A New Year brings with it new plans, new resolutions and goals, especially in the realm of physical fitness. Many people have it on their bucket list to run the marathon. A great way to start the year, but quite the lofty ambition to have. While those embarking on this monumental fitness task usually have a good training plan, they often tend to overlook the recovery period following the marathon.
Recovery is an important part of the process to get you on your feet again without the risk of injury. Your muscles are torn, energy-stores depleted, dehydrated…considerations have to be made immediately after the race and up to at least a few days after. But why let us bore you with the details? To tell us more about what you can do to aid in post-marathon recovery and a few other things close to his heart is Paul Foster.
Paul Foster, an Under Armour athlete, is a Singaporean actor and host of numerous TV shows. A keen sportsperson, he completed his first-ever half-marathon at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) back in 2016 and ran approximately 12KM at the event in 2018 – as part of a charity run with fellow Happy Hearts contributor Andre Cherbonnier. Here’s our exclusive interview with this entertainment veteran:
Q: You were a former national rugby player and currently you’re still very much involved in fitness. As an athlete, what inspires you?
I have always loved sports! So my inspiration to be an athlete throughout my childhood, school, club and country was just my passion to be the best version of myself when performing on court or on the field. During my competitive days, this would give me the advantage of being better, faster, stronger than my opponents; whereas nowadays, it’s more essential for my general health and well-being.
Q: How do you incorporate fitness or sports into your work as a host and actor?
This has proven to be more and more difficult with my schedule, especially when I am midway through filming for a travel series because it literally boils down to pure time management. The crux here is, what if you just don’t have the time? I believe this is what most people will face as a dilemma when it comes to training and working out. So as it is with everybody, it is about finding the time and organising moments where I can fit in a running session hit the gym or do a training session.
Q: Not many people know this, but you actually play netball in your free time! Given that netball has long (and unintentionally) been associated with females, what sparked your interest in it?
Exactly right! I started to play mixed social netball for my club, the Singapore Cricket Club (SCC), about five years ago because I missed my team sports. I had retired from rugby due to injury and wanted to continue playing a sport that allowed me to be part of a team. My other main sport growing up was basketball, so it was a nice transition over to netball, although I obviously had to learn all the rules (and there are so many) of netball and get accustomed to the game’s etiquette. I love the game and I’m still learning it, but to bring me up another level, last year I had my chance to represent Singapore in another sport, where I played in the Asian Men’s Netball Championship and we came in third! Unfortunately, I missed selection this year due to a lack of time to commit, but the new mixed season starts in the new year so I will be back for that!
Q: You completed your first-ever half marathon at SCSM back in 2016 and recently participated in this year’s marathon as part of a charity run. What motivated you to participate in the marathon in the first place? What were these experiences like?
I have always wanted to complete a marathon, it’s on my bucket list! In 2016, I trained to complete 21km and I did it, but admittedly my race management was off and I struggled. I was so broken and put off after that, I didn’t run again for an entire year! But I learnt a lot from that experience, so when I was ready to run again, I knew I would be better for it.
This year, my motivation was to be a guide runner for my friend Andre who was running the full marathon blindfolded for charity, an organisation I support in – Happy Hearts Indonesia. He also ended up having to run most of it on crutches because he had torn both his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and MCL (medial collateral ligament) during training just two weeks before the SCSM! The thing with this year was that I was supposed to run somewhere between 12-21km in split shifts as we had a group of guide runners to help Andre through the full 42km. But I made a decision the night before to try and run the entire distance next to him because if he could do it blindfolded and on crutches, what was my excuse?
I did not complete the full marathon this time. After the half marathon mark, I started to fall behind because I did not train for a full marathon, my body was just not ready physically. Unfortunately, I had just missed the 32km cut off time, which meant the route closed right in front of me and my race was over. But the bigger picture of running to raise money for a charity I am an ambassador for because my friend chose to support them was my real motivation; even though I fell short at the third quarter stage, Andre powered through and I was happy I could join the team at the finish line to cross over together for something so epic (something I would have missed if I was still running my own marathon behind the team)! What I took away from this year is that running a full marathon is possible given the right reasons and motivation, so with this year’s effort underfoot, 2019 will be my year to tick a full marathon off my bucket list.
Q: How different is training or preparation for the race from your usual training? What additional preparations did you have to make?
When it comes to marathon training, essentially it’s about running enough kilometres on the treadmill and on the road. In Singapore, the heat and humidity are big factors, so training outdoors is recommended to prepare your body. So, if you start running and clocking up the distances, and if you run according to your lactate threshold; if you stay hydrated and if you keep a good pace, these will prepare you for your race.
If you also feel like you need more guidance, there are various running groups and training programmes available. Under Armour, for example, held training sessions this year with the Standard Chartered Marathon pacers to help the public prepare for their race. Interestingly, one of the coaches is Ben Pullman, who put me through my paces in 2016 to scientifically calculate my lactate threshold.
Q: What was post-marathon recovery like for you? How did you handle it?
Funnily enough, even though this was the longest distance I have ever run, surprisingly I wasn’t anywhere as broken as after my 2016 half marathon experience. I believe the main factor was not exceeding my lactate threshold, so my muscles were not as (beyond) fatigued. But post-race management is crucial, so for my recovery, I stretched, ice bathed, wore recovery compressions, had a few days of good sleep and made sure I ate and drank a lot of water! Coincidentally, I also received a really nice Christmas present this year from Under Armour – their newly launched Recovery sleepwear line. I, unfortunately, didn’t have a chance to try them immediately post-race unfortunately, but the new bioceramic print feature has been proven to help runners recover while resting, which would have been a huge addition to my recovery process! So this is definitely on my must-try’s for my new year endeavours!
Q: Why is it so important to consider post-marathon recovery? What should we consider? Is there a difference between recovery right after the race and more long-term recovery?
Recovery is essential for your body to rest and to prevent any injuries! Especially after the trauma of a full marathon. As above, it’s all about giving your body the sustenance and rest to just get back to functioning for a more normal day to day basis. Immediate post-race recovery is to help with the soreness, and a more long-term recovery I would associate with being prepared to run another long race in the future!
Q: What are the risks of not considering post-marathon recovery?
Mainly injury and then a domino effect of not wanting to run again due to the pain and potential trauma physically and mentally with not taking caring care of oneself properly.
Q: How important is nutrition in the post-marathon recovery phase? What sort of special dietary requirements does it entail?
I am not a professional and I am not gunning for the world’s fastest marathon timing, so to be perfectly honest, if you have just run a full marathon, you deserve to eat and drink whatever you want to replenish your mind, body, heart and soul! Just use your common sense to at least stay well hydrated, so water and isotonic drinks are high on my list. When it comes to food, I’ll just eat what I feel like for a few days before balancing out my diet again.
Q: What would be your top tip to those new to running long distance?
Preparation! Train appropriately, find out your lactate threshold so you can keep pace for the entire distance. Stay hydrated and at the end of that day, enjoy yourself! There are a few things here, but they all lead to being prepared to run a long distance for a long time…
Q: Many young people, both male and female, struggle with issues of body image these days. Being in the entertainment industry and athlete, what advice do you have for any of our readers facing this issue?
Don’t worry about what other people think or say. I know it can be difficult, but who are they in your world? What does it matter who they are to how you look, feel and live? I learnt a long time ago, that it doesn’t matter what you do, how you do it or why you do it, it could be the most unselfish action that benefits a cause that is bigger than yourself, but for some reason, a negative, angry, unhappy person will still have something bad to say about you.
So, you can’t please everyone, but that is not your job. First and foremost, take care of yourself in the right ways, then you can do the same for those around you who love and appreciate you, after that, all those spiteful people don’t mean anything. So, if you have an issue with your body image, you can work towards making yourself feel better, but don’t ever let someone else make it an issue for you because it’s not about them, they don’t matter. It’s about you and how you feel, so as long as you aren’t hurting anyone else, don’t ever take hurt from someone else.
If you, like Paul, believe that body image is an important issue that needs to be addressed, please support our book project “Building Body Confidence” by pledging an amount here. Every dollar goes into the publishing and distribution of the book and you will get a copy of it once it does get published!
Photo Credit: Paul Foster and Standard Chartered Marathon