Self care and injury prevention


As we all return to a new normal in training (some earlier than others), your body will need time to adjust to your new varied training environment.  This adjustment will probably bring with it some muscle soreness.  Today we are going to look at when this muscle soreness is simply soreness, and when it may be something more sinister.

We are all aware, to attain greater levels of performance, we need to push our bodies.  How much we can do this relies on many factors including our base training load and how well our training program is balanced and our self-care and injury prevention methods.  As a result of training hard, muscle soreness will remain, and training can continue.

Often, when an athlete pushes too hard, muscle soreness can be replaced by pain, and while muscle soreness is an expected result of exercise, pain is usually an indication of injury.

So how do we tell the difference?

Muscle Soreness

When muscle soreness is present, your muscles may be tender to touch, will probably feel tired when training and may have a dull ache when resting.  The level of discomfort may dissipate as you warm up and can hang around for 24-72 hours following a tough training session.  A simple muscle soreness should improve with stretching, movement and adequate rest and recovery.  An appropriate activity would be an alternative discipline to train than the one which left you with the soreness.

Pain/Injury Discomfort

When pain is present, it is no longer just muscle soreness.  An injury usually causes a sharp pain, can be tender and may have a burning or hot feeling.  Anything which leaves you with an ache and sharp pain at rest and while training is a problem.  An injury will generally occur during training or within 24 hours following a training session.  A mild injury may improve with movement, but will worsen with continued training, even after adequate rest.  Any suspect of an injury should be properly diagnosed by a medical professional.

As a general rule – ‘Do NOT train through pain’

An injury typically doesn’t ‘ease up’ or reduce soreness after a few days – peak soreness tends to occur 24-48 hours after the onset of the pain or the training session that preceded the problem.  When soreness is lingering, this is often a sign you have an injury.  Sometimes regular soreness dissipates as you warm up and start moving those muscles.  If it hangs around don’t push through it.  When symptoms linger, it is a good idea to have it checked out.

What can you add to your routine to reduce the risk of injury

  1. Work with a skilled coach – This way you will progress with a properly structured training program, that has periods of overload followed by adequate rest and recovery.  Skilled coaching will also address technique leading you to correctly execute the skills of each discipline, thereby reducing the risk of injury through poor technique.

  2. Follow a good stretching program.  This should address areas on your body that tend to become sore and tight following training.  Remembering that your stretching program should incorporate dynamic stretches in warm ups and static stretches after and between training sessions.  Note – if you do suspect you have an injury, do not continue to stretch that area without prescribed treatment.

  3. Adhere to good nutrition practices. Fuel your body well and it will perform, recover and handle the stress of triathlon training loads better.

  4. Sleep.  Never underestimate the benefit of complete rest.

  5. Have a regular massage.  Regular sports massage that targets tight muscles is a fortnight to weekly requirement for an endurance athlete.  For those times in between masseur appointments, remember you can use some simple methods to self-massage using foam rollers and massage tools (or even a tennis ball to release trigger points).

  6. Physio Treatment.  This is useful for further prevention of tightness and soreness and treatment of specific areas of your body susceptible to injuries

Due to the tough training requirements of Triathlon, injuries are sometimes part of the process of getting to learn the limits of your body.  At times of injury don’t lose hope or worry that your fitness will be ‘lost’.  Fortunately, with the three disciplines of Swim, bike and run, you can generally keep your fitness level to an extent, it may just mean specific discipline fitness may be reduced.

To ensure you are able to minimise the risk of injury, to learn the areas it is susceptible to tightness and work on these areas with a good masseur while also following an adequate stretching program and adopting some controlled stretching techniques (check the resources section in your training dashboard for some stretch routines).