Kalmer’s Corner — Trials and Tribulations of the T-Shirt

I know Comrades is already long gone, but this month I want to write about something I spotted when I was in Durban to support my Murray & Roberts teammates and the other runners. Two days prior to the Comrades, I did my two-hour long run on the famous beach promenade, and what kept me entertained throughout my run was spotting all the different race T-shirts from races all over the world, and from at least the past three decades. That got me thinking…

By Modern Athlete Brand Ambassador René Kalmer

I know Comrades is already long gone, but this month I want to write about something I spotted when I was in Durban to support my Murray & Roberts teammates and the other runners. Two days prior to the Comrades, I did my two-hour long run on the famous beach promenade, and what kept me entertained throughout my run was spotting all the different race T-shirts from races all over the world, and from at least the past three decades. That got me thinking…

We all have that one friend that is still wearing his Comrades T-shirt from the 90s. It has lost its colour, it’s grey, faded, torn, tired… (Yes, I am talking about the T-shirt, not the friend.) But wearing this shirt makes your friend feel bulletproof. He/she worked so hard to earn that shirt, and still wears it with pride!

What you will never know, though, is whether it was his first Comrades, or perhaps his last Comrades? Did he have a good run on the day, or did he crawl in just before cut-off. The fact of the matter is that however his race went, that shirt has sentimental value to him, and that’s why he is still wearing it.

Getting Shirty

Over the years race shirts have also evolved massively, going from classic, largely white cotton shirts, to featuring brighter colours, catchy slogans, with slim-fit, easy-dry, moisture-wicking materials, etc. Some races even give long sleeve shirts, whilst others have the route profile or distance on them, which you can use to brag a bit afterwards. But what is the etiquette when it comes to wearing race T-shirts? I suppose everyone has their own sentiments regarding this, but let us touch on a few.

  1. For how many years after the race should you be allowed to still wear the T-shirt?

My feeling is that as long as it makes you feel special, you can walk the walk (and talk the talk) wearing it. Sure, some people will ask questions, or look a bit surprised at the date, while your partner might feel that it is more fitting to wear it as a sleeping shirt than at races, but go ahead… You went there and got the T-shirt!

  1. Should you run the race in the race T-shirt?

They say you shouldn’t try anything new on race day, but if the shirt fits, go for it! I have very fond memories of the SPAR Women’s races, where literally thousands of runners rock up in their race shirts to paint the town pink, red or orange, depending on the year’s shirt colour.

  1. What should you do with race T-shirts?

Do you train in them? Do you sleep in them? Do you wear them to your club’s social functions or prize giving? Do you hang them in your bar? Or do you just keep them in the bottom drawer of your cupboard to take a trip down memory lane every now and again? My sister, Christine, surprised me a few years ago with a unique quilt she made me using all my special race T-shirts. (Still not sure how I feel about the fact that she cut up most of my race shirts, but it is a treasured gift…)

  1. Should I wear the shirt if I didn’t start the race?

This is probably one of the most difficult questions to answer. Perhaps you did all the preparation and entered, but due to unforeseen circumstances couldn’t run the race. Do you ‘earn’ the right to wear the shirt only if you actually run the race? I will leave this one open for debate…

  1. Should I wear the shirt if I didn’t finish the race?

It could be that a non-finisher is wearing the shirt to motivate himself in order to finish it next time. Also, keep in mind that wearing the shirt often leads to people asking you how the race went, and needing to tell them that you didn’t finish might just be that extra motivation to push harder next time. And let’s be honest, it’s not as if you stole a medal on the finish line…

  1. Are you allowed to wear someone else’s race shirt?

Again the same question pops up… Do you need to ‘earn’ the right to wear it?

  1. Which T-shirts do you keep, and which ones do you throw out eventually?

Some prefer to only keep the ‘impressive ones,’ like Comrades, Two Oceans, marathons and international races. Others keep the shirts from the first time they ran a distance, such as their first 10km. Over the years I have kept a lot of my race T-shirts, all for different reasons. Although I might not wear them anymore, they all have a special place in my heart. Or my quilt!

René Kalmer is a two-time Olympian, having represented SA in the 1500m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and in the marathon at the 2012 London Games. She has also won more than 40 SA titles in track, road and cross country at youth, junior and senior level, in distances from 800m to the half marathon.

 

PJ’s piece — Share Your Truth

Running is easy for PJ Moses, talking not so much. He’s had trouble speaking since he was four years old, and stuttering has been a tough thing for someone like him, who often has a lot to say…

When I was young and I found it difficult to communicate, I would resort to violence, and the harder it became to speak the easier it became to be violent. I wasn’t an angry child, but I was quick to anger. I feared speaking in public because of the ridicule that would always accompany it. The fear, the anger and the frustration all led me down the wrong path to a dark world. My choices were poor, and in the end I found myself part of a world with very little hope of getting out the other side.

But being alive is hope in and of itself, and every day that I was still around meant that I had the opportunity to try and change the course my ship was heading on. I wrote because I loved it, and I ran because it kept me sane. This combination gave me the power to break free of my past and fight, in the right way, for a better future.

Telling My Story

Through writing on social media, I could finally let my ‘voice’ be heard. I chose to become the voice for those who didn’t have one, the voice in the darkness that can help lead someone who needs help and guidance to the light. Soon, people caught wind of my story. They were amazed by the part running played in it, and now they wanted me to tell my story. I was asked to do motivational talks, but my reply was that I couldn’t speak properly, and therefore I couldn’t do it.

It was the fear talking and holding me back, the same fear that made me get lost in the dark all those years ago. It was now back, to trip me up and drag me down to the depths again. I once referred to the frustration of stuttering as a feeling of being stuck in a cave and shouting for help, but the sound just keeps echoing back to you and nobody else can hear it. And this feeling of helpless frustration is what I wanted to avoid at all costs. However, through the belief of my circle of friends, and the desire to share my journey as a motivation for others out there, I decided to give this talking thing a go.

I started with a talk to 10 people, then a larger group followed, and then a video clip followed that. Soon schools started asking me to come and talk to their learners, and even though I still had the fear, I now also had the courage that came with taking on races that nobody who knew the old me would have thought that I could do. Running ultra distances on tar and on the trails, standing on the peaks of the most majestic mountains, and claiming the odd podium place here and there, has made me more courageous. It made me the brave man I always thought I could be.

Live On Air

Then somebody said they wanted me to do a live radio interview. I almost choked on my GU, because the fear was immediately back. How could I do something like that? The people listening would laugh at me and complain to the radio station. I would be a laughing stock. But what if I could inspire just one person? What if sharing my truth helped somebody else to change their narrative? Was it not worth the effort just for that slim chance? Of course it was, and I had come so far that I couldn’t stop now – I had to take the chance, no matter the fear.

The interview was hard. I was sweating like a pig, with a mouth as dry as the Khalahari, but I pushed through, because I focused on just telling my story and sharing my experiences. The host was fantastic and the whole experience was a beautiful one… I felt like Caeser after he crossed the Rubicon! There was no going back now, and every step from here will be a victory. So my message to you is that you should never let fear hold you back. Share your truth, because there is always somebody out there who needs to hear it.

PJ is a former Cape Flats gangster who took up running, and writing about it, when he turned his back on that dangerous lifestyle in order to set a better example for his two sons. Today he is an accomplished runner, from short distances to ultra-marathons, recently began working in running retail, and his exceptional writing talent has opened still more doors in his new life.

Sport Man Says – What’s the Dope?

How often have we said, “Wow, what an unbelievable performance!” after an athlete puts in a jaw-dropping performance? The problem is, can we trust that performance? Unfortunately, history points to the need for healthy scepticism, and it is the role of the media to ask these questions.

In 2009, Usain Bolt streaked away from the opposition in both the 100m and 200m to set world records that look unlikely to be broken in many a year, if one looks at the current crop of sprinters. In the marathon, Eliud Kipchoge has set the bar so high with his win in the Berlin Marathon in 2018, that he is being called a freak of nature. Meanwhile, Paula Radcliffe has owned the women’s world record in the marathon since 2003 – only Mary Keitany and Ruth Chepngetich have even come within two minutes of her time, and only as recently as 2017 and 2019 respectively.

Looking outside of running, Lance Armstrong won seven Tour De France titles on the trot, repeatedly destroying the other riders going up the infamous Alp du Huez climb. Who can forget the day he looked into the eyes of his then biggest rival, Jan Ulrich, and dropped the German as if he was a child just learning to ride a bike. And in swimming, we saw Michael Phelps win 28 gold medals in four Olympic Games, eight of which came in 2008.

Freaks or Cheats?

At the time, all of these feats, and many others, left us awestruck, and many still do… even the tainted results of Lance. They stand out because they are so far ahead of the rest. But it begs the question: Are these athletes just freaks of nature, and should we simply accept that these (and others) are legitimate performances? No, absolutely not, because the media’s responsibility is to ask the hard questions, however unpopular they may be.

Whilst Armstrong was completely dominating the Tour, few questioned his performances. Many thought he had too much to lose by doping, especially considering his foundation, and his credibility surrounding his fight against cancer. Yet, if it wasn’t for the tenacity of journalist David Walsh, Lance may have gotten away with the greatest con in sporting history. David was even ostracised by his fellow journo’s, as they feared that just being associated with him could lead to them being denied access to the greatest cyclist the world had ever seen. But it was David’s bulldogged attitude that saw to the fall of Lance.

My point? Quite simply that every outrageous or far-out performance should be queried. For example, at the moment the 2019 performances of Namibian Helalia Johannes, the 2018 Commonwealth Games marathon champion, are being questioned in many circles. In 2019, at the age of 39, she has unexpectedly improved her marathon PB by nearly four minutes in Japan, set a new half marathon PB in the Two Oceans Half, and recorded three 10km PBs on the way to winning five out of five Spar Women’s Challenge races. This has also seen her set five new Namibian national records, from 10km to the marathon. Some have questioned her performances, and have suffered a barrage of abuse for raising those questions.

It is the very nature of these outlying performances, though, that is raising the questions. And there is a very simple way to answer those questions, whether we are talking about Helalia, Paula, Eluid or any other athlete: Vigorous drug testing, and complete openness about the process. For example, Two Oceans and Comrades champ Gerda Steyn, as well as other athletes, are very open about when the anti-doping officials come knocking on their doors. They take to social media to say something to the effect of, “Wada woke me up at 6am this morning to test me, all in the name of clean sport.” This welcoming of the testers and putting it out there goes a long way to boosting your reputation as an athlete.

Freaks or Cheats?

Usain Bolt’s performances were beyond parallel, and his charisma brought back some much-needed excitement and panache to the sport. However, take a glance at the 10 best athletes behind him in the 100m, who like him have all clocked 9.80 seconds or faster, and you’ll see they have all either tested positive for performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), or at the very least have been associated with PEDs during their careers.

Then there is this comment by former Olympic champion sprinter Carl Lewis: “When people ask me about Bolt, I say he could be the greatest athlete of all time… but for someone to run 10.03 one year and 9.69 the next, if you don’t question that in a sport that has the reputation it has right now, you’re a fool. Period.” Now you can take comments made by Carl Lewis with a pinch of salt, because there is just as much speculation around his own performances that he is probably not the person you would want to quote in this regard, but the point is well made. Bolt did improve from a 10.03 to a 9.69 within a year. That is a monumental leap!

There have been no public links to PEDs with Bolt, but the question has been asked many times: How can someone who is not in any way associated with doping beat every single athlete who has been doping at one time or another, and that by the proverbial country mile? The exact same question was asked of Lance Armstrong many times, given that most of the riders he was consistently beating had been caught for doping at one time or another.

Similarly, there are many who question Eliud’s record, including highly respected sports scientists and sport journalists. He has run 12 marathons, winning 11 of them and setting the World Record in Berlin in 2018, and the only time he was beaten, it took a World Record performance to defeat him. He also came very close to breaking two hours for the marathon distance in 2017, clocking 2:00:25 in the Nike Sub-2 Project, and will be attempting to do so again in October. If Eliud breaks two hours, and I do believe he can, then people will be asking still more questions.

Where There’s Smoke…

Now for a very important disclaimer: I am in no way, shape, fashion or form saying that any of the above-mentioned athletes are guilty of using PEDs. Let’s be very clear about that. They are all innocent until proven guilty! However, the saying that where there is smoke, there is fire, also applies here.

When Lance literally came back from his deathbed to go on to win seven consecutive Tour titles, the world was agog. He raked in sponsorships worth hundreds of millions of Dollars, he was feted all over the world, and became an icon and inspiration to people the world over. And then the bubble burst, primarily due to the tenaciousness of David Walsh. Had the British Journalist not stuck to his guns and faced down lawsuit after lawsuit, the Lance Armstrong myth would have lived on.

More recently, the 2012 London Olympics have been exposed as the dirtiest Games ever, after loudly proclaiming that they were the cleanest. Athens in 2004 had 41 positives, Beijing in 2008 had 86, whereas London returned a total of just nine positives within the first three months after the curtain had come down. However, after retesting of stored samples of athletes who won medals in 2012, that figure has now rocketed to 87 in track and field alone, and a total of 132 throughout the different sporting codes. As a result, the women’s 1500m has been dubbed the dirtiest race in history, as six of the top nine finishers have now been associated with doping, either in that event, or during their careers.

This is why every anomaly or standout performance has to be questioned, because unfortunately, nothing can just be taken at face value anymore. Sadly, that means we are going to have to accept that some athletes we supported, admired, even adored, may someday be exposed as cheats. (The current anti-doping laws allow for samples to be kept in storage up to eight years, and to be repeatedly tested as science evolves. From 2020, this law will be extended to a 10-year period.)

However, we need to be clear about this: Superhuman feats do not automatically equate to cheating and the use of PEDS. There are genuine athletic ‘freaks’ out there, who will continue to leave us awestruck with their performances. Let’s celebrate them, but let’s not be blind to the fact that all is not always as it seems, and thus let’s be sure to ask the right questions.

About the Author

Manfred Seidler is a freelance Olympic sport journalist who has been in the industry since 1994, in both print media and broadcasting, covering four Olympic Games for SAC radio, and producing various athletics shows for the SABC. Follow him on Twitter: @sportmansa; Facebook: Sport Man SA; Instagram: sportman_sa

 

Walk This Way — Frequent Flyer

Of all the books in the world, the best stories are held in the pages of a passport. Having visited 17 countries so far in her race walking career, race walker Anel Oosthuizen has been blessed to see and experience quite a few of the amazing sites and cultures of our world.

Travelling is one of my favourite things to do, and although I prefer doing it by going on holiday with the people in my life that I love, all of my overseas travelling was thanks to sport. Every single one of those 17 countries I visited was because of race walking, so I think you will understand why I speak about my gratitude for my walking talent, because it has taken me all over the world to experience things that I would probably never have experienced otherwise.

Preferred Destinations

Now we all know that sitting on a plane for 18 hours is by no means all glitz and glamour, and recovering from (or worse, training with) jetlag even less so, but I have made so many incredible memories on my travels that will stay with me for my lifetime! I’d like to share a few of my favourites destinations with you, because each one of these places has special memories for me, and has been part of making me the athlete I am today.

Eugene, Oregon, USA: My first Junior World Champs and the first country visited outside of Africa. I was really young and inexperienced, and I still remember how nervous I was when we got there… and jetlagged! Seeing so many elite athletes on a world class track blew my mind completely, and it was then that I realised that hard work can really get you places. That was also when I decided to fully commit to qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Rome, Italy: It was the last race I competed in before the 2016 Olympics in Rio, probably the most jet-lagged I have ever been, but the best experience of a new country, as I had family members flying over from London to come and support me. Having that kind of support at a race is unforgettable, especially when you are in an environment that you don’t know.

Taipei, Taiwan: I went there, with one of my best friends, to compete at my first World Student Games. It was such a different experience to what I am used to, as I got some time to actually explore the city and use their public transport, etc. I also had probably one of my hottest races ever, with the temperature clocking in at a boiling 41 degrees Celsius at around 8 o’clock in the morning! (In Rio it reached 44 degrees.) That is when you come back to your own country and really appreciate our more bearable, ‘cooler’ summers!

Banska Bystrica, Slovakia: This country feels like a second home to me now, as it has been my base for preparation in the European season for the last two years. Both times I made it my home for a month at a time, and learnt so much about their food and culture. It has also been the place where I have gotten mentally stronger, thanks to training with 50km World Champ and Olympic Champion Matej Toth and his training group. Having them as a support group after travelling there alone has been one of the things I have appreciated most while training there.

Lugano, Switzerland: This is the most beautiful race I have ever done. The 2km loop for the 20km is located on the banks of Lake Lugano, which is absolutely breathtaking, and the city is like something I have only seen in movies. Being a more expensive country to visit, I enjoyed seeing the difference and contrast between the places I have been to.

Podebrady, Czech Republic: My favourite memory of a race thus far, twice taking part in the European Championships 20km. This is where I set my SA Record, and then broke it again by a millisecond, and this was also where I walked my Olympic qualifier for Rio 2016.

Life Lessons

In visiting these countries, I’ve learnt a few things that have been useful throughout my travels and walking career.

  • You cannot always control your race circumstances, so learn to adapt to local conditions.
  • Jet lag is often unavoidable when you’re travelling long distances, so plan for it, and rest, rest, rest!
  • Different countries, different foods, different eating habits – try and stick to your usual diet as far as possible, especially before your race, and preferably keep the tasting and experimenting for later!
  • Lastly, and most importantly, seize the moment and enjoy your experience. You may only get to visit that place once in your lifetime, so try to take in as much as you can!

About the Author: Race Walker Anel Oosthuizen is a multiple SA Champion and Record Holder, and represented SA in the women’s 20km at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

 

Talking track

Walk This Way – By Anel Oosthuizen

As a young girl watching athletics, I always admired how some athletes could run around a track non-stop and not seem to get tired. When I started race walking, doing just the 1500m, it felt like the longest three laps of my life, never even imagining that one day I would want to attempt a 50-lapper 20km! If I look back now, I realise how one’s mindset and perception of things plays such a big role in achieving your goals.

I started my athletics career when I was still in school and grew up doing a lot of track racing and learning about race walking through track. For me it has always felt a bit more nerve-wracking racing on the track, as it feels like I am surrounded by judges on every corner. (Which you actually are, because there are normally four judges on a 400m track, together with a main judge.)

As I always tell new race walking athletes that have just moved up to a new distance, the track should not be seen as your enemy, nor should you look at your distance as a large, frightening number of laps. What really works for me is taking it one lap at a time, concentrating on my time per lap and always trying to improve on the previous one. It goes by so quickly, and before you know it you will get that golden sound of the final lap bell ringing in your ears. The most crucial thing is to concentrate on something completely different than the amount of times that you have to walk around the same loop.

Lastly, it always feels like I have to concentrate more on technique when I am racing on the track, as you go around bends much more and also may be passing or lapping slower athletes, so concentrating on the perfection of locking your knee properly with every step is of utmost importance. How you walk around the track can either let you finish without any problems, or it can get you ‘into trouble’ with the judges and result in you standing in the pit lane watching as your fellow walkers are passing by. My motto is simply to keep your feet on the ground at all times. Literally and figuratively!

About the Author: Race Walker Anel Oosthuizen is a multiple SA Champion and Record Holder, who represented SA at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

IMAGE: Courtesy Anel Oosthuizen

Girl Power

Kalmer’s Corner – By Modern Athlete Brand Ambassador René Kalmer

I had the privilege of celebrating Women’s Month by spending it in fine style with more than a dozen special women in my life!

Running, racing and appreciating this beautiful month with fellow females all over South Africa makes August a beautiful month. I also appreciate the fact that I’m able to travel the country again to take part in races, spending quality ‘sister-time’ with Christine, and enjoying a full night’s sleep (without my daughter Karli), where not even race day nerves can wake me up at night!

My journey back to full fitness over the past year after the injury and my pregnancy, has been quite a rollercoaster ride, filled with many ups and downs and a lot of mixed emotions. What I have learnt over the past year is to really appreciate my health and mobility, and not to compare myself to the younger, fitter and faster René I used to be. I have also learnt to enjoy the small victories along this new journey of running while being a working mom, and that includes being selected to represent Central Gauteng at the SA 21km Champs in PE in July. I can’t even remember when last I wore the red and black CGA vest, but I was very proud and excited to represent my province again.

Friendly Rivalry
After a running career of more than two decades, I have also come to realise that running is actually not an individual sport. In the past, I would never have discussed my race goal and strategy with a fellow competitor, but that has recently changed, as I have experienced the value of working together as a team to achieve individual goals. For example, on the start line in PE I told my KPMG teammate Stella Marais (running for Gauteng North) what my goal was and we decided to work together. Then 1km into the race we caught up with Anel Terblanche, another KPMG teammate who was running for Western Province and told her what our goal was. It was similar to her goal, so she too joined the pack.

Stride for stride we ran together, handing each other water sachets at the water tables and chasing down the girls in front of us. At the end, Stella sneaked into the top 10, I finished 11th and Anel 12th. It was celebrations all round on the finish line, with Stella and Anel crushing their PB’s by more than two minutes. I was also impressed with my sub-80min, which was my best 21km time in more than two years. The KPMG team was also over the moon with Christine’s great podium finish, as she claimed third place in 1:15:34.

Girls’ Day Out
Next stop was the fourth leg of the Spar Grand Prix series in Pretoria, always a highlight on the running calendar. This time around I arranged with 20 girls from the Vorentoe High School to join me for the race in Centurion, and what a festive experience it was! Andre was the bus driver for a big group of the girls and it was great seeing the girls playing DJ and jamming to their favourite tunes while travelling to the race. Meanwhile, in my car I had to answer questions on life, love and even some more difficult questions on boyfriends, future husbands and parenthood. It made me realise the innocence of their youth, but it was great to listen to the girls’ stories.

In the race, I finished 20th in a time of 38 minutes and was very happy to be back in the top 20. What made the day more special, however, was the time spent at the stadium with the Vorentoe girls after the race. They really had a great time dancing to Denim, sliding down the grass embankments on cardboard boxes, and generally just having a ball. The balloons were also a big hit and we had to take LOTS of them back to Johannesburg to decorate their rooms back at the school.

We finished the day with a McDonalds burger, Coke and Ice-cream – the way Women’s Month should be celebrated – and both the girls and I are already looking forward to the final Spar Women’s Race at Marks Park in Johannesburg in October! I am thankful once again for Spar, for inspiring and supporting women in general by getting thousands of women, young and old, to do some exercise while spending time with precious friends. #GirlPower

IMAGES: Courtesy Rene Kalmer

Weighty Matter

The emergence of cross training as complimentary exercise to enhance running performance has allowed runners to experiment with various other forms of training. Weight training is a popular choice, but how does it affect your running performance? – BY ERNEST HOBBES

Firstly, type I slow twitch fibres contain many mitochondria, which act as power stations within the muscle cell, providing it with energy. These fibres fatigue slowly, and have a greater dependence on energy production using oxygen and carbohydrates. On the other hand, type II fast twitch fibres contain a limited number of mitochondria and lower energy production, while fatiguing faster. Essentially, type II fibres work best to produce large forces for short durations, while type I fibres are better suited to produce lower force over long durations.

Secondly, mobiliser muscles are responsible for creating movement by applying a greater amount of force and work through a greater range of motion, while stabiliser muscles are responsible for maintaining balance and posture, producing lower forces and acting through a smaller range of movement, providing a better platform for mobilisers to act from. In many ways, this relationship works similar to that of a construction crane: If the crane is anchored to the ground it is able to lift larger weights to greater heights, but if not well anchored, greater weights and heights risk the entire system collapsing. Similarly, if the stabilisers around a joint do not function optimally, the body will restrict force production or range of motion in order to minimise risk of injury.

Now, weight training is aimed at developing type II fibres in mobilisers, enhancing the ability to produce more power through a large range of motion. While high force production and a large range of motion are desirable in practically any scenario and sport, does the extra time and effort of weight training improve running performance?

Several studies have looked at the effect of weight training on endurance sport, specifically running and cycling. Ideally, the athletes were expected to perform at higher speeds while experiencing the same level of effort, or at the same speed but experiencing less effort in doing so, thus demonstrating greater exercise efficiency. The results found no significant change in running or cycling efficiency, leading researchers to conclude that heavy weight training (large weights at low speeds) as well as explosive or plyometric training (low- or body weight only at very high speeds) showed very little to no benefit for endurance runners and cyclists.

At the end of the day, if you would like to improve your running performance, perhaps it is best to put those dumbbells down and focus on improving your efficiency. If you are happy with your running performance, but desire greater strength or muscle size, there are various workout protocols to choose from.

Take home points
• Weight training may bring about hypertrophy (muscle growth) and result in weight gain, which may affect your running performance.
• Weight training is associated with increased muscle stiffness and reduction in muscle length, so stretching may become more important to maintain flexibility.
• Any form of exercise requires sound technique. To get the most out of weight training, it is advisable to speak to a knowledgeable expert.

IMAGE: Fotolia

Running Almost Broke Me

Comrades has always been the race I had to do, the one I have been working towards for years, and this year my dream came true, I became a Comrades finisher! However, in the glory following my finish, I realised how much my dream had cost me. As a passionate runner, I realised that my body could only take me so far, and that I needed some help from vitamins to get myself back on the road. – BY Thulie Dubazana

I am no stranger to long distance running, I have completed marathons aplenty, I know what it means to push your body to finish, and I knew that with Comrades I would need to push harder than I ever had before. I did just that, I pushed and pushed, with that medal waiting for me at the finish line my driving force to keep me going.

What I didn’t expect was how I would feel afterwards. In the weeks after the gruelling 90km ultra, I could feel the toll it had taken on my body and knew that I needed to rest. Running had become too much, it was too hard, so I decided that I needed to take a break. What I didn’t know at the time was how long that break would be! We are now four months past Comrades and I am still not running – I just don’t have the energy.

Something I love had taken a lot from me, and I realised that to recover properly I would need help, because just getting through a work day was taking everything from me. I was battling to concentrate, and by the time 5pm came there was nothing left. I spoke to my colleague at work, about how I was feeling and how I was struggling, and she suggested adding Vitamin B to my diet, to help with my energy, and Magnesium to help with my sleep at night.

With nothing to lose, I decided to try it, so I started with a Vitamin B tablet in the mornings and Magnesium at night. After just one day of taking both tablets I could immediately feel the difference – I suddenly felt energised, and my mind and body could cope with what the day required of me. It was so immediate that I thought, surely it couldn’t work so quickly, but I kept taking the supplements and every day I felt better and better. The months of fatigue were lifting, and it was like I could see through the cloud for the first time in a long time!

The magnesium relaxed me before going to sleep, and I woke up fresh and ready for the day. Even my joints felt better, and for the first time since Comrades I felt like I could run again!

I never thought vitamins were important, but in just two weeks of taking two pills a day I have experienced such a big difference that I am now telling everyone how important it is to help your body, and to give it what it needs so that you can push and break your limits. I love running, and now I know I am going to improve and get stronger, because my body has the support it needs!

Are you feeling fatigued, with no energy, do you think you would, like Thulie, benefit from adding more Vitamin B to your diet? Why not take our survey to find out if you should be adding more Vitamin B to your diet. Just click on the link below:

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Feet of Flames

When you take those first few step in the morning, or after sitting for a while, and the bottoms of your feet hurt like crazy with a burning pain, chances are you have plantar fasciitis, a common overuse running injury, but the good news is that a bit of rest should be enough to get you up and running again. – BY SEAN FALCONER

Knee pain, shin splints and Achilles pain seem to get all the ‘fame and glory’ when it comes to running injuries, whereas the bottom of the foot literally stays out of the limelight. Until you get plantar fasciitis, that is. Then every step just walking can be painful, let alone actually running. If you’re lucky, the pain will go away or get less after a few steps, but your foot may hurt still more as the day goes on, especially when you go up stairs or just stand for a long time.

The plantar fascia is the thick, fibrous band of tissue (fascia) that reaches from the heel to the toes, supporting the muscles and arch of the foot. When this fascia is overly stretched, tiny tears can occur in its surface, causing inflammation and pain when you stand or walk. This is known as Plantar fasciitis, and can happen in one foot or both. It is common in middle-aged people, but can also occur in younger people who are on their feet a lot, like athletes, especially if:

  • Your feet roll inward too much (overpronate) when you run.
  • You have high arches or flat feet.
  • You walk, stand, or run for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces.
  • You are overweight.
  • You wear shoes that don’t fit well or are worn out.
  • You have tight Achilles tendons or calf muscles.


DOCTORS’ ORDERS
When you go for a check-up, your doctor will check your feet and watch you stand and walk, and may take an X-ray if he suspects a problem with the bones of your foot, such as a stress fracture. Once diagnosed as plantar fasciitis, there is no single treatment that works best for everyone, but there are several things you can try:

  • Give your feet a rest: Cut back on activities that make your foot hurt, and try not to walk or run on hard surfaces.
  • Ice your heel: This will reduce the pain and swelling. Alternatively, take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or aspirin.
  • Stretch the fascia: Do toe stretches, calf stretches and towel stretches several times a day, especially when you wake up. (For towel stretches, pull on both ends of a rolled towel that you place under the balls of your feet.)
  • Replace your shoes: Pick shoes with good arch support and a cushioned sole, or try heel cups or shoe inserts (orthotics).


If these treatments do not help, your doctor may give you a splint to wear at night, shots of steroid medicine in your heel, or other treatments. You will likely not need surgery, which is only recommended for people who still have pain after trying other treatments for six to 12 months. Instead, good old rest is your best bet to get over the problem.

IMAGE: Shutterstock

The Good Squeeze

Athletes who recover better are more likely to train harder and improve performance, and thus in recent years, various forms of compression treatments to aid in recovery have gained popularity, the most commonly used being compression garments. – BY ERNEST HOBBS

Breaking it down to essential basics, training results in damage to and inflammation of muscles, temporarily reducing their ability to generate force and increasing risk of injury. Compression garments contain a firm elastic component, which compresses body tissues through pressure applied to the skin and muscles. This compression is designed to reduce the space available for swelling to occur, or an oedema to form, as a result of the exercise-induced muscle damage. By limiting the fluid within the area, compression garments limit the cells from experiencing further damage. Additionally, improved lymphatic drainage allows metabolites and damage proteins to be removed at a faster rate, and enhanced blood circulation may allow faster cell regeneration and protein synthesis.

Research has shown that compression garments do assist with recovery after intense exercise, though they do not reduce the exercise-induced muscle damage incurred during exercise. Furthermore, short-term use (up to 2 hours) is unlikely to yield any benefit, whereas medium use (8-24 hours) and long-term use (more than 24 hours) has been found to reduce feelings of fatigue and the time taken to for muscles to generate maximum force. These beneficial effects have been noted to last beyond 72 hours of use, though generally the best results were achieved in the first 24-36 hours.

It should be noted that the potential benefits are proportional to the amount of damage suffered, and while running does cause some muscular damage, resistance and plyometric training is associated with far greater damage, and thus benefit more from the use of compression garments. Additionally, even though compression garments do assist with the recovery process, it may not be the most worthwhile use of time as studies have found that other forms of recovery (massage, cold water immersion, active rest, etc.) may provide superior results. Furthermore, Inconsistencies in the measurement of the pressure applied and the variability of human anatomy makes it difficult to identify and standardise an ideal pressure for recovery.

5 take home points

  • Recovery needed after training is highly specific to the intensity, duration and mode of exercise.
  • Compression garments seem to benefit both well-trained and novice athletes similarly.
  • The temporary decrease in ability following exercise is complex, and as such it is unlikely that one recovery mechanism will address all degenerative processes.
  • Compression garments might not be the ultimate ‘one-stop’ solution for recovery from exercise, but can be an effective and convenient addition to any recovery plan.
  • As with exercise, it is always wise to consult your physician before using compression garments, as there are certain contraindications which may put some athletes at risk.


About the Author
Ernest is a biomechanical, video, and running gait analyst at the High Performance Centre (HPC) of the University of Pretoria.

IMAGE: Getty Images