Sunday, January 19, 2014

Nutrition and Injury

Typically, we don't think of these things mutually. But, in my experience, there is some kind of relation between nutrition and injury. 

If you knew me, and some of you do, you'd know that my triathlon and MTB racing career has been riddled with bumps, bruises, broken bones and over use injuries. So looking back at those injuries I can put some sort of pattern to them.  

One of the most frustrating times for me was when I first started with fitness after years of battering my body with terrible comsumption habits and a sedentary lifestyle. I found myself buying new clothes, year after year, as my waste line expanded. At some point I decided to put a stop to that. I decided to try and start running. Admittedly, I had some knee problems in my youth, however, running, this time around, proved very challenging. My knees were always swollen and sore when I finished a run, and I could forget about putting 2 days running back to back. Eventually, I got fed up, and quit running. I had to move to the bike for a while and concentrate on losing some weight so my body could take the pounding if running. So there is the first time I related nutrition and injury....

1. Solid nutrition will keep you at a healthy weight and make the pounding of certain exercises in your joints a lot less impactful and reduce the chances of injury. 

After a while I lost a considerable amount of weight. One of my MTB buddies was into triathlons, and he convinced me to give one a try. So I gave running a try once again. With the weight loss it was much less painful, and injury ridden. I was able to string back to back days. I stepped it up!  Running was more enjoyable for me, and eventually, I ran a marathon. 

Through all that I still struggled with injuries. So, I looked back to see some commonality. While I can't say for sure some bike crashes or missed steps were due to loose rocks, other riders, or just stupid moves.  I can see some commonality in the timing of injuries. The majority are deep into long days when the body is tired and the mind is struggling to stay focused. There was the second relation between nutrition and injury.

2. While fitness, and the general rules of working out within your endurance limits applies, solid nutrition around and during workouts and races keeps your energy levels higher, and your focus up.  Allowing for better decision making and less mistakes!

Another thing I've observed was getting injuries during the recovery process. After my first marathon I ended up with some foot issues. I had more than likely stress fractured a bone in my foot training for it, and ran through that during the race. So my recovery from it was crucial to continue my plan for other races. I'm pretty sure it was then when I developed a dreaded issue that continues to haunt me today, planter faciitis. I'm not positive proper nutrition would have helped me avoid that injury, but again, it comes back to focus energy and partially the nutrition to sustain that.  At that time I tended to reward myself with food after big races or accomplishments. I was more than likely eating garbage and had no regard for proper recovery nutrition. I remember it taking me much longer than it should have to feel like I was 100% right again after that race. So just maybe, proper nutrition could have helped me recover better from that race, and keep me injury free as I recovered and started training for my next race. There was my last link between nutrition injury. 

3. Proper nutrition will help you in the process of recovery, stave off injury during your recoveries, and help get you ready for that next race safely. 

Obviously, nutrition isn't the only factor in keeping you injury free as you train. But, I can't help observe some of these links. So in addition to my three points above I'll leave you with some other things that I've found, and my coach has given me to help keep the injuries to a minimum. 

   -Proper warmup and cool downs from workouts
   -incorporating adequate rest days
   -staying within your limits, and especially running, respect proper volume building 
   -staying on top of old injuries with stretching and keeping up with therapy exercises
   -a good recovery day routine like the one found here
   -a good bike fit! I happen to know a good bike fitter that is also my coach, you can find info here
   -properly fitting running shoes with appropriate support and keeping them cycled out between 300-400 miles
   -listening to your body and knowing when and how to back off

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