If longevity in the sport is what you’re after, it’s time to start looking after the most important piece of equipment that’ll always be with you, and that you can’t sell on triathlon market place – YOU! Strength and conditioning expert, Amber Johnson, stresses the importance of prioritising functional movement exercises to keep you in this game long term.
Text by Amber Johnson of First Wave Fitness | Images by Witsup
I think we can all agree that there is no greater feeling than that high of crossing the finishing line. The reward of weeks, months, even years of hard work paying off in one very unforgettable moment. The involuntary grin that shines from ear to ear as you find a burst of energy you never thought you had left in you. That moment you run through the finisher chute and know that it was all worth it!
It’s this feeling that keeps us chasing, keeps us pushing, to train harder, to be stronger, faster and hungrier, to find the one percenters that are going to give us that edge.
But along with that drive, this very feeling can also so easily cloud our judgement and unknowingly derail our goals. That thirst that has you training both ends of the day, turning up at pools in the dark, hitting the pavement when it’s pouring outside, spending hours pushing into a headwind and answering the question “what’s on for the weekend?” in kilometres , can also be the very thing that convinces us that the niggle in your knee isn’t really that bad. That you don’t reeeaaalllllyy feel it ALL the time. You know you probably should see someone about it, but you’ve so desperately wanted it not to be anything that avoidance and denial seem like perfectly reasonable strategies. Plus, you have squad on Monday and Wednesday, ride and run Tuesday/Thursday and well the weekend is out, so there just isn’t the time to check it out. Seems reasonable yeah?
“FIRST MOVE WELL, AND THEN MOVE OFTEN.”
Being sidelined is never fun, believe me I can completely identify! When this sport is going good, it can be SO GOOD! But when it’s not, it can be so, so cruel…
So what if I was to tell you the secret to fewer injuries and longevity in our sport?
Would I have your attention?
The hard truth is we need to change our priorities! There is no magic pill. There is no secret!
If you don’t make time for the prehab, sooner or later you’ll be making time for rehab. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again first move well, and then move often (actually Gray Cook Said it once, and I keep saying it again).
So many athletes spend hours tweaking their bike set-ups, thousands on new wheels, hundreds on accessories and trialing every new gimmick. But how much do they invest in fixing themselves?
Your body is the most important piece of equipment!
I am sure if your bike could talk, it’d say “It’s not me, it’s you.” It comes down to; do you want a bike fit that works around your poor posture? Or, do you want to work on getting your body into the optimum position that facilitates maximum power output, efficiency and endurance? And once you’re there, actually know how to engage the muscles to do it?
With the rise in popularity of strength training and the increasing awareness of habitually bad posture, athletes know this is something they “should” be doing but how many really value or perhaps to a greater extent understand why they NEED to be doing this?
Have you heard this analogy? Try swapping; “I don’t have time to_______” with “I don’t value______.” Does this ring true? Resistance to changing routine is a very common roadblock for athletes who already feel stretched for time. The honest truth: We all have the time; it’s how we prioritise that time that shapes our results. Invest in having your movement patterns screened and your areas of weakness identified, because as little as 5-10mins daily on basic drills can make a big impact long term.
“We all have the time; it’s how we prioritise that time that shapes our results.”
Often athletes start with the best intentions and quickly become frustrated with the process based on their perception of poor or slow progress, but the reality is, restoring proper movement function and re-wiring motor patterns is a slow burn. Frustration comes from our expectations and our realities being misaligned, again demonstrating a lack of understanding and conversely education into not just why you’re doing it, but how the body works, how it responds to stimulus and how that translates when you are swimming, riding or running. It doesn’t work like Strava. You’re not going to get a KOM every time you rock out a glute bridge. Our bodies have done thousands of repetitions in typically poor posture which has led to how we currently move, so it takes that many, AND more to get us back out of it. Our bodies will always choose the path of least resistance, so an injury or niggle poorly rehabbed or simply ignored may be the catalyst to a myriad of other problems down the track as your body shifts and alters its movement to avoid pain. Think of pain like a noise on your bike… IT’S TRYING TO TELL YOU SOMETHING!
This sport, and our bodies reward consistency. Like a race build, its pivotal that you build solid foundations first.
In times of fatigue and intensity, our bodies resort to old motor patterns which is why consistency to the program is so pivotal to its long term success and ultimately your success in the sport. As with each aspect of triathlon, you need to have commitment to the process, to your coach, to trusting and understanding that what you are doing now, is building towards making you a stronger athlete tomorrow. This means doing the work! Is it always going to be exciting? No! But being inconsistent only serves to reduce the program’s effectiveness and, if it’s an injury you’re rehabbing, extend your recovery. Put simply, nothing changes unless you do.
“You’re not going to get a KOM every time you rock out a glute bridge.”
How many times have you gone to a doctor, received a script, bought the antibiotics, and then just left them sitting on the kitchen table, and actually expect to get better? I’m guessing never! So why spend time at the physio or with a strength and conditioning coach who give you all the tools and information that you need, and then you miraculously expect your body to do amazing things, when you haven’t done anything to help prep your body for greatness?
Your body is the one piece of equipment that you have 100% control of. It is the one piece of equipment that when functioning properly has the ability to improve your speed, power, efficiency and endurance. But strangely it is the most overlooked, undervalued and often neglected. It’s time to start understanding it better, to start valuing proper movement above all else and switching on more to how you move.
Does it mean injuries will never happen, no. When you are training in excess of 15 hours a week you are likely to run into some form of strain at some point. But, it is within your control to minimise the damage and speed of recovery if you are working from a stronger base.
“Success in the world of injury prevention is defined by the things that don’t happen.”
I cannot stress enough that you need to invest in yourself! If you have a niggle or an existing injury, listen to your body, don’t ignore it. If your body is completely flogged, is that easy run really more important than that massage that’s likely to aid recovery and help restore proper movement?
A great quote I read from Perry Nicholson about working in this field resinates quite well with how it can be hard for people to quantify how all those small efforts are paying off in training. He says; “success in the world of injury prevention is defined by the things that don’t happen.”
In the end, as with everything, you always get what you put in.