Getting Better Step by Step

Andy Chua, SAF Army Fitness Centre 2nd Warrant Officer, offers pointers on how to survive the IPPT or SAFRA SG bay Run & Army Half Marathon.


Still wondering how to get to an IPPT-passing level of fitness, or having signed up for the SAFRA Singapore Bay Run & Army Half Marathon, am wondering how to survive it? SAF Army Fitness Centre’s 2nd Warrant Officer Andy Chua, who has been an army physical training instructor for close to two decades, gives some pointers.

Q. Some people constantly comment that they simply ‘can’t run’. How should they train to build a basic foundational stamina for running? What exercises are useful and how often should they train?

Andy: You should start with a dynamic warmup of the lower limbs prior to the run, even if it’s a short distance, and end with static stretches.

A proper warm up and cool down routine won’t make you stronger on its own, but prepares the body for efficient recovery. In short, you may get fitter slightly quicker when compared against those who train with no warm up routines.

Beginners can start by jogging at a comfortable pace, two to three times per week. The initial distance clocked should be short, no more than 2km each time.

Progressively overload by adding 1km per week to around 5km if the goal is to complete a 5km race. This will build a basic aerobic endurance foundation for running. Also remember to taper down by either reducing the distance, pace, or frequency of training per week to allow for rest and recovery. After you have stressed it, your body gets stronger during the recovery periods.

Q. How is training to complete a half-marathon different from training to run a good time over 2.4km?

Andy: Training for a half marathon focuses predominately on aerobic endurance (the ability to last for long distances) by clocking the necessary weekly mileage.

The 2.4km IPPT run require both aerobic endurance and anaerobic endurance (improved with more speed/interval training) in order to run a good time. The main difference is the pace of the run.

Q. What are the types of static exercises that we can do without additional equipment, and are beneficial to developing a good running form?

Andy: Callisthenic exercises such as half squats, lunges, alternate leg thrust and calf raises can help strengthen the muscle groups involved in running.

Running drills that are beneficial for good running form includes:

  1. Knee lifts: Concentrate on straight spine and lift your thighs to about 90-degree angle to the ground. Moving forward and cover a distance of about 20m. This activates the hip flexors and enhances the flexibility in the hips and the ankles and overall promote good foot stride.
  2. Butt kicks: Running forward, keep thighs locked in line with torso, and heel of foot touching your butt for each stride. This drill activates and strengthens the hamstrings as well as enhances flexibility in the knee.
  3. Skipping strides with push off: Stride forward and aim for longer and higher stride, while bringing the thighs to a 90-degree angle to the ground. Push off during the toes off phase of the run. Strides will help to promote neuromuscular coordination of all the running muscles, and toe off will enhance stride power.
  4. Crossover: Jogging sideways on balls of your feet, bringing the left foot across the right foot and vice-versa for about 20m. This drill helps to strengthen the hip abductors (outsides of the thighs) and adductors (Inner thighs) as well as trunk rotators.

Both dynamic/callisthenic exercises and running drills should be incorporated as part of a running session. A good running posture, with an upright trunk and slight forward lean will enhance running economy as well.

Running economy aims to reduce the energy cost of running. Avoid over-striding, that is to reach the leg too far out in front of the body and landing on the heel first. Instead, should land on the mid-foot and roll through to the front for toe off with the foot directly underneath the body.

Q. How should seasoned long distance runners balance upper body training to complement their stamina and speed?

Andy: To complement their training, sets of exercises such as push ups, pull ups, shoulder press, lateral pulldown, seated row, biceps curls and triceps extensions should be incorporated at least once a week to boost core strength, which also has the added benefit of helping to maintain a good posture when running.


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