To start off the new calendar year, I thought I’d touch lightly on a very serious topic.
So this post will have a very serious component, and a more humorous one. (You’ll have to guess which is which. I’ll make it easy.)
Anyone talking about training, exercise, and racing of any king, has to talk about injuries. I’m a triathlete, and a triathlon coach, so of course I know about the topic, and I cover it with the athletes I coach.
When talking about this topic, we have to first share an understanding that injuries can, and do, occur. That comes with the territory of training. There’s no denying it. (Anyone who does, is selling you something, and most likely lying.)
Indeed, injuries (or pain perceived as injury by a newbie to exercise) is the primary cause for quitting an exercise regimen or training program. It seems a reasonable thing to conclude: If movement is what caused someone to get injured, then stopping to move is the solution. (That seems to be the reasoning of many General Practitioners of the medical profession, to the frustration of many coaches, including me.)
But not moving is, overall, worse for your health than moving.
As a matter of fact, the best way to prevent injuries is to move more, not less, but to do so in a reasonable way. By reasonable I mean by using the correct techniques, and doing only as much as is necessary to stress your body into getting into better shape (once it has sufficiently recovered).
The Main Culprit
Let’s face it, athletes are often their own worst enemy: overuse (over-training) is the primary cause of injury in athletes. And that’s why you should have a coach, and, equally importantly, why you should listen to him or her!
Preventing injuries that can occur through intense training (and over-training) is obviously priority #1 of any coach. And that is achieved through well-balanced programs that include strength training and sufficient rest.
And constant reminders to athletes to take their rest days.
Once injured, the best approach is not to stop all activity, but rather to take some rest (complete rest at first, then some other activities can be recommended by a competent physiotherapist or even by the coach). Interestingly, that’s frequently how people get started into doing triathlon; through having to do other sports than the one in which the injury occurred.
A single-sport approach to training increases the risk of getting hurt, so triathletes have a slight advantage in injury prevention.
However, triathlon also has a bunch of other types of injuries you can fall prey to, so you have to keep them in mind, and be careful. If, in running, injuries typically come to feet, ankles, knees and hips from bad training (bad form, too many impacts, running too fast, too often, too long), in triathlon the same thing can happen, but to more parts of the body (shoulders, back, etc.). So you need to work on more parts of the body to fix an injured triathlete.
And in some cases you also need a mechanic…
The Other Causes
So, to balance this post, here are the main causes of injuries for triathletes, from the least likely to the most common, and tongue a little in cheek:
10) Drowning. Very, very, very unlikely. Recovery is usually impossible. Near-drowning is another matter and can lead to the encounter of interesting people, but is not recommended as a potential dating strategy due to its risky nature.
9) Getting beaten during the swim (kicks, fists, etc.). It can hurt a lot, and even cause mild injuries, but usually one recovers pretty quickly, and completes the race. The injury can last for a while, from bruises to muscle cramps, and can have some long-term effects (fear of swimming in a crowd, which is just a little less scary than being naked in a crowd).
8) Getting hit by a car when running. Results can be very dire, so be very careful, because recovery can take a long time. Unlikely to happen, but it does.
7) Getting hit by a car when riding. Results can be very dire, so be very careful, because recovery can take a long time. Unlikely to happen, but it does.
6) Missing a turn while riding. Particularly when the road is slippery, but the main cause is usually going too fast on a road that is not well known. So “pilot error” is a factor. Consequences range from scrapes and bruises to broken bones. Recovery (and returning confidence) vary accordingly.
5) Getting hit by a cyclist when running. Hitting a runner or a cyclist while riding. Recovery depends on how fast and how heavy the hit… and any subsequent altercation between the runner and cyclist.
4) Colliding with another swimmer in the pool. Either through carelessness on your part, or because the other swimmer is a nincompoop. Again, recovery depends on how hard the hit and the ensuing argument, but is usually fairly short.
3) Swallowing lots of water while swimming; can lead to serious gastrointestinal (GI) problems, especially if the water is salted or chlorinated. Recovery usually comes shortly after vomiting.
2) Over-training (a.k.a. abusing your own body); doing too much, too fast, too long, in all three sports. Rest, and a consultation with your coach (or a psychologist) typically helps… We’re talking fasciatis, tendinitis, stress fractures, etc., and things that typically happen to runners’ legs, but in our case can also happen to shoulders (swimming) and the back (cycling). Some cases require extensive leave from the sport, so never underestimate the risk of wanting to do more, or obsessing about racing.
1) Falling on your side, from your bike, while trying to un-clip your shoe at a stop sign or light. You can get bruised (hip and arm) or even break something (wrist, arm, collar bone). But most of the time the damage is limited to the ego, and recovery can be very fast if you just laugh it off. But this is by far the most common cause of injury for a triathlete, so un-clip soon, and often.
As you can see, the main causes are mostly accidents. You have to remain tuned onto your body, but also and particularly aware of your surroundings at all times, during races and training sessions.
And that’s a lesson that valid all the time. The more mindful you are, the more attuned to your body and surrounding, the safer you will be. And the more healthy you’ll be.
Have a great year of moving a lot!
Pictures from Pixabay.