By Triathlete Katie Jemima Synge
As a full-time triathlete, my programme includes six runs per week, two of which will be key sessions (one speed and one tempo). I swim around 30km per week which equates to 9-10hours in the pool, between 7-10 hours on the bike and gym work. This relatively broad outline varies week to week depending on the focus, phase of the training block and races.
As a result of 20+ hour training weeks with up to four sessions a day, there is considerable stress being placed on the body. Doing everything I can to recover fully and quickly is absolutely crucial, and aside from good quality sleep and nutrition aiding the recovery processes, care and self-maintenance on the body itself are absolutely mandatory to maintaining consistency in training and making improvements in performance.
Here is some of my advice on relatively small changes that can have huge benefits to your performance;
Tip #1 Regular sports massage
Sadly, there’s no avoiding the fact that massage treatments are expensive, but the cost of physiotherapy to treat an injury caused by tightness or the lack of care to muscles will be a far bigger cost! Other than the immediate after-affects massage has during training, it is also a great way for your masseur to keep an eye on any particularly tight or sore areas.
✓ Make the most of the treatment time, you can do this by; knowing which areas are tight and you want worked on when you arrive and asking for exercises and stretches to be demonstrated that you can continue at home.
Tip #2 Stay off the roads
When running, there is no significant need or benefit to pound out on the road in training. Grass and trail terrains take the harsh impact off the legs, and consequently those common injury areas for runners (shins, knees and hips!).
✓ Running off road on trails is not only great to reduce the impact but also adds a strength benefit with the undulation and varying terrains. Be wary of running in off road or stripped back shoes straight away, these take a while to get used too due to reduced cushioning, and can cause significant strain on the calves in particular.
Tip #3 Gym
Gym work doesn’t have to mean big weights and complicated movements! We do three thirty-minute session per week, the majority of which is simply conditioning. Although some of these exercises will be weight bearing, going through movement patterns relevant to the swim, bike and run disciplines with the correct technique while your body is under load, will increase strength and the ability to perform under fatigue.
✓ Help your body to cope with the mileage you are doing and subsequently reduce the likelihood of injury.
Tip #4 Recovery Days
Don’t be afraid to take a day off, take an active recovery day or adjust sessions due to fatigue. There is a difference between feeling fatigued (most endurance athletes feel this all the time!) and over-trained. You will find this line by listening to your body, and in all honestly, trial and error.
✓ When you do take a day off, try and stay off your feet to give your body the best chance to recover. Even with reduced calorie expenditure on a reduced/total day off, it’s still really important to fuel properly for returning to training the next day.
Take Home Message
Every sport carries common injury areas for athletes. For runners it is often stress fractures of the tibia, cyclists often over-training or the hip area and swimmers the upper body.
By taking all the precautions we can, we reduce us susceptibility to overuse or stress injuries dramatically. As I mentioned at the beginning, some of these changes seem very small, but put them all together and implement them into your programme and you could see a very positive difference!