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Ironman or Iron Pain?

The idea of swimming 2.4 miles, then hopping on a bike for 112 miles, and finishing off with a marathon, all in one day, is not fun. In fact, it is downright masochistic, and sadistic in its nature. So why do endurance athletes do it? To push their mind and body past their pain threshold and show in the furnace of adversity, how far the human spirit can take them.

I was one of these athletes, and let me tell you, completing one of these events liberates you like you have never felt before.

Unfortunately, since endurance athletes push themselves further then the body is meant to, the body breaks down and suffer injuries.

If you were to Google “Top 10 Injuries Triathletes Suffer From” – a majority of them would end in “itis”. The end root “-itis” means inflammatory. These would be considered overuse injuries and usually end up becoming chronic.

Unlike acute injuries, which are traumatic, such as a fall, twist or blow to the body.

I have also been a victim of suffering from overuse injuries from endurance sports.

So, the burning question…how do you stop these annoying injuries?

The answer is you can’t. The amount of stress an endurance athlete puts on their body during training or racing can only result in overuse injuries.

However, you can help prevent these injuries by working on MOBILITY and STABILITY of your joints.

It is vital to know which joints need mobility work and which need stability and strength.

This chart below will give you a joint by joint visual of mobility and stability.

As the figure describes above, it is crucial to consistently work on mobility in the following areas:

  • Ankles
  • Hips
  • Thoracic Spine
  • Glenohumeral joint

Motor control/stability should be concentrated in the following areas:

  • Foot
  • Knee
  • Lumbar Spine
  • Scapulothoracic

The videos below will walk you through mobility drills you could perform before and/or after training. This will help prevent injury and improve performance and recovery.

Mobility Suggestions for Ankles and Hips

Mobility Suggestions for Thoracic Spine and Glenohumeral Joint

Here are stability drills for our joints that are in dire need of motor control. As endurance athletes, a heavy load is not necessarily the answer, but rather training our mind to activate the muscles necessary to perform swimming, cycling and running. I chose primarily unilateral (single leg) exercises as asymmetries tend to exist in every person. If we reduce asymmetries in training, then we can improve body mechanics, reduce injury and increase performance.

Stability suggestions for Feet, Knees and Lumbar Spine

Stability suggestions for Scapulothoracic and some final thoughts and considerations.

As an endurance athlete, your time tends to be limited, especially with the volume of training. So, when you are presented with either:

  • Go out for a run, ride, or swim
  • Work on mobility and stability

Most would choose the first option because it is more exciting and would lead to an increase in performance. However, if you were to keep an open mind about improvement in this sport, mobility and stability could be the answer.

On a final note, here is some food for thought:

The Nakoa Educational Director, John Welch, explained mobility to me in a great analogy.

Every mobility limiter on your body is like a band holding you back. Tight ankles – that’s two bands around the ankles. Tight hips that’s two bands around the hips. Now running a 10km race (let alone an Ironman) is hard enough. Why would you add bands of resistance to your body making it harder?

Then add to the fact you are putting immense pressure on your stability joints, because of the limitations of your mobility.

So, limitations in mobility and stability may not be only the cause of your injuries, but may also be limiting you in peak performance.

Our bodies are designed to move pain-free, let’s keep it that way!

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