Get the most out of your training sessions with these tips. Photos: Polar Singapore
If you’re running regularly or prepping for a race, good for you. Running is one of the most accessible sports around, since all you need is a pair of shoes. Simply lace up and go.
To help you get the most out of your sessions, we asked trainer Edwin Ong for his advice. Edwin is the general manager at Polar Singapore. He conducts strength and conditioning workshops for local run participants.
1. Make sure you’re adequately fueled up
You may have heard that running when you’re hungry torches more fat, since there aren’t immediate carbs to burn. But for many of us, this could be counter-intuitive. A study published in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise showed that people who had a meal three hours before they exercised were able to bike for about 30 minutes longer than when they worked out without eating beforehand. Another reason to avoid running on empty: You’re more likely to overeat post-workout.
You may not need a pre-run nosh all the time. The key is to make sure there’s sufficient energy in your system before you go. If you’ve had a full meal a few hours before your session, skip the snack unless you’re planning to do a long-distance run (anything more than 10km counts!). Go for easily digestible food like a small bowl of cereal or a banana.
2. Warm up
Running right away is like cycling without lubricating your bike chain. When your body is stiff, your chances of injuries are high. Warm-up exercises aren’t there for fun; they actually loosen up your muscles, tendons and ligaments as well as promote blood circulation, so you’ll have a greater range of movement and flexibility during your run. Studies have found that a dynamic warm-up routine improves running performance.
Get your heart rate up with these moves: Skipping with alternating legs on the spot, high knees, butt kicks… Basically, you want to target the quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves - key muscles involved in running. For more ideas, download thePolar Flow app (free, App Store and Google Play). The app creates a personalised running plan based on your target distance: 5km, 10km, half marathon and full marathon, and includes warm-up and cool-down exercises.
3. Train at different intensities
Every athlete’s top secret: To get better at a sport, do something your body’s not used to. That means challenging yourself with a variety of workouts instead of sticking to the same old routine. And when it comes to running, options are aplenty. If you’ve been clocking 5km at a constantly comfortable pace, it’s time to try interval or fartlek runs, whereby you switch between intense and easy periods. If you’ve been running on the track, it’s time to tackle some hills and trails. Keep your muscles guessing!
Available via the Polar Flow app, the Polar Running Program gives you five types of running workouts in a week: easy jog, medium run, long run, tempo run and interval run. Each workout varies in terms of duration, phases and intensity.
To make your sessions count, it’s imperative to know your heart rate so you can train in the right zone. Consider wearing the Polar M600 GPS Sports Watch: It has a built-in heart monitor featuring Polar’s proprietary optical heart rate technology, plus an integrated GPS to track speed, distance and route. Once you start a workout, the watch provides verbal feedback, telling you when to do what based on your real-time heart rate. Think of it as a virtual running coach!
The Polar M600 GPS Sports Watch offers wrist-based heart rate monitoring, integrated GPS and 24/7 activity tracking.
Even when you’re doing another sport, say cycling, the Polar M600 captures it too. The watch comes with 24/7 activity tracking, giving you stats on your steps, distance, calories burned as well as sleep time and quality. It's also water-resistant up to 10 metres, suitable for swimming.
4. Cool down
After a run, all you may want to do is sit down and zone out with a chilled drink in one hand. But first, cool down. Doing so will help your body get rid of the toxins and lactic acid generated during the run, which are responsible for muscle aches and soreness. Cooling down also helps to prevent dizziness.
When your run has ended, continue brisk walking and gradually slow down. Spend at least five minutes stretching your muscles, especially the quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves. To complement your training, the Polar Running Program offers supportive exercises in the form of tutorial videos. Addressing common problems faced by runners, these exercises are designed to build strength and mobility in your core and major muscle groups to minimise injuries.
5. Refuel immediately after exercise
Post-workout nutrition is just as important. Even if you’re not starving, eat something. After a run, your body needs energy for muscle repair. The quicker you recover, the shorter your down time. Research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that having a low-carbohydrate meal in particular helps to increase your body’s insulin sensitivity, that is, your body’s ability to store sugar in your muscles and tissues to be used as fuel. Typically, experts recommend eating right after your workout, if not within an hour, for optimal recovery. That's when your body is at its most efficient in utilising calories.
Before you run, prepare a post-workout snack with substantial protein, like a peanut butter sandwich or hard-boiled eggs. That way, you won’t just settle for any food within reach, which is likely to be full of carbs and processed ingredients. If you can’t stomach food right after, consider a serving of chocolate milk or a protein shake: These are convenient and easy for your body to digest, letting you jump-start the recovery process.
Water-resistant to 10 metres, the Polar M600 tracks all activities, including sleep.
The Polar M600 GPS Sports Watch ($569) is available in black or white, with a changeable red wristband coming soon. Visit www.polar.com/sg-en.