All Your Running Questions Answered, Part 3

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What should I eat before and after a run?

Nik Wendon-Daniels says: ‘One to two hours before the run eat starchy carbohydrates, such as toast and porridge with milk. These provide slow-release energy to keep you fuelled. Closer to the run have something containing fructose sugars, such as dried fruit, to make sure the energy stores in your muscles are fully charged. After the run eat light starchy foods that are easy to digest, such as rice and vegetables, plus some lean meat, which is a good source of protein.’

Will wearing supports ease joint pain?

James Moore says: ‘Supports increase proprioception [the brain’s awareness of what the body is doing], which means the muscles will protect the joint better. A support takes some of the stress off the joint, but correcting the underlying cause is better in the long run.’

Do I need to use energy gels and supplements?

Nik Wendon-Daniels says: ‘Gels and energy drinks can be useful if you’re exercising at high intensity for an hour or more because you need to replenish your glycogen stores. The electrolytes they contain improve muscle function, which benefits your performance.’

What’s the minimum amount of training I can get away with for a marathon?

Joe Mountain says: ‘If you’re a complete beginner, you can train for your first marathon in six months if you run a minimum of three times a week. Someone who has done a 10K race and maintained a good level of fitness since then can do it in 16 weeks, running a minimum of three times a week.’

How can I stay motivated during long runs?

Joe Mountain says: ‘Think about what happens when you don’t put the right amount of training in. The first time I ran a marathon, I didn’t do enough long runs, had an absolute nightmare and the last eight miles were the worst two hours of my life.’

Are there gadgets to make running more fun?

Joe Mountain says: ‘Nike+ [a sensor that fits into the sole of your shoe, with an attachment that slots into your iPod] is good because you can listen to music and measure your speed and distance. It lets you track your progress, which can be a big motivator. It’s probably not the most accurate bit of kit on the market but it's easy to use.’

If I buy lightweight racing shoes, should I train in them all the time?

Martin Exley says: ‘No. Racing shoes don’t offer the same support as standard running shoes. If you use racing shoes all the time you increase the risk of injuries, such as shin splints and calf strains. However, you should do at least two or three runs in them before race day, to get used to them.’

How can I conquer tricky terrain?

Rob Hope says: ‘If you’re running through mud and bogs, stay light on your feet by taking short, quick strides. Try to land with your feet underneath your body, which will make you less likely to sink. You also need to look ahead and pick the easiest path.’

Running gives me back pain. What am I doing wrong?

James Moore says: ‘Running-induced back pain is usually a sign of a restriction and weakness around your hip and pelvis. There are no exercises that are right for everyone because you need to look at the underlying cause, but a programme that increases shoulder, abdominal, hip, quad and hamstring strength should help.’

How can I improve my sprint finish?

Steve Cram says: ‘Oddly, it’s not about working on speed, it’s about improving endurance. It doesn’t matter how good a sprinter you are, if you’re shattered you won’t produce a sprint finish. To achieve a better time, you should aim to go at a good pace throughout a race rather than taking things slowly then doing a Tyson Gay sprint finish.’

How can I make treadmill running more interesting?

Steve Halsall says: ‘If you run on a treadmill three times a week, do one long run, one fast session and one interval session. In the interval session do 200, 400, 600, 800, 1,000-metre intervals, then descend back down the way you came. Don’t bother trying to run in the “fat-burning zone”. Most people would reach that zone by walking. Running at speed is much more effective.’

Can I run and do weights on the same day?

Steve Halsall says: ‘If you’re a beginner I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you’re a competent runner and you’re well rehearsed in the gym, there’s no problem. Do the run first because you’ll get an endorphin hit and be warmed up, plus it tends to focus the mind.’

If I run regularly, can I eat what I want?

Nik Wendon-Daniels says: ‘Running doesn’t give you an excuse to have a blow out. Fatty and sugary foods don’t contain the vitamins and minerals an active person needs. You can eat whatever you want from a healthy eating plan, including plenty of wholegrains, starchy carbs, fruit and vegetables. Just don’t go mental on portion size.’

Our running experts

Road running

Steve Cram is the former 1,500m world record holder. He won silver at the 1984 Olympics and gold at the 1983 World Championships. He now works as an athletics pundit for the BBC.

Trail running

Rob Hope is the reigning British fell running champion and has competed four times at the World Mountain Running Championships.

Coach Staff

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