“The struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need tomorrow” — these are the words that keep Neo Jie Shi going when the going gets tough. With her drive and tenacity, she went from being a recreational runner to an Olympic marathoner in just 5 years. Get inspired and learn from this amazing Team Singapore athlete!
What advice do you have for our runners on juggling both work and training?
Stays focused, plan ahead and prioritise your work. Being focused at work allows you to finish important tasks and knock off on time for training. At times, there may be urgent tasks and you may have to miss the training. Do not beat yourself up over it. Treat the day as an enforced rest. If you really need to work out, go for a short easy run albeit later at night.
What did you do differently that brought your run to the Olympic level?
Prior to qualifying for the Olympic Games, I trained with Jurong SAFRA running club and my friends most of the time. My training was a bit unstructured and my running pace varied — it was very much dependent on how I felt that day or how fast my friends were running. After qualifying for the Rio Olympics, Singapore Athletics appointed Mr. Steven Quek as my coach to guide my training. Interval workouts were more intense and challenging, with shorter rest times in between. Training was more race-specific and I was given specific paces for my interval workouts. The different training worked for me. My 10km and 21km performance had been at a plateau, but within 7 weeks, I got a personal best for 10km. 8 weeks later, I achieved a personal best for the half marathon too.
Do you have any tips on recovering quickly from aches and sores?
Proper cooldown and thorough stretching help. I also do foam-rolling after a workout to aid muscle recovery.
What do you think is the difference between recreational and pro runners?
Recreational runners and pro runners are likely to have different goals. The former run to keep fit, socialise, lose weight or to achieve personal bests, while the latter run with the goal of winning races. For the pros, running is their livelihood so naturally they will spend more time running. However, they also pay equal attention to core and strength work, rest and recovery. The recreational runners can learn from them by incorporating core and strength work in their training to prevent overuse injuries.
When the going gets tough, what keeps you going?
The support and encouragement from my husband, family, friends, teammates and coach.
What do you hope to achieve in the coming year?
I want to achieve personal best times in 10km, half marathon and marathon distances.
What have you learnt from the previous year?
Patience. After getting a hamstring injury last year, I have learnt to be patient and not rush back to training or racing too quickly, especially when I am still recovering.
Tell us something about you that we don’t know.
I have been participating in Sundown Marathon every year since 2009. It was this event that I achieved my first sub-4hr timing for a marathon back in 2011.
What is your usual training regimen like?
My key workouts are intervals on Monday and Thursday evenings with ActiveSG Athletics Club, and one long run on either Saturday or Sunday. On other days of the week, I will do easy runs, cross-train and hit the gym for some strengthening exercises.
What made you decide to go for the Sundown Marathon in 2018?
I took a break after completing the Hong Kong marathon in January and had just eased back to training with ActiveSG Athletics Club. I was looking for a goal — a 10km race for a start — to motivate myself to train. The Sundown Marathon was perfect as it was happening in May, giving me enough time to get back in shape. I also like that it has a team category so I can rope in my teammates to train for this together.
What are your tips when it comes to keeping yourself physically and mentally strong?
I believe in consistency. Keep training consistently and you will definitely see yourself getting stronger, not just physically, but mentally as well. You get more confident and believe in yourself when you know you’ve put in the hard work.
Do you have a pre-competition routine?
No particular routine, but I need my caffeine fix before a race.
Are there any special ways to condition your body for a marathon?
Long runs are staples to marathon training. I make time to do long runs and gradually increase my mileage to condition my body.
What advice do you have for our marathon runners?
Be consistent, put in the hard work and most importantly enjoy the training process!
What training method do you usually use that a marathon runner can benefit from?
I believe a variety of workouts helps in the preparation for a marathon. Other than just running the same distance at the same pace all the time, it is important to include tempo runs, easy runs, long runs and speed work into your training.
What exercises would you recommend for amateur runners?
I would recommend incorporating simple core exercises like planking, sit-ups and push-ups into their training regimen.
Do you have cheat days?
Yes, of course! If I am feeling really tired or sore after a workout, I will take the day off and rest completely. I like to hang out with my family and friends and catch up over good food or coffee.
What pre-race advice do you have for all our Sundown Marathon runners?
Eat well, drink lots of water and hydrate yourself a few days before the marathon. You will be excited at the start and the adrenaline rush may get the better of you. Remind yourself that a marathon is a long race and do not start off faster than your target race pace.
Training is always gruelling. How do you recover and relax after training sessions?
After a hard training session, I will do a 10–15mins recovery jog to relieve the soreness in my legs, followed by some stretching. Simply sharing with my teammates about how the training went and having dinner together after helps me to relax.
Do you feel that massages benefit you, pre- or post-training?
Yes, of course! My muscles feel less tight after a massage and my legs feel lighter when I run.
What are your thoughts on using massage products to help recovery?
For runners who cannot afford the time to go for sports massages regularly, massage products could be a good alternative to release knots, relieve muscle tension quickly and aid recovery.
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Training Tips from Team Singapore, Para-Badminton World Champion, Tay Wei Ming
“Either I give it my all or I don’t do it at all,” says Tay Wei Ming, Singapore’s first ever Para-Badminton world champion. In this edition of Sessions Before Sundown, Team Singapore Badminton Player Tay Wei Ming shares with us tips to train like him and to achieve our running goals. Be inspired by his determination and perseverance to rise above his challenges and know that you too can overcome your obstacles and fight on to the finish line.
Last year, you were crowned Singapore’s first-ever Para-Badminton World Champion. How does it feel knowing you are the best in the world?
It feels amazing, especially since the doubles event was not my main focus for the competition. The opponents that we beat were a five-time world champion pair. We were amazed that we managed to get the title despite pairing up for the first time. Both of us took a while to recover from the shock that we felt.
We heard that you’ve also taken part in marathons before. Do you run long distances during trainings?
I have taken part in marathons! But for my usual badminton trainings, we tend to do more interval trainings like sprinting 400m or 200m. If we are doing long distance runs, the maximum we run is 16km but that is not so often as badminton encompasses more of short, fast & explosive movements.
Will you be taking part in this year’s OSIM Sundown Marathon then?
I will! I took part in the full marathon for OSIM Sundown Marathon previously, but this time I’m taking part in the 10km category because I’m running with a friend.
How was your experience running the full marathon for OSIM Sundown Marathon?
Honestly speaking, running a marathon is tough. You really need to train up 2–3 months prior to the marathon. It was really difficult for me for the last 16km. It was quite an experience!
How did you keep on going in those last 16km then?
I told myself to persevere on, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to get the medal and finisher’s tee! Haha! But on a serious note, if you start something, you have to finish it. Don’t do it halfway. That was the mindset I had.
What advice do you have for our runners when it comes to training?
If you want to do something, you have to do it 100%. You must be disciplined to keep running. It doesn’t have to be too intensive, but it must be enough to maintain your physical endurance. Keep the momentum going and don’t stop training! It is also important to do some “heart training”. Challenge yourself to do “mentally difficult” exercises such as timed sprints so that your mind will be able to tell you to keep going on race day. I will also advise them to train more parts of their body. One part that many runners should train is their back. When you run for prolonged periods, it will be very strenuous on your back.
Do you have any pre-run tips for our runners?
Drink adequate fluids the night before! Whether it is water or a sports drink, it is important to hydrate well prior to your run. I personally like to drink honey, it’s my comfort drink! I will also do dynamic stretching before my competitions, which I think can also be useful for runners. Dynamic stretching can include simple exercises like sprints, quick feet etc. Moving your muscles around help you to warm up better.
Both training for badminton and long-distance running can be very intense. What tips do you have for our runners to recover faster?
Nutrition is very important for recovery. After a tough training session, I will drink a lot of soy milk or dairy milk. Milk contains a lot of protein to help speed up muscle recovery. Make sure you have adequate sleep. Last but not the least, take at least 15 minutes to do some static stretching after your run.
Do you think massages are beneficial for recovery?
Definitely! I love sports massages because it helps in blood circulation and muscle recovery. It also helps loosen up your muscles after a tough training session by releasing the lactic acid in your muscles.