By Coach Slayer
It’s often said that Ironman training will exploit your weaknesses. The same is true, to some degree, for most triathlon distances. As humans, we are all vulnerable and triathlon finds the weak physical and psychological spots.
To maximize your true potential, you must avoid going on the disabled list. We are all seemingly just one workout away from a potential season-threatening injury. To prevent this from occurring, you need to utilize both physical and psychological tactics, such as self-monitoring and getting accurate feedback. How can you do this?
Tips for Preventing Triathlon Training Problems
- Start by following your coaching orders or training plans and don’t race your race in practice
- Don’t train based on what your friends are doing
- Ease up when you feel “niggles” in your muscles
- Use rest, compression, elevation (and ice sparingly) method post-training, strength training, dynamic stretching prior to sessions and lightly stretching post sessions
- Wear the appropriate gear while training
- Take good recovery between key sessions
- Run on soft surfaces
- Don’t train or race when in pain
- Don’t add too much training too soon
While these are good guidelines, there are some injuries that you can’t prevent. As a result, we have to do our best to manage or treat them.
Dealing with Problems
First, that means accepting there is a legitimate problem and not pressing on, making matters worse. Much like the grieving process written about by Kubler-Ross, there are stages you will circle in and out of as you come to terms with the change in your capabilities and the uncertainty of when you will be back to speed. These include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. You don’t go through these stages in a lock step process as was once hypothesized.
Second, you must get a trusted professional opinion and be committed to follow that advice. Experts in these areas include a nutritionist, physical therapist, orthopedist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, sports medicine MD, a psychologist and psychiatrist. People snicker when I say those last two, but we all have issues and these issues have an impact on our behavior, thoughts and feelings, which all, in turn, impact our training.
The Role of Sports Psychology
Sports psychology is a matter that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. As it pertains to injuries, there is particular utility to triathlon. For example, if we view triathlon goals as more of a “destination” vs. a “journey”, we will deal with a lot of frustration during times when our bodies are letting us down. The goal destination (e.g. sub 6-hour HIM) is harder to cope with when you can’t reach it. Therefore, we try to advise more of a journey or process vs outcome orientation where we are constantly learning, keeping a realistic perspective, and modifying in order to achieve what is realistic at the time given the conditions.
Your best point to judge your performance is not always when you finish the race and look at the clock or results online but as you progress through the day of the race. Using some rational, as opposed to emotional, thought, and getting some good objective feedback will be key if you are dealing with injury.
Your thought process should be scrutinized to ensure you’re not allowing your competitive urges to drive the train and comparing yourself unfairly to others. When you realize that you are embracing pain that will actually be detrimental for your training and racing in the long run, you are showing a personal weakness that is actually helpful/telling in injury prevention. We also need to make sure we are not forgetting that health and strength are key, as opposed to looks or holding onto an ideal of looking skinny to our detriment and creating eating disorders.
All told, we need to examine all aspects of ourselves on a regular basis to prevent and manage injuries and avoid needless stress and frustration. We can contribute to our best performances by making rational and clear choices, retaining perspective, and preventing and managing injury properly. This may mean utilizing a variety of resources and changing the way we think, which can change the way we feel and act. Learn to redirect your energy to other healthy avenues.
As Santayana wrote (in The Life of Reason, 1905): “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (suffering along the way!). Try to be a wise person as you #DoYourJob. Contact us if you have any questions about whether you should step back or plow forward and consider a coach from TriCoachGeorgia as a great sounding board in these dilemmas.