Ask an Expert


Tae Bo Cross-Training

I would like to run my first Comrades next year. I have done a 5km, a 10km and a 21km race before, but running is not part of my daily training routine. My daily training includes Tae Bo, which I practise for an hour. I have decided to start running on Saturdays and Sundays. Is this enough training for me to be able to complete Comrades in ten hours or less? – CATHERINE AKURUT

By its very nature, running is highly repetitive and the loading that is placed on your body makes injuries commonplace amongst runners. Although the injuries that result are seldom serious, they can hinder your training and ultimately prevent you from achieving your goal.

Each runner is unique in how they cope with the stress of running and what will cause them to reach their breaking point. It will take several years of experimenting with different programmes to establish what type of training will be most successful for you.

For this reason, it is best for a novice runner to initially follow a conservative programme. This should entail starting with as little as ten minutes of running on alternate days, at a comfortable pace that allows you to talk. Once you are able to run 60 minutes on alternate days, a longer run should be included once a week. This run can be increased by approximately 10% per week. The more gradual the build up, the more the body learns to cope and the less likely it is that injuries will occur.

The injuries that result from running are generally due to poor training methods, biomechanical problems and muscle imbalances. Some runners are also genetically predisposed to injuries.
Most training injuries occur due to too much mileage and/or due to increasing the long runs too quickly. Less often, injuries occur due to too little mileage and inconsistent running resulting in your body not being sufficiently prepared for the longer runs. It is advisable as a novice to concentrate on mileage without the addition of high-intensity sessions, namely speed work and hill training. This type of session increases the risk of injury.

So, even if you are one of those talented and genetically-gifted athletes, the chances of a successful, injury free and enjoyable build up to Comrades on two short runs a week is highly unlikely. Your regular Tae Bo training will undoubtedly keep you fit, flexible and strengthen your musculoskeletal system thereby complementing your Comrades training, but is insufficient to train your body to adapt to the strain of continuous running.

Modern Athlete Expert
Toni Hesp
Physiotherapist in Edenvale, Johannesburg. Has finished 20 Comrades, three Ironmans and two New York Marathons, plus various cycling and canoeing events.


Acupuncture or Dry Needling?

I have a friend who has been treated with dry needling for back spasms. She says her spasms were relieved almost immediately. I am also suffering from spasms and have been treated previously with acupuncture. What is the difference between acupuncture and dry needling? – ALET BEYERS

Acupuncture and dry needling are forms of natural therapy, which use very fine and thin needles known as acupuncture needles.
The philosophy of acupuncture is to balance the opposing forces of Yin and Yang and the flow of Qi energy which flows through our bodies. If there is a blockage of Qi energy, it leads to pain or disease. In acupuncture, a variable number of needles are inserted 2-4mm on the surface of the skin. The needles are inserted into specific acupuncture points, which are located on an imaginary map of the body, known
as meridians. Acupuncture will restore the balance of Qi energy producing an effect locally in the area or elsewhere in the body. Acupuncture can stimulate organ function, relieve areas of pain or assist in the treatment of symptoms of disease.
Dry needling is usually used when pain originates from sore and tight muscles, which may also be in spasm. However, normally only one needle is used at a time and it is inserted about 1-2cm beneath the surface of the skin, directly into the muscle. The needle is inserted into the sensitive and tender spot located deep in the muscle. The muscle may ‘twitch’, as the needle promotes blood to flow into the area where it has been inserted. After a few minutes the muscle begins to relax and alleviates the symptoms of pain and spasm.

Modern Athlete Expert
Dr Charmaine Young
Chiropractor in Bedfordview. Has treated a number of sports-related injuries. Loves sport and gets her training done by spending some quality time in the gym where she mixes running on the treadmill with weight training.


A Heel Lot of Pain

For the past year to 18 months I have had problems with both my feet. Some days I get out bed and don’t feel any pain; other days I walk around like a cripple. The pain is at the back and base of my heels. Please help! – STEVEN LEVETT, BOTHASIG

This sounds suspiciously like a chronic case of plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a broad, thick band of tissue that runs from under the heel to the front of the foot. Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition caused by overuse of the plantar fascia or arch tendon of the foot. This occurs as a compensation for a biomechanical imbalance, usually in the lumbar-pelvic region.

I recommend you see a physiotherapist who can assess and treat any imbalance that is lurking in your lower back and pelvic region. This would be treating the cause of your plantar fasciitis.

You also need to address the concurrent calf ‘tightness’ that is always associated with plantar fasciitis. Although I recommend a comprehensive stretching programme for all athletes, when suffering with a chronic plantar fasciitis I suggest something a little different. The anterior shin muscles (tibialis anterior) are an often forgotten and under-exercised group of muscles. By strengthening your anterior shin muscles you will release your calves via a neurological bio-feedback system called reciprocal inhibition. The easiest way to do this is to spend some time each day walking on your heels with your forefoot off the ground.

The final trick is a good-quality magnesium supplement. Every muscle in the body is related, via your acupuncture meridian system, to an organ or gland in the body. Your calf muscles and muscles of the arch of your foot are related to your adrenal (stress) glands. Taking a high dosage of a good-quality magnesium supplement really helps in the treatment of plantar fasciitis.

Modern Athlete Expert
Adrian Stevens
Has been in practice for 15 years and integrates complementary medicine such as acupuncture, kinesiology and body alignment with his treatments. Also developed his Integration Technique, which is aimed at achieving a structural, biochemical, psychological, energetic balance and overall optimal health.