This was originally published on June 2, 2013
A couple of days ago, I was sought for advice by a fellow triathlete:
After 4 years injury-free, he's come down with multiple injuries over the past 4 months. This has lead to frustration, forced training leading to more injuries, and a loss of love for the sport.
I sat down with him and went over his training, life etc. By the end of the conversation, the answers were clear to me:
- That athlete got into triathlon at a "relaxed" time of his life: comfortable job, with good pay and decent hours, no kids
- He's been training between 15 and 20 hours a week for 3 years, with no problems
- Over the past year, he changed jobs into a much more demanding role, had a baby, and increased his travel frequency
- He wanted to stick to his training schedule. With life and work demanding more hours, he started cutting corners: less sleep, less body maintenance, etc.
- He would pile on the stress when a workout was missed or delayed
So, something had to give, the body and mind just said: enough! I need a break, and since you're not giving it to me, I'll make you... and the injuries started coming...
For newcomers and experienced athletes alike, dealing with burnout and injuries is probably the most frustrating experience in endurance training and racing. But it does not need to be the case.
Very few among us are genetically gifted with resilient bodies that can take a pounding day in and day out and remain injury fee.
Professional athletes have the advantage of time: they allocate most of their day to recovery and treatment of any biomechanical inefficiencies. They also benefit from being surrounded by sports medicine and therapeutic professionals.
Most amateur endurance athletes have full-time jobs, family responsibilities, and daily stress. These things conspire against us and increase the risk of fatigue and injury when training and racing. It could be as simple as sitting in an office chair for hours, leading to compression of the spine, weakness in neck muscles, etc.
If such increased risk factors are ignored when training, we expose ourselves to the risk of overloading these areas, pushing them to the point of injury.
The result? We end up in a continuous cycle of: train - get injured - stop training - recover - train - get injured, etc. A very frustrating experience I've heard only too often (and experienced myself when I first got started in triathlon).
While consistency is an endurance athlete's best friend, such a boom-bust cycle is its worst enemy.
This is one of the main reasons why I strive to get to know my athletes well beyond the training: I need to familiarize myself with their daily lives, home requirements, work demands and conditions, history of injuries or weaknesses, etc. I then integrate all of that input into the training program, rather than forcing a rigid training schedule onto life.
A successful athlete is one who arrives at the race fit, race-ready, and fresh / injury free.
Don't fret! You will be training hard, sometimes quite hard, but you'll also recover well and let your body and mind absorb all of that training, getting ready for the next round!
Take a look at the link below, it presents an interesting illustration of the injury cycle.