Preventing Back Pain When Training For A Triathlon

Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi

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You need to be in incredibly good shape to finish a triathlon, but that doesn’t mean that triathletes are immune from pain and injury. Your whole body will feel the effects of training and raceday, and one of the more common locations for discomfort to develop is in your spine. We don’t want your training or your race to be derailed by back pain, so we wanted to share some tips for keeping your spine healthy when preparing for a triathlon.

Triathlon Training And Your Spine

Training for a triathlon will be very hard on your body, but if you are smart about how you prepare, you can reduce your risk of developing back pain. We’ll take a look at each aspect of the triathlon and share some additional tips for protecting your spine during your training.

  • Swimming – A 2.4 mile swim is the first stage of a triathlon, and it will also require a lot of work by your spine. Slowly increase your swim distance over the course of a number of weeks during your training, and focus more on your technique than your speed. Swimming with the right form will decrease the strain on your spine and ensure that your race gets off to a great start.
  • Cycling – For an Ironman triathlon, the next stage will involve a 112-mile bike ride. You’re going to be on your bike for a while during this stage, so it’s imperative that you have ideal form. It’s recommended that you have your seat professionally fitted to your bike based on your height so that your spine can more easily be in a comfortable alignment. Similar to the above point, it’s wise to slowly build up your distance over the course of weeks or months so that your spine slowly gets stronger and isn’t overloaded by a heavy increase in mileage.
  • Running – The final stage in any triathlon is the 26.2-mile marathon run. Your body will be feeling the effects of the swimming and cycling at this point, but don’t let your running form suffer. Keep your head positioned above your shoulders and work to land lightly on your feet with each step, as this limits the jarring motion on your spine. As has been the case with the other two points, a gradual increase in running mileage will help to protect your spine during training.

One of the best pieces of advice that we can give when it comes to training for a triathlon and preventing back pain during the process is to make sure that you don’t limit your training to swimming, cycling and running. It makes sense that you really want to focus on these areas, but your body will be better able to tackle these challenges if you pursue some cross training exercises.

You ask a lot of your spine during a triathlon, and if your spine is well supported, it will be better able to handle the stress you throw at it. Exercises like planks, medicine ball routines and wall sits will all help to strengthen your core, and your core provides an immense amount of support to your spine. When your core is stronger, your back will be stronger, and swimming is the only activity during a triathlon that really provides much benefit to your core. Make sure you are pursuing other exercises during your training so that your spine and your core can handle the strain it will be under during your triathlon.

So if you keep the above tips in mind, and you challenge yourself during training with exercises that aren’t strictly running, swimming or cycling, we’re confident that you will be providing an ideal environment for your spine to prepare for the rigors of a triathlon. Of course, if you develop any pain or discomfort during your training, don’t hesitate to reach out to a spine specialist like Dr. Sinicropi. He will work to diagnose your issue and help you get back to your training program as quickly and safely as possible so that a back injury doesn’t put a damper on your triathlon.

For more information about protecting your spine when training for a triathlon or a marathon, or to talk to a doctor about spine discomfort that you’re dealing with, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi and the team at The Midwest Spine & Brain Institute today at (651) 430-3800.

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