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In part one of this triathlon two-part series, I discussed how to prepare for a triathlon as a beginner. In this post, I delve into discussing injury prevention and how to assist your body in recovering post triathlon.
Training for a triathlon is one of the most physically exerting things you can put your body through. The combination of swimming, cycling and running puts almost every part of the body under immense pressure. Triathlon training repetitively stresses muscles, tendons, and the tissues around joints and bones, and thus it’s no wonder that injuries are commonplace. The types of injuries triathletes deal with are typically overuse injuries, accounting for 60% of injuries, bio-mechanical or technique error accounting for 30%, and acute trauma accounting for 10% (source).
Also known as swimmers shoulder, this can present as a mere ache to a sharp pain in your shoulder. You will particularly notice the pain when your arm is extended over your head during a freestyle stroke. To avoid this injury, it is recommended that you build up shoulder strength by incorporating weights into your training. Having correct swimming technique can also help prevent injury. Working with a trained swimming coach to improve stroke is important. If you do feel an injury coming on, don’t wait until it is very painful. Instead rest, massage and ice the shoulder.
Also known as runner’s knee, this is a sharp pain that occurs in the front of the knee, directly under the kneecap. Although known as runner’s knee, this affects both runners and cyclists. It occurs as a result of degeneration of cartilage under the kneecap due to overuse, that cause friction when the kneecap moves. Runner’s knee can be cased by increased work volume or too much hill work. If the injury does occur it is recommended to halt any training that is going to aggravate the injury. You should engage in rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) therapy.
The Iliotibial band is a key stabiliser for the leg that runs on the outside of the thigh from your hip to knee. It can be aggravated as the knee is repeatedly bent and straightened. It affects both runners and cyclists, generally by upping your mileage too quickly, poor flexibility or sub-optimal biomechanics. The sharp pain can be felt most prominently on the outside of the knee. The pain just above the knee joint, and generally results in a flare up of the knee. To avoid these flare ups, maintaining flexibility and strength of the hips, knees and leg muscles is important. If you do start to feel pain, RICE, combined with an anti-inflammatory is the first-line of treatment.
This is a pain and often swelling that occurs on the Achilles tendon. This tendon is below your calf and above your heel. It tends to happen when your calf muscles get tight and pull on the tendons below causing micro tears in the Achilles. This injury is most common with runners so to help avoid it, stretch your calf muscles before and after running. If you do feel pain whilst running, stop and stretch the muscle, often rotating the foot in a circular motion can help.
A stress fracture is a small crack in a bone, or severe bruising within a bone that occur most often for triathletes in the hip, foot and ankle. They occur by suddenly increasing the intensity of one’s training without allowing for sufficient adaption and recovery. If you suspect a stress fracture, stop running and consult a doctor. Stress fractures can take weeks or even months to fully recover from, so make sure when increasing your mileage, you do so slowly.
Rather than ignore the first signs of a developing injury, I recommend to immediately adjust your triathlon training. Reduce your training with the aggravating discipline and place more emphasis on the other two disciplines. For example, if you develop Achilles tendinitis, limit your time spent running and spend more time in the pool until the tendon has recovered. This will ensure that you are getting sufficient recovery time but also not losing your fitness level. Here at Ballsbridge Clinic, we have a team of chartered physiotherapists to assist you either during your triathlon training or post-race day. From acute injury management, soft tissue management, biomedical assessment and training analysis, our sports specialist Olive can recommend the course of action to suit your needs best. To book an appointment, contact the clinic here.