Coronavirus: Back in the saddle, S’pore athletes finding their feet as training restarts, Sport News & Top Stories

SINGAPORE – After two months of relying on bodyweight and resistance band exercises for her strength training sessions, national runner Goh Chui Ling’s return to the gym on Friday (June 19) felt like she was starting from “close to ground zero”.

The 27-year-old was one of the national athletes who resumed training on the first day of phase two of Singapore’s post-circuit breaker period, where sports facilities are allowed to reopen.

Temperature checks, health and travel declarations, physical distancing, constant cleaning and Safe Entry check-ins are now part of these athletes’ training regimens.

The session on Friday was Goh’s first time venturing out of East Coast Park, where she had been running for the last two months as it is near her Katong residence. She started her 4km run from East Coast Park and ended at the Kallang Practice Track so she could use the gym at the Home of Athletics. She used to have two strength sessions a week, both of which usually comprised exercises using heavy weights such as a bar or weighted machines.

Goh, who competed in the 800m at last year’s SEA Games, told The Straits Times of her 45-minute gym session: “It was the first time in two months that I have access to weights and that made a big difference in terms of being able to do proper strength work.

“As athletes we can go up to two to three times of our body weight for certain exercises, and after not having that for a while I could feel the difference in my speed… not having that power that comes with the speed, as well as the endurance that came with the strength.”

While she could hold a certain weight while doing a lunge or squat in the past without feeling the lactic burn, she is now starting from “close to ground zero” in terms of building her strength base.

But Goh, who also had a 90-minute session on the track at Kallang on Saturday, stressed that her priority is to stay injury-free.

She added: “I did feel like I had to adjust my technique from the past two months because of the softer ground and curves at the track, and get used to running with training partners again, but it’s a great change.”

National squash player Marcus Phua, who trained on Friday at the Kallang Squash Centre, was pleased to be back on court and is also focusing on regaining his fitness and technique.

“It’s about slowly building up and getting the racket feel back before getting into the full swing of things, and taking it slow to prevent injury after being away from the court for so long,” said the 31-year-old, who was only allowed to share the court with team-mate Timothy Leong during their allocated hour of court time.

“The rustiness is definitely there, and it feels a bit unfamiliar. But we’re all just really happy to be back on court and playing a sport we enjoy.”

Cyclist Riyadh Hakim, a member of the national mountain bike team, agreed. The early morning downpour on Saturday delayed his first training session after the circuit breaker, but could not dampen his spirits as he worked on sprint intervals on Coney Island and rode with team-mate Arfan Faisal and coach Junaidi Hashim.

The 21-year-old, who is in national service, did most of his training indoors on a stationary bike before that and only ventured out on solo rides a couple of times.

Riyadh said: “(On a stationary bike) you don’t have to control the bike or move to steer left and right or keep your balance on the bike … we sort of lost a bit of strength in our core and arm muscles but maintained our leg strength, and it was a little bit awkward trying to balance on the bike, so we just have to get used to it.”

Explaining that the sprinting technique is largely dependent on a cyclist’s body position and how they pedal efficiently, he added: “That’s one of the techniques we still have to sharpen because you don’t really sprint properly on a stationary bike.

“We’ll go on the mountain bike trails (on Sunday) so we’ll see more differences there. I’m still getting into the groove and not really feeling 100 per cent yet, it’ll probably take about one to two weeks.”

The road cyclists from the national development squad resumed training at Rifle Range Road yesterday, and more athletes are also expected to resume practice this week, including the national netballers, dragon boaters and floorball players.

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