You have decided to do your first triathlon – congrats!
A triathlon requires perseverance. It demands hours of endurance training in not one, but 3 different disciplines. You have to learn to run, bike, and swim with incredible power and stamina. The ultimate goal is crossing that finish line.
However, injuries happen. They can place your triathlon goals on the backburner. Minimizing your risk of injury is crucial to a successful first triathlon.
So, how can you prevent triathlon injuries? What can you do to minimize your risk?
Train the Right Way
Training for a triathlon involves endurance training in the form of running, swimming, and biking. Make sure to train in all 3 disciplines to avoid overuse injuries or muscle strains. Gradually build the duration and intensity in each activity.
Surprisingly, running, swimming, and biking are not the only activities you should be doing in your training program.
In combination with endurance training, include strength training in your routine at least twice a week. Strength training can help build muscle and support your joints. It can help address muscle imbalances and weaknesses, reducing your risk of injury.
What kind of strength training should you do?
Perform core work incorporating lower body movements, such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges. Other core exercises, such as the plank, can also help build a strong foundation. A strong core prevents the common low back pain and helps keep your body upright in good functional form. Further, targeting the lower body can help build power in your legs improving your running and biking form.
Do shoulder strengthening exercises. Swimming requires a lot of shoulder work. Rotator cuff injuries are common. Regularly perform overhead presses, push-ups, and bent-over rows. Doing so will prevent injuries before they happen.
Listen to Your Body
If you feel pain, stop and rest. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is not right. It may mean you are doing too much, too soon. It might mean your form isn’t quite right.
Double check your form. Make sure to gradually and slowly increase your endurance training. Research proper running, swimming, and cycling technique. Find a training program that is suitable for your fitness level.
Don’t ignore pain signs! Pushing through the pain is only setting yourself up for injury. Reduce the risk. Take breaks when needed. Rest on your rest days. And most importantly, listen to your body.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Drink plenty of water before, during, and after each endurance training session, as well as on race day. The most common cause of muscle cramps is from dehydration. Muscle cramps can seriously impact your performance. They can also lead to injuries, such as muscle strains or tears.
Dehydration is a serious condition. The human body is about 60% water. Water drives almost every function. Without it, the body breaks down. Dehydration causes fatigue, dizziness, and in severe cases, even death. Stay hydrated. Don’t skimp on the water.
Check Your Nutrition
In addition to staying hydrated, watch your nutritional intake. Choose nutrient-dense foods over empty high-calorie foods. Replace electrolytes lost through foods such as bananas, high sodium foods, and leafy greens. Electrolytes are essential for proper muscle functioning, and thus, reducing injuries. Give your body what it craves and what it needs. Eat a healthy and balanced diet.
Warm-up & Cool Down
Warm up before each endurance training session and perform an appropriate cool down afterward. A proper warm-up should include dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretching is an active movement where you move the joint through its full range of motion. For example, arm and leg circles help with mobility in the shoulders and hips. This type of movement gets the body warmed up, and the muscles and joints prepped for exercise.
A proper cool down helps stretch out the muscles worked. It decreases tightness and muscle shortening which can increase your chance of injury. Stretch the muscles worked. For example, if you did a running endurance training session, stretch the quadriceps, the hamstrings, the IT band, the calves, and the glutes.
Remember, injuries are preventable. They do not have to disrupt your triathlon training. Take care of yourself and listen to your body. Fly through that finish line, free of pain and injury.