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As athletes we all live in fear of injury, but do we do enough to avoid them? When I take on new members to my squad, I make them sign up to the following six simple injury minimization principles (as the only thing worse than being injured is having to coach an injured athlete!)
Warm up/cool down
This should be part of each session—this goes for all disciplines and applies no matter how time-crunched you are. I actually advocate compressing the main set if do not have enough time for the entire session. Simply blasting straight into your 5km race pace intervals on cold muscles will only result in disaster.
Make time for a foam rolling/stretching routine
Athletes are far better off setting aside 10-15 minutes each night to stretch/foam roll the key muscles (glutes, hamstrings, calves, quads, hip flexors, etc.) than having a specific (and often easily skipped) twice weekly hour-long gym session. Do it while watching TV or chatting with your partner/roommates/kids!
Nutrition is key not only for fuel (carbs) but for the body to repair (protein). There is no point in signing up to an Ironman or 70.3 plan if you are not going to match your healthy lifestyle with a healthy diet. Don’t panic; this does not mean you will never eat chips again (I would not be in this game if that were the case) it simply means making more of the right food choices during the day and week—think more green than brown!
Bendy is trendy (and useful)
This is more for the senior athletes over 40 years. I find that most of the people coming from a single-sport background have AWFUL flexibility. For these guys/gals I recommend that on a recovery day they sign up to some yoga/pilates classes (or buy a DIY DVD). The positive impact on performance is quite dramatic.
With few exceptions, when I review the previous typical training routines of a new squad member the one thing that is always missing is rest days or recovery weeks. You can only push the body so much until it needs time for muscles to rebuild/consolidate the gains. Give it this time and you will soon reap the benefits. Having a clear plan or coach will help you monitor this more effectively but if self-coaching—do not underestimate the importance of this fifth discipline.
Monitor/listen to your body
Linked to point 5 above—I have the squad keep an eye on certain metrics (mood, fatigue levels, resting HR etc) with an agreement that if we see certain flags (e.g. a normally highly motivated athlete reporting bad mood for 3 days in a row or his resting HR is +5-10 beats more than average out of the blue)—we look at changing the plan for that week. That might be a lighter session than planned or just an additional rest day. We listen to the body or we end up injured, run down, or both.
None of the above six points should be news or revolutionary to any athlete, and individually none of them are too complex/expensive to do. But the real trick is to integrate ALL of them into your next training block to have the most effective injury avoidance strategy you can.
This article originally appeared at Trainingpeaks.com.
Steven Moody is Ironman University, Triathlon Ireland, and TrainingPeaks Level 2 certified and specializes in helping time-crunched athletes realize their goals. Learn more at Smartendurancesolutions.com.