Injury Prevention while training for an IRONMAN

Training for an IRONMAN can be a gruelling and tough task. Your body literally takes a pounding through the training you are doing and can sometimes break down. Carrying some sort of injury while training is very common among triathletes, almost so common that athletes think it is expected that they will end up carrying an injury through training. Well, we disagree!

If you are following one of our training plans, using your own plan or being coached on your way to an IRONMAN race then you will reach a point in the season where you will have done a good block of training and should be seeing some steady improvements. Keep up the good work! With this increase in training load though, there may be some niggles stirring in the background.

Sometimes it is about evening out the imbalances to stride forwards than pushing on with a slight niggle.

Sometimes it is about evening out the imbalances to stride forwards than pushing on with a slight niggle.

What is a niggle?

A niggle is something that makes you think twice about doing a movement, exercise, sport or level of intensity. For example, if you find yourself saying: “I am going to take it easy, my knee feels funny”, or “I need to be careful of doing (insert exercise) in the gym as my shoulder sometimes hurts” or something similar, then you are probably carrying a slight niggle. Sometimes a niggle is just a slightly under recovered part of your body, so taking it easy will help. However, you should always take note of a niggle: it is great information.

What should you do if you have a slight niggle?

Listen to it! The single most important thing to do if you have a slight niggle is to listen to what your body is saying. It may be you need to head to a physio, it may be you need to take a rest day, it may be you need to review your technique or equipment – there is no rule other than to listen to what the niggle is telling you. If you do nothing and ignore it, you are very likely to end up with a fully blown injury, time out of training and becoming very grumpy. Almost all repetitive injuries can be traced back to an initial niggle somewhere. In which case, you could have prevented your niggle from becoming an injury before hand if only you had listened to your body!

Be Proactive

Now is a great time to be proactive about injury management and protection. As your training load increases, you must make sure you are fuelling yourself appropriately to recovery adequately. Most injuries in triathlon occur from running and many of these injuries are over-use or repetitive injuries and many of these are as a result of an increase in training load with improper time to absorb that increase in load (recover!). There are several strategies for preventing many injuries:

  • Ensure you take the time in the cool down to stretch off any tightness which doesn't feel right

  • Schedule regular massage or physio sessions

  • Spend some quality time on your foam roller/hockey ball – loosen off the tight points yourself letting the masseuse or physio focus on the bigger picture.

  • Ensure you are fuelling adequately before and after sessions as well as ensuring your recovery is optimal. Remember. If you are under recovered, your muscles are already fatigued before you start and that will not help them resist injury.

  • Be sensible through every session. If you feel something doesn't feel quite right, then address it there and then. If your calf feels a bit too tight, then cut the run session by half or spend all the time on some mobilisation, drills and try and self-massage your calf. In other words, don’t be a hero – listen to your body, it is probably smarter than you give it credit!

In reality, all the above will help make huge step towards side-stepping niggles before they materialise into injuries. However, if you do end up letting one develop into an injury you should not be negotiating with your body – see the physio as soon as possible. Listen to their advice and do their exercises, it is the quickest way back and the least impact on your training (read this blog if you want more information!). A few sessions missed, but spent rectifying up a slight imbalance is by no means the end of the world and will yield a better result than ignoring it, picking up a serious injury and not being able to do anything for two months or more!

This blog is part of our IRONMAN series. For the next article, click here.