I had a long overdue visit to the physio this week, and it’s really made me think about what I need to do to be able to successfully complete endurance races.
I spent all 2018 working on aerobic fitness. My A race was double ironman distance, so I needed to be able to keep going for a very long time. That mean that my training plan was broadly endurance training at very slow pace and low heart rate, alongside a small amount of high intensity interval type sessions. Long sessions to condition my body for endurance.
In the end, I was aerobically fit enough to complete the race, but my body let me down. I was not biomechanically fit enough to reach the finish line. As I plan the next great adventure, I know that I have to address this issue, and that’s how I ended up talking to Alice Frewin of Sano Physiotherapy in Morley, with a notebook in my hand, reading out a laundry list of physical problems.
I believe that my own problems originate in my ankles, which I have turned so many times. I broke my left ankle in Turkey a few years ago, and it has been an intermittent problem since. Calf strains, hip problems, the knee strain that ended the Double Brutal – I think these all stem from the ankles.
Alice did some physical assessments of my flexibility and some very specific strength tests to really expose where my weaknesses are. It was incredible to see how lopsided my hip strength is, and that my ankle flexibility is a lot more limited than I thought.
As to my left ankle, Alice starting testing the range of movement and did that sucking in of air that mechanics do when they open the bonnet of a car to reveal a smoking, coughing engine. Apparently there are three tendons that tie the foot to the shin on the outside of the ankle. One of mine just isn’t there any more! Ruptured, I assume, when I broke it. So that’s why that ankle is a constant weakness for me. It’s possible to operate on that, but the more orthodox solution is to strengthen the area.
I now have a list of very specific strengthening exercises to fold into my strength and conditioning programme, and I am also planning to see a podiatrist to work on my stride pattern.
The point of this blog is to illustrate that aerobic training is not the whole story when it comes to endurance events. Avoiding injury is integral to your ability to train and race, and if you put your body under the stress of triathlon training, you need to make sure your body can absorb that stress.