How Do I Train For My First Triathlon?

  • By Matt Fitzgerald
  • Published May 8, 2013
  • Updated Mar 25, 2014 at 3:44 PM UTC
Photo: John Segesta

How do I stay injury-free?

Most injuries that befall triathletes are overuse injuries, as opposed to acute ones (like when you fall of your bike and bruise something). While overuse injuries are fairly common among triathletes, they are relatively easy to prevent and treat, if you’re careful.

The most effective way to prevent overuse injuries is to prevent and reverse the muscle imbalances that contribute to most of them. Through the nature of the postures and repetitive motions involved, triathletes tend to develop particular imbalances that are associated with particular injuries. To correct imbalances, you need to stretch muscles that tend to become shortened through training and strengthen muscles that tend to become weakened. Triathletes should frequently stretch their calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, lower back, neck, and chest, and should regularly performing functional exercises that strengthen the hips, butt, abdomen, upper back, and shoulders.

Poor technique is also associated with a majority of overuse injuries. Swimmers who deviate from the recommended arm cycle technique tend to develop swimmer’s shoulder. Cyclists who position their seat too high or low tend to develop low back and knee problems. Runners whose feet over-pronate tend to develop plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and runner’s knee. Have knowledgeable persons inspect your technique in each of the three triathlon disciplines and point out flaws. Modifying technique takes time and discipline, but it does work.

A third factor that is associated with many overuse injuries is sudden and substantial increases in training volume. Always increase your training volume gradually from one week to the next, and don’t increase it every week. The tissues in your body require time to adapt to the training stimuli they experience. For that matter, your body also needs time to adapt to the stress of each individual workout, which is why you need to perform a thorough warm-up each time you swim, bike, and run. Hamstring injuries in particular are known to result from failure to warm up properly.

RELATED: The End Of Injury

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