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Breakthrough Interview with Coach May Ooi: How to avoid common mistakes that most runners make which often result in injuries, fatigue and frustrations.

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Put on a pair of running shoes and off you go.

As easy as that, you’re in the sport of running.

But its simplicity has misled many to assume that all you have to do is to run more, run more consistently, run faster, run differently or become obsessed with anything… gear, gadgets that can be incorporated into the run.

In this Breakthrough Interview episode, we spoke to Coach May Ooi of Move, a Degree holder in Biomedical Science as well as a Master Degree in Sport Science, where she reveals the little known approach that she deploys to help runners of all levels to breakthrough their performance immediately without going into the topic of running!

 

Coach May, what actually got you into becoming the only few coaches who specialize in helping runners and triathletes?

I have always had an interest in understanding human movement since young and maybe this is related to my athletic background.

My experience in martial arts, especially competing wushu at a high level has helped me gain a good understanding about the control of body movement.

Not long after I started running more when I became a coach, I realized that there was actually a lot more to running than just a cardio workout.

In the process of training for a 10km run, I suffered an Iliotibial Band (ITB) injury. As I was doing my research to find out whether I was alone in this, I realized it was so common amongst runners!

Fortunately, I was able to overcome the setback with proper supportive training derived from my academic background and real life coaching experience. That was when I felt I could help other runners and triathletes too!

 

What has been the proudest achievement you’ve helped your client achieve?

Out of all, if I were to pick one, it would be helping a client who wanted to do a full marathon for the Standard Chartered run.

It wasn’t an easy one since he got in touch with me just about 5 weeks before the event.

To make things more interesting, he didn’t feel he was ready for it since he had only done at most 20km long distance run.

He had a personal trainer, he was running with a running group, he basically had the support he needed (theoretically) to complete his goal. But yet time wasn’t on his side. Then he found me and asked if I could help him to complete his mission.

Long story short, his goal was to finish it in 6 hours but he managed to do it in 5 hours 21 minutes!

 

What are the 3 most common injuries amongst runners and how to prevent them?

Well, let’s talk about IT Band Syndrome which happened to me as mentioned before.

The root cause of it is usually weak hip stabilizers that lead to tightness in TFL which stands for Tensor Fasciae Latae which then pulls onto ITB (Iliotibial Band).

This can be prevented by strengthening muscles such as gluteus medius and gluteus maximus.

The second most common injury will be the “Runner’s knee” which can be heard mentioning in any running community. This is usually caused by tightness of Rectus Femoris that pulls onto the Patella Tendon.

The way to solve this issue is to improve flexibility of Quadriceps and to Strengthen Gluteus Maximus.

 

The third most common injury will be Plantar Fasciitis. This is when most that suffer from this will look into spending big bucks on curing the symptom, not the root cause. So what’s the root cause then?

It is an over-activation of the calf muscles during runs and the tightness of the calf that pulls onto the plantar fascia. Over time, kaboom!

This can be prevented by maintaining good calf flexibility and improving ROM (range of motion) of the ankle joint by strengthening dorsiflexors.

 

So many runners have said to me that they couldn’t run without knee guards. Does it work? 

Yes and no. Yes because it helps to temporarily reduce the pain and bring some support to it but no because it’s not a permanent solution as it doesn’t fix the root cause of the pain.

 

Apart from hitting mileage and clocking time for a race preparation, what else should runners be focusing on?

Runners should really be focusing more on the supportive work if they wish to improve their performance and prevent injuries.

Supportive work means training that emphasizes improving the foundation and quality of movement.

For example, execution of quality movement depends heavily on the ability of the joints to go through its optimal range of motion, the ability to stabilize the joint as well as the coordination of joints that are involved in that said movement.

However, not many runners are able to do that because they are lacking in awareness in their body movement, which is known as proprioception.

 

What is proprioception and how can runners optimize it?

Proprioception is the body’s ability to perceive or be aware of the position and movement of the body.

The first step to optimize it is by being more aware of your current way of running, is it efficient or not?

Once they are aware of that, they can then make the necessary adjustment to correct the inefficiency. For example, are you aware of your posture when you run, can you tell the difference between running with a tall posture and running with a rounded back?

Those are proprioception and not being able to sense your running form will limit the ability to perform.

 

What are the potential benefits if a runner was to optimize it?

It’s mind blowing. Within an instant, you’re able to minimize energy wastage.

Sounds like fun already? You’ll also be more efficient in force generation and what better news than the ability to reduce risk of injury through less muscular imbalances!

And that’s exactly what my “Smart Running” program was built for.

 

What kind of core workouts should a runner do?

From the get go, when people think of core workouts, they think sit ups and leg raises. I’ll say that is more of an abdominal workout rather than a core workout.

The word core does not only consist of abdominal muscles, it actually encompasses anything that holds the stability of our spine and pelvis together.

So if we were to actually workout core muscles, it has to work not just the abdominals and therefore movements such as deadbug and plank will be beneficial to improve posture.

 

Should runners stretch before and after a run?

It depends very much on the intention of stretching.

If a runner wants to warm up the body before a run, dynamic stretches should be done. It means a stretch that involves movements rather than just holding a body part for a period of time.

Examples of a dynamic stretch will be “World’s Greatest Stretch”, dynamic “Warrior 1 Pose”.

Whereas for a cool down after a run and you want your muscles to learn how to switch off after the workout, then static stretches should be done instead of dynamic stretches.

An example of a good static stretch will be Quadriceps, Calf and Hamstring Stretch. So it is not so much the timing of the stretch but rather the purpose of the stretch and the way you do it.

 

Can you tell us a bit about your “Smart Running” program?

Smart Running was developed to help runners decipher the simple yet complicated running mechanics into the simple MSC framework where M stands for Mobility, S stands for Stability and C stands for Coordination.

By understanding what the body truly needs when it comes to improving running efficiency, runners who come through my program might not even need to do any additional running to shave off a few minutes in their run.

 

What’s your vision through the “Smart Running” program?

 

I stand for running as a way of joy and fulfillment but sadly it isn’t the case for many out there and therefore I would hope that one day, all runners are able to extend the longevity of their running journey, without the fear of hurting their knees and potentially having to resort to knee surgery.

Authored by:

May Ooi

Trainer

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Breakthrough Interview with Coach May Ooi: How to avoid common mistakes that most runners make which often result in injuries, fatigue and frustrations.
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