You have likely heard of Ironman, Olympic-distance triathlons, and sprint triathlons. In fact, you may even be familiar with the Beaverdam Olympic Triathlon, a USA triathlon sanctioned event that takes place in Wakeforest’s Beaverdam Recreation Area. These triathlons and others like them take place all over the world, consisting of varying lengths and challenging courses.
Of the three triathlon components (swimming, cycling, running) the running portion of the event is the most high-impact. And, because running also occurs last in a triathlon, the incidence of injury is greater. At EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region, we help athletes of all ages to establish running injury prevention strategies.
Our Sports Medicine Team and Athletic Trainers have the knowledge, skills, and expertise needed to encourage safe and successful sports’ endurance training. Our ultimate priority is to help each and every athlete Emerge Stronger. Healthier. Better.
Why Is Running Injury Prevention a Priority in Triathlon Training?
Again, since running is the highest-impact event in a triathlon, the risk of a running injury increases. According to research, some of the most common musculoskeletal long-distance running injuries include:
- Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome
More commonly known as “shin splints,” medial tibial stress syndrome produces pain and tenderness along the inner shinbone.
- Stress Fractures
Stress fractures in runners occur most often in the foot and ankle.
- Achilles Tendinitis
Although the Achilles tendon can withstand a tremendous amount of stress, this tendon that runs down the back of the leg often becomes inflamed and irritated as the result of routine and long-distance running.
- Iliotibial Band Syndrome
When overstressed, the iliotibial band that extends from the outside (lateral) area of the hip to the thigh produces a painful, burning sensation.
- Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (Runner’s Knee)
This condition describes pain that occurs in the front of the knee and kneecap.
Despite these injuries being common among runners, practicing running injury prevention can significantly reduce the risk of one of these incidents (and others) from happening. Even prevention strategies as simply as wearing the right kind of running shoes can help encourage a safer triathlon running experience.
Tried and Tested Running Injury Prevention Tips
Since overuse injuries are common among triathletes and long-distance runners, consistently practicing preventative running injury strategies can significantly affect the outcome of a successful race—or, one that ends in a painful injury.
One major advantage that triathletes share are the benefits of cross-training. Introducing a combination of varied strength training and muscle building activities from practicing multiple, diversified sports is shown to reduce single-sport specialization injuries.
In addition to the benefits that come from varied endurance training activities, triathletes can further protect themselves from injury, by applying these running injury prevention steps:
- Appropriate Running Shoes
As we mentioned earlier, having the right type of running shoe is extremely important to maintaining safety—for any type of running—but especially for endurance running. Wearing shoes that do not provide appropriate cushioning and support can lead to instability, increasing opportunity for injury. Experts suggest finding a shoe that allows for a thumbnail’s width between the end of the longest toe and the end of your shoe. It is also important to replace running shoes after 250 to 500 miles of use, as shock absorption depletes over time.
- Five-minute Warm-up
When your body temperature is low, muscles can be stiff. Stiff, cold muscles means a greater probability of injury. To help keep your legs limber, flexible and protected, a five minute warm-up of jumping jacks, jogging in place, or other low-impact exercise can raise your body temperature and prepare your muscles for safe exercise.
- Bookend Stretches
Similar to warming-up, including a few gentle stretches before and after running, strengthen and lengthen your leg muscles, while encouraging flexibility. While doing a slow and gentle stretch, it is important to breathe into the stretch, relax, and hold the stretch for between 10 and 30 seconds.
- Direction Change
To help prepare for the curves likely encountered during a triathlon race, practice reversing direction halfway through (on a curved race track, for example) to help ensure even pressure on both feet.
- Acclimate Slowly
Triathlon running routes have been known to include higher altitudes, hills, and other challenges. During your training, it is important to increase your speed and distance slowly to avoid exhaustion and injury and to help acclimate to these added challenges.
- Hydrate Consistently
Loss of hydration leads to dizziness, disorientation, and exhaustion—all of which can potentially cause an injury during an endurance run. It is recommended that runners consume 10 to 15 ounces of fluid 10 to 15 minutes before running, as well as drinking every 20 to 30 minutes during your run.
More Triathlon and Endurance Training Tips
In addition to helping local triathletes prepare and remain safe for the running portion of a triathlon, our Triangle Region Sports Medicine Specialists and Athletic Trainers have plenty of additional swimming and cycling preventative tips. No matter what type of endurance training you participate in, our board-certified subspecialty orthopedic physicians have the knowledge and expertise to help you succeed.
To learn more, schedule an appointment with one of our highly qualified EmergeOrtho–Triangle Region doctors. Or, call us any time at (919) 220-5255.