Posted On:
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Coach Tip Tuesday: Prehab So You Don't End Up in Rehab

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A view looking down at two feet. One foot has a blue RunDisney New Balance sneaker on, and the other foot has a black orthopedic boot.

It’s time for the first Coach Tip Tuesday of the autumn season!

How many of you out there have sustained an injury, training-related or otherwise?

For many decades now, the average injury rate for endurance athletes has hovered right around the 65% mark.  So, it stands to reason that at least half of you reading this have been injured at some point or another since you began your path in endurance sports.

When you got injured, you may have deployed any number of modalities to try and rehabilitate your injury, including (but not limited to): icing, heating, resting, purchasing new products, modifying your training load, switching to a different type of exercise, physical therapy, visiting an orthopedic specialist, and more.  Being injured is a VERY frustrating situation for athletes, and most athletes will do just about anything to get the injury to go away.

I’m here this week to present an alternative that is simple to say and harder to execute:

Prehab so you don’t end up in rehab.

Managing an injury once it occurs is important, but I want to help you not end up there in the first place.  My number one job as a coach is to make recommendations that will keep athletes safe and uninjured during their time working with me.

That statistic I shared with you earlier is significant: for DECADES, the average injury rate of endurance athletes has hovered at 65%.  This means that this number has held steady despite changes in equipment technology, despite new products on the market, despite explosive worldwide population growth, and since the pre-Internet age.  

Think about that.  It’s been the same since running shoes became mainstream, since triathlon bikes were invented, and since long-course open water swimming became more popular.

Why hasn’t this number changed?  I don’t have the data to back this, but anecdotally I can tell you that I think it hasn’t changed because people don’t like to change.  When presented with a question like this, I like to respond in my mind with the following, “What needs to be true for this to change?”

So, what needs to be true for this average injury rate to change? I propose that people need to change. We need to stop trying to “fix” the problem after the fact and start thinking about preventing problems before they start. We also need to stop looking for external solutions, and instead look inward. I firmly believe that we are the solution.

Imbalances (such as those that are encountered in endurance sports) take our body away from its norm, cause problems, and those problems are present BEFORE pain starts.  So, we need to take a hard look at ourselves BEFORE pain starts if we want to be our strongest and not wrestle with the Injury Dragon.  We have to build our bodies up so they can handle what we throw at them in training and racing.

I know, I know.  The fun and sexy part of endurance sports is in the running, the cycling, the swimming.  It’s not in planning enough time for a proper warm-up or cool-down.  It’s not in doing minute, small exercises that don’t give you an endorphin rush.  It’s not in doing cross-training in a discipline different than the sport you love.  It’s not in hydrating properly all day or in getting an adequate amount of quality sleep at night.  It’s not in fueling your body well with nutrients or in ensuring that your soft tissues have an appropriate amount of flexibility and stability.

However, to quote Stranger Than Fiction, “all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause.” Yes, indeed these mundane things that I’ve just described to you are significant and serve a noble cause. They serve as the prehabilitation (prehab) that can keep you from having to rehabilitate (rehab). To put it simply: They are the things that keep you doing what you actually want to be doing.

I want you to be able to keep doing what you want to be doing, and I would like you to do so for as long as you want to. So, I implore you this week: Consider the prehab that you could incorporate into your daily routine so that you don’t end up in rehab. Do the mundane work now so you can have amazing success later. It’s worth it, I promise.

About

Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at laura@fullcircleendurance.com.

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