progressively improve provided you do not give up.
You Don't "Just Run"
One of the biggest mistakes I've done was not properly stretching. This was something I took for granted and It came back and bite me hard in the form of Sciatica. This is the single main "injury" any runner and cyclist could pick up due to overused hamstring. 
The next thing that I failed to do (until recently) was working my core muscles. No one told me until 2 years ago to work on my core. Indeed this was one area most neglected muscle and it shows on longer races as tiredness sets in. The core ensure the legs, hip and abdomen works in harmony to ensure balance and stability.
These two above, coupled with some weight work such as chin-up, push-up and burpees will gives you a wholesome package as a triathlete and runner.
You Don't Need Cushioning Shoes
I started off with an old pair of old sneaker that were likely bought at a discounted rate as it was two-season old. As a struggling young adult with minimal pay and no luxury of extra cash to get those high-tech gears has most likely forced me to understand running shoes a bit better than the average runners. As I often wanted the best deal for my money, I did enough research to understand the complexity and lure 
No one told me NOT to heel strike but I was told that "cushioned shoes" will provide the best ride. 
No one ran barefoot, as that is too 17th century (and not cool).
If there was one thing I learnt, it was to take everything with a pinch of salt. if the shoes were as good as they claimed to be, why are world class runners going back to basic?
Bragging, I know

Buy a shoe, or I would say, invest in a shoe suitable for your feet type. There is no ONE shoe that will fit you perfectly but "close enough" is good. Do not be taken in by the hype without knowing what you need. Running barefoot is good only if you have your legs muscles conditioned (it takes a lot on your calves). Going to those "finger shoes" could be a good compromise to barefoot - again ONLY if your legs muscles are conditioned to run in them. 
Here is a money saving tip - use your existing trainer. You would had noticed that the shoe is worn off only at certain part, but look closely, most people will have the heels worn off. You been heel striking. Now, use the same shoe and start learning to run by landing mid and/or forefoot. Until you have developed the ability to run mid/forefoot, do not think of investing in those barefoot/minimalist/specific shoes. Many I know ended up injured due to this.
You Don't Need Energy Food
Or "carbo-loading" for that effect. Too many people abused these two food-items by justifying that they need to "carbo-load" a day before a race. You are actually putting yourself at a risk of tummy upset or worse, not able to race the next day. Carbo-loading has a very systematic approach and no average runners I know, let alone beginners, knows how to do it correctly. Here is how.
When it comes to "energy food" mid-way during your run, it is also something that works on the mind more than the body. Our diet has became too reliant on processed sugar and we mistaken these for "energy surges" when we take these food. Myself too, has started off with these mistakes and learnt my lessons. If the race requires, I will likely make my own energy gel from ingredients I know. Nowadays, I run with no food, even up to 42km. 
And isotonic sugar drinks too - is something you would not need. Hydration starts and stops with plain water. Unless you are dehydrated, a little salt might help - but if you allow yourself to be dehydrated during a race, you most likely already got the whole training and racing approach wrong. 
Learn To Have Fun
Too many I've came across were too serious in their quest to run their races. Some takes it too seriously and failing to achieve their target (sometimes it was set too high even for some advanced runner) causes them to give up running even. Many of us do not race for a living and uses sports as another extension to socialise and also for health - so, learn to have fun. I started off too seriously until i chance upon a group of like-minded people that has taught me to have fun while racing, which is why until today, you still see me running races with my camera, or even stopping for a drink mid-way through a marathon. 
Coconut water during Bali International Marathon
Now that you know better, see you on the road. :) Run safe and keep moving forward.


  1. Thanks for sharing!! (^_^)
    I could spend the entire day reading all your posts. Informational and easy to understand.

  2. Honored. Do read and ask if anything :)

  3. Thanks. i just started running seriously this year. and so far i've found myself to be more organized. knowing when to eat, what to eat, what muscle to warm up(learning from the pain) and i think what most new runner need, the courage to sign up for a race.

    ive never have the gut to train consistently if i didn't sign up for any race. So as a new runner, i suggest that for the starters to just register. then the will, will come naturally. but of course need to use brain also la.

    btw any tips with hydration for new runner? i hate to carry weighty water bottle while jogging.

    1. Khairul - awesome steps you take to start running and taking it to the next level.

      Hydration for running is tricky. I used to carry water even for 5km run. Soon, i trained myself enough to not drink anything for 5km.

      As you start running further and running stronger, you will be less reliant on water/hydration. The water station are more for just to "wet your lips and mouth" as no runners will gulp down water. It doesn't work that way.

      My suggestion is to try running short distance without water and see how your body reacts to it. Slowly, as you get fitter and stronger...this might be a question in the past ;-)

      I run up to 20km without hydration.

  4. I don't know why, I felt like I wanted to cry reading your malu!..

    Nevertheless, thanks for the will definitely and really x1000 help me in preparing myself for my first FM in KK this coming May..

    And that last point of 'Learn to Have Fun' are true to its words as I find myself always struggling if I only and solely focus on achieving my target during trainings/race. It's always good if we just step back once in a while, enjoy running and let the body/soul free!

    Thanks again sifu!

  5. The sciatica injury is the most painful experience. It sideline me for 3 months. Am grateful that ur share ur experience & it give me confidence that i could be running again.

    Learn the lesson. Listen to ur body. Dont push the load too fast.most importantly, treat recovery seriously

    1. We learn from our mistakes. Then we share the solution. Part of giving back ;-) pay it forward bro!

  6. Wow! Will take your advice and have fun in my next races, especially my first duathlon this coming sunday!Very excited!
    And judging from your photo, you are my super super senior from Melawati! Hi-5!

    1. Super-Super Senior sound old. :) Abang saja boleh? ;-) H-5!