Tips on How to Stay Injury Free

This article brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Kate Vann. Heading into the off-season is a great time to put some of the tips below into use, BEFORE you get injured when you start ramping up for next season. And Kate kind of knows what she’s talking about…she’s been in school for a looong time getting her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy. Follow Kate on Twitter – katev09.

As many of you know, injury and triathlons go together like peanut butter and jelly. The body gets beat down day after day, and your muscles are screaming for a chance to rest. Injury is a way for their screams to be heard. I am currently fighting severe tendonitis and have learned a few tricks of the trade from my healthcare team in preventing injury and helping it heal.

2. Have your running gait analyzed.

Pounding the pavement day after day is hard enough, but when your running form isn’t at its finest, it can be critical. Most running injuries with the knee or IT band stem from weak hip abductors, these being your gluteus minimus and gluteus medius. Weak hip abductors can cause what is commonly known as a “hip drop,” putting added pressure on the knees. Most of the time with weak hips, other parts of your running gait will compensate. Over time, with wrong movements being repeated, injury and strain occur. Having a healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist, analyze your gait can be the difference between racing in a World Championship or being out for the season. They, or your local run shop, can also ensure you are using the proper running shoe for your gait. Here are some quick ways to strengthen your hip abductors to prevent injuries from occurring

a.    Monster walks with a band: Place a band around the ankles and, leading with the midfoot, walk to one end of the room and back

Monster Walks Exercise (image courtesy of Firm Fitness Trainer)

b.    Clam shells: Lying on your side, place legs at a little over 90 degrees one on top of the other, place a band over the thighs and raise the top leg. This gets repeated 20 times on each side.

Clam Shell Exercise (image courtesy of Bend and Mend)

c.    Glute Raises: Lying on your side with the bottom leg bent and the top leg straight and slightly behind you. Slowly raise the top leg up and down 20 times on both sides.

d.    Bridging:  Lying on your back, place a band over your thighs. Bend your legs with arms at your side. Raise up your pelvis and kick the left leg out, then the right leg, 20 times.

Bridging Exercise (image courtesy of Fitness Mash)

2. Have your bike fit checked out

Much like checking your running gait, it is important to have your bike fit checked out. Pedal and cleat placement is crucial, especially when triathletes spend so much time racking up miles in the saddle. When you look at muscles that are engaged in biking, we think of calves, hamstrings and quads that take most of the beating. In a perfect world, or more on this subject, a perfect bike fit, these muscles will be working in harmony to create the maximum amount of power. What can happen, however, is cleat placement can be off a hair, causing one muscle group to take more of a beating than another, causing an overuse injury. The foot can either be rotated inward or outward, causing tension on your hamstring and your knee. It is important to have a trained specialist check out leg alignment, cleat placement, and seat height in order to have the most effective injury-free bike.

3. Sleep

We have all heard it before, triathletes need sleep to heal. It’s harder than it seems. In today’s world, most of us go to school or work a full time job, and have families to take care of, and sleep is the last thing on our minds. Being in graduate school, I have fallen victim to the sleepless night. We sacrifice sleep to get that extra hour or two of training in, but let me tell you, it’s not worth it. Sleep is a time for the body to heal itself, and without it, you are doing your body a disservice. Training when your body is running on little sleep isn’t going to benefit you in any way except make you more tired. Hit that snooze button and get the extra hour of sleep because, as triathletes, our bodies need it.

Overall, taking care of your body is the most important way to avoid the dreaded injury. Get your body tuned up just like any other equipment, because it’s the most important piece of equipment you’ve got!