Summer is coming, and with it are 37 sanctioned triathlons in BC alone, running (and swimming/biking) from June to September. Then there are the numerous ones across the country, continent, and sea all the way to the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. But regardless of whether you are participating in a small local affair or on a grander stage, you are indeed a triathlete, and as such are putting your body through the wringer unlike any other athlete. In order to be competitive in your class, protect your overall health, and remain injury free, you need assistance that spans far beyond the massage tent at your next event. Today, we take a succinct look at why you should make regular physiotherapy a part of your regime so that you can make it through the three stages of your next triathlon, and beyond.
3 Reasons Why You Should Continue to See a Physical Therapist When Preparing for a Triathlon
1. Can Make You a Better Swimmer – Stage 1
Swimming is typically the weakest stage for most triathletes, and given that it’s the first, getting wet can put a damper on your overall time and placement at the finish line. But imagine the feeling of being among the first out of the water in your class, knowing that you have a head start as you head for the cycling portion. This vision can become a reality through physical therapy.
For one, treatment can directly address common swimmers’ injuries that you may or may not know you have. One of the most common, is swimmer’s shoulder, which is characterized by inflammation of the supraspinatus and biceps tendon within the subacromial space, and can lead to shoulder impingement. Physiotherapy will also address other ailments that may be impacting your time in the water, such as overuse injuries to the neck and lower back in addition to the feet, ankles and knees. Remember, you need to task your whole body during this stage, more than any other.
Of course, you may not be coming into the triathlon with an injury. However, the likelihood of sustaining one in this first stage is higher than it was in the pool, lake, or open ocean that you trained in, because now you’re in the mix with dozens or hundreds of other competitors which changes the game and increases the risk of injury. You’ll be swimming harder in a tighter personal space, and this may directly impact your form and result in muscle strain or worse, a tear. If you sustain an injury in this important first stage, it will affect how you perform in the latter two, which is why it is essential to work with a physiotherapist from the beginning. They will provide you with a customized exercise program to address the body movements called upon when swimming, with a focus on the smaller stabilizing muscles that will assist the big movers (i.e. shoulders) in doing what they need to do to stroke passed the crowd.
Lastly, a physiotherapist can help you with your breathing technique by strengthening your breathing diaphragm. View more on the benefits of physical therapy for swimmers.
2. Can Improve Your Cycling Performance – Stage 2
Once you’re out of the water and feeling invigorated (thanks to your training and work with a physical therapist) it’s time to hit the bike. The cycling portion of a triathlon is a favorite among many, permitting a post-swim “cool down” while allowing you the opportunity to reflect and then refocus on the road ahead. However, a portion of triathletes who have just gone under months of training will have sustained an underlying overuse injury that results in either nagging knee/leg pain, back pain, achilles pain, or foot pain. One or more of these can have you badly reeling during this two-wheeled stage. Thankfully, a physical therapist can nip the onset of (or potential for) these overuse injuries in the bud during your training so that they are a non-event at your next event. In addition, a physiotherapist will also help you develop your core, which is not only essential to cycling performance, it will help prevent a wide variety of cycling related injuries, especially those pertaining to the lower back.
Another great benefit of working with a physical therapist, is that they can provide you with explicit stretches and movements to incorporate after your swim before you mount your bike. Some triathletes attempt to dry, change, and hop on their bikes without giving much thought to this part, but by taking a few short minutes to stretch and move your body you can make up those minutes on the road and zip past in-class competition, those who are now feeling the pain and stiffness that comes from not taking a moment to adjust their physique.
A physical therapist can also provide for some very practical applications for this stage. They can outfit you for custom orthotics to correct foot and leg misalignment during the act of pedaling, and can also assist with custom bike fitting. View more on the benefits of physical therapy for cyclists.
3. Can Improve Your Run Time (Stage 3)
Two stages down, and one to go – the most grueling as you take your taxed body and put feet to concrete under the hot and/or humid weather. While regular physical therapy can have a very positive impact on your performance in the first two stages, it is probably most essential for this final lap.
For starters, a physical therapist will help identify the existence of (or potential for), along with prescribing treatment for the following common runner injuries:
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Shin Splints
- Patellofemoral Stress Syndrome (PFSS)
- Piriformis Syndrome
- Iliotibial Band Syndrome
- Stress fractures
- Hamstring strain
- Achilles Tendinopathy
Beyond runner injury repair and prevention, a physical therapist can help you improve balance (and therefore running performance) by refining your Gait with custom running orthotics (which may differ from your cycling orthotics), and will work to improve both the stabilizer and core muscles tasked during the running portion of the event. Also, as addressed for Stage 1 (swimming), physical therapy can help improve your breathing technique. View more on the benefits of physical therapy for runners.
Triathlon season is just weeks away (at press) but it’s never too late to consult with your local physiotherapist. There is simply no better way to complement your training, improve performance, and protect yourself from injury at any stage of your next event. If you reside or are training within the Greater Vancouver area, contact Absolute PhysioCare today to schedule an appointment.