Following these 10 injury-prevention commandments of endurance training will help keep you healthy and fit this season.
1. Rest and recover
Include rest days in your training plan by taking a complete break from training both physically and mentally. Get off your feet, rest your mind, rest your body for the day. I recommend training no more than two weeks consecutively without resting. Novice and/or masters athletes may require “off” days more frequently. Recovery weeks, typically fewer hours spent exercising or fewer miles trained, should be included every third to fifth week. Recovery days of easy, non-intense training should follow hard training days.
2. Incorporate recovery techniques
There are a number of ways to incorporate recovery into your routine. Biofoam rollers and massage sticks help sore, achy or stiff muscles recover from exercise. Watching movies, spending time with family, reading, listening to music or socializing with friends can all be effective relaxation strategies that allow you to disassociate from physical exercise and reduce tension while developing positive mood states of happiness and calmness.
Essential for physiological growth and repair, routinely physically active individuals are encouraged to aspire for 8 to 9.5 hours of sleep each night. Cardiovascular performance can be compromised by up to 20 percent with sleep deprivation, which also reduces reaction time, the ability to process information and emotional stability. Naps are always icing on the cake.
4. Consume post-exercise fuel
The goal of post-exercise nutrition is to restore muscle and liver glycogen stores, improve hydration and repair muscle tissue. You should eat 15 to 30 minutes after exercise, preferably as soon as possible, when the muscles are most receptive to fuel. Muscle replenishment and tissue repair can be accelerated if you combine carbohydrates and protein together in a ratio of 4 to 1.
Weigh yourself before and after exhaustive exercise to determine how much water you lost. Stay hydrated by consuming at least 24 ounces per pound of body weight lost within six hours after exercise. Performance begins to decrease after only a two percent loss in body water. Include electrolytes to eliminate the risk of hyponatremia if engaging in activity for more than four hours.
5. Warm up and cool down
A proper warm-up is a key component to preparing the body for the demands of any training session or competition. Developing a pre-race warmup is unique to each individual. Performing a warmup will elevate heart rate and VO2, and increase blood flow to the connective tissue and local muscles to be trained. This in turn will raise muscle temperature and help decrease joint and muscle stiffness, therefore improving range of motion.
Warm-up periods of five to 15 minutes are recommended with the effects lasting up to 45 minutes. After 45 minutes of inactivity, re-warming may be needed. On the other side of the coin, the recovery process and preparation for the next day’s training begins with a proper cool down. Low-intensity aerobic exercise, such as aquatic-based training, light jogging or cycling, are effective cool-down activities for clearing lactic acid and lessening the severity of muscle soreness.
6. Integrate strength training
Strength training is essential for preparing the body for the rigors of training and racing. It facilitates bone health and enhances injury resistance, including factors that contribute to overuse injuries. It can boost lactate tolerance, and assist with delaying fatigue.
7. Use proper equipment
Correct equipment minimizes unwanted stress. A bike should fit you, not you fit the bike. Cycling posture and position is individualistic for maximizing aerodynamics, power, efficiency and comfort while minimizing injury potential and discomfort.
8. Follow the 10-percent rule
Increase annual training hours, or training volume, by 10 percent or less. If you are training according to time, for example, and your triathlon program called for 15 hours of training this week, it’s recommended training hours not exceed 16.5 hours the next week.
9. Interval train
Proper interval training can improve VO2 and anaerobic threshold. Intervals allow your body to adapt to and eventually race at greater speeds.
10. Know that more is always better
Recovery allows your body to adapt to training loads. Conditioning should be specific to the event you are training for. Training volume can be defined as the combinations of how often you work out (frequency) and how long you train (duration).
Vic Brown is an associate strength and conditioning coach at Boston University and assistant coach for Boston Performance Coaching, a triathlon and endurance athlete coaching service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.