Running made simple and debunking myths – A talk by Dr Derek Li

During the weekend, the Coffee Tea Runners group organised a talk by Dr Derek Li, on Running Made Simple and Debunking Myths. It was held last Saturday at the Art Gallery, Tanjong Pagar Community Club.

A new running group that was started in March 2016 and is led by an experienced runner – 45-year-old market research analyst Lincoln Han, the aims of this group is to bring the running community together and help runners to achieve their goals.

Runners pose with Dr Derek Li at the session. [Photo courtesy of Carol Goh]

Runners pose with Dr Derek Li at the session.
[Photo courtesy of Carol Goh]

Derek, the speaker, is a well-known marathon runner in Singapore, with a personal best timing of 2 hours and 42 minutes, which was set at the Boston Marathon in 2014. Derek, 34, also works full-time as a general practitioner with the Raffles Medical Group.

At the weekend talk, Derek had covered three main areas on running. These were Training Principles, Nutrition and Shoes.

Training Principles

There are three main principles of running – intensity, frequency and volume.

Derek shared with runners at the session that frequency is the most important. For example, instead of one 10km session per week, Derek suggests that it is better to run 2km per day – because our fitness levels would drop after 72 hours of inactivity.

Derek shared many useful tips with the runners. [Photo courtesy of Chin CK]

Derek shared many useful tips with the runners.
[Photo courtesy of Chin CK]

Also while the majority of runners rely on distance to calculate their runs and running progress, other parameters also include pace and time/duration.

As well, instead of purely monotonous running, Derek added that it is good to vary our workouts, as this will help to improve speed and prevent injury, as well as breaking the running pattern. For example, the usage of intervals for neuromuscular conditioning.

Derek also explained more about VO2 Max (a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that an athlete can use and is measured in millilitres per kilogram of body weight per minute). Derek also explained about the importance of long, easy runs, recommending a runner’s “easy” pace to be about 30 seconds per kilometre slower than their race pace. For example, if a runner’s target marathon race pace is 5mins/km, then his or her easy run pace should be at least 5:30mins/km.

As well the doctor suggested that it is better to run in the mornings – as the body has a low level of cortisol (a hormone in the body that can help control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation and assist with memory formulation) during this period.. and running can also further bring down the body’s level of cortisol for the day, too.

Runners await Derek's instruction on the next running drill. [Photo courtesy of Chin CK]

Runners await Derek’s instruction on the next running drill.
[Photo courtesy of Chin CK]

Nutrition 

First and foremost, Derek says that having a balanced diet is important and taking as many different types of foods as possible – but all in moderation.

Though enhancing the diet with supplements may still be okay for some people who have certain dietary restrictions, it is still preferable for people to have a healthy and balanced diet though, according to Derek.

He also highlighted that many of the “performance foods” in the market are not scientifically proven. For example, chia seeds may be rich in Omega 3, but there is not sufficient evidence that it can indeed boost performance during running. Instead he feels that eating salmon, is just as good to eat for Omega 3.

As well, Derek also feels that the “high fat/low carb” diet and training on an empty stomach may help to improve fat-burning capacity, but there is a lack of research to fully support that this is indeed true.

Shoes

According to Derek, the main types of foot landing, are heel strike, mid-foot strike and forefoot strike. And based on the foot strike, runners should pick their running shoes accordingly.

As well, he also explained the differences between maximalist and minimalist cushioning shoes, and helped runners to understand more about how the right shoe type, can enable them to run more efficiently.

Runners line the sides of an outdoor basketball court after the drills session. [Photo courtesy of Chin CK]

Runners line the sides of an outdoor basketball court after the drills session.
[Photo courtesy of Chin CK]

The talk was interesting and beneficial 

The talk was informative and interesting for runners at the session. Said July Asuncion Rey, 34, a stay at home mum, “It was such an interesting talk from Dr Derek… a refresher for some and learning new things for those who are new to running. It was so much fun at the same time.”

Added Chin Choon Khim, 48, an IT Risk Manager, “My key takeaway from this talk from Derek was that if you are comfortable with your running form and it does not cause injury, there is no need to change it.. What he shared about shoe selection, shoe structure and shoe drop was also beneficial to me.”

Running Drills

Following the talk, Derek then did led the runners through a series of running drills.

According to Derek, doing such drills do not only increase strength and stability, but also help to increase efficiency when running.

The first half of the drills focused on strengthening the ankles, calves, hips and core muscles.

The second focused on improving flexibility and stability.

Derek led the runners through a series of drills. [Photo courtesy of Chin CK]

Derek led the runners through a series of drills.
[Photo courtesy of Chin CK]

Some of the types of drills that Derek brought the runners through, had included calf raises, heel walks, jump squats and donkey kicks.

These running drills had been the most useful part of the session, according to many of the runners who had attended the talk.

Said Choon Khim, “These static exercises were useful to runners in helping us to strengthen our core muscles.”

Added Norman Ng, 52, and working in the transport industry, “These exercises may look simple, but we were all soaking wet by the end of the session. But we can easily do them in the comfort of our home, for example, while watching our favourite movie.”

Other takeaways from runners at the session

Other key takeaways from runners at the session was that it was useful and beneficial for their running.

Many of the runners found the session to be useful and beneficial. [Photo courtesy of Carol Goh]

Many of the runners found the session to be useful and beneficial.
[Photo courtesy of Carol Goh]

Said Romain Chanu, 33, an IT engineer, “It was a very good running clinic. The atmosphere was very convivial and it felt like home among this friendly bunch of runners. The talk was informative and also a good reminder that training has many aspects – and runners should not neglect any of these. I am definitely looking forward to he next running clinic.”

Added 39-year-old admin manager Carol Goh, “Overall it was an informative workshop and I will definitely not want to miss the next one.”

Thanks so much to Lincoln and Romain for the detailed information on the talk.

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