Taking Care of a Triathlete's Body- Part 1. Self Maintenance
Injuries are something all athletes have to deal with. Throughout my athletic career I have been faced with various injuries that at the time I felt were unlucky or unfortunate. In looking back at these injuries, most were preventable. Before I began endurance sports I was inflexible and had some huge muscle imbalances. This is a recipe for overuse injuries in a sport like tennis. It is no wonder that with extremely tight calf muscles and very weak quad muscles that I developed knee problems that I have dealt with until very recently. During my freshman year in 2010 I shared a college dorm with Matt Johnsen, a very talented, All-American cross country runner. Seeing the work he put into his body to allow him to perform well was something that I noticed and admired but neglected at the time. When I began running in 2012 I knew I would have to attack my knee and foot issues head on. Taking a leaf from Matty's book I began stretching and self massaging every day. The results were immediate, the muscles in my legs that had been tight for as long as I could remember finally allowed me some flexibility, and for the first time I was able to touch my toes. I am certain that without taking care of my body as I began endurance sports I wouldn't have been able to deal with the rigors I was placing on my body.
Stretching and self massage is an area of sports science that continues to receive a great deal of attention. After reading a study that suggested stretching was not necessary as long as you self massaged, I gave it a try. The results were horrible. A week or two after ditching my stretching routine I felt my legs tightening back up and a soreness which I was not used to crept back into my muscles. Since then I have done my best to stretch and massage every day. The only lapse in this routine has come recently. About a month ago I was so pressed for time with work, school and training that I neglected to stretch and massage for a little over a week. The results are some plantar fasciitis I have been dealing with in the weeks since. Thankfully by attacking it head on with stretching, icing and massage, I have been able to keep it somewhat under control and slowly get rid of it.
My personal results (n=1) have shown that in order to keep my body happy I have to dedicate time and take care of it. Although I know this works for me, I know people that can handle not stretching and massaging at all. That is great, but it is not for everyone. I would advise finding what works for you and sticking with it. Some people might look at my routine and think "wow he spends way too much time on that" but it is because I know I have to, and there is no point in training if I am not going to be healthy come race day.
Here is a snapshot of what my daily maintenance entails.
Stretching routine- ~20minutes
Foam roll legs ~10minutes
Massage stick legs ~10minutes
Baseball and golf ball deep tissue and foot ~5minutes
Total= 45minutes well spent.