Why do biomechanics matter?

Research shows that over 50% of triathletes have experienced overuse injuries; not a great slogan for the sport! Fortunately, there are many things you can do to prevent getting hurt (things that people bringing up those stats are probably not doing!).


What is causing all these injuries?

Let’s ignore acute injuries that stem from accidents such as slipping when running or falling off your bike (wearing appropriate footwear and practicing your bike skills might well help avoid that…).

  • Ramping up training volume or speed/intensity too quickly. Our cardiovascular system is highly adaptable and the more you train the better it becomes (so you get faster). However, your musculoskeletal system is a little slower and needs more time to adapt. If you stress it too much too fast, then you are setting yourself up for injury. It could even result in ligament and tendon injuries, which can take years to recover from, some of which could permanently effect the stability of some joints, further increasing the chances of injuries.

  • Poor strength, balance & control. To cope with the stress you are putting on it, your body not only needs to have strong muscles, but also good control over them. Having strength but no control is like having a powerful car without a driver. For example, it is quite common to see strong, fit people such as athletes or fitness enthusiasts that go to the gym every day (the powerful car) with under active glutes (the driver). If their glutes are under active, then other muscle groups are compensating and doing “the driving” for them (e.g. lower back and quads in the case of squats, hip flexors and quads in the case of running…etc).

  • Range of motion & tightness. Low range of motion not only limits your performance, but also makes you vulnerable to injury as your body will try to compensate for it (e.g. curving your back in a kettlebell swing because your hamstrings are tight).

  • Poor technique. The way you swim, bike and run will influence the likelihood of injury. For example, over gearing on the bike, or over striding on the run can both cause injuries in the long term.

  • Poor bike setup. In a triathlon, you spend the most time on your bike. If your position isn’t right for you, then you are likely to end up with lower back, knee, neck or even wrist pain.

  • Poor nutrition, hydration and recovery. Training creates micro tears in your muscles. You get stronger because your body (clever thing) adapts through a process called protein synthesis. Protein synthesis breaks down proteins into amino acids, which are used for repairing those muscle tears, making the muscle stronger than before. This requires energy, which is provided by carbohydrates (so please eat!). All this requires proper hydration (due to hydrolysis) and adequate sleep. Furthermore, lack of sleep can cause overtraining symptoms such as weight gain which occurs partially because your body is unable to consume the carbs for protein synthesis and stores them instead (other reasons can be water retention due to dehydration and increased cortisol - which can also be “fixed’ with adequate nutrition, hydration and recovery).

We notice a trend. Unsurprisingly, most reasons for injuries stem from strength, control, movement patterns or range of motion. In summary, it’s mostly down to biomechanics.