As a child, pharmacist Sherlynn Tan, 25 was a competitive swimmer but about four to five years ago, she lost her passion for swimming and wanted to try something new. Biathlon, an event that combines both running and swimming, appealed to her.
So Sherlynn then joined the National University of Singapore’s Aquathlon team in 2012 and she soon found herself hooked onto running since then.
Running is great to keep her fit and destress
Said Sherlynn, “I continued to run when I started working about two years ago. I love running as it helps me to keep fit and is also a great way to destress after work. Today running has become a routine that I have to do every day in order to feel good about myself.”
She started joining races in 2015 and took part in her first marathon at the end of that year, at the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2015. Said Sherlynn, “At that time, it was something I had wanted to check off my bucket list. But after the marathon, I didn’t feel good because I had not trained for it, and that feeling spurred me on to sign up for another marathon to better my timing.”
Favourite distances are the 21km and the marathon
Sherlynn has indeed come a long way since those early days. She not only runs regularly but has picked up prizes at local races.
For example, she came third at the recent Performance Series 21km race about a couple of weeks ago and finished third as well, at the Sundown Full Marathon which took place earlier this year.
Said Sherlynn, “My favourite distances are the 21km as well as the marathon distance.”
She runs daily
To train for her races, Sherlynn runs daily but she has two key workouts, a speed session on Thursdays at the track and a long run of at least 15km at a conversation pace, depending on what race she is training for.
Her speed sessions are typically long interval sets such as 6x1km or 8x800m but each set will always be less than 2km.
Added Sherlynn, “Now I try to include striding before my workouts to get the legs moving.”
Overall, her weekly mileage would be between 70km – 100km depending on how busy she is with work commitments for the week.
Do your training runs at a slower pace
To run fast, Sherlynn strongly believes that you need to do your training runs at a slower pace and allow the body to absorb the hard sessions.
She said “A lot of people, when starting out, they think that to be fast, they have to be fast in training. But I learnt that you have to go slow to be fast. That means per week, do not have too many hard sessions. Run hard once or twice a week and for the rest of the time, let the body absorb the hard training and recover, rather than going out hard again. You need to be patient.”
While she does not join any heart rate training programme though, such as Coached, Sherlynn tries to vary her heart rate by running with different pace groups on different occasions.
Overtraining is a common problem
Sherlynn also pointed out that another common mistake that many runners make is overtraining. She said, “You think that you can handle the mileage but it leads to injuries if you do too much too soon. Instead you should increase mileage progressively and not suddenly.”
In fact, this is a mistake that Sherlynn herself had made and she wound up injured as a result of it.
She explained, “So I learnt that you need to take in what your body is telling you. If you have a little niggle you should play it safe and do not push. When I started running, I pushed very hard and got lots of injuries as a result. So I consulted my friends who were doctors and they told me how to control myself better. I would not say that I am the best at practising self control, but I am improving.”
Continued Sherlynn, “The basic rule is to increase your weekly mileage by 10 per cent every week and constantly gauge how you feel. I look at my heart rate when I train and when I see that my heart rate is in a comfortable zone. then I know that I can progress to a faster pace.”
At the same time, Sherlynn also feels that cross training is great for runners who are injury prone. She said “Cross training helps to build cardio and reduces the rate of injury. For me, I don’t do it though.”
Eat breakfast 1.5 – 2 hours before a race
On race day, Sherlynn also feels that many runners tend to wake up too late for breakfast. She said, “If you need to eat before the race, you must wake up at least 1.5 – 2 hours before the race and also warm up beforehand. I always do 2km – 4km of warm up beforehand to loosen my muscles and get my blood going.”
She added “Also, another mistake that runners tend to make is to go out too fast at the beginning and they crash and hit the wall in the latter half of the race. You need to know what is your comfortable pace to sustain throughout the race and control yourself. Do not let the pre-race adrenaline get to you.”
Remain patient in running and you will reap rewards
But ultimately Sherlynn feels that runners should remain patient and enjoy the sport, and they will reap the rewards and achieve what they aspire to do.
She said, “My dream two years ago was to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Recently I achieved that when I ran less than 3hours 30minutes at the Gold Coast Marathon this July. My long term running goals are to be one of the top few runners in Singapore in the next 5 – 10 years.”