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Categorized as: Mental

Keep Your Head in the Game

Some lucky runners will go their entire running lives without a misstep, but many more will face an injury that requires the ultimate sacrifice – no running. No runner welcomes that prescription, but those that grin and bear it generally fare better than those who do not. This is not to say you shouldn’t get upset, because it is completely normal to be disappointed, but do not let it get the best of you.

Research shows that people battling sports injuries tend to have slower or less satisfactory recoveries when they are depressed or distressed. The exact reasons are not understood, but it is suggested that athletes with better outlooks adhere to rehab better. Other studies suggest that depressed moods may generate an immune response that compromises recovery from injury.

Coping Mechanisms:

Perspective – You can adopt a defeatist attitude, or you can ask yourself, “What can I do to get optimal healing?” It’s all about your perspective. Think about things that are purposeful, productive, and focused on possibilities.

Rather than say…”Rehab takes forever. I’m never going to get out running again.” Say…”If I focus on my physical-therapy exercises right now, I can speed my recovery.”
Rather than say…”Why me? What if I never run again? Say…”This injury can teach me to incorporate better recovery habits into my training plan so that I’ll be less likely to get injured again.”
Rather than say…”I’ll never get back to the fitness I had before my injury.” Say…If I use my rehab as an opportunity to develop some new strengths, I’ll come back even stronger.”

Injury Assessment – Get a clear understanding of what your injury is and what rehab entails, and ask about the best-case and worst-case scenarios. Not knowing what to expect can bring about anxiety and can cause you to lose focus during the recovery process.

Positive Behavior – Studies have shown that “psychological intervention” (distracting yourself with positive behavior) such as goal setting can speed recovery. Aim for realistic targets such as increasing your flexibility, getting more sleep, eating healthier, drinking less alcohol, etc. These little victories help you stay positive on the road to recovery.

Don’t let an injury get the best of you. Reflect on what may have caused it, develop a recovery plan and remain positive.  It’s all about your perspective.

Reference: Article adapted by Runner’s World, A Healing Head.

I’m Injured, Now What???

I’M INJURED, NOW WHAT?

In the course of training for events such as marathons and triathlons, injuries of various natures are bound to occur.  The question often asked is, “Should I continue my training?”  The answer is not simple.

Step 1: Self Evaluation

Perform a self-evaluation to determine the cause of the injury.  Was it an overuse injury (training too hard and/or too much)? Was it an impact or fall causing a sprain or strain? A pulled muscle?

Once you have determined the source of the injury, determine the severity.  Does it hurt all the time? Or, does it slowly manifest itself during training (possible overuse injury)? Is it limited to a particular limb or joint, or is it something more debilitating (resulting from a fall)?

Step 2: Seek Professional Help

If it is an overuse injury, visit a masseuse, neuromuscular therapist, or chiropractor. Additionally, seek the advice of a coach or trainer who has experience in the field.  If it is a sprain or break, what does your doctor advise?

Step 3: Develop a Recovery Plan

Most injuries heal themselves with time and rest.  Often times, you can speed the process with stretching and ice or heat, aided with over the counter anti-inflammatory medication.

How close is the event for which you are training?  Often we can get frenzied about this timeline, but in most cases taking 1-2 weeks off from training will not affect your current fitness level. You can take time off and still be OK for your big day.

As you re-introduce training, remind yourself that you were just injured.  A conservative approach of slowly adding in workouts will go much farther than jumping back in as if nothing happened, regardless of how good you feel.  Rule of thumb: The amount of time out is the amount of time you should give yourself to re-acclimate to training. For example, if you were out one week, give yourself a minimum of one week to re-adjust.

The Big Picture

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we are forced to sit out events that we may have paid for in advance.  This is both unfortunate and frustrating. It’s tough to make the decision NOT to race, but it’s the best regarding your health and well-being. The big picture is your long term health and well-being – far more important than participating in an event when you are at a fraction of your best and risking further injury.

Patience and Planning for the Long Run

by Jeff Soileau, V.P. + Training Coordinator of Alamo 180

As our big race approaches and your training mileage gets longer and longer, it is important to remember a few simple tips to make the long runs and race day more manageable.

Fuel

Imagine preparing for a cross country trip in your car. You make sure your car is in great working order, your tires are properly inflated, your oil changed, and your antifreeze/coolant replaced.  But wait! You forgot to put gas in the tank! Guess you won’t be going too far after all… The same goes for your body.  You do your maintenance runs during the week. You take care of your shoes. You wear proper apparel.  Don’t forget to eat!  It can be catastrophic to go into a long weekend run without “gas in the tank.” It doesn’t have to be much either; wheat toast or a bagel with peanut butter, a bowl of oatmeal, or a scrambled egg with some juice.  Heck, even a donut is better than nothing!  Every athlete is different as to what they can tolerate, so start experimenting now to find what works best for you. The morning of your big race is the wrong time to change or start a new morning meal.  It is also important that you refuel during your run.  This can be accomplished with various gels and supplements, but most professionals agree that refueling is necessary in workouts exceeding 1.25 hours and should be ingested every 45 minutes to maintain peak performance.

Hydration

As an athlete exercises, the body’s core temperature rises.  The body responds to this increase in heat with a ‘unique-to-mammals’ cooling system: perspiration. As the body perspires to regulate temperature, water and electrolytes are released onto the skin. As the water evaporates, the body cools itself; at a cost.  Under extreme conditions like heat, humidity and prolonged physical activity, (marathon training in south Texas, anyone?) sweating causes the body to lose water and electrolytes, so it is important to hydrate during exercise.  Humans are uniquely developed for endurance events in that they can drink and eat while moving, so plan on taking some water with you.  Some good advice is to hydrate early and often, and to mix water with electrolyte replacement, as water alone will not be enough.  Hydrating early also refers to the day or days leading up to your big event.  Some things to limit or avoid are caffeine and alcohol, as they are diuretics, which can cause the body to excrete water (makes you pee).

Pacing

It is easy to run fast for short distances, however, many athletes have difficulty with runs in excess of 5-6 miles. This is where having a plan comes in handy.  Plan to use short, walking intervals to help conserve energy and to recover.  An example would be to plan to run for 5 minutes, walk for 1 minute.  Do this the entire duration of your run.  It doesn’t have to be exactly this formula, so work on what works for you.  You can plan your walking recoveries based on water stops, time, or distance covered.

Also be aware that pacing is often affected by things that are out of our control, like heat and humidity. It is suggested by Olympian and coach Jeff Galloway, that for every 10 degrees above 60, a runner’s pace may be affected by a much as 30 seconds. So based on typical temperatures in south Texas during the summer and early fall, (averaging 100 degrees!) a runner’s pace could be slowed by approximately 2 minutes per mile!

All of these things combine to make for harsh training and racing conditions, however, practicing in these conditions will help prepare for racing under the same conditions.  Start experimenting with different fueling, hydration and pacing methods, so that when your big day arrives, you will feel confident in your abilities and will have a great marathon or 1/2 marathon race experience!

Celebrate Your Accomplishments

We are constantly inundated with messages that tell us we need to be like the professionals. This comes from all angles: sport magazines, online articles, athletic websites and peers. Do we really need to be like them? Do we have to wear their training and racing gear, do their kind of workouts, and eat what they eat? Why can’t we be content with what we do? Why can’t we just celebrate the fact that we are active and be content with our level of fitness?

We read articles about the amazing things pros do – their training and racing schedule, accomplishments, etc. While it is amazing, so too is the average individual finishing a triathlon for the first time – that’s an amazing accomplishment!  What about the average individual working a 40 hour week job and still finding time to train – that’s amazing! These are the things that go unnoticed and uncelebrated. Take a moment to reflect on what you do on a daily basis. The run you managed to get in after a long 10 hour day, the long bike ride you did early Saturday morning when you could have stayed in bed sleeping, or the open water swim you did on a windy day. These are all amazing accomplishments and all deserved to be praised!

It’s about being content with where you are in your life and in your training. It’s not about looking at someone else and comparing your abilities to theirs. Celebrate what you have and learn to appreciate what you can do. You may never be a pro, but you are better than the individual that is sitting on the couch wondering if he can do it, because you are out there making it happen! You are doing what most deem impossible. Don’t allow for one moment marketing gimmicks to convince you otherwise.

To Workout or Not to Workout?

Training Question: “When I feel tired and drained, should I skip the workout or just push through it?”

We as triathletes ask a lot out of our bodies. When we demand too much without enough rest and recovery, our bodies talk back to us. But, our bodies also talk back to us when we push our training to new limits and attempt to do more than we have previously done (principle of overload).

So…you show up for your training session and don’t feel quite up to par. You may then wonder if you should go through with the workout as scheduled, or save it for another day. You don’t want to be a wimp, but at the same time, you don’t want to push through it if resting would be more beneficial. What should you do?

To determine whether or not you should do a workout, it is helpful to investigate the following three areas: Sleep, Nutrition, and Goal Setting

  1. SleepHow much sleep have you gotten in the past five days? Take an inventory and you may find you are in need of a nap. It is no secret that athletes perform better with more sleep.
      • Adults usually require seven to nine hours daily, and adolescents and teens need more at nine to ten hours daily.
      • Triathletes love the key workouts and the big training days, but if only they had the same enthusiasm for sleep and recovery.
  1. NutritionHave you eaten A) enough calories, B) the right kinds of calories, and C) at the right times throughout the day? Nutrition is a big reason why people bonk and feel lack of energy for their workouts.
      • Enough calories? – Determine your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) so that you can have a starting point for managing caloric intake. If you don’t eat enough, you can forget feeling charged up for a workout.
      • The right kinds of calories? – In addition to eating enough total calories, the percentage breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats can affect your energy level. Tracking the percentages can be useful as it often points out you are too low in one area. The exact amount of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats needed depends on what training phase you are in. Just as your annual training plan is periodized, nutrition should be periodized as well.
      • At the right times throughout the day? – Three squares a day won’t cut it anymore! Aim for five to six smaller meals throughout the day with pre-workout and post-workout snacks in mind.

The best way to determine your nutritional needs is to log your food intake on a daily basis. It will allow you to see just how much fuel it takes to sustain a hard training week. It will also allow you to see what foods your body responds to positively. If you want to take your nutrition (and performance) to the next level, then you must be willing to log. Do a Google search for online logging sites and find one that you like so that you can begin experimenting with logging food intake.

  1. Goal Setting Have you clearly defined your goals? Often times when workouts lack purpose, motivation goes out the window. You start missing workouts left and right. Having a plan and executing it will give you confidence and momentum.
      • When you write down and have someone hold you accountable to your goals, you are more likely to achieve them. This is one reason why athletes with a coach consistently outperform those without a coach.
      • Make sure your commitments are enough to achieve your goals. Having a goal that you cannot devote enough time or money towards to achieve will only result in dissatisfaction and stress. If you have lost the “fun” factor in your training, then it is time to reassess your goals.

Tip: Look beyond the current season. Strive to grasp the big picture. It seems that the narrower the scope of the goal, the more likely the athlete is subject to disappointment or burnout. There is nothing wrong with short-term aggressive goals; they keep some of us highly motivated. But to complete the goal setting repertoire, add a five-year goal and a ten-year goal as well. This way if you happen to fall short of specific goals for the season, you can maintain the perspective that you are making progress towards five-year and ten-year goals. Consistency is the key for long-term success in triathlon.

To know your body well takes a lot of time and practice. Mastering the three areas of sleep, nutrition, and sound goal setting will equip you with the knowledge for more effective discernment when it comes to the original question posed: “When I feel tired and drained, should I skip the workout or just push through it?”

Training Tip Summary: Show up. Go the pool. Lace up and head out the door on your run. Get on the trainer. Start your strength workout or Boot Camp workout. Start warming up and see how you feel 5 to 10 minutes into it. If you feel better and forgot you were tired, then you probably just needed to harden up! If you feel worse and/or that you cannot maintain proper form, then take it to the house with no guilt and focus on rest and recovery.

Article adapted from USA Triathlon