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Injuries are Common. But there are Basic Methods to Help You Avoid Them

By John Hansen | July 16, 2019, 9:55 a.m. (ET)

exercises to avoid injury

Injuries are a common and negative side effect of triathlon training and racing. However, there are several ways to mitigate and avoid common injuries. 

To begin, there a several common strategies to prevent most injuries, no matter where they occur on the body and they include the following:

  • Avoid dramatic changes in running volume and intensity.
  • Allow for proper training and racing recovery to avoid overtraining
  • Stay consistent with training, avoiding long, two- to three-week breaks
  • Engage in an all-body dynamic stretching routine prior to every strength workout
  • Follow a slow warm-up protocol of at least 5-10 minutes prior to any swim, bike or run workout
  • Engage in yoga or an all-body static stretching and rolling or stick routine after every workout, specifically targeting the most common areas of the body triathletes experience injuries
  • Engage in an all-body strengthening routine three-plus times per week, specifically targeting the most common areas of the body triathletes experience injuries
  • Avoid aggressively participating in sports and/or activates that your body is not conditioned to support

When considering ways to avoid injuries, it is important to know the most common areas of the body where injuries occur for triathletes. Beyond the common injury prevention strategies mentioned above, I outline below specific ways to avoid injuries in these injury prone areas of the body.  

Common Injury Areas

Plantar fasciitis: the plantar fascia is a thick fibrous band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot, connecting your heel bone to your toes. It supports the foot and the load the foot endures during any weight bearing exercises. Most common injuries that occur from the irritation of this ligament occur at the bottom of the foot closer to the heel.  

How to avoid:

  • Stretch and roll your calves after every workout
  • Role and message your arches after every workout
  • Change running shoes after appropriate usage to avoid over-pronation — no more than 400 miles
  • Run on softer, more even surfaces when possible
  • Consider getting orthotics or basic arch insert to all your shoes

Shin splints: Pain associated along the front portion of the lower leg (anterior and/or medial aspect of the tibia). Caused by excessive pounding through running or aerobics and a predisposition to injury such as over-pronation or flat feet.  

How to avoid:

  • Stretch your calves after every workout
  • Strengthen your calves and anterior tibialis (shin muscle)
  • Change running shoes after appropriate usage to avoid over-pronation — no more than 400 miles
  • Run on softer, more even surfaces when possible
  • Manage the amount of downhill running and run with proper downhill running form
  • Consider getting orthotics or basic arch insert to all your shoes

Ankle/knee sprains and/or tears: Pain associated along the front, side, back or inside portion of the ankle or knee, caused by a sudden impact, twist, jump, cut, etc. at the ankle or knee.  

How to avoid:

  • Avoid maximal effort lifts
  • Run on even terrain and/or areas with good footing
  • Weight train to strengthen ligaments/tendons that surround ankle/knee joints

Muscular strains: Pain and weakness associated along the belly of the muscle. Swelling may also be associated with the injury if it is sudden or acute, caused by a violent force applied to the muscle or an overuse of the muscle and/or use of a muscle that has not properly healed or been properly warmed-up.  

How to avoid:

  • Avoid maximal effort lifts
  • Follow common injury prevention strategies listed above

IT band syndrome: the IT band is a long ligament that runs from the outside upper portion of the hip to the outside portion of the knee.  Most common injuries and associated pain, occurs from the irritation of this ligament on the outside portion of the knee. This ligament can get irritated, like any ligament, due to over use, weak structural area around the thighs, inflexibility, or a sudden fast ballistic movement.  

How to avoid:

  • Change running shoes after appropriate usage to avoid over-pronation — no more than 400 miles
  • Consider getting orthodics or basic arch insert to all your shoes to correct over-pronation
  • Avoid running on cambered running surfaces
  • Mange the amount of downhill running
  • Ensure you have a proper bike fit that does not aggravated your IT Band

Low back/sciatic nerve: Pain, tingling and/or numbness associated along the side, middle or inside portion of the lower back and/or down the back portion of the leg, caused by a lack of core strength, poor postural structure and flexibility, overuse, sudden impact, twist, jump, cut, etc. or repetitive motion and/or incorrect lifting technique.  

How to avoid:

  • Engage in a static stretching and rolling or stick routine after to every workout that includes stretches for the low back, piriformis, psoas, glutes, and hamstrings
  • Change running shoes after appropriate usage to avoid over-pronation – no more than 400 miles
  • Consider getting orthodics or basic arch insert to all your shoes to correct over-pronation
  • Avoid running on cambered running surfaces
  • Mange the amount of downhill running
  • Engage in consistent core strengthening routine where the pelvis is stabilized
  • Take caution engaging in squats, military press, bench press, and lat pullover – exercises that place a vertical downward load on the spine
  • Sleep with a pillow between your legs
  • Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time

Rotator cuff: the rotator cuff is made up of four muscles in the shoulder joint and their associated tendons. The combined action of these muscles is to keep the placement of the upper arm in the shoulder socket stable.  A strain, pull or tear of any of these muscles or tendons is considered a rotator cuff injury.  This type of injury is caused by overhead activities or activities that place a tremendous load on the shoulder joint such as weight lifting or a continuous load on the shoulder joint such as swimming.  Pain from tendonitis is sharp at the onset off injury, at various movements; when the upper arm is rotating inward or outward and during circular movements of the shoulder. As the injury persists the pain may radiate and become duller.  Pain may also not be acute but gradually build to a constant dull ache. 

How to avoid:

  • Engage in consistent shoulder strengthening routine including internal and external arm rotation exercises
  • Avoid maximal lifts
  • Use videotaping and a coach to correct poor freestyle swim form that may contribute to the injury
  • Avoid over use of swimming paddles

Many injuries are avoidable because they results primarily from overuse and the best way to avoid injuries is to follow a well thought training plan that is progressive in nature, incorporates regular stretching, rolling and strength training.  In addition, it is important as an athlete to be very aware of your body and be able to read what it is telling you with respect to training then be able to act on that awareness.

John Hansen, USAT, and USA Swimming Level 1 Coach and USA Cycling Level 3 Certified coach, Folsom California. Hansen has an MS in Exercise Physiology and previously worked at the UC Davis Sports performance lab for five years. Hansen currently coaches the UC Davis Collegiate Club Triathlon team. Hansen also has his own coaching business, primarily coaching long course athletes, 70.3 and 140.6. Visit HansenMultisport.com or email john1hansen@sbcglobal.net.

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.


Source: American Council on Exercise