By KEVIN TAN
I’m going to start running, and I’m going to do it today. Right now.” You’ve probably heard people say that like a million times, especially over the last couple of years. Suddenly they’re like “YOLO”, and they just hit the ground running.
These days, you have running events happening almost every month; and more and more young people aren’t just being “participants” – they’re making it part of a healthier lifestyle.
Ian Deeth, 33, a former British athlete who is now an ESPN Sports presenter and a sports teacher in an international school here in Malaysia, says running can be beyond exercising and keeping fit.
“It can be a social thing as well. Rather than staying at home playing video games and watching DVDs, it’s good to occasionally socialise while keeping yourself fit by running.”
Danny New, 23, decided to start running with a goal in mind – to lose weight and stay fit. “I was a skinny guy when I was younger, but I guess things change. I put on a lot of weight when I went to college, where I got caught up with a lot of other things (besides sports).”
New was at his heaviest after returning from his studies in Australia, and that’s when he realised he needed to do something about it.
He’s now part of a running group called the BWC Runners (Because We Can). “We encourage each other to keep going, and we also share our knowledge with one another, things like running and recovery techniques.”
Deeth, who was also a trainer at the recent Nike We Run KL race, believes that marathons help people improve their fitness because it gives them a goal to achieve.
“Without these events, people may train without a target. With a race, they will actually have a reason to train,” he said. “And after a race, people will begin to find that they are getting benefits from this. They feel better, they look better. At that point, they may decide to continue running, whether there is a goal or not,” said Deeth.
There’s also the positive energy from all the fellow runners which really helps, according to New. “It is an amazing feeling to see everyone running, and to get that buzzing energy from them. When you cross the finish line, you feel a real sense of accomplishment.”
But why choose running when there are so many other forms of sports out there?
“With team sports, you’re relying on other people. With running, all you need are your trainers (running shoes), and off you go. You don’t really have anything or anyone holding you back apart from yourself,” said Deeth.
Andrea Geh, 19, has been running for over a year now and she says it’s a great workout, both physically and mentally. “I play many other sports, but in my opinion, this is the best form of cardio. It not only makes you ‘lose weight’, but also trains your endurance, mentality and definitely stamina.”
Over time, you can steadily reduce your walking time and do more running. Deeth advises against pushing yourself too hard when starting. “Hit the ground running” definitely doesn’t apply here.
“Pushing too hard early on will create a short term effect. Most people won’t be able to keep it up. They get injured, or they end up finding it too difficult. It’s better to start realistically by rotating between a steady walk and jog,” said Deeth.
He recommends “progressive overloading”, a process where you steadily progress on your running, be it your running time or speed, and overload your workout by using different dynamics like sprinting, jogging and walking.
It is also important for runners to not ignore injuries, and to seek immediate medical attention when they feel something’s wrong.
In terms of diet, Deeth says it’s best to have carbohydrates before running, and lots of protein after, to help build your muscles back. It probably goes without saying, but try to avoid fizzy drinks and spicy food too.
“The rendang and curry here is good, but you have to stay away from that if you’re going to be running,” he said with a laugh.
What you do after your run is also very important. “If you spend 10-20 minutes stretching and warming down properly, it will stop you from getting sore muscles for the next few days. It’s also an ideal time to increase your flexibility, because your muscles will be warm.”