ST Run: Stamina's important no matter what sport you play

Andrew Lee (front) and Jonathan Chong on their way to the senior men's kayak doubles 200m title at the National Canoe Sprint Championships last Sunday. Running benefits people in a wide range of sports.
Andrew Lee (front) and Jonathan Chong on their way to the senior men's kayak doubles 200m title at the National Canoe Sprint Championships last Sunday. Running benefits people in a wide range of sports.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

When national tennis player Shaheed Alam clinched the 2017 Southeast Asia Men's Invitational Tournament Tennis singles gold after overcoming a 2-4 deficit in both sets, he knew he had his family and tennis coaches to thank, as well as his running shoes.

"Because tennis is usually seen as a technical sport some people forget that on some levels, especially the professionals, there's a lot of physical and aerobic endurance involved," said Shaheed, who is working towards the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur in August.

Rising above a rough year in 2016, he feels that running has elevated his game and given him greater confidence to focus and perform when the pressure is on, or when matches stretch for two to three hours.

FIT TO PLAY

While most of us are more interested in playing sports like football or basketball as a social activity or part of a healthy lifestyle, running can feel like the distant relative we know but never wish to meet (even though we should).

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Running is taxing for many of us precisely because it uses a lot of large muscle groups. This also makes running one of the most efficient ways to train your lungs and legs to work longer and harder, for that much-needed boost (you wished you had) when chasing down that scoring opportunity.

It is also great for building muscular endurance for sports like hockey or football, which involve a lot of time on the legs and non-stop moving that alternates between a jog and all-out sprints for games lasting as long as 90 minutes.

It is also a common misconception that running does not benefit upper-body sports like canoeing or kayaking.

As national canoeist Jonathan Chong explains: "A powerful paddle stroke actually starts with an effective leg drive, and that is why running is an integral part of canoeing training."

MIND OVER MATTER

Studies published by UK Sports Physiologists and Psychologists in 2009 seem to suggest that our performance in sports could be limited by our perception of that limit rather than limits of physical or cardiovascular abilities.

In other words, our brain usually gives up before our body.

So if you aim to play your weekend games more competitively, or even become your team's star player, then learning to handle mental discomfort is par for the course. And we all know what makes us very uncomfortable very quickly.

This is why national hockey player Tan Yi Ru runs after hockey training, because it "trains my mind for that extra edge to push my body further even, and especially, when I'm already tired from training".

He said: "I would highly recommend running because all you need for it is a pair of shoes. And the benefits you gain, like strength and stamina, map over easily to other sports and games."

MAKING RUNNING WORK FOR YOU

For time-strapped weekend sports warriors, running can be scheduled on weekdays for as little as 20 to 30 minutes to stay fit while saving the weekends for team games when it's easier to schedule a game together.

Chong also explains his staple workout when he is in a heavy training (paddling) season - hill running or car pushing for a quick yet very effective workout.

Next time someone asks you about the secret to having the upper hand in any sport, tell them its actually the "upper legs".

•Lester Tan is an avid runner and passionate triathlete who raced at the Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship in Cebu last year. He is now an in-house writer for runONE.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2017, with the headline 'Stamina's important, no matter what sport you play'. Print Edition | Subscribe