ST Virtual Run: Many benefits like camaraderie, helpful advice when joining a running club

New Balance Run Club coach Loh Guo Pei demonstrating some drills to club members. PHOTO: NEW BALANCE RUN CLUB

SINGAPORE - Running can be a fun activity to look forward to when in a group and with like-minded people who have a similar passion for the sport. This can help individuals stay motivated and it is also a great way to learn from one another.

Take the New Balance Run Club (NBRC), whom I coach, for instance. It is a community with an aim to support newcomers in kick-starting their running journey, and also gives other running enthusiasts a refreshing space to improve and achieve new goals.

Joining a running club may be intimidating at first, especially when you are new to the sport or in a place or with people with whom you are not familiar.

If you're worried about whether you are good enough or ready to join a club, fret not, as coaches in running clubs such as NBRC will be able to tailor the activities and runs to those of different pace.

There are many benefits to joining a running club or running in a group. These include:

1. Meeting others like you

In a club, runners are often surrounded by experienced and enthusiastic, friendly individuals.

Developing friendships and joining others for runs outside club sessions can help to make your experience more memorable as well.

By sharing experiences and going through different routes with each other, runners can help each other stay motivated and also enjoy the sport for a long period of time.

Great friendships can be forged and these have even seen some going on overseas running holidays together, such as to the Tokyo Marathon or Gold Coast Airport Marathon.

2. Team spirit

Joining a club or group helps to foster team spirit by helping one another push towards faster times during training and races.

3. Accountability

It is easy to talk yourself out of a run. Knowing that others are waiting for you and have made the effort to plan the group run might help to encourage you to stick to the plan. Also, meeting others frequently can help to ensure you keep to your training plans.

4. Variety

Avoid getting bored with your usual running routine. In running clubs, coaches will usually have a variety of programmes in their training plan. From running new routes to different types of endurance runs, speed workouts and more.

For instance, in my role as NBRC coach, I plan weekly sessions with exercises which vary week by week - from long runs to tempo runs, intervals, fartlek and even high-intensity interval training sessions.

This helps to keep you interested in the sport over time, improve fitness levels by activating different muscle groups and different energy systems as well.

New Balance Run Club coach Loh Guo Pei (front rown, second from right), leading club runners in a training session. PHOTO: NEW BALANCE RUN CLUB

5. Expert advice

Runners can tap on their club coaches' wealth of knowledge on a variety of issues - from training plans to the types of running shoes suitable for them.

Coaches are on hand to advise runners on the importance of pacing, injury prevention and realistic goal-setting.

As NBRC coach, I am always keeping a lookout for wrong techniques or running postures. In order to improve clarity, I will usually demonstrate and explain the different exercises and running postures from which they are able to learn.

Our training sessions are split into three parts - warm-up, workout and cool-down.

I brief runners on the objective of each session, the nature and aim of the drills and also have safety pointers for them.

6. Greater knowledge

Club members are usually enthusiastic about the sport, and will have accumulated lots of knowledge and are also keen to learn.

They may share their tips on the latest running shoes, gear, gadgets, gift ideas or even technical information like how to get faster.

7. Motivation boost

Clocking long runs alone can be tough. Having a group to run with can help to make the long distance feel less daunting, with runners motivating each other to get through tough workouts and having fun.

8. Safety

Safety comes first and runners can - and should - look out for each other on runs.

9. Improve performance

You will face some friendly competition with other runners. This may inspire you to run faster and be better than what you already are.

Encouraging group mates may be able to urge you to run faster or farther or even ensure you complete the run. Having runners with different pace and fitness levels can help inspire and guide other runners.

Advice for joining a club

Talk to other runners, conduct online research and find out more about the club and the coaches before attending a session.

After narrowing down your choices, find out the training date, time and location to see whether it fits your schedule before you head down for a first-hand experience.

A tip would be to bring a friend along at your first session, which might help you feel less intimated in the new environment.

Be patient. Trying one session may not necessarily be the best indicator of the club's vibes.

It is common for new runners to feel that they are not as experienced as club members and some may find it a challenge to fit into the new social setting or the dynamic of the group.

It may take a while, but it is important to feel comfortable and ensure that you are able to align your preferences and goals with the members and gain the benefits of joining a running club.

Loh Guo Pei is a former national athlete and certified coach who trains the New Balance Run Club. Follow this series over the next few weeks as he shares tips on tackling The ST Virtual Run's 175km distance.

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