November Q&A With Rich Sumpter

Do you find running a lot makes your knee joints sore?  Any advice to combat this?

Luckily I no longer suffer, but when I was overweight it was a big issue for me.  Running places a lot of stress on your lower body, muscles, tendons and ligaments.  The impact is roughly twice your bodyweight, and your knees will have to cushion this load.  The heavier you are the higher the impact force experienced.  To combat this there are several areas that can be examined.  Firstly, make sure that your stabilising muscles for the knee, specifically the quadriceps, are strong enough to hold your kneecap in the correct position.    Runners often have strong hamstrings, but may have relatively weak quads, resulting in the knee cap tracking slightly off it’s correct path.  Weights are an ideal way to build up the strength, focus on squats.

Secondly, look at where you run.  Tarmac is a much less forgiving surface than grass, so for longer runs try to use a cross country route, but beware.  The nature of cross country runs means that there will be tree routes, rocks and various other bits looking to trip you up or causing you to twist your ankle.  I love cross country, but you do need to take care if it is new to you.

Finally, look at how you have progressed to your current distance.  Was it a progressive build up, or did you jump too suddenly.  Training is progressive, and care should be taken when increasing time and mileage in order to prevent illness and injury.  Allow your body to adapt to the changes that you make.  If you do suffer knee pain icing the affected area will reduce swelling, but will not hide the underlying cause behind the problem.  If problems persist then consult a qualified doctor to make sure there are no serious problems.

What time scale do you give yourself to shave 60 seconds of a 10 m run?

It depends where you start from!  10 m = 16 km.  For some athletes this may take 50 mins, while for others it could be 1hr 40.  For the 50 min runner a 60 sec improvement is equal to a 2% improvement, while for the 1hr 40 runner it is only 1% (now you see why I picked these times - easy maths!).  Obviously a 1% improvement is much easier to reach then a 2% improvement.  The aim really is to not focus on achieving your goals in a set time period, but to be progressive in how you reach them.  Vary your training, incorporating long easy runs with short hard runs.  This will illicit a positive response, and lead to improvements over time.  It is unlikely that you will see much improvement in less than four weeks, as this is roughly the time your body needs to adapt to an increased load.  Don’t rush, be consistent and the results will come.

What would you recommend I eat before a long run?

Pre-run food is a delicate area.  Some athletes can tolerate anything, eating a full english before training, others look at food and rush to the nearest bush - not a pleasant experience I can tell you!  If your long run is in the morning have your usual breakfast, but allow 30min - 1hr before you go to allow digestion to have  begun properly.  Fasted runs are a great way to help lose weight if you can forgo food (I can’t), but be careful.  Cortisol levels are increased in the morning, and the chance of infection is increased when cortisol levels are high.  To reduce infection/illness perform the run at a low intensity so as not to place too much stress on the body.  A good nutrition shake, such as USNs EpicPro, can be a great supplement before and during training.  For me it doesn’t cause any digestive problems, but try before you commit to a 20 mile run with no toilet stops!  Whatever you do before, the key is to fuel correctly after.  There is a 20-30 min window post training that is the best for restoring muscle glycogen levels, essential if you perform back to back sessions and want to train well at each.

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