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4 tips every first-time triathlete should know before the big day

Triathlon season is in full swing, many of our patients are preparing for their first triathlon at the London Triathlon in August, which is one of the biggest triathlon events in the world.

Steven Berkman who has completed 5 triathlons and owner of BOOST PHYSIO, explains 4 things every first time triathlete “Must know”.  This article was published by Oh My Quad Fitness Magazine

oh my quad magazine


80% of injuries occur in training and problems can arise when you put yourself on a rigorous training schedule. You are probably fitting in your triathlon training with your work life, commute and commitments at home and it’s easy to get obsessed and keep training without proper recovery time to ensure you stay on schedule and unfortunately that is when you can get injured.

1) Is it an injury or aching muscles?

You’ve set yourself an incredible task of training for a 1.5k swim 40k cycle and a 10k run.  It is inevitable that you’ll feel some aches and pain after exercising regularly.

Problems start, especially for first time triathletes, when you keep training through the pain and it doesn’t get better after a few days. Knowing when to stop, what the signs of injury are can be key to a successful triathlon experience.

The main injuries people suffer from when training for a triathlon are usually shoulder pain from swimming, cycling injuries are usually knee or hip related and running are usually from the knee down to the foot area.

running-injuries-300x254Hopefully the pain you are experiencing is DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and not pain from injury. Athletes and fitness know their workout is working when they have DOMS and if you start your triathlon training with a reasonable base of fitness you will expect the pain and achiness that comes 24 to 48 hours after heavy exertion.  DOMS is normal and is often a gratifying feeling after having pushed yourself, it usually improves after a few days.

If it is DOMS you will feel better after an easy cycle or jog but an injury will make the pain worse and that is when you should seek professional advice.  Look out for pain or swelling around the knee or ankle, localised soreness or areas that are painful to the touch. If your pain is interfering with your daily routine, climbing the stairs, getting out of your chair or out of the car, if you knee is locked or if a hip or ankle feels stiff and painful then chances are it is an injury.

If the pain impedes your training, say you usually cycle for 80 minutes but you can’t do more than half an hour then it’s more likely to be an injury.

2) Don’t panic

If you do get injured during triathlon training don’t panic. It doesn’t mean you can’t take part in the event. Depending on the severity of the injury and the amount of time left before the triathlon a good physiotherapist should be able to help you get back to training so you can compete in the event.

3) Make sure you do enough Brick Training Sessions

A Brick training session is combining to of the events into one training session.  For example a swim followed immediately by a cycle, or a cycle followed immediately by a run, rather than keeping your training regime separate all the time.  The point is to practise what it feels like to have jelly legs when you get off the bike or how to stop getting dizzy when you get out of the water after a long swim.

You need to know what it feels like so you know how to put the least amount of stress on your body when you transition between activities. It is tempting for a newbie to rush between activities at the main event in order to save time but the key here is slow and steady.

4) How to transition safely during training and at the main event

Simply knowing what is happening to your body as you go through the transitions at the triathlon will stop you worrying or panicking that something is seriously wrong, forewarned is forearmed and it is reassuring to know that what you are experiencing is normal.

Transition 1: Swim to Cycle – how to avoid post-swim dizziness

It is not unusual to feel dizzy after you’ve been horizontal for half an hour, the blood drains from your brain and you may get wobbly knees, when you come out of the swim into Transition 1.  Take your time coming out of the water,  don’t try run straight away , rather walk quickly- do lots of deep breathing and pump your leg muscles to get blood to your brain while you adjust to being vertical.  Practice in the pool, do twenty lengths, stand up, and walk around to get used to the feeling from going from horizontal to straight.

Transition 2: From Cycle to Run – how to avoid jelly legs

Make sure that you spend the last five minutes of the bike ride spinning at a higher cadence which will start loosening up your legs in preparation for running.  While this sounds counterintuitive, slow down towards the end of the cycling section. It will be very tempting to go for one last hard push but most novices will benefit by preparing their legs before they start running. The key tip here is walking not running immediately after getting off your bike, you will not lose any significant amount of time and walking through Transition 2 will give you’re your body time to adjust in preparation for the 10k run.

When you start running you’ll have jelly legs so start with shorter paces, and spend the first five minutes lengthening your stride and start speeding up as your muscles start to adapt from cycling.

Sometimes it is worth checking in with a physio if you have any concerns and don’t forget to book a sports massage for after the big day.

Hopefully these tips will help first-time triathletes feel confident and prepared for what lies ahead for the big adventure that is taking part in a triathlon.



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