Travails of Triathletes

There is little doubt that triathletes are among the best conditioned competitors, with training regiments covering the popular sport’s swimming, cycling and running disciplines.

But there is a flip-side to this ultimate conditioning: overuse injuries.

As more casual athletes sign up for triathlons, there is a misconception that a range of sports working different muscles reduces the chance of injury because the strain is spread throughout the body.

While the cross-training factor can be helpful, it only works to an extent.

Triathletes tend to switch from a single sport — most often distance running or cycling — and add to their training the other two disciplines. But additional workouts without proper pacing and precautions lead to overuse injuries.

“Triathletes can suffer injuries from the compound effect of adding too much training without proper care and guidance,” said Gautam Yagnik, M.D., a specialist with the Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Doctors Hospital, who sees patients at West Kendall Baptist Hospital.

In practice, those who take up triathlons tend to train harder, incrementally adding rigors to their workouts.

With the rise of amateur triathletes, the sport that came of age in the 1970s with the ultimate “Ironman” competition in Hawaii (swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles in one day) is seeing a rise in training injuries.

South Florida’s location and climate makes it a natural epicenter for triathlons, and more elite competitors are drawn to the area. The Publix Escape to Miami Triathlon, co-sponsored by Baptist Health South Florida, is set for Sunday (Sept. 28, 2014) and sells out every year, with a start off Margaret Pace Park in Biscayne Bay.

The event features two Triathlon divisions: Olympic Distance (swim 0.9 mile), (bike 24.8 mile), and (run 6.2 mile); and the Sprint Distance (swim 0.25 mile), (bike 13 mile); and (run 3.1 mile).

Overuse injuries are common among triathletes preparing for competition. Studies have shown that the most prevalent sites of overuse problems are the knees, lower legs and lower back.

Running and cycling are more likely to cause injuries, although adding swimming and cycling to a running regiment decreases impact on the body, which can be a benefit.

“Cross-conditioning is important and a key training element for triathletes, but proper preparation, stretching, hydration, periods of rest and other precautions should be taken to avoid overuse injuries,” Dr. Yagnik said.

Here are general tips for triathletes to help avoid overuse injuries:

  • Proper stretching matters more for triathletes. Training for a triathlon requires muscles to endure repetitive motions. Stretching helps your muscles become more elastic. This will make you more flexible over time.
  • Choose a triathlon that’s 12 weeks away or more because you need time to train properly, assuming you are already in good shape and regularly active.
  • Do not over-do-it with your training. Your body needs time to adapt to new training routines and proper rest is crucial.  If you already fit, do slightly more challenging workouts instead of just adding workouts.
  • Schedule your swimming first since it is the one discipline that is most difficult to coordinate. Running is most convenient, so schedule it last. Avoid the same activity twice in a row to keep a balance.
  • Hydration is important particularly in South Florida’s humid climate, as is nutrition between workouts,  while the body becomes accustomed to a shift in routines and intensity.
  • Do mostly moderate-intensity workouts during the first phase of training for a few weeks. Gradually add high-intensity workouts. Just prior to a race, include race-pace intervals or sprints.
  • Healthcare that Cares

    With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

    Language Preference / Preferencia de idioma

    I want to see the site in English

    Continue In English

    Quiero ver el sitio en Español

    Continuar en español