Hi my name is David and I have an injury acceptance problem.
There are so many aspects to triathlon training that it often feels like a balancing act, but the key to it all is consistency. With so many articles about the latest and greatest sessions and how to train like the pro’s it’s easy to think that all you need to do is add these sessions into your plan and you’ll be flying. The trouble is that if you start shoehorning these hero sessions into your training you might suffer a drop in consistency if you need to recover for longer than usual. Simply put, there is no point going out and hammering up and down hills for hours on end if you’re so sore you can’t walk for a week afterwards, or worse, if you get injured because of it.
My problem wasn’t adding sessions in, it was refusing to drop or adapt sessions when coming back from injury.
When I picked up a calf injury in 2016 I did the usual: rest, physio, strength work and then returned to running. The problem was that I tried to stick it out at the same run paces as before without any build up. I then got injured again pretty quickly and I was stupid enough to continue this cycle for a couple of years, each time hoping that it’d have a different outcome but each time losing more fitness.
I’ve always used strength work to try and improve bike power and general resilience, so each injury would be my cue to up my gym work again. I should admit now that I fully understand people’s reluctance to include traditional strength work in endurance training. It hurts the next day so can impact your training, and to be honest unless you’re well balanced and injury proof naturally…I just don’t think it works. I did countless heel drops and weighted calf raises but the injuries kept coming.
Strength work is pretty polarising in endurance sport, but I would be willing to bet that I would not be running now if it wasn’t for the new approach to my strength work since I’ve been working with Ryan from Pyramid Performance and Health.
Late last season I started to get serious knee pain and it ended up being a bit of a game changer. It started with just having to take stairs one at a time and at it’s worst I was struggling to walk. I even took my running shoes with me when we went away for a week in the summer only to keep them firmly tucked away in my suitcase all week while I limped around slowly. From about August last year I only ran during races; between them I’d struggle to get my legs working again only to injure myself in the next race. I ended the season with a DNF, took a month off in which the pain didn’t improve, but then luckily someone recommended that I go and see Ryan.
Working with Ryan and Oakwood Physiotherapy we discovered that the cause of my knee pain was a 4mm bone spur on the end of my knee cap, and that my calf issues were likely linked to my running gait. Oakwood Physiotherapy have been using shock wave therapy on it to break the bone spur down while I’ve been working on my running gait and sport specific strength with Pyramid Performance. Ryan has been working to get me “strong” in a way that is going to benefit my triathlon performance. I say “strong” because strength isn’t really the issue. I’ve been shown that it’s mainly about control, movement patterns, muscle activation and recruitment. Out with the heavy back squats and deadlifts, and in with the single leg run specific movements.
I’m no expert on the technicalities of what was wrong with me, but that’s exactly what I wish I’d accepted earlier. There is a lot of advice online, but if you’re stuck in a rut or just want to get the best out of yourself you need to break whatever cycle you’re in and see someone that knows what they’re doing. Anyone can write a blog post on what this or that pain means and how to treat it…that’s why I’ve tried to avoid recommending anything other than common sense (that I sometimes lack).
I’m now back into full training and I’ll be writing again soon about my return to competitive running/triathlon.
I guess the moral or the story is, don’t be as stubborn as I was. There are so many experts in our sport, the tricky bit is wading through all of the nonsense and finding people with real, relevant experience. So basically, be as coachable as you can and make sure you’re being coached by someone who knows what they’re doing…that’s not too much to ask right?
This guest post is by David Dew, elite triathlete and ambassador for Pyramid Performance & Health. David is also supported by Sundried. Check out his Instagram and Twitter pages for training tips and progress updates.