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My Daily Grinds

Crossfit. Calisthenics. Marathons. Ultramarathons. Extreme Workouts. Diary of a fitness fanatic

BENEFITS OF SCALING | TRAINING TALK EPISODE 4

Scaling workouts. Scaling resistance of exercises.

We all have heard of the term “scaling”. It is a term popularized by Crossfit. However, the science behind it is not new: to cater the workout to the specific needs of the individual.

Scaling allows people of various fitness levels to train together – which helps build an inclusive community around fitness – a huge motivating tool for people to keep up with an active lifestyle. Long gone is the mentality that a certain workout is designed exclusively for advanced athletes or beginners.

SCALING AS A TRAINING TOOL

With that being said, how can scaling be APPROPRIATELY applied?

Scaling is not just about making sure that EVERY single exercise in a given circuit is doable by the athlete; it is about achieving the training objectives of the prescribed workout/ session.

Take for example this workout below:

Complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes:
5 pull ups
10 push ups
15 squats

You will need to identify the key training objective of this workout. For this instance, the workout listed above would be one of muscular endurance and increasing your general cardiovascular endurance.

Therefore, if you ONLY have a max pull up score of 5-9 pull ups, some scaling needs to be done in order to achieve the training objective above. If you do the workout as prescribed, you will end up being able to do the first 2 rounds in 3-4 minutes and end up having to spend the rest of the 16 minutes only completing 3 more rounds as you need to take long breaks to complete the set of 5 pull ups.

Your heart rate will not be elevated, there will not be sufficient repetitions to induce muscular endurance adaptations due to the long periods of time spent resting on the pull ups.

Yes you did the workout as prescribed.

BUT the training did not achieve its objectives.

If you had either:

A. Scaled down the pull ups to incline pull ups/ ring rows after you aren’t able to perform pull ups anymore OR

B. Just scale 5 pull ups to 10 incline pull ups from the get go,

you will be able to elevate your HR, get in more repetitions and achieve your training objectives.

KNOW WHAT ARE YOUR TRAINING OBJECTIVES, SCALE YOUR WORKOUTS ACCORDINGLY.

Planning of workouts calls for another episode of training talk. The tips offered below will be useful in helping you scale your workouts effectively.

Metabolic/Endurance Workouts
Do make sure that the exercises used for such workouts are of light – moderate resistance TO YOU.

Strength is relative.

Some of who can do weighted pull ups might classify bodyweight pull ups as “light – moderate” but to someone who has a PB of 3 pull ups, “light – moderate” resistance might be scaling to banded pull ups/ incline rows.

A key tip would be to ensure that you are able to perform the exercise for the entire duration while keeping ur HR up and with minimal rest.

Strength Workouts

Again, strength is relative.

As you are aiming to increase your strength, do pick a weight which is challenging enough for you to feel the effects BY the last set. 

And the weight must allow you to do the repetitions with full range of motion and proper form.

Hope you guys find this useful!

If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a personal message on my blog, Facebook or Instagram!

Train Hard!!

Jack

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WEIGHT TRAINING FOR RUNNERS | TRAINING TALK EPISODE 3

In this episode of Training Talk, we talk about how weight training (calisthenics and free weights) can benefit runners.

As runners (myself included), we tend to shy away from the weight room and embrace the pavement and trails. After all, the more mileage you clock, the better you will get at running right?

This is indeed true.

However, there is a huge BUT.

Doing nothing else but running alone will set you up for a wide variety of problems which are usually chronic overuse injuries as well as being dysfunctional.

Yes, that means you can only run and anything physical tasks aside from that either hurt you or you cannot do at all.

WANT TO FEEL STRONG, FAST and INDESTRUCTIBLE?

Here is the secret: Hit the weights.

Essentially, weight training complements running – it helps to reduce injuries caused by running and can even improve running performance.

REDUCING INJURIES

How many of you feel that as you log in more mileage during the week, you start to feel your ITBS, piriformis syndrome, shin splints, strained Achilles and all sorts of pain starting to appear? Then you are forced to take a rest and when you build back up again to the similar level again you get injured again.

Then you are forced to take a rest. And when you build back up again to the similar level again you get injured again.

And when you build back up again to your old fitness level you get injured again.

All these can be reduced via weight training.

Weight training helps to reduce injuries by:

1, Improve your running biomechanics

Your running biomechanics is USUALLY the main cause of chronic pain. Because we are running SO much, a slight misalignment in running posture can cause pain. When ignored, they can blow up to inflict some serious damage to your body.

Take for instance for myself. I had an issue with my ITB – it was causing some serious pain as I was running with a less than ideal gait; my knees were caving in slightly during the landing phase and as such, over time, it adds up and caused the injury.

After reducing the mileage and picking up weight training, I learnt how to squat with the proper technique by engaging the glutes and applying external rotation in order to prevent valgus knees. I applied this technique to running as well, making sure that my knees don’t come inwards upon landing and it worked WONDERS. Nowadays I don’t really feel pain in my ITB anymore and I believe this is partly due to the correction in running gait!

Similarly, the deadlift is also a great exercise which teaches your body how to engage the power of the posterior chain (glutes and hamstring) while you are running. This will prevent you from “leaning from the hips” and instead learn to “lean from the ankles” which translates into more efficient force generation during toe off!

2, Correct muscle imbalances caused by too much running (too much specific work)

The motion of running builds the hamstrings more than the quadriceps (if you are only running on flats), and does little to work on the abs, obliques. As such, there can be muscle imbalances caused by strong lower back-weak abdominals, weak quads-strong hamstrings, etc.

Weak quads-strong hamstrings are one of the most common reasons why runners get the runner’s knees – the weak quadriceps (specifically the VMO) prevents the proper track of the patella (knee caps), coupled with the strong force production of the hamstring, is the main source of knee pains. By doing more squats it can essentially strengthen your quadriceps and this helps to keep your knee cap in place and thus removing the pain.

Lateral movements are also often neglected –  as such runners tend to have weak abductors and adductors. They are a huge contributor to pelvic stability on top of your core and thus they need to be worked on to prevent injuries caused by excessive rotation of the pelvis, which can also cause knee pain and ITBS.

3, Prevent overuse injuries by switching up your training.

Lastly, weight training gives your body a chance to REST your legs from all the pounding while getting in work to strengthen your body, which mitigates the chance of overuse injuries. All the running is catabolic in nature. Weight training helps to strengthen your muscles, tendons and ligaments in order to increase their tolerance to the high impact nature of the sport!

ENHANCE PERFORMANCE

Weight training can ALSO improve running performance (WOOHOO)!

1, Bombproof legs

Squats. Deadlifts.

The two most essential lifts that you can do to increase fatigue tolerance in those legs. By being able to lift more, the power generation in your legs increases, each step that you take will also feel easier due to the decreased percentage of max power in every toe off.

2, Able to hold an efficient running posture for a longer period of time

Push ups, pull ups, dips, planks (plus their variations).

These will form the bulk of a runner’s upper body regime, and are some of the exercises which forms the building blocks of my strength development.

Get good at them.

They will help you to hold your posture late into a race. A loosely or poorly held upper body and a weak trunk will cause poor force generation and will be an energy leaking tap which prevents you from moving efficiently.

By building up a strong CORE and UPPER BODY strength, you can hold your running posture much better. The upper body strength that you acquired will give you the energy in the arms to sprint to the finish. Yes, when your legs are tired and when your arms are still fresh, taking advantage of contralateral movement patterns between the arms and legs, swinging your arms as hard and as fast as you can will induce your legs to do the same and that is how you get the “edge” in a sprint to the finish!

SO..HOW DO YOU START??

Here are a few tips for weight training which will help you achieve BOTH benefits:

1, HEAVY SQUATS AND DEADLIFTS 

Try to shoot for 5 x 5 reps of squats and deadlifts at a relatively challenging weight, with 1:3 to 1:6 work to rest ratio. The idea is to not put on mass, but to induce the neuromuscular stimulus which increases force generation without putting on significant mass (which may affect your running performance).

2, CALISTHENICS WORK

Get good at pull ups, push ups, dips and planks. The idea is to develop a base level of strength and you can do that by performing these exercises for reps. A good benchmark will be:

50 push ups in a minute
15 pull ups
20 dips on the parallel bar
30s planks with contralateral limbs lifted off the ground

3, UNILATERAL LEG WORK

Single leg balance on unstable surfaces, Bulgarian split squats, lunges and pistols squats. Work on them to develop single leg balance and strength which can help a lot in injury prevention. I like to build up to being proficient at pistol squats (10 per leg) for 3 sets.

4, ADDUCTORS and ABDUCTORS WORK

Grab a resistance band and perform adductor and abductor raises.

3-4 sets of 15 reps will be a good.

Alternatively, you can try clamshells and adductors lifts.

SO. 

There you have it, the tools necessary to build up a strong body to handle the rigours of running. Treat strength training as an integral part of your running program – I’d replace 1-2 sessions of running per week for weight training rather than it on to the running session itself. That is the level of importance that I rate strength work.

During your off-season you can afford to have 2 sessions of weight training, but during on-season you can afford to reduce to just 1. During the sharpening phase you may remove it entirely.

I strongly recommend all runners to incorporate weight training into their regime.

IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, feel free to drop me a message in the contact me section, or drop me a PM on my Facebook page or Instagram!

Mastering your BODYWEIGHT!! | TRAINING TALK EPISODE 2

Yet another summary of Training Talk!

This episode we discuss an interesting topic: mastering your ability to lift your own weight!

I feel that being proficient at lifting your own bodyweight crucial regardless if you are an elite athlete or a working professional.

The reason being:

1, It allows you to be more athletic; you are more nimble and agile, which helps you to perform physical tasks (daily household chores to moving around in combat load during reservist) more easily.

2, Sets a solid foundation for you for further strength development – your ligaments and joints will be stronger after a period of bodyweight work and thus allow you to move on to lifting heavier loads with lesser risks of injury.

3, OF COURSE, LAST BUT NOT LEAST, perform fancy bar skills and increases obstacle immunity during Obstacle Course Races (OCR)!

In this episode, we focus on how to go about mastering your own bodyweight in order to achieve the third benefit. We specifically focus on three skills which I thought would be of interest to you guys:

1, Getting your first muscle up

2, Clearing the monkey bar

3, Clearing the multi-rig

There are 2 huge concepts towards training in order to help you achieve these 3 feats which demonstrate feats of bodyweight mastery: Physical training and technical training.

Physical training prepares your body to handle the rigors of technical training, allowing you to practice technical drills safely and is the foundation strength builder for these 3 movements.

Technical training grooves the motor pattern of these movements via drills and thus allowing you to pick up the skills gradually.

1, Physical Training

This refers to the development of strength specific to the muscles, tendons and ligaments required to perform these movements. This concept applies to mastering any other intermediate-advanced bodyweight movements.

The Muscle Up

There are 3 primary movements in the muscle up: the pull, the transition and the dip.

The pull and the dip are the primary physical movements that we need to get really strong at before we are ready to handle the technical drills of muscle ups.

I always recommend my clients to be able to first perform 15 pull ups  and 15 bar dips before attempting technical training for the muscle up. I am sure some can pick up this skill with 10 of each, however, it is not safe to do so. I remembered how I injured my rotator cuff through technical training of the muscle up and that is when I was able to do 20+ pull ups and 30+ dips. If you don’t have adequate strength, the movement drills that you

If you don’t have adequate strength, you will not have deliberate control over the movement drills that you practice. You are just “trying your luck”. There is no deliberate and purposeful practice of the drills and it can lead to injuries.

Even when you are able to do 15 pull ups and dips, don’t stop there –  the better you are at your basics, the better you will get at the more advanced movements; after picking up weighted pull ups and dips + some explosive pulling work, my ability to perform the muscle up improved dramatically – all these with little technical work and thus I firmly believe in the development of your foundation movements to build up performance for more advanced movements.

Multi-Rig and Monkey Bars

Primary movements for monkey bars and multi-rigs are the ability to shift your bodyweight from one arm to another while hanging in mid-air. Thus, it is crucial to first develop your grip endurance. This can be done by:

1, Hanging on the bar (or different handholds such as globe balls, fat grips, cliffhangers, etc), first with both arm, then subsequently 1 arm.

2, Performing loads of pull ups

2, Technical Training

Technical training gets you smooth in the movement itself. Therefore for the case of the muscle ups, here are some drills which can be performed in order to groove in the necessary movement pattern:

1, muscle up negatives

2, banded muscle ups

3, other muscle up progressions

Some drills for practicing the multi-rigs and monkey bars (getting used to shifting weight from one arm to another):

1, monkey bar traverse (monkey swing/ single rung method; bent elbows/straight arms)

2, gymnastic ring traverse (with differing height and handholds)

3, switching grip pull ups

As you can see, technical training for multi-rigs and monkey bars are quite straightforward, whereas for the muscle ups it can get a little more technical. This all depends on the complexity of the movements. The muscle up is definitely more technical than the monkey bars/multi-rigs but I firmly believe that with proper strength development via physical training will definitely expedite the learning process in the technical phase of training.

So before you try out any fanciful bodyweight skills, always ask yourself this question:

Do I have the adequate strength to perform the movements?

If no, it is better to work on developing the basics (e.g. pull ups, dips, push ups, hollow hold) first before moving on to practice technical aspect of the movement.

If you have any queries or need a customised plan to build you up towards achieving your first muscle up, clearing the multi-rig or monkey bar, feel free to drop me an email, or DM me on Instagram or Facebook!

Goodluck and Train Hard!!

Jack

Obstacle Immunity in OCR: The MOST neglected secret | TRAINING TALK EPISODE 1

If you are not up to watching the video, you can read about it below!!

When it comes to obstacle course racing, gaining strength and learning the right technique to clear each obstacle comes to many people’s mind. As such, many boot camps focus a lot on high-intensity circuits, heavy lifting and lots of grip/hanging work.

Don’t get me wrong, these sessions will get you ready for obstacle course racing; however, I felt that one aspect of training is SEVERELY lacking – time on feet AKA running/walking. There simply is not enough time spent consistently moving around to develop a strong aerobic foundation which is so crucial in building a high work capacity for obstacle immunity.

The next question many will ask is: how does running/walking and an improved aerobic capacity improve obstacle immunity in Obstacle Course Racing (OCR)? Here are the benefits:

1, Reduction in fatigue during the race.

If you take a look at most OCR races, they are in actual fact, a form of a footrace, with physical tasks to be cleared between the start and finish line. Thus, having the endurance and stamina to complete the distance is a primary requirement. If you cannot complete the distance (without obstacles) without significant fatigue, you will have issues clearing the obstacles

If you cannot complete the distance (without obstacles) without significant fatigue, you will experience difficulty clearing the obstacles during the footrace itself, as the fatigue from covering distance will set in and make obstacle clearance that much harder.

By increasing your aerobic capacity and cardiovascular efficiency via running/walking, you will be able to cover the distance without much effort, and this sets aside your energy and allows you to focus on clearing the obstacles itself.

2, Ability to beat the crowd to obstacles.

As more people clear the obstacles, the more slippery the obstacles (such as monkey bars, multi-rig, atlas balls, etc) gets, which makes the obstacle much harder to clear as you will need more energy to grip onto them. In addition, OCR races are usually designed to be on trails; certain segments of trails with soft dirt will turn into gooey mud after being trampled on by thousands of feet, which increases the difficulty in moving through them.

Therefore, to conserve energy, with a strong aerobic foundation developed from running, you can beat the crowd (in your wave at least, or even better if you are in the earlier waves), to run on firmer dirt and clear dryer obstacles which will not require as much effort as the wet and slippery ones, increasing the chance of clearing the obstacles!

3, Faster recovery between obstacles.

With a strong aerobic base developed from running/walking, the runs/walks between obstacles will become recovery segments instead of wearing your down, allowing your body to clear the lactic acid in your body and gets you ready for the next obstacles in a few minutes’ time!

4, Better performance on long loaded carries.

How many of us dread the sandbag carry, bucket carry or tractor pull? With a strong aerobic foundation developed from running/walking, you will be less winded while performing these draggy loaded carries (possibly even move faster than the rest), and thus conserving energy to clear the more crucial obstacles (multi rigs, Atlas carry).

How can you build a strong aerobic foundation specific to OCR?

1, Long runs

Spending time on the feet at low intensities is the cornerstone of developing endurance. Below are the recommended distances which you should build up to prior to each specific distance in the Spartan Race:

Sprint (5-8km) – 10-12km long run

Super (14-16km) – 16-20km long run

Beast (21km) – maximum 25km long run

These runs should be done at a conversational pace; running with a friend will be enjoyable. Ideally, you should try to get in these runs on the trails with some elevation as it will mimic the course to a certain extend. Since the key is to keep moving at low intensities, don’t be afraid to walk up the inclines.

2, Burpee-long runs

I particularly love such runs as it mimics the Spartan Race. These runs can be anywhere between 5-16km long. At each kilometer mark, perform 30 burpees. This will build up your burpee resistance during the race and it is a REALLY good way to build OCR specific endurance. Start off with 5km and you will know what I mean:)

3, Obstacle specific intervals

This is to simulate fatigue on the course itself and clearing of the obstacles under high heart rate. This should be done closer to the race itself when your aerobic condition is at its peak and after gaining the ability to clear obstacles properly (without fatigue).

An example of OCR specific intervals will be:

6 rounds of:

-800m run

-clearing the monkey bars

-20 burpees

-200m sandbag carries

Hope that these gives you an insight to training for OCR from the endurance perspective.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an email (contact me section), drop me a DM on Facebook or look me up on Instagram (@thefitnessextremist). I do design

I do design customized training programs and do personal training as well so if you are looking at upping your game in OCR with proper programming,  you may drop me an email and we can further discuss how I can help you achieve your goals.

Goodluck and train hard!

Cheers,

Jack

The Secret to building a HUGE Work Capacity 

We all have seen elite endurance athletes run at a superbly fast clip for almost forever. Crossfitters who can perform really well for several metcons over 3-4 consecutive days. MMA fighters who can fight at high intensities for 15-25 minutes. There is a secret to building this large work capacity other than just high intensity work.

Build a huge and efficient aerobic system.

You build your aerobic system more efficiently by exercising at lower intensities. However, many athletes are not going slow enough and thus not able to build their aerobic engine efficiently. Over a long period of time, an underdeveloped aerobic system can cause plateau in fitness. On the extreme end, it can lead to burnout or overtraining. 
The aerobic system, unlike the anaerobic system, has a greater room for development and thus, a properly developed aerobic system will be able to bring your performance to another level in most of the sports.
So how slow do you need to go?

If you are measuring your intensity using the 5HR Zones, then your aerobic efforts should be spent in Zone 2.
If you are measuring your intensity based on a rate of perceived effort scale of 10, then it should be hovering around 6-7. 

In short, the pace should be conversational (it should not allow you to sing though). Another way to find out if you are going slow enough is to use the breathing test; you should be running at a pace slow enough to run to breathe in and out through your nose without using your mouth comfortably.

The heart is a dumb muscle; as long as you stay in this heart rate zone/ conversational effort for a sustained period of time, it really doesn’t matter what form of exercise you do – good news for athletes as they can apply this concept and introduce sport specific exercises to develop the aerobic system to the specific requirement of the sport.

If you truly want to build a large engine which helps to increase sports performance, do cater time to put in those easy continuous efforts!!! You might feel that you are not doing much as these sessions might feel “guiltily easy”, but the adaptations gained are worth it over the long term!!

Singapore 200 Miles Ultra: Race Report

This post is dedicated to my family, relatives, Eileen, the Scorpions, RED72 brothers, Team Spartacus and everyone who had supported me through the 320km journey. Without you guys, this feat would not have been possible.

Photo Credits to RED72 Bros who had taken these photos as well as Tony Ton Ton Fun shots (check them out here)

Pre-race preparation

Training

So I had signed up for this race LOONG ago (think it was like..last year??). I had only started training for it 3 months ago, during my school holidays. Mileage per week is as such:

Wk 1: 40km
Wk 2: 55km
Wk 3: 70km
Wk 4: 40km
Wk 5: 75km
Wk 6: 90km
Wk 7: 100km
Wk 8: 90km
Wk 9: 70km
Wk 10: Reservist
Wk 11: 40km
Wk 12: 20km

This time round, I had more preparation, compared to my preparation for Monster Ultra 200 in 2014.IMG-20160810-WA0040

However, due to work, I had to split up my long runs. My single longest run was 24km, however, I did my best to increase my mileage density. For example, my 100km week was done in 5 consecutive days. I still do loads of cross training, such as crossfit style workouts, calisthenics and kettlebell work. I believed all these helped in my conditioning for the 200 miles, as it allows you to keep your running form over the entire course of 4 days.

 

Nutrition

As for nutrition, I was also more prepared as compared to my 200km race 2 years ago. With John’s advice (check him out here), I was in for a smoother race, thanks to his nutrition tips!

So basically John advised me to consume more whole foods, complex carbohydrates and amino acids instead of relying on processed food, sugar, isotonic drinks and gel. This was really helpful as I had not experienced any gastrointestinal upset (common among ultrarunners) and crashes due to the temporary sugar rush caused by sugar and isotonic drinks.

Support

This time round, I also had more support! Thanks to my family, relatives and friends, there are more people support me on this run which was a tremendous morale booster throughout the race!

13886863_888583544619960_8958674885632902918_n

NOW, on to the race proper…

RACE EXPERIENCE

It was 0630am when I reached Macritchie Carpark. My family was up as support crew first. Did some final taping of the illiotibial band, some photo taking and then by 7am, Ben set us off!

0-16km: First off to pace me was Bob! Being the start of the race, I was feeling energetic and positive. Unlike the 200km race 2 years ago, this year I came in with lesser doubt and was raring to go. Finished the first 16km rather comfortably.

16km-35km: Was alone. Felt rather comfortable getting into the groove. Maintained all the way till Bukit Batok where Eileen decided to pace me on the run!

35-44km: Stopped for a 1 hour lunch break at Chinese Garden MRT. There I had a great meal of fish soup and rice prepared by my uncle. Did not really have an appetite but I consumed it anyway, knowing that if I don’t do so I will suffer later on due to the massive caloric deficit. Eileen continued to accompany me thereafter till we reached Pioneer MRT station.

44km-65km: My brother took over to pace me. This stretch was really boring, especially the Corporation Road-Yung Ho-Yuan Ching loop! Hit my first low point when I reached 60km mark. It looked it like was going to rain when I reached big box. It was really cold and I felt rather sian because if it rains, it is gonna take a huge toll on me later on in the race. If a torrential rain occurred, I would have taken shelter immediately to preserve my body temperature. Thankfully it stayed that way.

65km-71km: My uncle joined my brother to pace me on the run. Was feeling slightly better, legs were generally fatigued but I could still run and walk. Took a short break at NUS Business school and continued moving till Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music where I had my dinner, prepared by my mum and uncle. At the same time, it was the support crew change over, Steffan, Wenjie, Phil and Adrian took over. Ash and his family came down to support at dinner time as well!

71km-90km: By this time, my hamstrings felt like they were going to drop off but I could keep on moving thanks to the large pacing group following me! Somewhere along Commonwealth Avenue, Florence and Matthias joined the gang as well! It wasn’t for long that we settled into a pace which was really fast; the fastest being a 6:10 minute kilometer. Florence and Matthais left at Bukit Gombak MRT, and we kept pushing on. It was a relatively low point as we moved off from Bukit Gombak MRT station; my legs were feeling really sore and I was getting tired from the day’s worth of running and walking. We were initially scheduled to rest at Star Vista, but due to the slow pace, we aimed to stop over at my Aunt’s house to rest, which is JUST along Jalan Jurong Kechil! Took a shower, refueled and a nap (3hrs total) before moving on.

90km-112km: Alastair took over pacing as Phil and Adrian left. When I woke up my legs felt much better; not sore anymore, just a general sense of fatigue. Took in some food and then started running again. At this point, I hit yet another low. This stretch was rather mental; long straight stretches of roads along Bukit Timah and a hilly stretch after Star Vista. My paced slowed considerably with the fatigued legs and when I reached Alexandra Retail Centre at 6am I was “seeing god”. Thankfully, after having some fish porridge that my parents bought and with the sun coming out, I was recharged and ready to go again!

112km-133km: Yet another tough stretch. After pushing hard from 112km-128km with Alastair, where we linked up with Seetoh at the bottom of Mount Faber, I was shagged out by the blazing sun. Seetoh got us through Mount Faber with a fast hike. Really appreciate it as I was lagging behind time and could use a good push through this monster of a hill. Was considering to eat my meal before the Mount Faber climb but Seetoh advised against it. It was a good choice actually, both physically and mentally!

133km-146km: Had lunch at the carpark at Pender Road, where Zac linked up with me to pace me through Sentosa. As usual, my uncle cooked a meal for me and as usual, I did not have appetite but ate it anyway! This was taking its toll on me. I could not eat as much to get in the calories needed and I suspect this was causing me to slow down. The route in, around and out of Sentosa was BLAZING HOT. The rolling terrain within Sentosa was not helping either. I walked almost the entirely route within Sentosa. The heat was no joke, hottest through the entire 320km race. Seriously a sufferfest. I was seriously worried that I could not finish the race within the 80hrs cut off time. It would certainly be disappointing considering that there were many people rooting for me! I did not want all their energy to go to waste!

146km-150km: Eileen took over pacing as Zac left to work. Paced me till Ion Orchard where we linked up with Ironman Sam!

150km-158.5km: Sam and eileen continued pacing me, Jake joined in along Clarke Quay MRT. I told them that I could not pick up the pace due to my aching hamstring and Sam suggested powerwalking (he was able to powerhike a 5:30 marathon!!). We gave it a try and it was not long before we manage to pick up the pace made up for lost time! Stopped outside Verve Pizza Bar for dinner break where I had CHICKEN RICE!!! Yes, I was craving for chicken rice during the walk through this phase, and it turned out that chicken rice became my main source of fuel throughout the race!

158.5km-183km: Bear and Eric took over my family to support for my race at Stadium. I was joined by Pete, Sam and Wenjie who paced me all the way till Paya Lebar MRT. Along the way, Razip joined in for crew support with his own vehicle, Eddy and Lee joined in the pacing and there was loads of people together with me on this leg! Felt really blessed and super thankful! Was able to make up ALOT of ground. By the time I reached Paya Lebar MRT Station at 11:40pm, there were 4 cars as support and loads of pacers! Linked up with Glenn, Sylvester, Chuck, Kenny and my family at Paya Lebar Square. My dad took 2 huge pails of water along for me to bath in and I did so outside Paya Lebar Square…like a boss.

Took a 3 hours nap thereafter in Kenny’s car (super comfortable with aircon on) after which, Glenn, Sylvester and Almeric took over to pace me!

183km-200km: The walk was a shag one. I was consistently dozing off and feeling tired. I guess it is the time of the day that caused me to have the same low that I experienced the night (or wee hours of the morning) earlier on the first night! However, the four of us managed to reach 201km in 47hrs and..20 minutes? This gave me some breathing space: I was relatively confident  to finish the race with 120km left and 32hrs remaining. IMG-20160808-WA0003

200km-222km: John took over Almeric and together with Sylvester and Glenn, we picked up speed through powerhiking and made up LOADS of ground. Had more chicken rice along the way (a packet of rice at 630am, a packet of chicken rice at 730am) and then, it was beastmode once I hit Loyang! Ran ALL the way till I reached 222km where I had DUCK RICE hehehe^^ This stretch was supposed to be boring but somehow I got the energy to push and got myself a boost! We joked that it must be due to Hendon camp being around the corner which gaves me the extra boost needed! Needless to say, with around 10km of running, I made up LOADS of ground. Sylvester left at 222km to leave Glenn and John to pace me for the next stretch.IMG-20160810-WA0011

222km-234km: Managed to hold on to a good pace all the way till Lorong Halus, where we linked up with Steffan. The sun was blazing hot during this entire stretch but somehow that V-power boost lasted!!!

234km-257km: John left at Lorong Halus, leaving Glenn and Stef to pace me through the next few kilometers, which was agonisingly painful due to the SUPER LONG and mundane stretch along Punggol-Serangoon Reservoir. We did loads of powerhiking and by the time we reached Kovan MRT Station, my FEET WERE REKTED. Hammies were super sore, soles were super sore! Rested there for a while, and Melvin came along to visit us!!!

Glenn retired at Kovan, Eileen joined in the fast march with Stef and I till Sengkang Sport Centre. We were moving at a really fast clip; around 7-8km/h. Along the way I did stopped one more time at Buangkok for another packet of chicken rice! It seemed like chicken rice was the V-power which is powering me through the mid-race! Feet and shin starting to hurt alot at around 251km and by the time I reached 257km I was really tired. We did however made up alot of ground and met the eventual Champion of the race, Boon Heng, outside Oasis MRT station. IMG-20160810-WA0051

257km-267km: After another dinner of chicken rice (lol), and a changeover of support crew from my family to Scorpions, we set off at a fast pace! First off to pace is Zac and Junying. They really set a punishing pace! We stayed at it till 265km where my right shin hurts REALLY badly. During the short break, I realised that when I touched my shin bone, it felt really painful. John and I suspected that it might be a stress fracture of the shin from all the powerwalking done for the past..24hrs. We slowed the pace down and took my time to walk. At all times I was really conscious to keep my pace between 10:00-11:50 per km. Reason being: 5-6km/h pace will keep me in the safe zone to finish within 80hrs!IMG-20160810-WA0009

My cousin joined me during the walk somewhere close to Serangoon Stadium and we walked all the way till we hit Potong Pasir MRT Station, where we were greeted by Uncle Bay, Alvin, a few more RED72 people, my aunts, John and Almeric. We stopped at a bus stop for a pit stop where Zac massaged my foot and everyone else helped me maintained my body, while the rest watched on. This had attracted many stares from the public and people on buses; they could not understand what was going on and why one guy sitting on the yoga mat with a sibei shag face was being massaged and given food. I felt a little paiseh but was at the same time feeling blessed to have such tremendous amount of support, which gave me the strength to carry on pushing. By this time, I was beyond tired but I was determined to finish the race!IMG-20160810-WA0048IMG-20160810-WA0047

267km-279km: RED72 bros joined along the run, together with Zac, Junying, my aunt and my cousin. We were a huge group running down Upper Serangoon Road, Bendemeer Road and Moulmein road, where I took a pit stop and was joined by MORE members of Team Spartacus: Anna, Florence, Zibin and Eddy! After that pit stop, I got supercharged again and was able to run REALLY FAST! This time, I ran around for around 2km at a 6:25/km split, which was really fast. When we reached 274km, we took a short break, whereby there after we continued moving. By this time, I was moving rather slowly once again: totally feeling it in my right shin and the soles. Managed to hang on all the way till 279km at AMK HUB where I just crashed for an hour after a bath brought to me by my uncle (he took 2 huge buckets of water along and allowed me to bath with a container!) In addition, he brought along an inflatable bed! Good stuff! Most of Team Spartacus left at AMK and it was left with Almeric, JJ and Adrian to pace me for the next stretch!IMG-20160810-WA0018

279km-290km: THIS WAS A REALLY TERRIBLE STRETCH. Lentor Avenue was plain torture and so was Yishun Avenue 2 and Canberra Link. I am so sorry to have Almeric, Adrian and JJ accompanying me here. This was the lowest of low in the entire race. I was moody and my expression showed it all. Steven linked up with us at Khatib MRT station and accompanied us till Sembawang Road. All I could remember was, shin pain, sole pain and VERY VERY sleepy and demoralised me. My right shin really hurt like shit and so does my feet. Icing was done at Khatib Station and the junction between Sembawang Road and Admiralty Road East. Super emo stretch.

290km-294km: This stretch was yet another slow walk. Just managed to keep the momentum going. Really gotta thank  Almeric and Adrian for tolerating my moodiness..this stretch of road there is REALLY NOTHING TO SEE. Plain boring seriously a mind torture. I kept looking at my gps watch; it is the only way that I can calculate my distance and keep myself sane. At the same time I was peeing ALOT and I really suspect it is due to the fatigue…IMG-20160810-WA0004

294km-305km: JK took over Almeric to pace me, together with Adrian. This stretch as usual, was slow. Shin started to hurt alot at around 301km…and I really struggled till 305km, where I iced my feet once again. Reggie joined us at around Woodlands Waterfront Park!

305km-321km: From here, it was an all out push to the finish. I could remember the last thing JK told me: ” WC, I am gonna pick up the pace a little, if not you will suffer when the sun is out”, before I actually just heck everything about the pain and went beastmode: I planned to run all the way back. It was a pretty long stretch but I was confident that I could do it! Emmanuel joined in the run, together with my sister at around 307km. Steffan joined along at around 314km, along with Zac. We were a huge group running and there were like…3 cars following me ( convoy madness). We pressed on all the way till the end, and MANAGED TO BEAT 12PM by 2 minutes!!!  I did 10 burpees as someone had shouted for me to perform them!IMG-20160810-WA0005

 

FEELINGS AFTER 320KM?

I was…happy and satisfied, and also relieved at the same time that it was over. Looking back, 320km was indeed a REALLY long race! My feet really swelled so much after the run and I could not walk properly at all. They felt like they were going to burst anytime soon. I was also really tired! I concussed for an hour after I reached home.

How to further improve performance for subsequent ultramarathons?

Point #01: Include longer runs; time on the feet
I felt that longer runs of 7-8hrs could be done over the weekends. They need not be running all the way, just time walking and running on the feet to get them used to it! This time round even though I had the mileage and thus the engine, my legs weren’t able to hold up as well.

Point #02: Night Runs
As much as possible try to incorporate night runs, especially wee hours of the morning. This is especially true for myself as I keep getting my “low points” during that period of time.

Point #03: Power of Powerwalking
Through this 200 miler, I realised the importance of powerwalking. Running and walking uses different muscle groups. With powerwalking, you are able to keep your heartrate low and still move as fast as 6-8km/h, which is really good. And I think I walked almost 2/3 of the race! Definitely should incorporate more walking into my ultramarathon trainings!

Point #04: POWER of Nutrition
John has shown me the power of nutrition in ultramarathons. Compared to the Monster Ultra that I had taken part in back in 2014, when I had super POOR nutrition planned which had caused me to crash, this time, I am much stronger due to sustenance of energy by consuming proper foods and avoiding refined and simple sugar. Definitely not something that I will want to neglect in future races.

Lessons Learnt

Throughout the entirety of the race, I had learnt alot and that is why I love ultramarathons; they teach you new lessons after each race and ultimately teach you how to live a better life.

Lesson #01: No man is an island, with proper support, you are capable of ANYTHING
This might be cliche, but it is very true. Looking back, I don’t think I could have done it without the support of my family and friends. Everytime I view my phone, seeing those well wishes perked me up quite abit. Do cherish your friends and loved ones as they will be your pillar of support when you come face to face with adversity. At the same time, do put yourself in their shoes and make sure that you will be there for them when they encounter their version of adversity. Little things like a note, a small gift, a word of encouragement, or a hug goes a long way.

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Lesson #02: Devise a plan, stick to it and grind it through
Many at times, we focus on how much we have left to complete a task instead of focusing on the task at hand. This is especially true during this EXTREMELY long race. With my pacers navigating for me, I can solely focus on getting through 5km at a time and in no time, I was done. This can be applied to work or school; plan your timetable, and after that, just let it unfold day by day while focusing and grinding through the task at hand.

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Lesson #03: Adjust your goals according to the situation
I believe in this. We need to adjust our goals on the fly if the plan went south. This is really true in ultra; whenever you fall off pace, sometimes it is better to re-adjust your goals than to fight to get yourself back on track. The ultimate goal is to finish and as long as you are able to do so, timing doesn’t matter as long as you stick to a plan which gets you there. This is the same for work or school; sometimes due to limitations or constraints, we cannot achieve the results that we desire. Rather than being angry over it or stressed up about it, work within the constraint and try to get the most out of it! The important thing is to NEVER GIVE UP!

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Lesson #04: Just..keep..moving
As the saying goes: “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going” every obstacle in life can be conquered, as long as you keep at it and don’t ever stop. After completing 4 ultras, I firmly believe in this. Just like every low points that you experience in your ultra are in that short spur of the moment, it is the same for the obstacles and adversities faced in life. I feel that this is the most important mantra learnt in this race. I firmly believe if you keep working on something long enough (wisely of course), you will eventually succeed. Just like the body starts to scream for you to stop due to the hurting shin, same thing for negativities in your life: learn to ignore them. Passion and determination triumphs over negativity.

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Ending Words

Zac did asked me about my feelings after completing 320km, and my rationale for attempting this race. I told him that it was a personal journey of self discovery, to show myself that I was capable of much more than I think. He told me that this run is much more than about me: through this race, I was able to inspire him to keep on going, no matter how tough business can get (he is da boss for green wall/ green roof installation if you ever want to install one in your home or facility, he is the man!). After hearing this, I felt really happy! As a coach, there is nothing more meaningful than to be able to inspire others to start working out and spread the values that sports and fitness has to offer.

The sport of ultramarathon is indeed more than just a sport for individuals, it tighten bonds between family and friends, teaches you life lessons and also inspire others! It is certainly a meaningful sport which I will continue to engage in for the rest of my life.

To all those who had read this post, I hope that this race report is value adding to your life and that you guys will KEEP ON MOVING when the going gets tough!!!

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Stay BEASTMODE!!

Jack

 

Workouts from 18.07.2016 – 24.07.2016

18.07.2016

17km run

19.07.2016

 16.5km run

20.07.2016

20 x 14 storeys stairs climb

21.07.2016

AM:

16.5km run

PM:

10km run + HIIT Training @ Lululemon Duxton

22.07.2016

5 rounds of:

20 pull ups

40 push ups

60 sit ups

23.06.2016

5 rounds of:

10 banded bear crawls

15 HSPU

25 KB swings @ 32kg

Workouts for the past 2 Weeks (04-16.07.2016)

04.07.2016

28km run accumulated (double session)

05.07.2016

30km run accumulated (double session)

06.07.2016

11km done

07.07.2016

AM:

21-15-9-9-15-21

32kg KB swings

burpee

Time: 7:30

PM:
30 minutes AMRAP:
5 muscle ups
10 dips
10m bear crawl
10m lizard crawl

08.07.2016

1 hour stairs climb (20 x 14 storeys)

11.07.2016

AM:

21-15-9-9-15-21

32kg KB swings

burpee

PM:

4km road march

12.07.2016

AM:

1.5km run
3 rounds of:
10 burpees
10m bear crawl
10 squat jumps
10m lizard crawl

then, 1.5km run

Noon:

30 burpee muscle ups

PM:

4 sets of Tabata training:
T1: Jumping lunges and HSPU
T2: Pull ups and v-ups
T3: Burpees and T2B
T4: back extension towel rows and push ups

13.07.2016

3 sets (60/15, 45/15, 30/15) of:

diamond push ups
crunches
burpees
planks
swimmers stroke
push ups
squats
wide push ups
inverted bridge

14.07.2016

15km run

15.07.2016

AM:

10km run then,

1.5km run

2 sets of:
20 push ups
20 squats
20 crunches
20 diamond push ups
20 burpees
20 4 count flutter kick
20 box jump
20 pull ups
20 T2B

200m 5-tonne tyre flip in a team of 3

1.5km run

PM:

10km run

16.07.2016

100 burpees
100 pull ups
200 push ups
300 squats
100 burpees

Pull ups, push ups, squats split into 20x 5/10/15

Time: 29:26

Run Training – Part 3: Strength Training for the Lower Body

Many runners (including myself in the past) place strength training for the legs as the lowest priority in our training program. Reason being: we are running so much! Our legs are bulletproof and strong, why is there a need for strength training? It is a waste of time!

This thinking flawed because of a few reasons:

1) Development of Strength and Range of Motion

I am not denying running hills and stairs can build strength in the legs, but they are not enough to develop strength throughout the entire ROM of knee flexion. Yes you can climb steep elevations, but can you do a full pistol squat? Can you do a full depth goblet squat? The last bit of depth of ROM in the squat is crucial – it aids you in getting you from a standing position to a sitting position on a stool, or simply to squat to reach for something which is on the lower shelves in the bookstore or supermarket.

2) Transferability of Movement Pattern

The squat and hip hinge are two of  the most important movements that we will utilize in our daily lives.

The hip hinge helps you to lift loads efficiently off the ground, while squatting and its variations aid in power generation (lifting/pushing loads) and helping us get from ground position (prone,supine, sitting or kneeling) into an upright standing position.

These movements cannot be developed by running stairs and hills alone! The range of motion, mobility required are much larger.

In addition, running hills and stairs do not teach you proper activation of muscles required to perform the hip hinge and squat, however, with squats and hip hinge work (deadlifts and kettlebell swings), you will learn the mechanics and transfer these skills into running hills and stairs, which increases running efficiency (activation of the glutes while running) and reduces risk of injuries.

3) Balance and Pelvic Stabilization

Running hills and stairs does not work on balance (unless you are running on trails). However, unilateral leg exercises like single leg deadlifts, pistol squats, single leg squat, all help to work on your balance and strength while maintaining proper pelvic position. To maintain proper pelvic position requires trunk and leg stabilization – all not explicitly “trained” during running of hills and stairs.

If you break running down into the different stages, you will realise that it is a continual series of single leg hops! With every footstrike, it will get you into a single leg hop landing position – In order to be strong in running, you will need to be able to hold that posture for extended periods of time.

Many runners are not able to hold a neutral pelvic position during running because of poor core and leg stabilization and is the cause of injuries such as ITBS. I was one of those in the past but thankfully things had gotten better after I started to include more leg work in my routine!

Ending Thoughts

With that being said, I still feel that hills and stairs work are essential for run training! Afterall nothing beats training for running other than running!

However, I feel that deadlifts and squats gets your legs ready for run-specific training (getting in more mileage) and is the basis for injury prevention and general leg strength development and thus improve your body’s functionality in playing other sports and carrying out other physical tasks other than running!

So, to all runners: Don’t EVER neglect strength training for the lower limbs!

Picture taken from: https://towerrunninguk.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/istock_running-up-stairs-2.jpg

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