Rest and recover well to let your body heal

Runners running along Stadium Road during the ST Run on Sept 23, 2018. ST PHOTO: WANG HUI FEN

Congratulations on completing your race at The Straits Times Run on Sunday. I hope you have all managed to achieve your goals. Now, it is time to treat your bodies to some well-deserved rest.

Back in 2013, right after winning the SEA Games marathon, I had to catch the first flight back to Singapore to return to my Medical Officer Cadet Course.

Within a matter of days, I was back to carrying field packs and simulating casualty evacuation casualties with an incredibly sore body. It was definitely not an ideal recovery plan, but inevitable as I was still in national service then.

Unlike what I had gone through, you need not, and should not, undertake physical stress so soon after a long and intense race.


It is key to recover well from any bout of strenuous activity.

I know that some of you may be feeling great now and you may even be tempted to think: what is there to recover from? Well, the bad news is that any soreness which you may experience will only come to bear, much later.

If you recall the super-compensation theory which we had introduced earlier, you would be aware that your body is currently undergoing a major overhaul to bring you to the next fitness level. However, this can only happen with sufficient rest and recovery.

Sleep plays a huge role in this process of super-compensation. It should not be a problem for you to sleep a little more now, since you no longer have to wake up for early morning runs (for a while at least).

Once the soreness wears off, you may feel a natural urge to get back to running. Instead of falling into that temptation, do some other non weight-bearing activities, such as swimming or cycling for another week (or two). This will help to enhance your recovery and reduce the risk of injury.

Even when returning to running, always err on the side of caution, and keep your initial runs to 20 to 30 minutes long at a conversational pace.


During the training season, you may also have suffered from various aches and pains which were simply ignored. Now is the best time for you to sort out all these issues and allow your body to heal.

If necessary, you may also wish to visit a physical therapist and have a biomechanical assessment to identify specific areas of weakness.

You may then work on these specific areas to prevent recurrence of pain or injury.

From my experience, small deposits of therapy and pre-rehabilitation work on a regular basis can bring you huge gains, in terms of the number of your "running years".


I am sure that you have spent countless hours training in preparation for your race. But I am also sure that it would not have been possible without the support of your loved ones - it is time to reciprocate their support for you .

Too often, we take many things, like having a warm meal waiting for us at home after a long day of work and training, for granted.

Show your appreciation to those who have cared for and supported you.


How long should you be engaged in the recovery process? That really depends on each individual.

I would generally recommend a recovery period of between one and two weeks for a half marathon and between two and four weeks for a marathon.

However, what is most essential is for you to listen to your body - do not be afraid to adjust your recovery plan according to how your body feels and responds.

As my then-deputy headmaster in Raffles Institution, S. Magendrian, had always emphasised, "there is a season for everything". Now is the season for recovery.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2018, with the headline Rest and recover well to let your body heal. Subscribe