Fit And Fab

Running trails to reconnect with nature

Mr Wu has changed his training to cater for more races as training alone does not make him go fast. And the more he runs, the more surfaces he has begun to explore. He avoids carbonated drinks, but enjoys iced Milo.
Mr Wu has changed his training to cater for more races as training alone does not make him go fast. And the more he runs, the more surfaces he has begun to explore. He avoids carbonated drinks, but enjoys iced Milo.ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

Civil servant Randall Wu tells Joan Chew about his exploration of running surfaces

Q How has your training philosophy and exercise regimen changed over the years?

A I used to be obsessed with numbers and was always trying to hit my goal mileage for that week. If I did not, I would beat myself up over it.

In 2014, when I started working, I became burnt out trying to strike a balance between work and exercise.

Today, I clock my mileage according to how my body reacts. If I feel a niggling injury coming up, I would ease up on my training.

This year, I have also changed my training to cater for more races. I realised training alone does not make me go fast enough, so I signed up for more smaller races. I see them as tempo runs and complete them at 85 to 95 per cent of my effort.

The more I run, the more surfaces I have started to explore.

I used to run purely on concrete pavements, but over the years, began exploring different running surfaces, such as the track, beach and artificial grass.

I count trail running as my favourite because it lets me reconnect with nature in this highly urbanised city.

The landing is so much softer than the roads, and the temperature and air are much cooler and fresher from the plants around me.

I also have to be more alert when crossing the different terrain on the trail, as there can be stones and animals that can potentially trip me up.

Q Has there ever been a time when you were not fit and fab?

A During my polytechnic days, I did not exercise at all, so my weight ballooned to 69kg.

  • Bio Box


    AGE: 27

    HEIGHT: 1.72m

    WEIGHT: 61kg

    The civil servant has taken part in 59 races so far, after his first one - the 10km Nike Human Race - in 2009.

    In February this year, he was the first runner-up in the 10,000m and 5,000m Men's Open categories at the Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association track and field meet. The bachelor lives with his parents and an older brother in Kovan.

I recall doing my physical fitness exams (Napfa) as a requirement for enlistment and could complete only four of the six laps around the 400m track.

Q What is your typical diet like?

A My choice of carbohydrates are brown rice, quinoa, couscous, soba or pasta if I'm going for a long run. I take these with lots of vegetables and some protein like fish or chicken.

On days when I feel lethargic, I will go for beef because someone told me that beef provides the iron required in the blood to improve energy levels.

I avoid deep-fried food, carbonated drinks and snacks. I do not count my calories as I burn a lot throughout the day.

Q What are your indulgences?

A I have a soft spot for non-carbonated sweet drinks such as green tea and iced Milo and consume them with every meal.

I'll also enjoy a cup of coffee once a week as a reminder of the lifestyle I used to have back when I was studying in Australia for my degree in business management.

Q What are your favourite and least favourite parts of your body?

A My abs and my abs.

Although they look very well-defined, they are relatively weak.

I spent a great deal of time doing a lot of core workouts in 2013 to achieve the definition with very low body fat percentage, but they just look good, nothing more.

I have difficulties doing many different types of core exercises such as planks and back bends.

I struggle in hot yoga classes when there is core work and any flexing of the back. My lifestyle and training brought me to the point where I have very low body fat percentage, which helps to reveal the abs, but the deep muscles in the abs are not strong.

Q What are some pre- and post-workout routines you keep to?

A Before a major race day, I must do a typical gear layout to ensure that I do not miss out anything.

These include my Salomon running attire, socks, running shoes, number bib, gel, and my gloves and arm warmers if the weather calls for it.

I also need a bottle of pre-race hydration in the form of an isotonic drink, which helps settle me mentally before the madness begins in the morning.

Warming up with light jogging and stretching is also very important as it helps release tense muscles and gets the body to the optimum temperature to compete.

After a race, I would have an iced Milo with two soft-boiled eggs, or a bottle of chocolate milk as a recovery drink.

Q Would you go for plastic surgery?

A I have had life-saving surgery after an accident in 2013. I did not wear a helmet while riding my bicycle, fell and crushed my skull into seven pieces and have had 28 screws and seven metal pieces inserted to hold it together.

My face was injured beyond recognition and the swelling remained for almost half a year.

If I get into an accident again, I may go for plastic surgery.

Otherwise, I feel that the scars on my face and body give me "character". They remind me of who I am and what I have been through.

Q Do you think you are sexy?

A During race season, I feel fast but not sexy.

This is because I become very light due to the volume of training. My cheeks become sunken and I may look skeletal at some point.

Off-season, I feel sexy but am not fast. I will be a little bigger, my cheeks fill up and I look more muscular.

Q What is the most extreme thing you have done in the name of fitness?

A Quit drinking alcohol for life - not that I was an alcoholic to begin with.

In September 2012, when I was on a student exchange in South Korea for a semester, we drank every day of the week.

One morning after a big night out at Gangnam, while my friends and I were heading home on the metro and we crossed the Han River, I saw the sun rise across the horizon.

It struck me, like an epiphany, that I should be out there seizing the moment, rather than nursing a hangover.

Two hours after reaching home, I woke up to meet my Finnish running mate for a long run. Since then, I have not taken a single drop of alcohol .

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2016, with the headline 'Running trails to reconnect with nature'. Print Edition | Subscribe