I'm often asked why I no longer compete in triathlon. The simple answer is--injury. My body was breaking down faster than I knew how to repair it at the time. I grew up in an era of no pain, no gain, and I was really good at ignoring pain on all levels.
In part, this pushed me to the highest success--multiple ITU World Cup victories and an overall World Cup Championship. Ignoring pain is what high level athletes are good at. But this mindset ultimately set me up for long-term injuries and led to my pro career ending prematurely.
Through my personal experiences, keep these ideas in mind while training for your next race or rehabbing a current injury.
Plan to avoid chronic overtraining.
Triathletes have a reputation of being chronically over-trained. It's partly the nature of our sport and the high achieving personalities who are attracted to not just one event, but to three in one. Structured, planned training where hard and easy workouts are varied throughout the training microcyle, mesocycle and macrocycle is key. Planning rest periods before you go over the edge into overtraining is essential.
Know your training intensity.
It's important to understand and implement a full spectrum of training intensities--ranging from very easy to very hard. I often see athletes either going too hard or too long at a high intensity and they end up burning out, injuring themselves and performing poorly on race day. Training intensity measurement parameters include pace, heart rate, power and RPE (rating of perceived exertion).
Good pain vs. bad pain.
You need to train hard and you need to stress your body in order to get fitter, faster and stronger. This is the good pain of making steps toward your goals and dreams. The bad pain is when potential injury pops up. Is that nagging pain in your knee simply a tight quad or the beginnings of IT Band Syndrome? There is a time to listen to your body and slow down to prevent injury, and there is a time to tune those cues out and put your head down and suffer. Learn to know the difference.
Seek expert support and guidance.
An outside, objective perspective from a coach, physical therapist, massage therapist, spouse, etc. helps identify, prevent and solve problems. You are not an island, and you do not need to do it all on your own. There is help out there.
Apply any and all healing modalities.
The world of health and healing is bursting at the seams with a wealth of information, knowledge and advice. Sometimes finding what helps you can be a challenge. Seek referrals from experts who have your best interests in mind. The field ranges from the traditional medical approach (doctors, surgery, drugs) to alternative methods (acupuncture, compounding pharmaceuticals, natural supplements). Usually, combining several sources provides a full recovery from injury and will allow you to return to training and racing.