Over the past few months, her running training has become much more structured and intense for Singapore’s Rio Olympics bound marathoner, Neo Jie Shi.
This has been because Neo is now working with Coach Steven Quek, a well known long distance running coach in Singapore and who is preparing her for the biggest test in her running career – the Olympics.Said Neo, 30, who holds down a day job as an Assistant Manager in Human Resources and Administration, “My workouts have become more intense and the fact that I am training with a coach means that the venue sometimes is different to previously.”
She added, “But that aside though, I usually train after work so the timings of my workouts are quite consistent with what I used to do. In that sense, it’s still pretty much in line with my old schedule, when I ran with my running club after work and did my long runs on weekends.”
I was talking to Neo on the sidelines of the Pocari Sweat Media Dive Clinic yesterday at the Queenstown Swimming Complex, where she was promoting the Pocari Sweat Run to be held on the 23rd of July.
A structured training programme
The first phrase of Neo’s training programme concluded at the 10KM race at the Seoul International Marathon in March, which she had won in a timing of 39 minutes and 50 seconds.
Said Neo, “That phrase of training focused on doing two quality speed-work interval workouts and one long run on weekends.”
Now as she moves into her second phase of training, Neo is focusing more on long interval workouts. She said “Moving on, we are targeting a Half Marathon in May and I am focusing on long intervals on weekdays and a quality long run on weekends. In between I am doing easy runs, recovery sessions and strength and conditioning.”
Her long interval workouts usually consist of four to six sets of 2KM to 2.4KM long intervals with rest in between. She runs about 21KM to 25KM on weekends.
Said Neo, “I do hope that I can get a Personal Best for this Half Marathon. Right now my Personal Best is 1 hour and 31 minutes so I will be happy with anything better than that. Hopefully I can get at least a sub 1 hour 30 minute timing.”
Neo has benefited from Coach Quek’s guidance
So far, Neo feels that she has benefitted greatly from Coach Quek’s guidance. She said “My coach has been very encouraging and motivating. I would say that my training is a lot more structured now – in the past when I trained on my own and with my running group (the SAFRA Jurong Running Club), I would maybe run at my own pace and I could be satisfied with that. But with a coach he sets target pace and timings for me so I am much more motivated to chase those timings during my sessions.”
She added “Running on your own, you may also see improvement at first but then you will eventually plateau after some time. But with a coach, he is always injecting new workouts and I find myself constantly improving further.”
Neo does not think that having a coach is necessary for all runners, though. She said, “It really depends on your running goals and purpose. For example, say, if you have a sub-4 marathon goal, then a coach will be there to guide you, so why not? If you can afford a coach then it’s good but a lot of us are not professional runners, so in that case I think that joining a running club is good enough cause you can have friends to push you along to help you meet your goals.”
Still though, in between her training sessions, Neo tries to join her running club when she can find the time. She said “I try to join them on some of my easy days when it does not clash with my main workout – but if I can’t join them for a workout, then I will still catch up with them after their runs.”
Good time management required
Her hectic schedule and juggling her work together with her training for the Olympics, certainly requires good time management, according to Neo. She said “The main challenge is about trying to balance my time between training and work and time spent with my family and friends as all three are important to me.”
So Neo tries to plan ahead with her time. She said “If I need to leave work by a certain time for training, I will try and focus myself to finish things quickly and if I know that I have an urgent task at work, then I will try and stay back on weekdays when I am not training so that I can afford to remain in the office a bit later. I also save some time on weekends, after my long run, for family time.”
She added “And so far so good though. Sometimes Coach and I will also shift our schedule so that I have time for work during my office hours, and then I will do my training after my office hours. And with training getting more intense since Coach started helping me with my running, there may be days when I feel quite tired, but I have learnt to listen to Coach to sleep early and I think that has helped me. When I have had a hard workout and then I have to wake up early again the next day, sleeping early is really useful.”
Besides going to sleep early, Neo has also picked up a few other useful tips from Coach Quek. She said “He also advised me about simple recovery tips such as bringing a fruit (such as a banana) to training sessions to munch on, and I feel that this really helps.”
Important to enjoy the training process
Overall, Neo stresses that no matter what, it’s important to enjoy the training process. She said “I think that consistent training and simply enjoying the training process is two key points that I try and remind myself of. If you keep training then you are building fitness and endurance and the results will come naturally. And if you enjoy the process that is important because you do not want to feel burnt out and tired for running – you just want to keep on running.”
She added, “With the Olympics a few months away, I am getting more excited about it, but my focus is to train hard and stay injury free and enjoy the process while improving on my running till then.”
Neo will be supporting the Pocari Sweat Run
As a Pocari Sweat Sponsored athlete, Neo hopes to be able to head down to support the Pocari Sweat Run which takes place on Saturday 23 July this year. She said “I will definitely be there to show my support, as long as I am in Singapore.”
You can sign up for the Pocari Sweat Run at http://www.pocarisweatrun.com.