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Published on April 07, 2015

Ready to Go the Distance? Avoid injury through a solid training program

SIOUX FALLS (April 7, 2015) – You’re getting in shape, you want a personal challenge, so you start considering a marathon or triathlon.

These are worthy goals, say sports medicine experts. Don’t let age or inexperience hinder you, but make sure you plan ahead and settle on a good training program to avoid injury.

“People are often gung ho at first and try to put on more mileage, faster than they should,” said Scott McPherson, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon with CORE Orthopedics Avera Medical Group. “Don’t try to do too much, too fast. Listen to your body, and be realistic as to what you’re able to accomplish.”

Derek Ferley, PhD, Research and Education Coordinator at Avera Sports Institute, recommends a training routine that extends for five to six days a week and includes three key workouts, including short intervals at high intensity, a more moderate tempo training, and a slower yet longer duration workout. “You want to allow at least 12-16 weeks of training time whether you’ve never done a race before or you’re a veteran.”

Ferley suggested starting with a 5K or 10K race, such as the Avera Race Against Breast Cancer, before embarking on a half marathon (13 miles) full marathon (26 miles) or triathlon, which is varied in length with sequences of running, biking and swimming.

Dr. McPherson himself has run numerous half-marathons, marathons and triathlons, starting at age 45. “Age is a definite factor. During their middle years, people don’t have the same elasticity in their muscles, tendons and ligaments they had as a 25-year-old, and can be more prone to injury.”

Knees and lower legs are at greatest risk of injury, for example, a stress fracture in your foot, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, or various conditions that cause knee pain.

Most injuries rarely need surgery, Dr. McPherson said. Treatment often includes pain management while you heal, recommendations for changing your workout patterns, a different kind of shoes or sole insert, or physical therapy or other rehabilitative therapy.

Amy Bates, 37, trains with an Avera Sports Institute triathlon group. She started running for her middle and high school track teams, and continued running during her college and young adult years to stay in shape, and for pure enjoyment.

She hurt her knee in college, and was considering training for marathons when her knee injury resurfaced in 2010. “I realized that as you get older, running puts a lot of wear and tear on your knees.”

Her husband, Chris, got interested in triathlons, and Amy soon followed. “When I went to his first race, there was an energy and excitement that I wanted to be part of.”

Amy and Chris train six days a week at 5 a.m. Because they have three children, they trade off who trains at the gym and who trains in their home work-out center.

Amy feels the triathlon is a better sport for her than just running, because it involves different groups of muscles and joints. So far, after completing several triathlons, she hasn’t had an injury. That includes a triathlon three years ago when she was pregnant with her third child, in which she participated with the approval of her doctor.

“I really listen to my body – maybe that comes with age. If my knees or hips aren’t feeling quite right, I back off and do some strength training and core strengthening,” Amy said.

In addition to a solid training plan, you can avoid injuries in the following ways:

  • Begin your run or ride slowly to warm up, and then get into your rhythm.
  • Avoid running on uneven surfaces.
  • Make sure that you wear good shoes that are right for you, and get new shoes after 200 miles.
  • Enlist of the help of experts to ensure your running stride and swimming stroke are proper, and that your bike seat and handlebars are properly adjusted.

“Once people set a goal, they often think they have to push themselves to reach that goal. But injuries are more likely when you’re tired. If you start to feel fatigued, walk a little while, slow down or even stop and rest. That’s better than causing or aggravating an injury,” Dr. McPherson said. “It’s OK to set a goal, but if it’s not realistic for that day, let it go.”

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