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You don’t have to swim, bike and run year-round to have success in triathlon. In fact, you’ll probably be most successful if you take a short break from training once a year to let your body recuperate and recharge your motivational batteries.
With time off comes a loss of tolerance for the volume of swimming, cycling and running that one can handle in peak shape. So when the time comes to start training again, it’s important to ease back into it. The risk of overuse injuries is higher when an athlete is ramping up training after time off. This risk is greatest in running, thanks to its high-impact nature.
Use these three guidelines to avoid getting hurt when you start running again:
1. Do the two-step.
Divide the process of getting back into running shape into two steps. The first step is to gently allow your body to re-adapt to the stress of repetitive impact. Schedule only short, slow runs, preferably on soft surfaces, for the first three weeks. Don’t worry about building fitness. Save that for step two, which follows your three-week adaptation period.
2. Obey the 72-hour rule.
Your bones, muscles and connective tissues need time to recover and strengthen in response to the stress of each run. For this reason it’s best to run less frequently than you might normally do during the first few weeks of running—once every three days is a good rule of thumb.
3. Listen to your body.
Stop running and take an extra day or two of rest whenever you feel worrisome pains. A little restraint here will spare you from a much longer forced break due to injury.