The importance of cross-training is frequently drilled into the heads of runners, swimmers and bikers. Athletes from all three disciplines often cross over to different activities in hopes of strengthening different muscles or simply giving overworked body parts a break.
While cross-training advice is certainly valuable, it tends to be misconstrued by triathlon newbies. Often experts at one of the three big-name sports, these athletes sometimes assume that their new training schedule allows for unlimited work in all three disciplines. After all, high mileage certainly can't be a problem if it's split up between multiple sports...that's called cross-training, right?
Wrong. When you add three different sports to your schedule, you need to take on a new approach. Whereas two of the three sports may have been approached casually in the past, you are now attempting to snag a decent time in these pursuits. This adds a new competitive layer to what was once a laid-back activity. And with that extra competition comes the potential for injury.
A study conducted at the University of Sydney shows that triathlons are certainly not exempt from the injuries that plague other athletes. After looking at 131 triathletes, researchers found that these competitors were every bit as likely to sustain injuries as runners. What's more, triathletes were far more likely to get injured than athletes practicing swimming or biking alone.
Lead researcher Dr. Burns explained, "What we have to compare it to other sports is the injury rate, and triathletes have one of the highest incidence rates of any sport." He added that, instead of mitigating the potential for injuries as one might expect, the addition of two extra sports actually had a "compound effect."
The solution? Train smarter, not harder. While you certainly will want to maintain a certain mileage as you complete your triathlon training, you cannot afford to wear out your body. A targeted training routine will help you get the most out of each and every mile. If you're struggling to come up with a decent training plan, don't hesitate to ask a triathlon veteran. A fast triathlon is a wonderful thing to achieve, but in the long run, a healthy body is even better.
S.G. Gustafson has several years of experience in competitive swimming and water safety instruction. She enjoys combining her love of running, swimming and biking while competing in local triathlons.
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