Chi-kin, a 37-year-old lawyer, came to my consultation room to seek advice on endurance running.
“A few months ago I was so motivated and I registered for a 10K race,” he said.
“But now I am really worried after I heard that many runners ended up suffering from muscle cramps, heat stroke, or worse, falling into a coma.
“How likely would a beginner runner like me get into any of these problems?”
No doubt adequate training and preparation have to be taken for endurance running. Otherwise, getting injured would be inevitable.
People like Chi-kin should examine their readiness for physical activity by completing the questionnaire prepared by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology:
1. Has your doctor ever said that you have a heart condition and that you should only do physical activity recommended by a doctor?
2. Do you feel pain in your chest when you do physical activity?
3. In the past month, have you had chest pain when you were not doing physical activity?
4. Do you lose your balance because of dizziness or do you ever lose consciousness?
5. Do you have a bone or joint problem (e.g., back, knee or hip) that could be made worse by a change in your physical activity?
6. Is your doctor currently prescribing drugs (e.g., water pills) for your blood pressure or heart condition?
7. Do you know of any other reason why you should not do physical activity?
If you answer “yes” to any of the seven questions, you should consult your family doctor. A person who is 69 or older has to ask a physician about their suitability for increased physical activity.
Here are some handy tips for good-to-go runners for the big day:
1. Daily routine. Quit smoking and drinking. Get ample rest one to four days before the race. Avoid any intensive, physically demanding training.
2. Fit clothes and shoes. Choose a comfortable pair of trainers and socks of the right size. While loose socks might cause skin abrasion and blisters, those that are too tight could adversely affect blood circulation, giving rise to muscle cramps.
To prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke, clothes should be made of breathable materials that facilitate heat lost and perspiration.
3. Diet. Adopt the “carbohydrate loading” strategy to maximize the storage of glycogen in the muscles and liver. For example, athletes on a 10K race would need an intake of seven to 10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of their own weight.
Breakfast should be taken two hours before the start of the run in order to prevent gastrointestinal problems.
A banana would be an ideal snack before the race, as it can provide energy and potassium. Glucose tablets or energy gels could be carried around in case of low blood sugar during the vigorous sports.
4. Water replenishment. The Hong Kong Jockey Club Sports Medicine and Health Sciences Centre recommends that runners drink 100-150mL of water for every 5-kilometer run, and fine-tune the amount according to their individual needs and thirstiness.
However, do not drink too much water out of fear of dehydration, as it could cause low blood sodium, or hyponatremia, which is life-threatening.
5. Warm-up and cool-down exercise. Five to 10 minutes of warm-up exercise and brisk walking would increase body temperature and flexibility, while another five to 10 minutes of cool-down exercise is also a must. An abrupt stop in motion might trigger dizziness.
6. Athletes with chronic illnesses. Chronic patients who have diabetes or high blood pressure must consult their doctors and double check if they are fit for the race by taking measurements of blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Carrying a medical alert bracelet or wallet card would allow medical professionals to address a patient’s needs more quickly. iPhone users could also set up their Medical ID profile for easier access.
7. Stay alert for bodily functions and conditions. Runners who feel weak, dizzy or experience chest pain should seek help immediately.
Here’s hoping all runners can have a good time and enjoy the challenge.
1. Physical activity readiness questionnaire (PAR-Q) from the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology
2. Final race week instructions published by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Sports Medicine and Health Sciences Centre
3. Sawka MN, Burke LM, Randy Eichner, E, Maughan RJ, Montain SJ, & Stachenfeld NS (2007). American college of sports medicine position stand: Exercise and fluid replacement. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 39(2): 377-390.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 12
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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