Monday, October 19, 2015

Underdone...Getting to the Start Line Healthy

The question I get asked most often in my line of work is, 'with the amount of training you do, have you ever been injured'?  While the answer is yes, most of those injuries were due to trauma during my college soccer career or more recently the odd bike crash or uneven side walk ankle sprain.  There are a couple of key elements I rely on to stay injury free and to help keep my training on track.

One of the most important factors, which can not be overlooked, when training for an Ironman is arriving to the start line healthy and ready for the day.  I hear a lot of athletes concerned that they can't take time off because they'll miss there 100 mile ride or 18 mile run and it will set their training back.  Unfortunately, even if you do make it through that 100 mile ride or 18 mile run you're going to start developing compensation patterns, likely contributing to tissue breakdown and more pain at another point in your body (right foot hurts, continue to run, now left knee hurts type of thing).  Even still, if you manage to 'deal with it' and make it through and get yourself to the start line that small niggle you 'dealt with' may no be a small niggle after a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and X amount of running.  After all the training, time, money, sacrifices and emotional energy spent on getting to the start line you don't want to put yourself in a position of having to pull out of the Ironman marathon.

It's much better to be a little undertrained and healthy than over trained and battling injury when you toe the line before your 140.6 mile journey (or even your 70.3 or 5150 journey).  Below I've outlined some the key factors that have helped me stay healthy and ready to race on the big day.

As a lifelong athlete and trained physical therapist I understand I have a slight advantage here.  Become familiar with your body, learn to differentiate between muscle soreness and aches from and true injury pain.  Work to improve your mechanics in all 3 sports - have a functional analysis done so you can learn where your areas of weakness are.  If pain is presenting itself review when you've been doing to take care of your body that your asking so much from: have you been foam rolling? stretching? mobility routine? strength training?  If you feel confident in the ability to identify what may be bothering you try to address it yourself with the above mentioned techniques.  If you can't make improvements in 1-2 weeks see a qualified health professional for an assessment and to get you on the right track.

Post massage with coach Kim!
If the pain has been around for 2 weeks or more it's better to get in to see a professional sooner rather than later.  Our bodies our very adaptable and we will find ways to alter our gait, stroke or pedal stroke so that we can continue training.  This is when we develop compensation patterns, now the right calf pain that originally bothered you has turned into left knee pain.  If you aren't confident in identify your cause of injury seek help right away.  It may not take more than 1 or 2 visits to address if you catch it early enough.

Having a coach has helped me develop as an athlete far more than I could have ever imagined.  I was
sick just 3 weeks out from race day at IM Chattanooga - so sick I couldn't soft pedal for more than 45-50 minutes.  With the guidance from my coach we altered the plan and confidently attacked the new plan once I was healthy.  It worked out great and I had my best race to date.  Without her knowledge or guidance I may have continued to force my way through workouts, never fully recovering from the illness and not getting any stronger from the workouts.  Having a coach helps bring a fresh objective perspective to your training plan and can help keep you on track when things seem to be falling apart.

Throughout your season make sure to continue strength training 1-2x week.  Most triathletes will
benefit from hip stabilization and scapular stabilization exercises to help prevent injury.  Our small stabilizers are required for efficient and pain free movement patterns both in the upper and lower extremities.  A good and simple place to start is Dr. Metzl's Iron Strength routine.

When your plan calls for a recovery session, treat it as such!  Use your heart rate monitor or RPE scale to keep this session entirely in your recovery zone.  These sessions help keep tissue flexible and increase blood flow to tissues without taxing cardiovascular system.  Put your ego aside, slow down and enjoy.  The hard work will come soon enough.

Don't underestimate the benefits of a regular massage.  Massage can help with recovery and help prevent injury.  For most people massage also offers a mental benefit as well!  Find a good massage therapist in your area and try to get in at least 1x every month.

Enjoy you down time!
Give yourself an off-season.  Take a mental and physical break from the training.  An off-season allows your body to fully recover from a years worth of high volume training.  Tissues will regenerate and heal during this down time.   This off season will also allow you to feel more fresh mentally when you return to training.  Depending upon the amount of time you spent training this year you might benefit from 2-4 weeks completely off!  This time off will help you reach new levels in you next year so you can look forward to being stronger and faster!  For most people in the states we aren't trying to win a January championship so it's ok to get a little out of shape while you let your body heal and recover, and it will actually help you get in better shape once your training resumes.

1 comment:

  1. So proud of you! All that running , jumping and playing paid off ! Love you bunches! Hugs!