Preseason check-up

For most of us, race season is right around the corner. So now is the perfect time to conduct some preseason check-ups.

Check-ups are done to determine if any problems currently exist, to prevent potential problems and to establish baseline information that can be used as a diagnostic tool if things go wrong later in the season.

The engine first

Even if you're an endurance athlete with a stellar cardiovascular system and take good care of yourself (read: plenty of rest, eat healthy foods and drink adequate fluids), you still need regular medical check-ups.

Some exams are recommended annually; others, on a less frequent basis. Your age, gender and family history determine which exams should happen when. A few of the most common check-ups include a general physical examination, a blood panel, prostate exam, pap smear, mammogram, eye check and dental examination.

Check with your doctor to see which exams are recommended for you. A physical exam and a blood panel are good places to start. These check-ups can certainly identify existing issues. For athletes with no existing conditions, the tests are useful for establishing a healthy baseline. With this data, you can troubleshoot problems or identify new issues by comparing current values to future tests.

Preseason is a good time to check your goggles, swim suit and wetsuit. Do any of them need repair or replacing? Do you have a back-up pair of goggles and spare swim suit?

If you haven't already done it, take a few minutes to record your seat height, seat angle, the vertical drop distance from the top of your seat to the top of your handle bars and the angle of your aero bars. In case of a mishap, you can restore the personal settings on your bicycle with this information on hand.

Now is a good time to get a full bike tune-up. Replace worn parts, such as tires, cables, chain and brake pads. A good shop will let you know which parts need replacement now and which are fine for the racing season.

How long has it been since you've looked at the cleats on the bottom of your shoes? After countless times clipping in and out of the pedals, cleats can move and potentially cause an injury. I recently had an athlete develop knee pain due to a foot alignment issue. She figured out that the cleat on her shoe had rotated 25 to 30 degrees. The cleat wasn't loose, but it had migrated to a new position and caused her foot to be out of alignment.

What condition are your shoes in? Are the closure devices still working well, or are they worn? Be sure your shoes can make it through the entire season. If they have some life left but will soon need to be replaced, purchase a new pair now and you'll have them on hand when needed.

Tracking shoe mileage or hours in a training log is the best way to determine when shoes need to be replaced. Worn out and broken-down shoes can cause injuries. When athletes tell me they are beginning to experience foot, knee or hip pain -- without any significant changes in training volume or intensity -- the first thing I ask is the age of their running shoes.

Use your running shoes for running only. Do not use them to mow the lawn, run errands or wear around the house. Runners tracking mileage find that shoes need to be replaced somewhere between 300 and 500 miles. The number varies based on the shoe design, your weight, running weather conditions and the running surface.

If you track running mileage by hours rather than miles, estimate your average running pace per mile to convert the 300 to 500 miles into running hours. For example, running a 10-minute mile converts as: 300 miles x 10 minutes-per-mile = 3,000 minutes or 50 hours.


If you take a look at a few key areas now, perhaps you can avoid or minimize problems down the road and avoid unwanted stress during race season.

Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic coach for both the men's and women's teams. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow training plans. For more information, click here. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.

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