Regardless of where you are in your fitness journey, running is a great go-to: it requires little equipment, can be done in your own time, and is great for boosting cardiovascular fitness. At the same time, it can also be a physiotherapist's worst nightmare! 

From shin splints to Achilles tendonitis, running injuries abound and can be a big blow to a runner's journey. That’s why we constantly stress the importance of going slow and steady when starting out and continuing to take preventative steps to avoid injuries. 

In this interview, we talk to physiotherapist and runner, Gordon Lim, on some lessons from his running journey, common runner mistakes he sees as a physiotherapist, and the importance of adapting your training based on where you are in your running journey. 


Common Running Mistakes and Misconceptions

What are some common mistakes you see - in both new and seasoned riders? 

 Some simple mistakes that are commonly made by runners who have started out are: running too fast during their runs, running inconsistently, running at a high intensity during their runs (ie: no pain no gain). Seasoned runners aren’t immune to these mistakes, either. It can be easy to get overzealous during training which can result in overtraining and injuries.  For some seasoned runners, who use running as an outline or as part of a routine, running can be such a priority that they continue to run even when an injury lingers. This actually aggravates what could have just been a minor strain requiring a few days of rest (rather than a big injury that requires several months off). 

Photo credit: Lim Teck Chye 

As a runner, what were some mistakes you made when you were starting out? 

When I first started out, I fell into the trap of making every run an “effortful” one. I thought that running fast and long distances would help me. Needless to say, I ended up with injuries. I was also not giving my body sufficient time to rest or recover and this prevented me from progressing during races. I actually would feel tired and drained before the race took place - just from the training leading up to it! 

What are some myths or misconceptions when it comes to running? 

One common misconception is that static stretching before running is the most effective. While it doesn’t hurt to do static stretches before a run, they can be done post run as well. Try dynamic movements or stretches instead to see what your body reacts the best to. Another idea is to walk to where you plan to start your run and start running slowly while gradually increase the pace as your body warms up. Another misconception is how “carbo-loading’ is a MUST before a race. While carbs are important during a long distance rest, some runners who are better adapted to running may not need to load up as much. It really depends on many factors such as the distance of the race, how seasoned the runner is, and much more. The best thing to do is always to listen to your body. 

Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2022, Photo credit: Kevin Ho

Tips for Runners

What are your top three tips for runners who are looking to progress in their running journey?

Love the sport for the joy it brings you instead of simply focusing on the results.

Find a running coach or read up on training programs if you are planning to get better in terms of your performance. 

Be consistent with running regularly (at least 3 times per week) to ensure that the body is slowly adapting to the sport. 

As a physiotherapist, what are some common injuries that runners come to you with? What are some tips you have to prevent such injuries? 

Some common injuries include knee pain (Eg: patellofemoral pain syndrome), hip pain (Eg: trochanteric bursitis), ankle injuries (Eg: tibialis posterior muscle strain) and back pain. Most of the time, we ask patients about their training history which reveals things such as the intensity, frequency and volume. We then offer advice on how to tweak various workouts to still get the maximum benefit while still managing the pain.  Unfortunately, if the pain from the injury is severe or caused by a bone stress injury, then resting could be necessary. As physiotherapists, we are also aware of which strengthening exercises (when done appropriately) are able to help with reducing the risk of running injuries. 

As you’ve grown in your running journey, what are some lessons you’ve learned along the way? 

Consistency is key:  On a day to day basis you may not feel fit. Through consistent training, though, the body naturally adapts to the demands of running.

Be patient with your results and try not to compare yourself to others: Everybody has different demands in their daily life. For someone whose work may be laborious or who works for very long hours, they may not have the time or energy to train. 

Prioritise:  Learn to prioritise what matters to you. For example, when I am training for a marathon, I prioritise my training runs above social gatherings. Once that is done, however, the priority shifts to spending more time with my friends and loved ones. 

How can newbies get started on running? 

Join a social running group. There are plenty in Singapore and you can find one with a quick google search. More importantly, understand that running is a pretty strenuous sport. Given that, it’s very important that you ensure your body is allowed the adequate time and energy to repair itself through proper rest and fuel (quality nutrients). 

Is Running an Activity for Everyone? 

Do you consider running to be an “activity for all”? Why or why not? 

It definitely is an activity for everyone! Running can be done anywhere with a pair of shoes and a road to run on (of course, stay safe). At the same time, it is crucial for runners who are embarking on their journey to take things slow and allow the body time to adapt to the load of the sport.

So, there you have it - advice coming from a professional on both sides. They say prevention is the best cure, and as Gordon has highlighted above, that’s very true when it comes to running. Maybe you’ve just got your first pair of running shoes or maybe you’ve signed up for marathons galore; wherever you are, make a commitment to train safe and injury-free. Not only will that help in terms of consistency, it’ll help you progress faster than you know.  But do make sure, that if needed, consult your doctor before embarking on any physical activity.

Check out stadiums located around Singapore where you can start your running journey : click here.