I was asked to write something and decided I wanted write about staying injury free and listening to your body!
I have been in the sport of triathlon now for 19 years, and had my fare share of niggles and injuries.
When I was younger I thought I was invincible. My age, my ignorance and my fear of losing was what drove me to becoming a top pro, but it also worked to my detriment as I ignored my body’s warning signs.
Starting with the sport when I was 16, I could torture my body day in day out with minimal recovery and my body seemed to handle to work load and stay relatively injury free.
Recently (now I’m 35 years young) my body simply can’t recover from hard sessions or intense workouts like it use to!
I learnt as a junior the hard way, after my two stress fractures, I had to learn when to stop and when to not push through. There is a distinctive difference between pain from just hard working muscles and injury pain. Being a high achiever I struggled to distinguish this, at a young age, I would feel a pain that I knew was more than a tight muscle and I would push through it. A sore bone in my foot I would run on for weeks until I finally chose to see a doctor and be diagnosed with a stress fracture. After two serious stress fractures luckily I learnt my lesson and have been fortunate to have no more since 2002. 😉
Muscular injuries can be huge setbacks, calf injuries have been my Achilles heel excuse the pun. I’ve always been told how muscular they are, and I used to brag how I had never torn a calf muscle!
Not being fully aware of the warning signs of a strain, I pushed through a tight calf muscle leading the Aussie long course champs in 2008. Half way into the run, bang I felt a large flick and tore my calf muscle. Having to pull out whilst leading wasn’t fun! The disappointing thing was I ignored my bodies warning signs, the day before it felt like I had been kicked in the calf and I could feel a grabbing type of pain whilst waking but chose to ignore it!
Muscle strains in the soleus or gastrocnemius muscle tears are tough, as once you have done it once you’re prone to a weakness in the area.
Scar tissue develops and so does a weak spot in that area, the weak spot for me is the lateral side. This becomes an issue if you’re not aware of warning signs like tightness tenderness and knots in the muscle.
Finally after several lower leg injuries mainly my gastrocs I decided to get to the root cause.
It wasn’t going to be easy to find an answer, my biomechanics aren’t perfect and most supportive shoes just don’t fit my feet or don’t feel right!
After consulting with PT Bob Cranny in Boulder an ironman athlete himself, I finally realised that the cause was due to the scar tissue from previous tears. The initial injury was due to bio mechanics, muscle tightness caused by slight pronation and weak stabilisers including glutes. Upon my foot landing this put more strain on the lateral side of my calves. The spot or scar tissue, where the muscle fibres are not aligned correctly and aren’t symmetrical, is what was causing the continual strains or tears.
Bob discovered a technique using an Electrical Stim machine and Ultrasound at the same time and focusing the ultrasound on the scar tissue. We found by ultrasounding the scar tissue whilst electric current is being passed through my body the muscle fibres contract then relax. The area where the scar tissue is grabs and it feels painful (but once it realises it can’t win) eventually the muscle relaxes, by relaxing it allows the electrical current to pass through! After 3/4 treatments I noticed a big difference and we were able to increase the intensity of the current. Now after 1 treatment a week for 3/4 months the scar tissue has been reduced dramatically. Therefore reducing the chance of straining or tearing the fibres by reducing the scar tissue.
What do I want you to take from this information?
Listen to your bodies warming signs!
If you have muscle tightness to the point where there is discomfort walking or you feel muscle knots don’t run!
Always treat the muscle tightness or knots before running any quality or speed run sessions especially. Start with a very slow easy jog on even surface instead of a quality run for your first run back, don’t push it!
Treatments such as acupuncture, graston, mio facial release and ART are all great techniques for muscle tightness or issues.
LISTEN TO YOUR GUT, if you have a gut feeling that the tightness is more than just usual training tightness, take 3/4 days off running. You’re better to take 3/4 days off than tear something and have to take 4-6 weeks off running!
Ways to avoid muscle injuries whilst running;
Wear good shoes that support your running style. This doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy the heaviest most supportive shoes. Often a little lighter is better a lighter and supportive shoe is easy to find. If you need something more supportive, I would choose the Brooks Adrenaline or Trance. For something a little lighter but still supportive the Ravenna is great, and the new Transcend is awesome for a light weight but neutral shoe! You can go to www.brooksrunning.com and it can give you the exact shoe to suit your running style and needs! 😉
Maintain a good strength conditioning program, one that works on all the stabilizers that help support our big muscles. TRX classes work our stabilizers and transverse abdominals or core; this keeps the body strong and balanced to be able to handle increased workloads!
Another big training tip is don’t do back to back or consecutive run days, especially if you are relatively new to the sport. Having two run sessions on back to back days causes increased tightness and thus you’re more susceptible to injuries! I find doing hard run sessions and then a swim straight after with lots of kick really helps the muscles recover quicker!
Good luck to all you Ironman athletes, I hope this helps, can’t wait to see you at the next event!