Experts advise rest and thorough check-up

ULTRAMARATHONERS Yong Yuen Cheng, 43, and Lim Nghee Huat, 61, completed the incredible feat of running 50km for 50 consecutive days yesterday.

Now that the greatest running challenge of their lives is over, their first step, according to Mr Anand Sivayogam, a 31-year-old senior physiotherapist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, should be to do a thorough medical check-up.

"The most common injuries of distance running are stress fractures of the tibia or fibula or medial tibial stress syndrome," he said.

Tibia and fibula are the bones that make up the shin, and medial tibial stress syndrome, or shin splints, can occur from overuse, resulting in pain.

"Other injuries include muscle tears at the calves and Achilles tendonitis," said Mr Sivayogam.

The challenge for the runners, according to Changi General Hospital sports medicine chief Benedict Tan, will be to differentiate between muscle soreness and injury. Dr Tan, 47, said pain accompanied by swelling, or pain that lasts longer than two weeks, most likely signals an injury.

As for what they should eat, Mr Derrick Ong, director of Eat Right Nutrition Consultancy and nutrition adviser to the Football Association of Singapore's medical committee, said carbohydrates will be essential in the days to come.

"Their glycogen stores are probably heavily depleted, so they need to load up on carbohydrates to replenish them," said the 42-year-old dietitian.

"Their bodies have been put under a tremendous amount of stress, so they need to consume more protein as well to recover their muscles. Other things like cherry juice or blackcurrant extract can help alleviate muscle soreness and aid recovery."

Experts agreed that rest was essential - Mr Ong thought they should rest for at least a week, while Mr Sivayogam felt two weeks would be safer.

Dr Tan said two weeks was the usual break before starting strenuous training again, but advised "recovery training" during the break.

"Doing an easy swim or cycling every day will accelerate recovery, and is better than lying down and doing nothing," he said.

ongkx@sph.com.sg