Runners and triathletes are injured a lot. Up to 92% of runners are injured at some point in their running career. Injury is multifactorial and every athlete has a different threshold for injury depending on their training background, the job they have, what they eat, their sleeping patterns and much more. In the past we have written blogs about overtraining, bike fit and running gait all of which can contribute to injury.
Yet some of the most undervalued, but incredibly beneficial components of a training plan are strength training, yoga and mindfulness meditation. More miles or more hours are not always the answer to improving your time or your performance. Sometimes backing off (I know this is a scary thought!) the time spent running, cycling or swimming and adding something else to the mix can be the difference between reaching the podium or cheering for your friends as they stand on the podium.
We recently had a gust blog by Zach Bettis outlining the benefits of strength training for performance. Zach pointed out that strength training can increase running economy, running power and increase aerobic capacity. This translates into your heart pumping better, few steps to get from point A to point B and less overall work to cover the same distance. Strength training just 2x/week for 30-45 minutes is plenty to gain the benefits described above.
From an injury perspective strength training helps to decrease your muscle imbalances and functional movement deficits that lead to dysfunctional movement patterns such as knee vagus, femoral adduction and over pronation linked with common injuries seen in endurance athletes.
Yoga is a fantastic adjunct to any training program because of the strength, flexibility and mind-body connection it offers. Yoga Integrates breathing and posture while it stimulate both the sympathetic and parsympathetic nervous systems.
In endurance sports we primarily tap into the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for increasing heart rate, increased respiration, increases blood pressure, fight or flight). Taping into the parasympthetic nervous system slows heart rate, improves digestion, relaxes muscles and prepares the body for rest. In our society we are consistently running from one project to the next, rushing around. For an endurance athlete their sympathetic nervous system is frequently on overdrive. Yoga can help us to calm that system and decrease the stress on our body and mind. Remember stress is stress whether physical or emotional and stress leads to injury.
Finding a yoga for runners or yoga for athletes class once a week can have a huge impact on your training. Check out our new Yoga for runners class beginning in June.
Sitting quietly for a minimum of 3-5 minutes daily can greatly improve your stress levels, productivity, risk for injury and performance, There are several studies that support meditation for athletes. In one such study athletes that participated in mindfulness meditation had improved motivation, focus and satisfaction in their sport. It also demonstrated that mindfulness meditation could decrease the risk for burnout, decreased stress and improved recovery.
Another study determined that if you can self regulate your thoughts and emotions you will be less likely to become injured.
There are a million excuses to be made foo not incorporating strength, yoga or mediation into your routine. However, if you took just one or two training hours a week and replaced them with an hour of yoga, 2 sessions of strength, 5-7 sessions of meditation or a combination of the three you could make a huge impact on your overall resilience to injury. Changing habits is difficult but remember isn't it more fun to keep training and racing than watch from the sidelines?