Monday, 22 February 2016

Tips of The Month - Garmin Connect Sleep Tracker

The market has so many sleep trackers to offer customers but understanding the data to fully utilize the functions are the most important thing. For this month's tip, team2ndskin would like to share on the sleep tracking function of Garmin devices such as the Garmin Forerunner 920xt, Vivosmart, Vivosmart HR, Fenix 3 and so on. The Sleep Tracking feature is available in Garmin Connect. Once the phone is synced, last night's sleep pattern will be available for viewing. This is a very basic sleep tracking feature, but enough to have an idea how well was the sleep. If we were to go into detail, sleep is actually divided into many types.

Stage 1 Sleep : Drowsiness & Closing of Eyes. Most easily get awaken.
Stage 2 Sleep : Further slowing down of brain activity and increased muscles relaxation.
Stage 3 & 4 : Deep sleep and growth hormone peaking.
REM Sleep : Rapid Eyes movement. Blood pressure increases and heart rate increases.
*we go through all these sleep stages throughout the night.

Garmin simplifies all of it and divides sleeping pattern into Deep Sleep, Light Sleep and Awake. I set my sleep time to 12am to 7 am to assist the device in tracking my sleep. 

The graph explains my movement throughout the night. As clearly seen, the first quarter shows significant drop of movement as the brain activity slows down. In the middle of the night I was awaken, could be mosquito bite or even phone notifications which interrupted my deep sleep. 

The summary shows my sleeping pattern hours. Tracked by Garmin Forerunner 920xt.

Record breaking athletes take anabolic steroids to stimulate muscles growth, better strength and increasing the lean mass of an athlete. To overcome age limitations on athletic recovery from workout, growth hormone are injected to increase physical performance and build up injury resistance (faster repair). Both of them are illegal.

Sleeping on the other hand, was never illegal. Sleeping greatly improve recovery, repairs itself and rebuild muscles tissues. Because the output of growth hormone during sleep is at its max level, sleep is actually anabolic. Studies have shown that the more you sleep, the more testosterone the body produces. More testosterone means greater athletic performance. 

1. Stop watching electronic displays and turn off notifications to avoid interruption. We want to get into deep sleep, the longer the better.
2. Get adequate exercise during the day, not an hour before sleep time.
3. Shut down all mobile networks, transmissions and wifi hot spots. It decreases our sleep quality.
4. Sleep in the dark. The darker the better, sleep hormone melatonin can generate better. 

As your sleep improves, so does your recovery and athletic performance. You will get stronger the next ready and ready for higher exercise intensity the next day. Hope this article helps. Sync your Garmin and start checking your sleep =)

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Garmin Team2ndskin Running Clinic Batch 5 - High Intensity Interval Training

Dear Participants of Garmin Team2ndskin Running Clinic,

We received huge turnout for today's High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) this morning at Stadium Kg Pandan with some of the runners from previous batches. Job well done for all who had completed the HIIT session and also survived Tri Stupe's mini strength training session before we called it a day.

I have a few points to highlight as a friendly reminder as all of you start your own HIIT session. By emphasizing this few key points, I hope runners can get stronger, faster and stay injury free. HIIT sessions are hard in nature, there is no two ways about it. The higher the intensity you can handle, the greater the improvement on your athletic capacity. Human body is amazing and brilliant in adapting to optimal amount of stress.

We did a variable distance and pace throughout the session. The whole objective of the fast and slow pace was to allow the body to recover during the slow pace. The fast pace is crucial! Every fast pace should be an attempt to SCORE max heart rate! An opportunity not seized is an opportunity missed! As I've always said, Go Hard or Go Home. Undeniably, it demands Max Motivation. 

What is the big deal of scoring Max Heart Rate? Max Heart Rate allows the heart rate zone to be more accurately divided into 5 different zones. The formula (220-age = max heart rate) is widely used among the athletes although the accuracy is not even close to what Garmin can offer. Utilize the Garmin Connect to revise your workout and correct the mistakes. Once a week, grab the opportunity to do the HIIT session, allow the watch to "recalibrate" the zones with your latest Max Heart Rate. 

Our team2ndskin is ever ready to answer if you have any doubts or questions. Get your well deserved rest and be ready for our next session. =)

Best Regards,
Chan Jun Shen
Team2ndskin Athlete
5 X Ironman Finisher

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Running Pain - Upper Body : TriStupe

Upper body pain on neck, shoulder and arms when running distance is common with some that just started running. Our way of sitting, standing and even carrying loads on our back contribute to the discomfort we may have when running. 

And when we headed out to run, we start to over correct our bad posture and consciously or subconsciously hold our shoulder close to our ears or pull the shoulder blades together to imitate a better posture. You then start to pull your arms closer to your body.
Or in some instances, you let your body slouch and that action collapse the shoulder while restricting your chest from expanding and your airway blocked - occasionally looking up only when there are photographers around ;). Some of us run looking down because it was how we been running. If you ever wondered how and why you had that "less than good" run, it is your posture.

To start with, you need to be loose. The more fluid you move, the less likely you will tense up. You can only be fluid if you learn to relax. And you can only relax if you don't try to squeeze out all the blood from your clenched fist or be so stiff your shoulder freezes over. By being more fluid, you will have less pain. The less pain you have, the longer you can run. Sound like a good deal?

Starting from your hand, imagine that you are holding an egg in your hand. By doing this, you will allow some slack and prevent any tension or stiffness running upwards to your neck and shoulder. Bend slightly at the elbow and keep the hand between the chest and waist. I personally recommend nearer to waist. 

Next, allow your shoulder to move along with your arm swings. Think of it like you are doing a light jab forward and do not cross your arms as you swing it. Move your arm in-sync with your stride. Your arm swing helps to regulate your stride. 

Now that is the basic of getting the upper body fluid. Now, you go and try it and hopefully, you run better and with lesser pain.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Cyberjaya Twincity Marathon - Deo's race report

With read how Chan did in his half marathon race at the recent Cyberjaya Twincity Marathon. Now, Team 2ndskin athlete Deo unveiled how he got more than what he wanted (or expected) from his full marathon race, where he finished in 10th place in the Men's Open category. It didn't come easy for him but the perseverance and dedication to training has paid off, at least from what we have witnessed. It was his 34th full marathon to date and more to come from him.

Read on how the marathon went for Deo...


I didn't plan to sign up for this race but somehow trapped into signing for it by my buddy who didn't start the race after all as he was out of town on the race weekend. After a PB effort in Nong Khai Marathon in early December, I didn't plan to run in any marathon until April as I need to build up a good mileage and strengthen my core further. And after the quite disappointing and suffering experience during the first edition of this marathon in December 2014, where the route was trashed with undulating elevation, the boring route around Cyberjaya and Putrajaya with nothing much to see and no one cheering for you, and the high humidity weather; I was just not interested to join the race. But with registration done, and I am chasing to do 7 full marathon races this year in quest to do my 40th full marathon races by my birthday in December (#40on40 #birthdaymarathon), I told myself just go for it, treat it as another long run for the upcoming TransLantau 50km race in March. The one thing that really worries me was the lack of LSD runs after Nong Khai Marathon. I even tried to run a half marathn distance on Friday, a week before the marathon and I suffered, couldn't run all the way and had to stop and walk many times.

I was worried, even on the race day morning itself. Probably the things that could give some relieves were that the Race Director assured me that the marathon will be enough in distance, unlike last year, and up to the race day morning, I noticed that all the comments I blogged about the marathon in 2014 have been addressed. The promotion for this marathon has also been really visible with lots of 'attractions' offered to runners like the teh tarik and roti canai station, which I didn't get to enjoy obviously. And the number of participants have grown by many scales, I don't have the numbers but you can notice it by just looking at the crowd during the start or browsing the race photos. Anyway, for the marathon, I was aiming for a modest target, a sub 3:45 will make me really happy.

I arrived at the race venue quite early, and got a chance to walk around the still quiet start area. Did my 2km warm-up lap around the area. Bumped into my little brother who was fresh from his half marathon PB of 1:42 a week earlier and that was his only second HM. He was a volunteer for this race. After I was done with my warm up lap, I walked near the main stage and there were trophies for top runners and noticed the trophies will be given out to top 10 runners in each category. Deep inside, I harbor a hope of landing myself on one of the trophies. With 3:45 timing, based on 2014's race result, I would have a chance to be inside top 10, I told myself. So, from a modest target of just run a 3:45 marathon, the target has now shifted to getting into top 10. But it was still a tall order. Bumped into many more friends as I waited for the race to start. It was more happening this year. The organizer even had the fried noodle ready that morning should any runner would like to have some foods before the race.

Before the race with some of many friends I saw/met that morning. This one is with Ray, Fazli and Bukhari the RD.
[photo by ActionPix Malaysia]

At 4am, suddenly the horn sounded. But no one started running... until the man behind the horn asked us to run, then only we realized it was the start of the race. No countdown lol! So, the race began. It was humid. The route in the first 10km was the same as of in 2014, if I'm not mistaken. So, I sort of know the sections with uphill elevation, especially along Shaftsbury Square before we entered the motorcycle lane towards Putrajaya. I started quite well, with the strategy to run as fast as I can afford to, in order to have ample buffer for the anticipated slower second half of the race. First 10km completed in 46:30-minute, and that was even faster than my first 10km in Nong Khai Marathon. I was running at 3:30-hour marathon pace and surprisingly, many more runners in front and behind me were running at about the same pace. Some of them, I had never seen before. Along the way, especially in the uphill sections, I was overtaken by several runners while the front bunch of 7 or 8 runners were already out of sight. My hope for a top 10 finish got slimmer and I wasn't hoping for it anymore.

I just continued running, still hoping for a sub 3:45-hour finish. The elevation got worse in Putrajaya and those who know me, know how I really hate running a marathon in Putrajaya. There were slight changes to the route, one that I noticed was the one going into Precinct 20 (the graveyard route) and this year, we didn't run in front of the PICC. My second 10km was done in a slower 50:24-minute and total time was three minutes slower than Nong Khai. So, sub 3:30-hour is no longer in the equation. The full marathon runners have spread out from each other at this point, but I was joined by the half marathoners, overtaken by the leading runners. As we headed back to Cyberjaya, we had to go quite a steep elevated road (before the Fire Station) and as it was almost 30km done, I don't have anymore strength with my legs to run up, and don't want to trash my legs further as there will be another 12km of quite flat section to deal with in Cyberjaya. So, I walked up the elevated road and in the middle of my walk, 2ndskin team mate Chan came from behind and urged me to run with him. He was on pace for a top 10 finish in the half marathon category. I didn't follow, just enjoyed my short 'honeymoon' walk before starting to run again as I entered Cyberjaya. Third 10km was done in a slow 55:20-minute.

Drinking and showering is allowed during a marathon. Keep hydrating while keeping the body temperature low...
[photo by RFF]

The last 12km in Cyberjaya was all familiar route for me, eventhough most part of this section was ran in dark as the street lamps shut off earlier than expected/sunrise. There was even a junction around KM31 where half marathoners turn right while full marathoners go straight, where a lot of people got confused (and most probably were not directed properly). Some full marathoners (including the 4:00 pacers who most probably didn't do enough homework of the route) turned right into the HM route and ended with a shorter 3km marathon distance. And I saw a handful of half marathoners (most probably the front runners) had to backtrack as they missed the right turn and went straight into the FM route. They ended up running 3km longer than the actual HM distance.

My pace became slower, legs were tired, even the Hammer Gel could not do wonder to help me pick up my pace again. At that point, I was just hoping that water stations came as soon as possible so that I could take a short break and have a short walk while having my drinks. There was a moment when I was approaching a water station, feeling relieved that I could walk again and have my drinks. But when I arrived at the water station, when I asked for water, the volunteer there told me that there was no water, only teh tarik is available. He even told me that water is available at the next station, some 500m away. Right away I said, "Shit!" as I had to run for another 500m to the next water station. Then I realized it was the teh tarik and roti canai station but I didn't see that because it was still dark when I arrived at that point.

I was struggling to keep to 5:15-minute pace in the final 5km of the race...
[photo by Amin Jaafar]

So, it was run with occasional walks in between, up to KM37. As I realized I could do very well below 3:40-hour timing, I decided to run all the way in the last 5km, albeit at a slower pace. And in the last 3km, I think I overtook two or three FM runners but I wasn't sure which category they were in. Still, the hope for top ten finish had gone long ago as there were too many runners in front of me, from my count at one of the u-turn sections earlier. My fourth 10km was done in a slightly better time of 53:47-minute. I just continued to run and finish strong, with the slightest hope to better my Kuching Marathon timing as the fastest local marathon race for me. But it was not meant to be. I arrived at the finish line with a nett time of 3:36:21, about 40 seconds slower than Kuching Marathon, but well ahead of my initial target of 3:45:00. And to my surprise, I was handed a position card for 10th place in Men's Open! It made my day, definitely! and it was a pleasure to wear it around my neck while friends came to me congratulating me for the effort. Great day, it was for me to finish in top 10, given the strong field of runners.

Icing on the cake! 10th place in the Men's Open category.

Overall, I was satisfied with the run, not expecting to run a sub 3:40-hour race. And that was achieved with lots of walking *sigh* which I know I could save about 5 minutes had I not walked. In terms of the organization of the race, I can say it was really well-organized with all concerns for the runners were taken care of, with nice finisher t-shirt, finisher medal, proper set-up of finishing area, the foods, the RPC venue, plenty of water stations with cold water and icy-cold sponges at certain section. All I can say is that, keep up the good work. The only comments I could give are on the 'missed turns' of the route, which definitely the race organizer needs to look at and the main stage that was located quite far away from the finish area where only podium finishers care to be around the stage after the race.

And that wrapped my 34th full marathon, six marathons away from my #40on40 #birthdaymarathon quest.

For the results of Men's Open full marathon category, click here.
For my race details on Garmin Connect, click here.