Dr. Kurt Strecker in the house today with 8 Keys to a Fast, Injury-Free Season. Let's get to it!
1. Warm Up
We recently had an athlete, we’ll call him Xavier, in the PAP clinic with a pulled calf. He explained that he had been training for the past several months without any issues, and in fact, he was running stronger and faster at this point in time than he could recall. He had been focused on a particular road race and was sure he would PR. The problem came soon after mile 1.
There goes the calf.
What happened? I asked X to tell me about a typical training week. He said that an aerobic run would start out nice and easy for the first 10 minutes or so and gradually build from a 9:00/mile pace to a 8:00 min pace. On higher intensity days, he would ride his bike to the local high school track, do a few easy laps with strides and then do his main sets, whatever those might be. Then I asked him to describe race day. That morning he drove to the venue, had a quick jog and couple of stretches, then stood around for about 20 minutes waiting for the race to start. When the gun went off he headed out at his goal race pace of about 7:00 min/mile.
Do you see the problems?
Inadequate warm up and too much time between getting loose and starting the race. Don’t let this happen to you! Have a pre-race warm up routine, USE IT, and be sure to time it so you’re warm when you need to be.
2. Listen to Your Body
So our old friend X broke another cardinal rule. He didn’t listen to his body. When his calf went ‘pop,’ he didn’t stop. He pressed on and finished the race, which happened to be a trail run of 12 miles. Not the best choice to say the least.
Do you think that made his rehab longer or shorter? Let me help here. The decision to press on cost him several additional weeks of training and one of his ‘A’ races.
Pain exists for a reason. It is a signal that something is wrong. PLEASE listen to your body. And FYI, recovering from an injury is almost always quicker if you treat it when it occurs instead of waiting 3 months and hoping it will go away.
3. Strength Train Properly
You can’t put an 800HP motor in a rusty VW Bug chassis and expect that it won’t break. Triathletes and runners are very good at making powerful cardiovascular engines, and they are very often lousy at taking care of their frames. Triathlon is NOT cross training, people. You MUST do your strength training. Coach Al has written volumes on this, and you can refresh yourself with our advice on strength training starting here. Heed his warnings or pay homage at the Altar of the Injury Gods!
4. Muscle Balance
Balance in muscle lengths is very important, but random stretching doesn’t work.
People will often ask me, “Doc, what stretches are good for runners?” The truth is, there are no good stretches for runners, triathletes, baseball players or astronauts. There are, however, appropriate stretches for Mary, Freddy, Sally and Xavier. One’s flexibility and mobility is determined by genetics, occupation, daily activities, and many other factors. The only way to know what muscle groups YOU need to stretch is to evaluate YOUR flexibility and mobility as a whole. You can do that through a gait analysis assessment, a session with a physical therapist, or a carefully-chosen, very skilled trainer.
5. Proper Shoe Gear
Runners with short calves who over pronate need different shoe gear than those with good ankle mobility and neutral foot mechanics. I refer to “shoe gear” to include shoes and/or orthotics. There are as many biomechanical variations as there are people.
The bottom line is, having the appropriate shoe gear on your feet is like having the proper alignment of your car tire. It makes for better fuel economy, less wear-and-tear on the ball joints, and fewer trips to the mechanic. The more miles you log, the more important this becomes. Click here for a FREE direct download of our e-book on this topic.
6. Bike Fit
Having a good bike fit is just like having proper shoe gear, plain and simple. This must include a thorough evaluation of the foot/pedal interface. It is a critical part of the fit and it is often overlooked. Wanna make more Watts with less effort and stay out of the Med Tent? Check with Todd and Lis Kenyon at TTBikeFit!
The most underutilized and underrated piece of equipment an athlete has may well be the mattress. Sleep is when we repair and restore. It is important for everything from growth hormone to neurotransmitters. Under performing on the race course? Try sleeping more. It’ll keep you from doing the head bob in the car on the way to work, too!
Everyone knows nutrition is important, but just how important may be under estimated.
Did you know that the average American consumes nearly 130 pounds of sugar each year? It’s true. We’ve made sugar a real staple in our diets. It feeds inflammation like gas on a fire and it’s loaded with empty calories. Check out Coach Al’s thoughts on fueling for race day and training, and get off the sugar IV! A quick share below, and Coach's webinar "Smart Training and Racing Nutrition" is yours. (And thanks!)