If you have ever attended a party with triathletes, you know the conversations nearly always work their way around to personal injuries before the evening is over. Triathletes love to talk about their stress fractures, shin splints, runner’s knees, achilles tendonitis, patellar tendonitis, pulled muscles, sprained ankles, plantar fasciitis, IT band syndromes, lumbar stress, and upper trapezius stress, to name a few. While they can make interesting conversation, injuries are no fun. They can limit your activities and even sideline you from training, adding insult to injury by diminishing your fitness.
The best way to deal with injuries as a triathlete is to not get them in the first place. Is that possible? Here are seven tips that I have found can help you to avoid injury.
1. Be visible on the road. Half or more of your training likely takes place on the road. Moving cars can be a dramatic source of injury. Reduce your chances of getting hit by a car by wearing bright colors when you run or bike. Use lights, too, in daylight as well as darkness.
2. Get a good bike fitting. Overuse injuries in cycling usually start with a poorly fitting bike. You spend hours at a time in your riding position, so it needs to be sustainable. A good bike fitter understands your mechanics as well as the bike’s and can make sure you and the machine operate harmoniously.
3. Avoid sudden changes in your training routine. A dramatic increase in mileage or a new shoe that changes your gait can make your muscles do things they aren’t used to, which can lead to injury. So don’t increase your running or cycling mileage by more than 10% per week, and introduce changes in your equipment gradually.
4. Listen to your body. Overuse injuries don’t happen suddenly. There are usually signs, in the form of little aches and pains, that signal their presence. Small pains can become big ones if you ignore them. Pay attention and back off when you need to.
5. Build core strength. Many overuse injuries result from imbalances or lack of alignment. A strong core keeps you stable and balanced. Incidentally, it also helps you perform nearly all the movements you ask your body to make in swimming, cycling, and running.
6. Get flexible. Flexible muscles, tendons, and ligaments are more resilient than tight ones, and that means they can better withstand the different forces they are subjected to in athletic performance. Your training program should incorporate stretching, whether it’s a yoga class, Pilates, or just regular stretching of your particular problem areas.
7. Use a sauna. Heat increases muscle flexibility and regular sauna sessions will improve your stretching ability. In fact, research at Auburn University Montgomery Kinesiology Laboratory recently showed that stretching while you’re actually in an infrared sauna can increase your flexibility by more than 200%. If you want to try this approach, sit in the sauna for 10-15 minutes to let your muscles warm up before you begin stretching.
Book an infrared sauna session at Peak Recovery & Health Center and give sauna stretching a try.