Running To Health: A Talk By SEA Games Marathoner, Ashley Liew 

Yesterday, national marathoner Ashley Liew, 28, gave a talk on “running to health” at a clinic organised by Young NTUC’s Earth Runners. Liew, whose story of honesty and sportsmanship at the SEA Games marathon is now well known in Singapore, had initially started running in 2006 to lose weight. By 2011, he had lost 24kg and today, the runner now has a marathon personal best of 2hours 32minutes and 12seconds – set at the Rock N Roll Marathon in January this year.

The talk was followed by a 4km run with Liew around the Marina Bay area.

National marathon runner Ashley Liew.

National marathon runner Ashley Liew demonstrating some finer points on an exercise

Take proactive steps to raising your health potential

According to Liew, a Doctor of Chiropractic student in the United States, it is important to take proactive steps to raising your health potential. For example, in Liew’s own case, he feels a lot better physically and mentally today, compared to the time when he was not running.

Said Liew, “I have had no training injuries since 2010 despite running 160kms per week. And I only fell sick once, but I bounced back quickly without taking any drugs. Mentally, I can think so much better now and am the top scorer in my class – where previously, I had never come anywhere near top in my school. I also feel much more at ease emotionally, thanks to running.”

Liew chatting to other runners.

Liew chatting to participants

Functioning of the human body

How our bodies function

Liew says that human beings, much like many other animals, are born with an innate intelligence and inborn wisdom. As such, our bodies are not a random collection of parts. Instead, we are more than the sum of our parts – to keep us in coordination at all times.

He adds that this is how whales know how to travel 3,000miles for migratory reasons and how butterflies know they are fully grown and when to emerge from their cocoon.

Liew in the middle of his talk. Photo by: Doris Teo.

There’s something interesting about Spines here!
Photo by: Doris Teo.

The nervous system

The organ that control everything within the human body is the brain, which is closely linked to the nervous system – a two-way highway that is linked by the body’s spinal chord – that connects all of the parts of the body to the brain. (See video for more informtion).

Vertebral subluxation

And what happens when one or more parts of the spine moves out of position and creates pressure on, or irritate the spinal nerves – giving rise to vertebral subluxation?. (See video).

Why should you get your spine checked by a chiropractor?

(See Video)

Training and recovery

Running Training

According to Liew to be a healthy runner, training is important and he recommends that first and foremost, a runner should be consistent with his or her training. He said, “You need to be consistent in your weekly routine, no matter what. For example, if you are training for a specific marathon you need to be able to prioritise your training over other things such as going out with friends and hanging out at the pub. So having a structured training regime is important.”

Liew also feels that long easy runs are vital when training for marathons to build endurance. In addition, speed work such as fartlek, intervals as well as tempo runs should be done, but only after you have developed an endurance base to cope with efficiently with such trainings.


Liew demonstrating a warm-up exercise.

Core Training

Besides running, doing core training – to strengthen the important running muscles – are also quite important, according to Liew. These include body weight exercises such as lunges, squats and planking. Also, doing cross training as well as having a rest day every week, will help to make you into a stronger and more healthier runner.

Post Workout

After every workout, Liew feels that it is important to refuel your body within 30 minutes of completion. He says, “That period is the golden window where your body is ready to absorb nutrients. During this time, you should take foods with a 3:1 protein carbohydrate ratio, such as chocolate milk.”


Sleep is also important, according to Liew, yet many recreational runners tend to take sleep for granted. But in fact, elites such as Kenyan-born endurance runner Lornah Kiplagat, who competes for the Netherlands, is famous for sleeping for 14 hours per day.

Liew himself sleeps from 9pm to 6am every night.

Running with Ashley Liew.

Running with Ashley Liew.

Post-Marathon Recovery

After a marathon is over, Liew adds that the last thing you should do is sit or lie down. Instead you should walk around, to flush out any excess lactic acid from the legs. If you have to fly overseas soon after the marathon, Liew recommends that you wear compression socks on the airplane, to stop any swelling of the muscles. And then take a full and complete rest before resuming training for your next marathon.

Diet & Nutrition

Calories in vs. calories out

According to Liew, running does not simply give you the licence to pig out on whatever you want. To lose weight, even with intense exercise, you must burn more calories than what you eat.

Liew for instance, loves char kway teow and is a big fan of it. In fact, during his heavier days, he used to eat char kway teow twice a week but he has since realised that this is not healthy. Added Liew, “And at one stage, I even bought a U-Zap machine to lose weight… and it didn’t work.”

Another warm-up exercise.

Another warm-up exercise.

Liew also explains that to maintain a healthy diet, you should try and consume organic foods – while avoiding stuff such as deep-fried foods and high-fructose corn syrup, which is not easily digestible by the body.

Running in Kenya

To train up for the SEA Games Marathon, Liew also completed a training stint in Kenya and he has some takeaways from the country where many endurance runners originate from.

Kenyan athletes are very low-profile

Said Liew, “Kenyans are such low-profile runners that you can run right next to them… without realising that you are running next to a world-class athlete. Also, they have faith in their abilities and always give everything in their workouts. They do not believe in recreational running. To them, you are either a competitive runner or you are not a runner. They also have a reason to run – for them, it is a way out of poverty. They taught me of the importance of finding your cause to run. Discovering it can be very fulfilling. For myself, I am running in dedication of my late mum.”

The running group at the Young NTUC clinic. Photo by: Steven Tan Boon Poh

The running group at the Young NTUC clinic.
Photo by: Steven Tan Boon Poh

Added Liew, “Iten, the small Kenyan town I was in earlier this year, has a population of 5,000 and out of that, 3,000 are professional runners. That’s one of the reasons why I went there to train and soak up the running atmosphere too. I came to realise though, that these people have zero support financially and no sponsors, but they share resources by pulling together with their running colleagues – to achieve their dreams in running.”

Kenyans do not run barefooted

Liew also says that contrary to popular belief, Kenyans do not run barefooted. They do wear shoes to run. He added, “But their surfaces are softer though, such as dirt trails in Kenya compared to the hard pavements in Singapore. The body gets more stressed from running on hard surfaces, so try and run on soft ground wherever you can, like the Kenyans.” So for example at East Coast Park, run on the grass rather than on the hard pavement.

Young NTUC runners cooling down after the run.

Young NTUC runners cooling down after the run.

Realise your dreams

Finally, Liew added that it is important to have long-term plans for running – so that you will not find yourself feeling completely lost after a major race is over. Before he had run the SEA Games marathon, the marathoner already had his next two marathons lined up.

Liew also admitted that his long-term goal is to run in the marathon at the 2020 Olympic Games – even though this may not sound very realistic currently. Added Liew, “You need to dream big if you want to be successful.”

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