Sunday, March 15, 2015

Building Up Fitness Is A Slow But Sure Process

I don't consider myself a "fitness bluff".  I was most unfit when I was in my 30s until mid 40s, I had never exercised one bit during that period.  It was stress, work, more stress and money woes that I completely disregarded my own health.  I was going through mid life crisis.  Then in 2007, I decided to change my unhealthy lifestyle.  I was already 45 by then.  I had my first run around my neighbourhood.  Just one kilometre into the run, I had to stop and walk the remaining route.  I was panting badly.  I then realised how unfit I was.  I went for few more runs and yet, I had to stop around the 1 km mark.

I was mostly running on own until I learnt a former colleague who runs regularly.  Prior to that, he had been running in few marathons and to-date, he is still running.  He then invited me to join him and a friend for an evening run after work.  He becomes my running buddy - thanks to Long Chua for being the biggest contributing factor to me taking up distance running.  The run with him was nothing but tough.  I had never ran more than 5 km, even when I was younger and fitter then.  The mental block in mind would tell me to stop at 5 km.  The run with him and another friend, Eddie was at least 8 km and sometimes more.  It was hell for me.  I was grasping for air and was quietly 'cursing' Long Chua for not stopping.  We used to run from HarbourFront to Keppel Bay Club where we will do laps around the club.  That was before Labrador Park connector was made available.  We now run to Labrador Park and back.  Covering at least a good 10 km and sometimes, more if we increase our mileage.  More run buddies joined us later.  Dora, CK and Catherine become our regular run buddies.

That year, 2007....our young CEO, Linda wanted us to participate in Stanchart Run.  I decided to sign up for 10 km while Chua signed up for run marathon.  Some of my colleagues including my CEO, Linda signed up for 10 km.  I had just started running with Chua and Eddie but was still not completely fit enough to cover a full 10 km without stopping.  I was very excited and at the same quite apprehensive if I could finish in "one good piece" in my first Stanchart Run.  The huge turnout of runners was simply overwhelming.  Indeed it was a tough 10 km.  However, during the run I surprised even myself when I realised I can run without stopping.  My legs were aching and my muscle was tight but I simply pressed on.  When I ran past the finishing line, I clocked 1 hr 1 min plus for my first 10 km run.  I was very inspired and utterly pleased with my time.  This fueled  me to start running on more regular basis with Chua and Eddie.  For this, I must really thank my then CEO, Linda for paving the way forward for me.

In 2008, I ran another 10 km in Stanchart but this time, I improved from 1 hour 1 min plus to 53 mins plus.  I had sliced some 7 mins from my last.  I was most inspired and I then decided to sign up for full marathon.  My first foray into full marathon with Stanchart was in 2009 and I clocked 5 hrs 9 mins.  It was a tough tough 42 km and I had bad cramp along the way - result of insufficient mileage prior to run.  I even went one further for my full marathon, I managed to get friends to support me by pledging funds for the Singapore Cancer Society.  In that run, I raised more than $5,000.  It was most satisfying for me.

In the past years, I did few marathons and half marathons but admittedly, I have somewhat lost the interest to compete now.  I have signed up for less run events now but I still do my regular run on own or with friends to keep fit.  Sometimes, I cycle with friends.

Many people will tell me they don't enjoy running for a variety of reasons.  I will usually tell them that I will not enjoy my run in the first 5 km.  I will get some discomfort in some parts of my legs or body.  My 'engine" is not fully warmed up yet but when the discomfort is gone after around 5 km into the run, my strides will then kick in and everything will be in cruise control.  Sometimes, when I was into my competitive mood, I would challenge another runner (usually the younger ones).  Running is not easy especially during the initial stage but it is a probably the most effective form of exercise.  If we run on our own pace, one will slowly but surely improve one's fitness.  When some say, "I am too old to run, it is too strenuous".  Unless one does not experience pain in the knees, one can always enjoy a leisure run at any age.  People out there, for your own health' sake, let's get up and start running now.

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