22
Sep
08

Get a Physical Therapist

When I first started getting into triathlons my trainer referred me to a physical therapist. I didn’t have a problem that needed to be fixed, but he told me to go anyway. I went to a therapist who had experience with running and biking. He tested me for flexibility, making me do all sorts of stretches. He watched me walk and run in my running shoes. He watched me ride my bike on the street. He watched me ride on a stationary trainer. He adjusted my bike’s seat, pedals, and handlebars to fit them to my body shape. Perhaps most importantly, he gave me a number of stretches to do for my knees and made sure I knew how to do them.

Within the first 1-2 weeks of running I woke up one day and couldn’t walk. My knees hurt too bad. I went back to the therapist and he checked me out and let me know that I was taking things too fast. He told me to never increase my speed or distance more than 10% per week, because it takes time for your knees to adjust, especially when you’re starting from scratch. I had gone from 1 mile runs to 3-4 mile runs within this 1-2 week period. He told me to not run until the pain went away, which should only be a few days, and then take it easy after that and don’t try to run a half-marathon within the next month or anything. He also told me to really focus on stretching. I did as he told me to do and I’ve been fine ever since. I haven’t had a knee problem yet.

I also was having problems with my elbows while biking. They would get sore. I found out that I was getting the equivalent of golfer’s elbow. He gave me a stretch to do for that as well, and the pain quickly went away.

I didn’t go for a while and just recently went back because I’ve been experiencing some pain in my lower back on the right side. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t any sort of nerve or disc injury, even though I didn’t think it was. It felt more like a muscle pain, but I wanted to make sure, and most importantly I wanted to figure out how to treat it. He confirmed that it was a muscle issue and not related to anything in my spine, and gave me some stretches to do.

The point of all this is that it’s easier to prevent injury than it is to treat an injury, and sometimes an injury can take you out. Sometimes for a season, sometimes forever. My neighbor also did triathlons, but he had a knee injury, overdid it one day, and now he can never run again. He can bike and swim just fine, but running long distances is out for the rest of his life. I don’t want that to happen to me, and I’m glad I went to a therapist because it’s given me some tidbits of knowledge I can use to hopefully stay injury free.

One bit of advice–I would recommend finding a therapist who is an active triathlete. Maybe you can’t do that because there just isn’t somebody like that in your area, but if you can find one I’d recommend it because they’ll understand better than anyone else exactly what you’re doing with your body and what your body needs.