Running tips from an athlete: On the right form, breathing techniques, stretch exercises, and more

Running tips from an athlete: On the right form, breathing techniques, stretch exercises, and more

In good stride

Text: Janice Sim

Chances are, if you held a fervent distaste towards running before, things might be colossally different now. In a study conducted by Asics in its global running campaign, #RunToFeel, they found that a 62% spike in people heading out for a weekly run. Its fitness tracking app, Runkeeper also noted runners clocking in more strides.

On a global scale, two-thirds of participants said that exercise helps them cope mentally when faced by challenging situations like the one we are in now. Additionally, 81% shared that running plays a key role in helping them clear their mind. In a strange uncertain time that is a pandemic, runner's high has certainly proven itself — that we now gather isn't just a falsified claim by those that run like Forrest Gump.

But is there a trick to master the movement of running? Isn't it just accelerated walking? Not quite. It actually takes more than just a decent pair of trainers to get a good run in. National athlete and Asics marathoner, Soh Rui Yong (who holds the national record for marathon, half marathon, and 10,000m segments), shares the important variables we've been overlooking.

Rui Yong

What are the things that make or break a good run?
Physical and mental preparation. Personally, I like to foam roll for about 20 minutes before the start of a run. This helps me prepare myself mentally by getting into the zone, but it also aids from a physical perspective as it loosens my muscles before the run.

What's a common mistake that people make when it comes to running? 
Starting out too fast. Always start gradually and let your body ease into a rhythm that best works for you.


Do we need to stretch before or after a run? If so, what stretches would you recommend?
I would recommend dynamic stretching exercises before a run to activate your muscles. This includes knee to chest pull, hurdles, Frankenstein, and lunges.

Static stretching should be done post-run to aid and develop flexibility. My advice would be to never perform static stretching to a stiff muscle, as it can snap like a rubber band. Some examples of static exercises include hamstring and quad stretches, butterfly stretch, and hip flexors.

How long should you wait before running after a meal? Or if there are any pre-running snacks that you would usually have?
If you have a light breakfast, you can run 30 to 60 minutes after eating. For heavier meals, I'd wait at least three hours. Having light snacks 30 minutes before can keep energy levels up — for instance, foods like bananas, nuts, or a bowl of low-fibre cereal.

Is there a breathing technique to abide by during a run?
Maintain a relaxed, rhythmic pace for breathing. It's important to bring awareness to your breathing as it builds a steadier and calmer mind. For myself, when I'm tired, I like to take a deep breath and tell myself to make the best of each kilometre. If you focus on solid breathing, it will be easier to push through fatigue and maintain form throughout the run. After all, a sound mind helps us achieve a sound body.


How should your form look like when you're running?
I honestly believe that a proper form starts from within. Imagine you're holding an egg in each hand and you don't want to crack that egg by clenching your fist too tight. Ideally, your index finger should touch your thumb lightly for best results. This helps you relax your arms and upper body, putting you in a calm state of mind for your run.

Can you run everyday? Or could we benefit from a recovery day? 
You can run every day. However, if you are new to running, it's important to build up a routine gradually. From three times a week to four times a week, then slowly up to six and then every day.

I know a lot of us have either picked up running or increased our frequency during this circuit breaker period. However, don't be obsessive about having to run every day. It's always important to give yourself a day off to rest your muscles and mind.

What are the common causes of running-related injuries? What's the best way to treat sore muscles?
Overloading too quickly. Again, building the intensity at a gradual pace is important. Treat sore muscles by getting a sports massage and having lots of rest and the right nutrition.

Click here for some of the most scenic running routes in Singapore.