Triathlon has to be one of the most inclusive sports in Australia. It is one of the only sports where young children, 90-year-old masters athletes, para-triathletes, novice participants and elite athletes all come together during training and competition day.
Triathlon ACT, the peak body for triathlon, duathlon, aquathlon and multisport events in the ACT, has been working hard to build participation in Canberra in recent years. By focusing on reducing entry barriers, developing inclusive programs, and partnering with charities that focus on disadvantaged children, they have been able to create fun, exciting, and entertaining events that have seen event participation grow by 20-80% in the past year.
This year, SportsCare and Physiotherapy is supporting triathletes in the ACT by sponsoring the Jackie Fairweather Memorial Triathlon as well as the ACT Aquathlon Series of three races held in January and February by contributing to prize money and prize draws.
Although the triathlon event itself is probably the biggest challenge, it’s important that you take proper care of your body in the lead up to the event and in recovery.
No matter what your fitness level is, training is an essential activity for prospective triathletes. Depending on where your body is currently at, training could start with walks around the block or be as intense as a 50km bike ride.
Anytime you increase your training load, especially for those that may have let their fitness levels slip, it’s important to take it slowly and ask your physiotherapist for advice.
Something that a lot of people don’t consider when they’re training for their first triathlon is how disorienting swimming in open water can be. Without lanes and markers to guide you, it can be challenging to swim in a straight line, especially when you’re in the midst of a pack of competitors. It is a good idea to have a practise swim, ideally at the location your event is being held. When swimming in open water, it is recommended you have someone with you to make sure you’re safe, especially if you haven’t done it before.
Transitioning from swimming to cycling, and cycling to running, can also take some time to get used to if you haven’t done it before. As part of your training, include practising this rather than focusing on the three disciplines separately.
Overuse injuries in triathletes are common. A 2003 study in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy on Australian triathletes (novice club level through to elite international level) found 50% of triathletes sustain an injury in the 6-month pre-season, with overuse injuries accounting for 68% of these injuries. In the competitive season, 37% were injured, 78% of these were due to overuse injuries1.
Changes in your training volume have a direct impact on the ever-changing structure of your body. When you increase the amount of training you’re doing, your body responds by increasing bone density and strengthening your muscles and tendons. Likewise, when your training volume goes down, your body responds by decreasing the density and strength of its bones, tendons, and muscles.
Because of this, you should always make gradual changes to your training patterns so your body has time to adapt. If you try to progress your training volume too quickly, you put yourself at greater risk of sustaining an overuse injury.
If you are dealing with an ongoing injury, have a chat to your physio so they can give you the correct information to manage it effectively.
If you’re looking for someone from the SportsCare and Physiotherapy team that can help you on your way to a triathlon, consider seeing Nyrie or Sam in Dickson, or Ella who works in our Bruce and Barton clinics.
Nyrie is a physiotherapist with experience in exercise science and rehabilitation and has spent time working at the AIS with para-triathletes, and Ella is a physiotherapist with a passion for running that has experience in triathlon.
Sam is an exercise physiologist and former competitive runner and has extensive experience with running programming, injuries, and technique modification.
Before your triathlon event, it’s a good idea to scope out the course. Being familiar with where you’re going, any challenging hills or obstacles, or damaged roads will help you navigate the event safely.
In the lead up to the event, you should ensure all your equipment is without fault and ready to go. Your bike might need to be serviced, or your helmet could be compromised, and neither are something you want to discover on the morning of the triathlon.
If you’re participating in a longer event, you’ll need to consider how to fuel yourself with the right snacks during the event. However, for shorter events a carb-heavy dinner the night before and a low-fibre, high-energy breakfast should be sufficient.
There are many theories on the most effective way to recover after a triathlon event, but the consensus is that the key elements are:
It’s important to keep your fluids up, especially during and immediately after an event. An electrolyte-filled drink is recommended to help replace the minerals your body has lost through sweat. Having a cool drink also helps bring your body back to a normal core temperature.
Your body needs to replenish its energy stores to fuel your recovery, so try eating something with a protein to carb ratio of about 1:2 after completing your event.
- Keep moving
Rather than sitting down immediately, it’s helpful to walk around for a while to keep your body’s processes operating.
- Cool down
Especially after a long-distance event, you’ll need to let your body return to a regular core temperature.
Once your body has cooled down and you’ve had something to eat and drink, lie down and raise your legs to aid their recovery.
If you’re interested in participating in a triathlon, get in touch with the SportsCare and Physiotherapist team and we’ll help you achieve your best possible results.
1: Burns, Joshua, Anne-Maree Keenan, and Anthony Charles Redmond. “Factors associated with triathlon-related overuse injuries.” Journal of orthopaedic & Sports physical therapy 33.4 (2003): 177-184. http://www.jospt.org/doi/pdf/10.2519/jospt.2003.33.4.177