Blog: No rest for the wicked (or injured)

Readers of the last instalment of my blog will know that injury has struck and I have a bad dose of plantar fasciitis. I have mixed feelings about this because on the one hand I will be deferring my marathon place at the Long Course Weekend in Tenby.  However, on the flip side it’s my stag party this weekend, and now I suppose I can relax rather than having a marathon looming over me.

This brings me to the topic of enforced rest, or what I prefer to call enforced recovery. In the life of a triathlete, we very rarely take 100% rest (where we stop training all together), however there is probably some method in our madness.

In the dark old days of sports medicine the advice was simple, if it hurts, stop. This never sat well with athletes (particularly those who compete in triathlon) because it was felt people drop back in their training plans.  Thankfully the science now suggests that appropriate active recovery can be more beneficial than complete rest, preventing the potential loss of cardio conditioning and muscle strength.  Now, I’m not talking about having a week or two off because of a twisted ankle, I am referring to mid to longer term injuries, but please always seek professional advice on these matters.

I suppose the benefit (or curse whichever way you look at it) of having 3 disciplines to train for, is that unless you have a catastrophic injury, you can always do some form of training. Whether it is core training for a back injury, or a swimming workout for leg injury, your training can always be adapted to ensure you maintain fitness. Speaking to triathletes during race seasons, most will tell you of injury niggles, which considering the level of training we do, are inevitable.  The average triathlete when faced with a minor injury, will automatically be thinking about ways to work around the injury, even if that means changing running style or increasing the use of the RICE method.

The management of these niggles is important but identifying the reasons for these injuries is even more imperative. A few years ago I used to pull my calf constantly until I realised it was the muscles in my lower back pulling me out of alignment.  Since then, I lengthen and strengthen these muscles and have not any issues to date.

In 2017, I am taking a season off from long distance triathlon and concentrating on my running, which has meant pounding the streets more than normal. I have been suffering from what I believe is plantar fasciitis for a few weeks (actually months), but I was silly to think that ice alone was enough to resolve the issue.  What I should have done was to look for the injury cause;

  • Is it my shoes? (possibly)
  • Am I stretching enough? (probably not)
  • Is it my routes? And did I jump up the distance too quickly? (possibly)
  • Should I allow more recovery time for my heel between runs? (yes, definitely)

My first mistake was not listening to my body from the start of the injury. Two things happened; firstly I was losing pace for no particular reason, then I was getting a sore and tight heel in the mornings (both which I believe were due to inconsistent training). I haven’t been sticking to a routine of my normal Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday runs, which meant my body didn’t have time to recover in some instances, and then at other times I would just do a huge run with hardly any running around it.At the first sight of injury I should have taken time off to recover, switching over to less impactful training like cycling or swimming, or even switching the surface I ran on.I should have researched my symptoms and sought recommended treatment thus preventing further injury. However, I can be really stubborn when listening to advice on injury even though I have a sports degree background, and knowledgeable on the subject.At this point when understanding the injury you can experiment what treatments work for you. You will often hear me say that triathlon is very unique to the individual; you have to find your own plan (fitting in around lifestyle and preferences). Finally once you know what works for you, you can devise an injury schedule and protocol that will allow you to treat your injury in the correct manner, and potentially still maintain a level of training.For the time being though, I will be enjoying my stag party where I can let my hair down and not worry about going out for a run between beer sessions.I don’t think my friends would allow that anyway……………..

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