An 8-week programme to preparing for a 5km run

PHOTO: An 8-week programme to preparing for a 5km run

SINGAPORE - Every healthy person should be able to run. But not everyone has the stamina to be able to run, say, 5km without stopping.

Some people will have better cardiovascular fitness than others, said Dr Jason Chia, head of Sports Medicine & Surgery Clinic at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).

To run 5km continuously, there is a need to build up stamina. The thing to note is that there is no quick way to do this.

Even elite marathon runners need years to build up strong aerobic base stamina, said Mr Ray Loh, an exercise physiologist at the Sports Medicine & Surgery Clinic at TTSH.

Stamina can be divided into aerobic base stamina and power endurance stamina, he explained.

The aerobic base refers to the ability to complete a certain duration of exercise at an easy pace.

Power endurance refers to the ability to sustain oneself in high performance or high intensity exercise for as long as possible.

Mr Loh said: "We need patience, training consistency and a correct training programme - one that is customised to individual needs and current fitness level - to build stamina."

The best way to begin building up stamina is to engage in the same activity you want to improve, because stamina is to some extent activity-specific, Dr Chia said.

If you have very poor cardiovascular fitness, you could start building it up by interspersing short distances of running during a brisk walk.

Dr Ben Tan, chief of the department of sports medicine at Changi General Hospital, said one should start slowly at a level that is comfortable.

For example, walk or jog for 20 minutes on alternate days and build it up from there.

* Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) is 220 minus your age. For example, if you are 40 years old, your MHR is 220 - 40 = 180

If you need a gauge of what your Maximum Heart Rate is without wearing a heart monitor, try the talk test. If you can talk but cannot sing, you are exerting yourself at your moderate heart rate. If you can speak only a few words before having to stop and breathe, you are exerting yourself at your Maximum Heart Rate.

Get a check-up first

Get a check-up first

To build up aerobic base stamina, you should do continuous running of long durations and at low intensities, said Mr Loh.

But you should start with slow and short runs that you can manage which do not tyre you out too much the next day.

An individual would need at least three to four training days a week.

Dr Chia said: "When one's fitness improves, one can then go for progressively longer slow runs, which also allow the individual to get used to the prolonged continuous activity."

Increase either the duration or distance of the run slowly by 5 to 10 per cent each week.

Spread the "load", Dr Tan advised.

It is better to brisk walk 2km three days a week, than to brisk walk 3km twice a week, he said.

"Notice that the total mileage is the same, but the former is easier to tolerate and feels less taxing," he said.

An example is an exercise plan involving walking or jogging or a mixture of both, slowly building up stamina until one is able to complete up to 60 minutes of exercise.

Mr Loh said: "We may struggle in the beginning but when our stamina improves, we will eventually be able to run continuously for 45 to 60minutes."

However, some individuals are born with foot structures that are prone to injury, making frequent running or training difficult, he noted.

Before starting to run, one should go to a sports physician for a check-up to ensure that it is safe for one to do so.

There should be no underlying heart problem and one should know one's foot type in order to get the right type of running shoes, said Mr Loh.

Raise that baseline

Raise that baseline

Be prepared for the initial "road hump" when you start exercising.

Exercising becomes easier only when you do it regularly, but the challenge is to cross that initial "road hump" or inertia when you start, said DrTan. To build stamina, you need to make cumulative gains in your aerobic fitness, he said.

Cumulative gains come only from regular and consistent exercise.

"After a single bout of exercise, our bodies show adaptive changes over the next three to four days," said Dr Tan.

From the fourth day onwards, these adaptive changes to fitness return to the baseline.

"Hence, if we run once a week, our baseline remains at the starting level," he said.

The individual needs to undergo the next bout of exercise before the adaptive changes return to the baseline; that is, within the first four days of the first bout of exercise.

"By exercising three or more times a week, we benefit from cumulative adaptation that progressively increases our stamina, so our baseline fitness goes up," said Dr Tan.

Once an individual can jog continuously for 40minutes at a comfortable pace, it is likely that he would have reached the goal of covering 5km per run, he added.

Interval training more taxing

Interval training more taxing

With basic fitness in place, those who are motivated can do interval training - higher intensity running over short distances with periods of rest in between - to allow the body to adapt to a higher running intensity, said Dr Chia.

Interval training is a structured exercise session commonly used to build power endurance stamina for athletes or those looking to improve their performance, said Mr Loh.

An example of interval training is to run four to eight sets of four to six minutes each, at the intensity of around 90 per cent of one's maximum heart rate.

The formula to calculate one's maximum heart rate is to subtract the age from 220.

There should be short rest periods of 1 to 2 1/2 minutes between each set.

Dr Tan said that interval training does save time, as 60 minutes of high-intensity cardiovascular activity is equivalent to 120 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular activity.

However, he would recommend it only to those who already have aerobic base stamina and have difficulty making further fitness gains from steady-pace runs.

"Beginners usually find interval training too taxing and it will probably turn them off, whereas a runner who already has an aerobic base will welcome the challenge," he said.

Keen to build up stamina for a 5km run? MrLoh has an eight-week programme for you to follow.

** Conditioning exercises can include push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups, dips, lunges, squats, jumping on the spot and stepping up and down a step.

To build stamina for a 5km run, do each exercise in two to three sets of 20 times each.

*** Brisk walking speed is between 5knh and 8kmh.

**** Jogging speed is more than 8kmh.

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