Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How Fitness Prepares You for Injury

As I started training for my first triathlon this year, I was especially careful to avoid injury. My fast-paced, A-type personality tends to dominate all areas of my life, and it led to overtraining and injury in the past.

I followed my training plan carefully, taking an extra day off here and there when I was especially fatigued. I made peace with the fact that I would be OK if I missed one or two training sessions. I watched my nutrition and hydration like a hawk and, despite a brief cold three weeks prior to race day, completed my race at my expected goal time. I was elated!

With no triathlons on the schedule until 2011, I planned a run-focused summer knowing that I really needed to build some mileage if I wanted to complete a half-iron distance race. Even though I continued with a moderate training load and continued to swim, I sustained another injury: a complicated stress fracture in my left foot.

While no one wants to be injured, this situation provided me with another reminder of how important it is to be strong and to not take our hard-earned fitness for granted. The skills I’ve developed as an older athlete: strength, balance, agility, have all come into play for me during this time, in serious and sometimes amusing situations.

Strength. Three weeks in a walking cast was not working, so my doctor put me in a fiberglass cast and took me completely off my foot. All of the swimming and weight training I’ve done this year provided me with a strong upper body which is critical for managing crutches. Strength also came in very handy when I had to practically vault over a fellow passenger who could not get out of his seat on a recent flight to Los Angeles.

Balance. You can’t use your hands to carry things when you are using crutches, so I have employed a series of different handbags with long straps to carry everything I need messenger-style. I’ve become quite skilled at balancing on one leg as I stow my crutches in the car, pull my bags over my head, etc. I exhibited my best balancing act, however, as I successfully hopped down the airplane aisle to the restroom without grabbing anyone’s seat, falling, or ending up in another passenger’s lap.

Agility. I am becoming quite adept at one-legged squats – critical for raising and lowering from a seated position. Yoga’s half-moon pose is ideal for reaching items I’ve dropped on the floor or for stretching from the shower to grab something I’ve left on the bathroom sink.

All kidding aside, I am thankful I have these skills to manage and remain relatively independent right now. Through continued core and upper body exercise I hope to maintain a reasonable level of fitness through this recovery period, which will probably last until the new year.