General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Triathlon better than running for avoiding injuries? Rss Feed  
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2013-09-25 8:15 PM

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Subject: Triathlon better than running for avoiding injuries?
I started out in triathlon as an injured runner. During injury rehab, I started with stationary bike at the gym and later started swimming. Once I was able to add running back to my routine, I continued swimming because I enjoyed it so much but then cut out the indoor cycling. I entered my first mini-tri in March on a whim, using my son's MTB bike (no, I hadn't been on a bike in months, but how hard can 11K be?) and was hooked. In April I went out an bought myself a x-bike which doubles as a commuter/bike around town bike started doing weekly rides up to 2 hours or so. I committed to triathlon training a bit more, cycling 2-3 times per week, swimming 3 time per week, and running 3-5 times per week. I did a two sprint tris in May and July and really enjoyed them. But... I was frustrated that my running fitness wasn't coming back. I used to run 6-7 times per week and missed the higher mileage.

So after my third triathlon in July I switched back to straight running for rest of the summer, and gradually built back to the distances I love. I was doing really well but then last week made a training error of overdoing the intensity. I really should have known better, but I was so inspired to do well and be consistent with my workouts. Anyway, I'm injured again-- hopefully just minor this time (another bout of Achilles tendinitis).

In theory, being a triathlete should allow me to have alternate activities to do without aggravating the injury. But both cycling and swimming do aggravate it in different ways, and I'm afraid if I do those it will only lengthen my recovery time. I want to get back to running as soon as I can, and any increased aggravation will just delay that. I have been going to the gym and doing upper body weights. I might go to the pool for swimming with a pull buoy, but that's hard after the upper body weights.

Anyway, my question is: is triathlon really gentler on the body than just running? Would I be better off if I made the switch year-round? What are people's experiences? I know I probably could have avoided the re-injury if I had stuck to mostly easy running (my stupid!), but I'm also wondering if a more balanced approach to this whole thing might be better overall.


2013-09-25 8:39 PM
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Subject: RE: Triathlon better than running for avoiding injuries?
Triathlon is definitely easier on the body than pure running of equivalent volume/intensity. Mainly because swimming and cycling are nonimpact.

Unfortunately, this doesn't necessarily mean you'll be injured less on the running part of triathlon. Weirdly enough, contrary to what a lot of people think, running regularly, every day, day in and day out, with few big spikes in volume day to day, as a pure runner, leads to much fewer run-specific injuries for a given race speed than the typical serious triathlete who is trying to get the same perforamcne but limited to 2-3 runsper week, one of which is a hard tempo run, one of which is long, given the very limited base. The guys/gals who were ex-pure runners can often get away with this without problem since they've invested the work to strengthen the tendons/ligaments, but the newbs to running are actually at higher risk of injury as a triathlete trying to maximize their running since they simply don't run enough to build a good base.

Basically, running MORE often leads to overall less run injuries - it's very hard to spike your run volume and intensity when you're running 7 days a week, even at 50 miles per week+, compared to as a triathlete of similar caliber running 2-3 days per week. It's the big changes in volume and intensity that really cause the injury, not the overall volume.

Edited by yazmaster 2013-09-25 8:40 PM
2013-09-25 9:19 PM
in reply to: #4863997

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Subject: RE: Triathlon better than running for avoiding injuries?
I think there is less chance for injury but only if you are running a third of what you had done.

I was injury free for a while until I started ramping up the frequency and intensity for an Olympic. I got Achilles tendonitis. Rest completely for two weeks and then try to bring in some light cycling. Active recovery is good to get blood flowing into the Achilles.
2013-09-26 6:38 AM
in reply to: chris00nj

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Subject: RE: Triathlon better than running for avoiding injuries?
This forum is full of injured triathletes. 
2013-09-26 8:31 AM
in reply to: jennifer_runs

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Subject: RE: Triathlon better than running for avoiding injuries?
I don't know....I think strictly in terms of overuse injuries, it might be true that you would be less likely to get them given the lower volume of running that most triathletes do. But as others have said, unless you have a big run base, it's easier to get injured when adding intensity on lower volume. I guess I've been lucky in this respect--I do have the run base to pull off a decent, if not optimal, run, at pretty low volume, especially for sprint distance. I have struggled with some minor aches and pains that seem to result from the combo of biking and running--maybe from running on legs/feet that are tired from a bike workout (in a brick, or the previous day). I've also pretty seriously injured myself tripping while running--I think fatigue from biking played a role. I've experimented a lot with the order and timing of my workouts to avoid running when really tired as at least for me it leads to sloppy form and injuries.

By contrast, I've found that swimming helps me recover more quickly from both biking and running. So I think it does help with injury prevention in that respect. I'd suggest that if you can swim with a pull buoy, maybe substitute some the weight work with some pull sets, or move the weights to after. Just being in the water can be useful in fighting inflammation, plus you can work on your swim form and maintain swim fitness.
2013-09-26 8:42 AM
in reply to: Hot Runner

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Subject: RE: Triathlon better than running for avoiding injuries?

Doing a run focus this offseason by training for a marathon, I can say that running for 6-7 hrs in a week is tougher on my body than tri training (which of course includes running) for 11 hrs.  Running is tough on the body.



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