Archive for August, 2011

Here’s a little list for you.  It’s a list of injuries that are super common in endurance athletes, that I know have ready solutions, if only the right thing were done.  How hard is it for me to see all of these injured people failing to thrive, when the answers that I dole out in my clinic every day are so simple and effective.  

My message today isn’t about how to fix these problems or even about how you prevent them… That would demand a more in depth discussion than this article is about (although maybe in the future I could put something more extensive together if the demand were there).  My point today is that there is hope, and that there are solutions.  For all of you out there getting bad news from the guys in the lab coats, here’s a guy in a lab coat telling you that there is a solution.

I know, I know, how can I sit here miles away from you, without ever having assessed your injury and tell you that there is a solution for you?  My only answer to that is, that in my exerience, there usually is.  In orthopedics (the treatment of bones, joints, and muscle), there are as many different methods and theories as there are types of coffee at Starbucks, and that is saying something.  The problem is that your clinicians may not be proficient in the right type of treatment method that would work for your injury. (which is one of the reasons that I created Total Outcomes Physiotherapy in the first place)

What you need is a clinician that looks at your problem and says … “pas problemo,” because that is the dude or dudette that might help you.  Not the guy that gives you 16 reasons for why you’ll never run again.  He or she is covering their heiny.  I make this statement with the assumtion that there is not evidence of “grievous” structural derangement, but even if there was, one of my clients has run Ironman despite needing a total hip replacement surgery … His idea, not mine.  (Impossible is nothing, or what?!)

How easy for the clinician to give you 16 reasons for why you’ll never run again, but how hard is that for you to live with?  Consider this, it’s incredibly simple for a clinician to “not solve” their client’s problems, but thats not really why you went to them was it?  After all, you can “not solve” your problems on your own.  Isn’t triathlon about finding a way?  Isn’t it about substituting grit when other faculties fail.  Well shouldn’t we find a clinician with some fight in him or her as well who is willing to grapple your injury to the mat and submit it?  I think so.

Okay, heres the list … Read it and weep all you soft grit-less academics, because here at triathlon beginners we aim to change the world:

IT band friction syndrome
Rotator cuff tendinitis
Plantar fasciitis
Posterior tibial tendinitis
Jumpers knee
Patellofemoral pain
Hamstrings strain
Achilles tendinitis/tendinopathy
Gastrocnemious strain
Peronial tendinitis
Ankle sprain
Medial collateral ligament pain
Groin pain
Lower back pain
Mid back pain
Medial tibiakl stress syndrome
Neck pain
sacroiliac dysfunction
Tennis elbow
Golfers elbow
Piriformis syndrome
Psoas syndrome
TMJ dysfunction
… And so many more …


Today I want to introduce you to some practical tips for your early triathlons.  There are tips for training, tips for competing, tips for finishing, and most important of all tips for having the most fun.

Okay, here’s a thing that you’ve gotta know.  It’s about swim safety.   Don’t get me wrong about this, bike safety is important but the stakes involved in an open water swim mishap are way higher.  So I’m going to focus on swim advice for today.

Firstly, it is vital that you have some competance with a resting stroke (I recommend breaststroke or maybe side stroke), preferably one that allows you the ability to see where you are going and who you might run into (or get clobbered by).  Also, you should know how  to fill up your lungs in a big breath, hold it, and survival float in the water in case you get tired. (see picture)

Now let’s talk about your pride.  Well maybe not your pride so much as your judgement.  There are so many decisions involved in completing your best triathlon, but maybe none are as important as knowing when to ask for help in an open water race.  

Studies have shown that the competitors that win marathons are more likely to ignore their bodies protests of pain and discomfort as they push towards their goals.  Pretty tough people, right? Well.. In open water swims, is it possible that the tendency to push through the pain, fatigue and protests from your body could get you in trouble, and that you might not know it until it is too late? (bubble, bubble, bubble, gurgle, burp)

So how can you be tough and safe at the same time?  Easy, this has already been planned out for you.  First, know that there are flotation bouys that you can grab onto, so you can rest, or if you have a cramped muscle. That’s why they are there.  

Second, know how to signal for asistance by removing your… Uh, what was it again? No, not your speedo … Oh right, your swim cap.  Take off your swim cap and wave it in the air and safety staff will come to you.  If you recover, fine.  You can send them away and complete your race, but it’s better to be safe, don’t you think?  Keep in mind that if you do get confused and take off your swimsuit instead, it may not be as easy to get the safety staff to leave, but this depends greatly on how good looking you are.

So race safe and know that there are precautions in place for your safety.  Be aware and be informed about any local hazards that may get you into trouble… No, I don’t mean newbie triathlon beginners swimming in the raw, but maybe lake monsters, mermaids, or even overzealous Newfoundlanders fishing for cod.

Swim well.




Okay, lets get back to the topic of aliens.  How exactly is the AAA elite triathletes body different from the triathlon beginner body?  Do they have two hearts, and three lungs, with scaly skin and retractable fins? Do you want the truth?  The answer is … Maybe, but I’m not prepared to deal with that right now so … if I may, I’ll just focus on true and proper human biology.

There are three main physical systems integral to triathlon performance, which I want you to consider as you apply the law of specificity of training to your own training.  As far as any other physical systems, I want you to ignore them right now and just think in terms of:

- Anatomy (your physical structure)

- Physiology (your bodies chemical reactions and metabolic processes)

- Kinetics (how you move)

Simple right?  Now the first thing that we need to come to grips with is that for triathlon, we need all three of these systems in go mode.  

Let me give examples just to clarify my point.  If your anatomy is comprimised, say a rotator cuff tear (in other words a really big pain in the ass, but in your shoulder), your swim leg of the race, and possibly even your biking leg will suffer.  

On the other hand if your physiology is comprimised, say if the ability of your muscle tissue to process oxygen is poor, your race will be a depleting grind into certain bonk-dom*(definition of bonk below).  Meanwhile, if your kinetics are off kilter… Well, you would swim like a typical triathlete.  Ooh, that comment was true, but uneccesarily scathing… I’ll have to apologize later.

Right now I should probably summarize this with a story.  So, grab your pillow, and settle in.  My story begins with a champion ultra marathon competitor who sought me out because of certain challenges that were impairing his progress towards completing his first 100 kilometer race.  He was already very accomplished at the lessor ultramarathon distances, but his goal was to run a certain 100 mile race in the south, and the 100 km race was a prerequisite for him.

On assessment, I found that he had some injuries that were persistant.  He also had a mutant heel whip in one leg while he ran that looked like one of MJ’s classic 80′s dance moves.  I had three weeks to work with him before the big race.  That’s not a lot of time.  

Tell me this, what could I possibly have done to that champion athletes (already excellent) Physiology? … Answer- absolutely nothing … So how can I help him finish a race that he doubts he has the ability to finish? Easy.  

I look at the other two physical systems involved in his performance, his anatomy and his kinetics.  For his anatomy, I fixed his injuries (giving him happier body parts), and for his kinetics, I solved the reason for his gruesome heel whip (making him less like the king of pop).  

So how did it work out?  With the added efficiency of his stride and all his body parts working at full strength, not only did my athlete finish the race, he won it.  His first 100km race and he finished with a ‘W’… Cool huh?

So I want you to ask yourself, of the three body systems that I’ve mentioned, what is your weak link? Lets talk about it.

* the exact definition of the word bonk is unclear, but it involves shuffling feet, latent nausea, overly whimsical thoughts of lawnchairs and beer, and temporarily possessing the core strength of an infant.




I’m a geek, and this geek will speak.  Also, I’ll introduce you to other geeks, their geeky tools, and their geeky methods.  Don’t worry though, I will translate.  I’ve actually made a career of translation of geeky ideas into stuff that other clinicians, trainers, and athletes can use. Crazy job huh?  

And, I’ve done a good enough job of it that I’ve had the priviledge to work with all of these types of athletes (click the link), and I’ve also been lucky enough to be paid to teach these types of science geeks (click the link).  Cool right?  Well, the reason that I can do all that is that i have the gift of kissing.  No, not the big smootcherola, but the K.I.S.S. Principle (aka – keep it simple stupid principle). And I felt, what better place to apply the kiss principle than on triathlon beginners.

So here’s my first simple insight… You ready?  Here it comes … The law of Specificity of Training.  Surprised?  I bet that you didn’t know that there was such a law, but there is.  The law states essentially that your body will adapt specifically to the training stresses that you give it.  Simply stated, if you train by climbing stairs, you will get good at… You guessed it, climbing stairs.  



... How do you train specifically for this??



Unlike other laws, it is not possible for this law to be broken, but what happens if we ignore this law?  Don’t all laws have consequences?  Absolutely!  If you ignore this law in your program design then you end up putting in all of the hard work, but not getting the outcome that you’re looking for, whether that is speed, stamina, health, body composition or whatever… You pay the price but don’t get the goodies.  That rips, doesn’t it!  

We need to apply this law to your starts, your transitions, your swimming, your biking, and your run.  We should consider things specific to the race we are going to compete in like distance, slope of terrain, surface that you are running on, temperature of the water and the air (as well as the temperature differential), humidity, altitude, skill demanded on the bicycle, and more.  All of these variables can be trained for. Sometimes something like the time of the day that the race is held at throws people off on race day and taints the experienced.

Have you really thought about the next race that you will compete in and what you need to be prepared for?

Also, I plan to share some good old fashioned exercise science about training for the race demands and the transitions. But this post is getting a little long… We’ll have to unwrap that over time.

So, as a triathlon beginner, remember the law of specificity of training and think about the different things (skills and athletic attributes) that play into a successful triathlon race.  Spend a few minutes with it, and feel free to write some stuff down, maybe we can discuss your ideas down the road.  Obey the law (of specificity of training), and dont waste your workouts!