MY SUMMER AS A TRIATHLETE

I’ve worked at Balance In Motion for over 2.5 years. We treat a good variety of people including a lot of triathletes here in Bondi. This means I had a lot of triathlon related knowledge but not a great deal of personal experience. Over the summer, I decided to change this. I registered for the Huskisson Long Course, found myself a triathlon group and got training. There were times when I hated it, but surprisingly, for the most, I loved it. And I learnt a lot!

Being a physio, and seeing what I see, I knew keeping my body in good running condition was a top priority. Now, I don’t have the greatest natural biomechanics. Add to this some nasty injuries that have not all been well-rehabilitated (in my pre-physio days obviously), and you’ve got the makings of one of those training overload injuries that will stop you from even getting to the start line.

As a result, my first priority was to make sure I had good technique in all 3 disciplines. I had a bit of coaching and from there made sure I was always training mindfully. Always thinking, and feeling what was happening in my body as I was moving. It’s amazing how quickly you can improve technique and speed and pick up potential problems when you tune into what your body feels like when you move.

After that, my main management strategy was yoga. It was not only my time to stretch but also my time to check in with my body and mind and make sure everything was working how it needed to be. It was surprising how many times I rocked up to a yoga class thinking that I was fine, only to find out during the class that actually something was really super tight or not working like it should. When this happened, it told me what I needed to manage/protect or work on during the next few training sessions until it had resolved.  A couple of times I even had to message my coach and tell him I was going to miss training because my body wasn’t working well and I needed to manage it. Yep, I felt totally soft, but I knew it was what I needed to do. Within a few days, with a couple of extra yoga sessions I was right back into it as if nothing had happened. The time I slacked off from yoga and didn’t listen to my body I spent three days running (slowly) around with arm pain and swimming (slowly) in circles before Nick could treat me and put me back on track. Then I still had to dial back training intensity and up the yoga only this time it was more than a week before I was back where I wanted to be.

As a physiotherapist I am always telling athletes to go to yoga and listen to their bodies but now I’m telling you, athlete-to-athlete, it works! It will make you feel better, train better and race better.

It’s great for injury management because it means you can maintain a good training intensity without fatiguing yourself, and I was truly impressed how well I was able to condition my body with this approach. I didn’t have a lot of expectation of myself in the race. My goal was to not drown, not fall off my bike and not trip over my own feet. I said if I could do all of that and finish in less than 6 hours I would be happy. Not only did I do all that, I finished in 5 hours and 3 minutes! I’m not naturally fast, but what I was, was quite well conditioned. I trained smart because I had a great coach and a great group of people to train with. It showed that actually anyone can be a triathlete. Provided you train smart and your expectations are aligned with the amount of time and effort you are willing to put into training, anyone can do it.

The other big thing I learnt is the finesse of the balancing act of triathlon training. I used to hear about how much triathletes trained and think to myself that they must be a special, crazy breed of person. But I get it now. The rush of endorphins that you get from a good training session is totally addictive. And there’s always that sneaky little thought of “I wonder how much faster I could be if I just did one more swim/run/ride a week”. This said, my constant desire to train caused more then a few disagreements between myself and the people I care about. The extra adrenaline running through my body also meant that at times I felt completely wired – unable to sleep, unable to concentrate. A similar thing has happened to me in the past where my body struggled to transition out of fight or flight mode and into rest and digest – the parasympathetic state which we need to spend a lot of our time in to keep our bodies healthy. Previously, this has been stress induced so it was interesting to feel a similar thing from lots of (I won’t say excessive) training. Long periods spent in fight or flight mode can badly effect you in a lot of ways – poor sleep, digestive issues and poor injury healing to name a few. Basically not only did I learn to manage the juggling act of training, working and having a life but I also had to learn to juggle the good and bad physical effects of training.

Overall, this experience was a great one. I learnt a lot, both as an athlete and as a physiotherapist treating triathletes. There are definitely things that you can do to help yourselves stay injury free and healthy in the body and mind, so to cap off here are my top 5 tips in:

 

Melita on the home stretch at Husky on the way to an amazing time.