You've watched! You've cheered! You've logged on to that website and clicked - ENTER!
It's the morning after and it is just beginning to sink in, you have just signed up for your first triathlon.
Now is not the time to panic. Well, maybe just a little.
Now get out those trainers, dust off that bike and grab your goggles.
Introductions first - my name is Jill Shooter and I'm an osteopath based in Bristol. I have a lot of experience in treating sports related injuries. I especially love triathletes, having worked with many elite age-groupers and I confess to being a (very slow) triathlete myself!
Whatever your chosen distance and current level of fitness, a triathlon is achievable. First up - a training plan, grab yourself a copy of a specialist Tri magazine. There are several on the newsstands and all will have a 'race in 12 weeks' type of plan.
Get a training diary started. A good old fashioned notebook or the online logs from Garmin or Starva. However you chose to do it just make sure you add notes; how you felt, warm-up, weather, intensity for example. This will help monitor your improvement, it is also an invaluable tool for us to pinpoint the mechanism of injury when you come into my clinic room!
Sooner or later the topic of injury will raise its ugly head. So lets tackle it now.
The bad news about injury prevention is there is no such thing!
However, the really good news is that you can significantly reduce your risk.
From personal experience, a pair of googles and swim earplugs are a must. Earplugs may prevent ear infections and you will suffer enough in training without having to cope with one of those bad boys!
A decent swim technique will reduce aches and pains, especially in your neck, it will also make you more efficient. The 'flicky hair' school of swimming will not work with the sort of mileage you will need to be putting in. You could manage a 'splash & dash' or super sprint Tri with breaststroke but do yourself a favour and teach yourself front crawl.
I found the Total Immersion method a real lifesaver, find the book on Amazon, alternatively your local pool or Triathlon club may hold classes.
So that's your technique sorted, now it is wetsuit time! Apart from the obligatory smack in the face as you practice the arm flick exit routine (trust me, it will happen) , I see most people with mid back pain at this time. The suit increases your buoyancy and your legs pop up to the surface causing stress in your back. This highlights the need for a good swim position in the water.
There are less joint and muscle problems from cycling unless you have the misfortune to fall off!
Get on your bike and get a bike fit! Taking action now could help avoid problems with hips, knees and low back later on.
Looking over your shoulder in traffic requires a lot of rotation, not something that comes easily to most of us! Seated rotation stretches or a pilates class will improve this. In fact, a pilates class will improve control and balanced movement, which is always a good idea when barrelling along on two wheels.
Neck pain is another potential problem, lets face it the riding position is a pretty strange one! A decent bike fit may ease that. Numbness or tingling around the base of the thumbs is another issue I see in clinic, often called handlebar palsy. Padded gloves, a bike fit (again) and good treatment from your osteopath will help.
Of the three disciplines this is the one which causes the most problems.
A brief bit on running shoes. Please, please don't get too obsessed by foot strike or foot position, there really is very little evidence that any of these will predispose you to injury. Always go for the comfortable option.
Too much, too soon will bring you right into my clinic!
Build up your distance slowly. Add a dynamic warm-up routine, save any static stretches until after your run.
Post run - stretch it out! I am a huge fan of active isolated stretching. Simply put, you hold your stretch position for a few seconds, back it off then stretch again,repeat a few times. AIS is great for improving your joint range of motion, which as an osteopath I am thrilled about.
The General stuff
A strong athlete is less likely to suffer an injury. Your schedule is already pretty full but if you can add some strength work you will be doing yourself a huge favour.
Schedule in rest days. Your body needs some down time in order to grow stronger, however it can be 'active' such a pilates or yoga or a deep tissue massage... time to visit your osteopath :)
Quality of sleep is also important, tough I know with work and busy lives but it can make a real difference to your injury risk.
Ladies. Keep a note of all things hormonal. If you see a pattern of injury emerging, schedule some lower intensity days.
Any athletes out there over 40? Yep, me too! Emerging research suggests less is more for us. Less time training but at a higher intensity.
Use your training diaries peeps! Write it all down and use it to tailor your training to suit you.
Some brilliant resources on Twitter and Facebook are:
UkTri, UkTrichat, UkCyclechat and UkRunchat.
Be warned , Triathlon is addictive and you will be back!