How to train and not get injured in triathlon and running 10 May 2021
Nothing hits your training schedule harder than forced timeout due to injury. Overuse injuries are by far the most common injury in endurance sports. As the event season in running and triathlon returns to normal over the next few months, here are a few tips to help first timers and seasoned weekend warriors to stay injury free, including all the Kensal Rise and Malorees triathletes training for Blenheim this year!
As a physio I am concerned with preventing injury in this discussion on training plans and not necessarily on peak performance. Although as any elite athlete will tell you, the best seasons they have had, are often the ones that they stayed fit for!
Training plan flaws
Most people follow a plan when training for marathons and triathlons. Most plans follow some element of periodisation, (which is out of the scope of this article). However, there are a few basic principles that you should stick to, to avoid overloading contractile soft tissue structures like your muscles and tendons as well as supporting structures like your ligaments:
Your heart and lungs often become fitter sooner than your muscles become stronger. The result of this, is that on a planned 3 mile run you feel great within yourself and decide to do 6 miles instead. Your running muscles aren’t up to this load and breakdown on the run or later that day. Stick to the 10% rule or acute-chronic workload ratio to stop this from happening. See below.
Manage your mileage
Within running there is a general 10% rule of thumb ‘not to increase your weekly mileage by more than 10%’. This can be used for the other disciplines of triathlon also. In recent years there has also been a move towards the acute – chronic workload ratio which takes a snapshot of an athletes’ fatigue – performance as a more concise way to prevent injury. In its simplest form, to do this is to divide your highest week of running distance by your average running distance over the last 4 weeks. For example if your highest running week was 12 miles and your average mileage over a 4 week period was 11. Your acute-chronic ratio would be 1.09. Any ratio above 1.3 significantly increases your risk of injury, anything below is therefore better. Use this calculator.
In its more complex form, one combines the length or the run (or activity) with the perceived effort to gain an arbitrary figure and work the ratio from this. See this article for more information
Use your heart zones
Most people have a smart watch these days so this is easier to do. Train in the correct heart zones. High intensity and low intensity. In most plans you will see sessions named intervals, hills, long sessions, tempo sessions etc. For longer endurance sports, most training should be in zone 2 (80%) with the rest being in Zone 4-5. See this video to understand more.
One of the biggest mistakes in amateur endurance athletes is that their fast sessions aren’t fast enough and their slow sessions aren’t slow enough. They are lingering in zone 3, fatiguing out and leaving themselves prone to more injuries. The reason that you train like this is so you don’t fatigue out. You can’t go all out, all the time. If you did it at work you’d burn out, do it in training and your body will break down. Understand heart zone training here and how to calculate it.
Do not cram in missed sessions
If you miss sessions, do not just cram more sessions into one day or do days where you do back to back longer sessions. This will inevitably overload your soft tissue and put you out for 3-4 weeks. Just let it go! I know it sounds hard but consistency in long events is everything and injury does not lend itself to that!
Do not skip your strength and conditioning sessions
After 60-90 minutes of running your muscle tissue can breakdown. All elite marathon runners do weekly if not 2-3 times a week of strength and conditioning. Running on weakened legs leads to overload of tissue. Make sure you add in stability sessions and pure strength sessions. If you are an older athlete this is even more important. In my opinion if a plan asks you to run x 5 a week, consider do 4 runs a week and a strength and conditioning session instead if you are an older athlete prone to injury. In later blogs I will outline the main exercises for the three disciplines of triathlon
Fit in Recovery weeks
Recovery weeks are just that. They allow your body to recover. You do not rest completely. The principle is to drop your mileage by 30-40%. With less intense sessions through this week. Recovery weeks vary between being set every 2-5 weeks in a plan. Most plans online tend to put them every 4th week (3 weeks training, 1 week recovery and repeat), although for people over 45 there is consensus that 2 weeks on and 1 week recovery is more effective in injury prevention. Once you are training consistently with varied heart zone sessions and listening to your body, you often know when your recovery week should be. Do not use this week to catch up on missed sessions or build up one discipline more in triathlon training – this will not allow your body to recover. Consider including massage and foam roller sessions this week more.
Train hard but train smarter to enjoy your journey to your goal. We are here if you need us along this path. Book online or call us on 020 74435655