Running carries the highest injury risk for triathletes. Protect yourself with these smart approaches to training to avoid disrupting your race season…
1. STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING
Developing a level of athletic strength and power makes you injury resistant. Add strength exercises to your training programme once a week to facilitate good running form and core activation. Don’t use machines as they work isolated muscles through a specific range of movement and provide no functional benefit. Remember to train the movement not the muscle so do exercises that use the major muscle groups which are activated during the run phase. These include squats, lunges, single leg deadlifts, step ups, and also some dynamic and postural core muscle work such as planks. Build up slowly eventually adding weights into these exercises.
Incorporating drills into your run programme will help refine your stride and in turn, lead to reduced risk of injury. Work on establishing an efficient mid-foot landing under your centre of mass as well as a quick, rapid turnover where you are light on your feet while keeping your stride compact in both the front and back. Certain drills such as strides, high knees, lateral bounds, skipping and bum-kicks can serve as a dynamic warm up routine after an easy jog before your scheduled run. They can also be completed after a run to reinstate the notion of running with good form while fatigued.
3. RUNNING SHOES
The key to injury-free running is your footwear. Stick with simple shoes that allow your feet and body to move as naturally as possible. It is a very individual thing and what works for some people may not work for you. Ideally choose shoes that are light in weight, flexible and have soles with minimal heel height. Heavy, inflexible shoes with thick soles, high heels, or excessive motioncontrol structures are unnatural and can cause more problems than they purportedly solve. If you’re unsure, use a running shop expert for gait analysis and a biomechanical assessment.
4. BIKE FIT
How you run off the bike is crucial to your performance as a triathlete and a common cause of injuries is an ill-fitting bike, which is compounded as soon as you hit the run. Being fitted to your bike assures you are utilising your muscles well while placing the least stress on your tendons, joints, and other injury-sensitive parts of your body. You should make sure you are well-fit to your current bike by working with a bike fitter experienced in fitting triathletes. A comfortable position will set you up for good, strong running form straight off the bike.
5. RECOVERY TECHNIQUES
Sufficient recovery is integral to keeping fit and injury-free throughout the demands of the race season. Not only do you need to factor in recovery days and recovery weeks, but also a good stretching programme after training sessions will keep you flexible and prevent muscle over-tightening. Using a foam roller is recommended by virtually all physiotherapists for injury-prevention. Loosen off tight spots with the roller regularly before and after training. Sports massage and self-massage are also great for keeping muscles supple and encouraging blood flow for repair and rebuild.
Often over-looked, the right nutrition can actually help keep you in optimum shape. Running is the most physically demanding and high impact sports and it is therefore important to fuel efficiently before, during and after hard runs or races. Immediately after a hard or prolonged session, you need to take on board quality carbohydrates and protein to refuel the muscles and facilitate repair. This will ensure that when you start your next training session, your muscles will be less tired and more able to cope with the training load, reducing risk of discomfort and potential muscle damage.
TEAM TALK: STARTING OUT
It’s important you listen to your body. If something starts to hurt, it’s a sign you need to take it easy or even get professional help from a physiotherapist or doctor. Treat your body with care and you’ll reap the rewards.
You can see more from training advice and injury prevention in our triathlon training section.