Triathlon is an incredibly tough sport whereby you are essentially cramming three sports into one. As we come into the start of the triathlon season with the Noosa event just around the corner I though this would be a timely reminder of the most common cause of triathlon injuries: the time trial position!
Now this position is not a normal position for the human body. Your abdominal muscles are in an extremely shortened position contracting sub maximally for prolonged periods of time and your back extensors are in an awkwardly lengthened position. You are poking your chin out compressing your neck joints and working your hip flexors in a shortened sub optimal position.
What does this do to your trunk? Imagine a slinky being flipped the right way up again and notice how it squishes the rings together. This is what the time trial position does to you. It essentially compresses your trunk to your pelvis and all the associated joints get compressed.
If you were to go to work and assume any of the below desk postures for 8 to 12 hours then this adds to the compression of your trunk and pelvis and causes issues.
We also know that our muscles are fascially connected to each other (fascia is similar to the white stuff on a chicken breast). So if your abdominal muscles are incredibly tight and your back extensors are also tight and weak this can create increased tension in your hamstrings and calves leaving you at higher risk of calf or hamstring tears or Achilles tendinopathies.
Tension in your muscles is cumulative so you can imagine that if you did this for 3 months leading up to a big race you are going to have some pretty tight trunk muscles. So for example if your goal race was an Iron Man, the average time to complete the 180km bike ride is 7 hours. So after 7 hours in this position you are supposed to magically spring up to a beautiful running posture and smash out a marathon looking like Crowey? I doubt it. Most likely you’d be looking like the Tin Man. Crowey gets home from his training session, has a snooze followed by a massage of all the above muscles. The rest of us aren’t as lucky to have a massesue on hand.
There are also several other factors that contribute to extra pelvic/ trunk compression from the time trial position. They include:
Not getting your time trial bike set up properly
This is crucial and you will thank me once you have done it. Send me an email for my current recommended bike fitters.
Making your set up as aggressive as possible for maximum speed!
Don’t do this. It increases your risk of injury and may improve your time by 30 seconds but will most likely make you run inefficiently and you will lose more time on the run.
Putting on a new seat/pedals/ something else but not putting it where it should be according to your bike set up measurements
Remember our bodies are creatures of habit. The amount of injuries I have seen by moving your seat/ bars half an inch one way or the other is incredible. Try and get your measurements at the time of your bike set up for future reference.
“What can I do to counter this?”
1. Don’t just stretch your calves and hamstrings!!!
2. Yoga was almost designed for triathletes.
The poses are incredible at lengthening your abdominal wall, hip flexors and quadriceps muscles whilst creating space through your trunk to relieve stiff joints. There are some amazing teachers and classes around the Eastern suburbs so feel free to shoot me an email for some of my recommendations. An hour class once or twice per week should be enough. Practice yoga before your big volume weekend of training on the Friday or Saturday night AND on the Monday to restore your muscle tone to a happier healthier relaxed state for the coming week of training.
“I honestly can’t fit in another hour to my program. I’m struggling to fit in everything as it is.”
Try this app – “Yoga Academy”.
It is awesome for time poor people. They actually have 10, 13 and 15-minute yoga sequences for runners. Do this 3 or 4 times per week and you will notice the difference in how much better you feel when you are running.
“Sorry I still don’t have 13 minutes”.
Option C is to add these stretches to your program. Hold each stretch for 30 to 45 seconds and make sure it is pain free. You should do them the morning of training or the night after. If you are training really hard they need to be done every day.
Good luck and, as always, let me know how you go!– Nick