It’s this time of year that as a physio and a triathlete I always worry about progression and the effect of those miles we are trying to accumulate during the week. It’s a well reported fact that doing long, slow training sessions this time of year will help boost your endurance and provide you with a solid base of work to get you through the season. Unsurprisingly, it’s this time of year that I start to notice little niggles and twinges during my training and a steady influx of keen runners and triathletes through my clinic door!
Despite the well documented benefits of “base training”, this should be done (as with any aspect of your training) with graded progression, adequate recovery and a dose of strength training. These three elements will help you get through this part of the season/off season without those annoying injuries that haunt you until the season ahead.
Some of the most common overuse injuries that we see in triathletes and runners are Achilles tendinopathies, anterior knee pain or ITB syndrome, the dreaded back pain and medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints). All of these problems are, if treated correctly, easy to get rid of and shouldn’t have you out of the game for long. However, if these aches and pains are ignored and trained through, they could become a long and arduous problem. In my experience the most common cause of the above ailments almost always coincides with an increase in mileage (normally running) and not enough time in the gym working on some strength and core.
Now I know physios are renowned for banging on about core stability and I’m sure there are a lot of you out there that would agree it’s all rather boring. But it is IMPORTANT, with a capital I! Miss it out and you’ll be missing out on a smooth race season! First of all, it’s important to do core sessions that address your specific weaknesses, doing a plank and a few sit-ups does not constitute having a good core. Core based exercises can range from standing on one leg, to doing weird and wonderful things on fancy bits of equipment and balls, whatever makes you tick. The best things to do if you are unsure of your problematic areas is to seek expert advice, good physios and personal trainers will be able to point you in the right direction.
In terms of recovery, it’s only really been in the last year that I truly understood and appreciated the importance of adequate recuperation. I used to think that more miles and training would equal a fitter and stronger athlete. And to a certain extent this is obviously true, though not to the point of running yourself into the ground! For most age groupers who work full-time jobs, proper rest (yes that means sitting on your backside and doing nothing) is even more important. This is the time that your body rebuilds and becomes stronger in response to the hard work that you’ve put in.
Finally, sensible and timey progression. It’s sometimes difficult to know what and how to train if you don’t come from a sporting background: so many forums, so much varied information on the internet…where to start?! The bottom line here is that you do what works for you. Some lucky people can get away with running mile upon mile with no problems and some people seem to break at the first sign of some additional mileage. Although I would argue that part of this is probably down to some of the points discussed above, there is also a big part due to your physical and biomechanical make-up. So make sure that you and/or your coach understand how your body adapts and how hard you can push. This will undoubtedly keep you on the straight and narrow.