1. I want to start jogging as a hobby and as a way to keep fit, but I read a lot about the issues it can cause with painful joints. What are your thoughts on this?
Jogging is a great hobby and a fantastic way to keep fit. It is common for new runners to experience some joint pain as jogging places extra forces on the body and these are transmitted through the hip, knee, and ankle joints. It is important to start of with small distances and build up slowly, by 10%, each week while incorporating some exercises that target the core muscles, quadriceps and calf muscles. Leg squats, calf raises, and planks are great for these and don’t take up too much time. Your muscles, ligaments and tendons will strengthen and stabilise the joints, which will help to prevent injury occurring. Also, you need to make sure you have suitable trainers to jog in, it is a good idea to get you running style looked at a running shop, this is usually free and worth the extra effort. You could try running off-road on softer surfaces to reduce the impact on you joints. Taking a supplement such as Active joint plex by USN, designed specifically for joint health, and includes glucosamine and chondroitin, both thought to help with joint help and reduce inflammation.
At the end of the day running is a great activity, and the benefits definitely outweigh any potential disadvantages.
2. Do you feel resistance training can aid with endurance goals? If so, what kind of resistance training?
Resistance training should be a staple of any endurance training plan. With running and cycling it is mainly the legs that do the work, and with swimming it is much more upper body (though it is non-weight bearing). All involve an element of strength, though not like weight lifting! Your body has to handle a lot of effort, your body weight while running (effectively twice your body weight is experienced through the legs), and pushing the gears on a bike. It is an idea to isolate the muscles that are used, and work them in a way similar to the activity. For running and cycling the main areas to focus on should be; quads, hamstrings, calfs and glutes. Perform single leg exercises as these will prevent your dominant leg from doing the bulk of the work. For swimming you should focus on back strength, though the shoulders, upper back and the lats. For all exercise it is also important to have an established core strength program. Being strong through the core will help with stability while running and biking, and will provide you with more control during swimming. With lifting weights you should aim for higher reps and lower weight, reps from15-20 are ideal, and you should maintain good technique to help prevent injury. As well as weights you could also try plyometrics (explosive controlled movements), suspension training such as the TRX system and circuits, possibly in a group. As these involve your body weight they are great at simulating the stress experienced during endurance events, without putting on too much muscle bulk - it’s just more to carry round.
As with all new plans check that you know how to perform the actions, and start off conservatively to reduce the risk of injury. Strength training is hard on the body, so make sure you recover adequately after the session, using a product such as Recover Xcell by USN.
3. For the last 6 years I have run about 7 mile, 3 times a week. Roughly, my times have stayed remained the same. Can you give me some tips to improve my times please?
Consistent training is important and the quantity you have done for the last 6 years is very good. However, variety is the spice of life! You should include variety in your training which serves two purposes: to load your muscles and cardiovascular system in different ways so that they can adapt physiologically and to stave off boredom and routine psychologically.
There are a number of sessions that you could try and these will improve different areas of your running and ultimately improve your times. Include 1 or more of these sessions each week while still doing your 7 mile run as recovery and to improve running economy.
1- Interval sets
These are best done on a track or treadmill to avoid injury. A proper warm-up and cool down is essential and if you are at a track you could include some drills like strides, high knees, high heels, etc. at the start to work on good technique. A pyramid session of 400m, 600m, 800m,1000m, 800m, 600m, 400m with recovery in between is a very hard session but will improve leg turnover speed, allow the body to adapt to additional stresses and mentally you will be able to handle race pace a lot easier. Alternatively you could perform between 6-10 repetitions of between 400m-1000m with a minute recovery (distances and reps are dependent on your ability).
2 - Fartlek
Fartlek is Swedish for speed play - run off-road or on road, uphill, downhill and mix in some short bursts of running and easy jogging, use markers like lamp posts to begin the sprints. This session should be fun and hard at the same time. The benefit of this session is to improve your anaerobic capacity and to mimic race situations.
3 - Tempo run
This session should be faster than your normal training pace and last around 30-40 minutes, it can be performed outdoors or on a treadmill but a consistent pace is key and try to keep a good running technique throughout.
4 - Hill sets
Hill sets are great for improving the cardiovascular system and increasing leg strength. Perform 5-10 repetitions up a hill that lasts between 400-800 meters, the aim is be able to run as fast as you can up the hill for all reps and slowly jog back as recovery.
4. Which sources of carbs do you feel are best for endurance events? I am worried if I eat too many I will be bloated and will have a heavy stomach.
As you have identified, carbohydrates are needed for endurance events. Carbs are your primary energy sources in all walks of life, and fuel sporting activity for up to 90 mins. Carbohydrates are broken down into smaller sugars (such as glucose, fructose and galactose) as these are easily absorbed, and quickly converted into energy. Excess glucose is then stored as glycogen. Glycogen is used primarily for shorter events, but is needed for long sessions as it plays a role in the breakdown of fat for fuel. Carbs can be split into two main groups, simple and complex. In the lead up to an event (4 days out) you can begin carbo loading to ensure your glycogen levels are kept topped up ready for race day. Using a product such as USN CarboLoad is great, and tells you when you should be drinking. You should also look at eating high glycaemic index (GI) foods such as whole grain bread, cereals and pasta, as these release energy slowly, around 3-4 hrs, compared with low GI foods that release around 1-2 hrs. Low GI foods include sports drinks and fruit, generally anything with a high sugar level. During a race you need to keep your carb levels topped up to prevent the “BONK!” Low GI foods are ideal for this. Using an energy drink, such as USN EpicPro or CytoPower HP is great as these have been designed specifically for this purpose, and should prevent gastric issues!
Remember that keeping carb levels high will prevent the breakdown of protein for fuel, and this in turn reduces the stress on the kidneys, who eliminate the by-products from protein breakdown. A note of caution, what works for one person won’t always work for another. Try the drinks in training to ensure that you can tolerate them - you don’t want problems on race day!
5. What level of protein should I be eating, I do a lot of tri events.
Protein levels depend upon your activity level, and your weight. Protein has many uses such as growth, maintenance and repair. It is present in all cells, and as you’re aware, is a major component of muscle tissue. General guidelines are; 0.8g/kg, weight lifter 1.6-1.8g/kg, endurance athlete 1.2-1.4g/kg. Therefore a 50kg athlete will need 60-70g of protein a day (I hope my maths is right!). For endurance athletes the extra protein is needed due to the fact that amino acid oxidation occurs, meaning a loss of amino acids, essential for protein synthesis. Obviously meat is a good source of protein, though not for vegetarians! Lentils, tofu, quinoa and peanut butter are great for the veggies among us. Don’t overdo your protein, there are 4kcal/1g of protein, and any excess will be stored as fat, undoing all your good work.
The takeaway message is to eat enough for your activity and weight - without eating too many delicious protein bars!
Written by Beth Damms and Rich Sumpter, physiologist and coach for Triaveyron
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