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We all know the intangibles are important, but they’re also easy to ignore.
Written by: Courtney Baird
Ask any coach, elite athlete, or running guru, and he or she will tell you that it’s the little things that count when it comes to injury.
If you work with a coach, you’ve most likely heard him bark, “Ice after every hard workout.” Or, “Don’t for get to stretch!” Or, “Go see your massage therapist if something’s nagging you.” Or, “Change your shoes after 400 miles!”
And while we all know that we need to mind the little things, they’re easy to ignore if you have a busy life, a busy job, kids, a significant other, or pretty much just live in this world.
I certainly have ignored the little things during my training. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve finished a run and then immediately jumped into the car without stretching, or how many times I’ve ignored a nagging pain because I wouldn’t make the time to go to the physical therapist. As someone who holds down a busy, full-time job, it’s easy for me to push these optional activities under the rug.
But lately, because of my busy, full-time job—I work as the editor of a magazine where I get to hang out with elite athletes from time to time—I’ve finally realized just how important it is for me to mind the little things if I want to avoid injury.
I made this realization after interviewing a rising star in the triathlon world. I spent about 36 hours shadowing him for a story, and something about his approach to training really struck a chord with me: He minds the little things. Largely because of this, he’s never been seriously hurt.
He visits the nutritionist. He stretches. He lifts weights. He naps almost daily. He visits the chiropractor. He massages his muscles on the foam roller before he goes to bed at night.
Everything he does outside of his workouts is meant to help him recover and prevent injury: sleeping, stretching, core work, icing—the list goes on.
And while few of us have the time and resources to commit to the little things as much as this athlete commits to them, we can still learn from his approach to training. He doesn’t have to mind the little things. But he does. He makes time for them.
We can make time for them, too. Because, after all, most of these little things don’t take much time at all. Most of us have an extra 10 minutes every day to stretch. Most of us have another 10 minutes every day to devote to core work. And most of us could get to bed a little earlier every night if we tried, just to ensure we are recovering properly.
If we make a commitment to these little things, we’ll all be happier, healthier, and better off for it. And we’ll be faster, too.
Courtney Baird is editor-in-chief of Inside Triathlon magazine. She ran Division 1 cross-country and track and now competes in triathlons as an elite age-grouper.