How Soon Can I Train After an Injury?

By Saul Guznay | Sept. 05, 2017, 2:36 p.m. (ET)


Whether it’s your first or your 10th time dealing with injury, we all want to get back to training as soon as possible. For many triathletes, our sport is therapy, quiet time and even a way to socialize. So when we find out we have to reduce or even completely stop training, it’s a strange feeling. Depending on the kind of injury you have, the turnaround time can be from a few days to a few months. Yet, the approach is the same and maybe this article can help give some insight.

Here are four common types of injuries that multisport athletes encounter and approaches to recovery. Keep in mind that your current fitness level, age and the area of injury play huge parts in the recovery process and shouldn’t be ignored. Remember to consult your primary physician or sports doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Ligaments, tendons and muscles have amazing tensile strength when you think about what they do during exercise. However, when they are pushed past their flexibility limits or not properly warmed up, they can get injured. Unless you’re told by your doctor there’s a tear present, the recovery is on a week-to-week basis depending on the area of the body. For ligaments in the ankle, it might take longer because there’s reduced blood flow to the area and chances are you are on your feet so it’s not getting absolute rest. For minor muscle strains, the recovery might be quicker if it’s in the upper body, but reduced exercise intensity and massage helps speed up the process. Foam rolling, light stretching and therapy exercises using elastic tubing are appropriate as long as there is no pain in the area. Complete inactivity isn’t suggested because muscles become tighter and atrophy can set in. The idea is to bring blood flow to the area, not to work on increasing strength.

Physical therapy is usually not needed in cases like these unless the doctor recommends it. Being patient and listening to your body is the best bet. Taking it much slower in this part will help you be speedy on race day!

Skeletal Injuries

I’m referring to issues such as stress fractures, bone bruises and tendinitis in this section. Outside of hitting your head in the pool or falling off your bike, running is a big cause for injury because of repetitive ground impact. It happens to professionals and age-groupers alike. Some athletes over train and some athletes under rest. Both groups don’t allow the bones and their connective tissue enough recovery time to get stronger for the next training session. Stress fractures in the metatarsals and shin bone are quite common and if you have the starting stages or already have a stress fracture, it’s not wise to continue running. It’s not worth being out of commission for months wearing a boot. Even if you don’t completely break the bone, you might be suggested to wear an air cast just to minimize the amount of pressure when walking.


When it comes to training, more isn’t always better. Depending on your individual training regimen, we each have a limit to what we can handle in the swim, bike and run. Just because swimming and biking eliminate much impact from the joints, there can still be issues. If you’ve developed overuse injuries in the neck and shoulders (biking and swimming) or pain in the hips and lower back (biking), consider lowering the training volume and hitting the gym to bring the body back to neutral. For swimming, this can involve strengthening opposing muscles not used such as the rhomboids and pecs, working the external rotators, and even neck strengthening exercises. For biking, this can involve doing hip flexor, abdominal and pec stretching in addition to strengthening the lumbar muscles with exercises like the Romanian deadlift. We want to finish with a strong run and that relies on a relaxed, tall posture.

Technique and Proper Setup

Unknowingly, “practice makes perfect” is a phrase that leads many people to injury. In their efforts to improve quickly, proper technique is often a secondary thought. In swimming and running especially, efficient technique not only prevents wasted energy but minimizes compensatory muscles from doing the major work. Improper bike fit (i.e. seat/handlebar height, crank arm length, aerobar position) is also another way people develop overuse injuries after only a few months of training.

Many of these issues require the help of a competent coach and/or bike fitter. It’s a minimal investment when compared to the time and energy cost of missing weeks’ worth of training when your body says no more. Tackling these issues as well as having a well periodized program that accounts for training volume is fundamental to having a successful triathlon season. Remember, everyone is a little different so if you have any questions, ask a USA Triathlon Certified Coach to get started in the right direction.

Saul Guznay, M.S., is a New Jersey-based strength coach who earned an IRONMAN Bronze AWA status (2016) and still competes in Olympic-distance triathlon. His experience working with general, athletic and youth populations in the fitness industry has helped him become a sought-after coach. At Exercise Lab Multisport, there are many programs that can help you perform your best. More info can be found at

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.