Proper rest crucial to improved showing

There is no clear correlation between massages and performance but there is no harm in having a good rubdown.
There is no clear correlation between massages and performance but there is no harm in having a good rubdown.ST FILE PHOTO

The last of a six-part ST Run special with Dr Mok Ying Ren. This week, the former SEA Games triathlon and marathon champion shows how recovering well can contribute to improved performance

Recovery is of paramount importance as we enter the final week before next week's The Straits Times Run at the Hub.

Many studies have shown that proper and ample recovery often leads to improved performances, so it is an area that cannot be overlooked, especially if you are chasing a personal-best timing next week.

There are many methods of recovery and one of the most under-rated forms is sleep.

In one such study, basketballers were told to sleep as much as they could for two weeks. It resulted in faster sprints and increased free-throw accuracy.

Carol Smith, one of the United States' fastest marathoners with a personal best of 2hr 39min 45sec, told me that the amount of sleep she gets has a direct impact on her performance in workouts.

Equally important is the quality of your sleep and one way of ensuring that is to create an ideal sleeping environment.

  • RUN WITH MOK - WEEK 6

    MONDAY

    You will do a very light tune-up to get ready for race day. After a warm-up of 10 to 15 minutes, set your watch to 30-second intervals. You will do eight sets of 30sec fast, 30sec easy. Then, cool down for 10 minutes. The focus is to feel fluid and fast but do not tire yourself out.


    WEDNESDAY

    A 4km race-pace run should feel nothing for you now. You can choose to complete this final run with the Running Department at 7pm at UOB Plaza. Draw confidence from how easy this session will feel.


    THURSDAY

    This is optional for those who are fitter or keen to train more. Do an easy 30-minute run. You may replace this with an easy 30-minute swim or cycle.


    SATURDAY

    I prefer not to rest totally on the day before the race. Head out for a very easy 20-minute morning jog so that you have the entire day to relax and recover.


    SUNDAY

    This is the day you have been training for. You have prepared enough, now is the time to go out and enjoy the run.

    Training effort description

    Easy/long run: You should be able to hold a conversation comfortably during the run.

    Moderate (race pace) run: You should be able to speak in phrases but not in full sentences.

    Hard (fast) run: During these intervals, you should be able to speak only in a sporadic fashion.

You can do that by using heavy curtains to block out street lights and avoiding looking at bright screens such as your mobile phone before sleeping. If you are a light sleeper, try sleeping with ear plugs.

All these methods help to boost your body's production of melatonin, a hormone which prepares one to sleep.

Another method of recovery is to get a massage, something which Smith swears by.

She said massages are effective in getting rid of tight muscles that one inevitably gets after a workout.

There are no convincing studies to show the correlation between massages and athletic performance yet but, generally, if you feel good, you will perform well. So there is no harm in pampering yourself once in a while with a good rubdown.

Another popular tool for recovery among runners involves compression garments. Studies on compression tights for recovery have so far been promising.

A recent study done in Australia found that marathoners who wore compression socks for 48 hours after their events were able to perform better on a treadmill test two weeks later, compared to those who did not wear them.

A final component of recovery comes from your training habits.

Many runners find it difficult to slow down during their recovery run, as they feel inclined to run at maximum effort each time.

But that is counter-productive and will only cause more fatigue.

A good guide for a recovery run is to run at a pace where you can conduct a conversation without going out of breath.

Keep these recovery tips in mind as you rest for the ST Run, and also as you embark on your next training programme.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2015, with the headline 'Proper rest crucial to improved showing'. Print Edition | Subscribe