01 Jul, 2012

Ask and Expert

Ask and Expert

I have heard so much about Backward Running, but I’m not even sure what it is and if it is fact or fiction? JOSHUA, MIDRAND


Backward Running has numerous benefits, which include burning one third more calories than forward running. It also develops better balance and stamina, works the quadriceps muscles more than forward running, improves flexibility and reduces the risk of injuries to the patello-femoral joint. Other benefits include improved leg speed and better performance, improved posture, as well as your enhanced senses. Also, you can still run while you are injured. It’s also stated that the volume of muscle active per unit of force applied to the ground is 10% greater when running backwards than forwards.


Normal forward running contracts your quadricep and hamstring muscles mainly concentrically (muscles shorten during the contraction for force-production phase of running) and eccentrically (muscles elongate for muscle recovery phase) at specific points in your stride. In contrast, backward running works your muscles concentrically in the recovery phase and mainly eccentrically in the force-production phase at opposite points of your strides. Eccentric contractions cause more muscle damage and need a longer time period for recovery, but increase the muscle mass and strength. The benefit of training eccentrically is that when you go back to the conventional forward running, your stability will be improved because of the muscles being trained in the opposite way.


A study at the University of Stellenbosch showed that backward running actually improves your cardiovascular fitness. Backward runners were found to have significantly decreased their oxygen consumption, therefore improving aerobically and losing 2.5% body fat.


However, be warned, there are also some dangers involved in backward running, the most obvious being that you can’t see anything in your path. Turning your head around will reduce the chances of falling or losing your balance, but could lead to running much slower as well as risk neck strains. But taking all things into consideration, my final verdict is that it is more fact than fiction!


Modern Athlete Expert



70.3 is done. What now?

I’ve just completed my very first Half Ironman 70.3. It was such a great event, but what now? Do I keep on training, and if so, what should I focus on? And when is it advisable to make the transition to full Ironman? – JESSICA, ESTCOURT



Congratulations on finishing a very tough event! If you are new to triathlon, then I would certainly wait until next year before tackling the full Ironman. It can and has been done, but is not advisable. Rather become a more accomplished triathlete at the shorter distances before moving up. The triathlon calendar for the next few months includes a number of Standard Olympic as well as Half Ironman distance events. Go to for details of upcoming events.


I would resume training after about a week to 10 days of rest or easy training, and aim to do a standard triathlon in February and perhaps then a Half Ironman race in March. I am not sure what training you did for 70.3, but my suggestions would be to do six to nine sessions per week (two to three of each sport):

?         Run: One long run, one medium run and one faster run.

?         Bike: One long ride, one tempo/time trial session and one easy spin.

?         Swim: One or two pool sessions, plus an open water swim.

?         Don’t forget to include a ‘brick’ bike/run session every 10 to 14 days!

?         Lastly, have fun!


Modern Athlete Expert