• Lessons From A Pro: Dealing With Injury As An Athlete

    cyclist cycling triathlete athlete recovery stress fracture

    On 17th May, after a serious 6-hour brick session, I was saying: "It's great! No races means more training, less recovery but my body is coping extremely well with it. No injuries, not one little niggle. Nothing!"

    Not even 24 hours later, I was getting out of the water after an easy open water swim with my training partner, stripping off my wetsuit still in the water and falling a bit awkwardly to my left. Walking to my car, ready to go to physical therapy, I realised a weird sort of pain hitting my left lower back/hip area. Nothing serious, I thought (and hoped). I got a massage and got the area taped very well so the pain was bearable and we were all of the belief it would be gone in a few days.

    The next day, I had another open water swim in the morning, a stability workout right after that, followed by a bike ride and – late in the evening – a run which was around 25km. Because of the tape, the pain wasn't there from the start but it kept coming harder and harder and I was glad I finished the run.

    I finished the training week, hitting every session – including interval running on Sunday. The pain was at a 10 out of 10 during the cool down run so I decided to walk the last few hundred meters to my house. I knew there must be something wrong.

    The next week, a recovery week, we decided to take a break from running for at least 3 days. I took 7 days – something I had never done before.

    On day 8, after taking some painkillers throughout the week, I thought the pain was gone, or at least, on its way. It wasn't. A 5km run almost left me crying because of the pain after I finished. Again – I knew there must be something wrong. Really wrong.

    I kept training on the bike and in the water as much as possible but the pain was constantly there. Never as bad as during the running but, it was there.

    I decided to give running a go here and there and – after seeing an osteopath who suggested it was down to some bowel thing and that it should be gone in 2 or 3 days (he was right about the first, but not about the 2-3 days sadly) – I wanted to do my brick session of 4 hours on the (indoor) bike followed by an hour run at Ironman race pace (3.55 min/km).

    After 4 hours on the bike – no pain. Nothing. Great! Off on the run, it came and it went from bad to worse to the point where I had to just stop after 10k, again walking back home. This time, I decided that enough is enough. There is something seriously wrong.

    I went to a hospital nearby (it was a Saturday) hoping for a chance to get an MRI or CT scan as I suggested it might be a stress fracture in my sacroiliac joint and I knew that this would be the only way to find out.

    The doctor sent me back home – having not done any more than putting his hands on my back, trying to feel an injury. He suggested that I could resume training after 3 days as it's surely nothing serious. He knew. At least he said that he knew. He knew nothing, as turned out.

    A day later, after barely being able to get out of bed – let alone walk down the stairs – I decided to give it another shot. Another hospital. This time I got lucky: I could stay at the hospital for one night, having been promised a scan the next morning.

    Even then, one of my doctors – a great doctor and really good guy as it turned out, a triathlete himself – suggested that the SJ-stress fracture was “the only thing we can exclude.”

    Two hours later, he came in with an apology and crystal clear MRI scans in his hand, showing an injury that I had only seen on Jan Frodeno or Lionel Sanders' Instagram accounts.

    hip injury stress fracture

    Wow, what a crazy 24 hours. From running a painful sub 4 min/km for 10k, to being out for the foreseeable future. For me, it was quite a mix of emotions: a slap in the face but also a moment of relief. Clarity – finally. And finally no one doubted that there was a real injury. From that moment, there weren't any problems getting more scans, physical therapy prescriptions and regular talks to my doctors in order to get this done successfully.

    I think it's important to share experiences like this as there will be other athletes with symptoms similar to mine, so here's my advice: if you feel or think that it's serious, be persistent in your communication with doctors in order to clear the situation and find out what's really going on with your body.

    A stress fracture like mine can happen to anyone – from the very best athletes like Frodeno, to a spare time runner. It might be overtraining, it might be a couple of nights poor sleep, it might be bad nutrition for a couple of days, moving house or just a mix of it.

    I'm now seven weeks post-diagnosis and here are some thoughts on how to handle an experience like that:

    My first thought was that it might be great to (finally) take a break after long and hard sessions week in week out, getting some wine and ice cream (which I did on the first night after returning home from the hospital) and taking it easy. But that doesn't work.

    You have to keep your nutrition as good as possible as the body needs a lot of energy to repair damage. Things like alcohol will only slow down the healing process, which is the last thing I would want. I had three days in my 7 weeks with a bit of wine, no more. Yes, I went for the odd chocolate, ice cream or so as that was just necessary to improve my mood at times.

    The biggest thing was the lack of movement. My body (and brain) is used to working out every day. Getting up early, training, eating, having a nap, training, eating, sleeping and doing it all again the next day. I wasn't doing anything for 9 days, starting to get some short walks with the dog after that. Still, it was 16 days without any sort of training. No bike, no swim, no run. Nothing. The first scan after two weeks showed improvements, I was allowed back on the bike and back into the pool. Both only at very low intensity and not longer than an hour per day, but it was helping my head a lot.

    Also, I introduced my girlfriend to cycling. I rebuilt one of my bikes for her and we started doing our “ice-cream-tours”. Something like 20km, very easy and with a stop at our favourite ice cream place in the middle. Great for both of us! What really helped me during that time, though, was getting my coaching company “GET Active” to life. That was initially planned for the winter but I realised that my off-season was now. So, I tried to sleep longer in the morning as sleep would help my injury and would do a lot of office work afterwards. One hour of “sport” per day.

    Fast forward to week 7: After another scan and a talk with my doctor, I was allowed to do a little bit more cycling, a little bit more swimming and doing some strength workouts again but, most importantly for me, I was allowed to get on the treadmill twice a week for walking with 3x2 minutes easy running.

    running indoors treadmill training

    I felt some discomfort in the area that wouldn't be there normally but, apparently that's not the fracture, but more the fact that everything around it has weakened. 

    So, getting on the treadmill, I was sort of nervous that it would all begin again. I was glad I was wrong. The running felt good, despite feeling rusty, unfit and almost overweight. But the best feeling was, that after stepping down, no pain came back. No sensations, no strains.

    I'm glad I've been able to take my first steps now and can go on from here. I'm taking it day by day and week by week. Patience (my biggest weakness by the way) has been the most important factor in the whole process and I know, that wanting to much too soon could take me back a week or two very quickly.

    This is also an advice I want to give for other athletes, coming back from an injury, coming back from a long off-season or just for people who want to get (back) into sport: Don't rush it. It will all come but it won't come faster just because you want it faster.

    Do your training, take your breaks and always remember: recovery is key. Train, eat, sleep, repeat. Don't just train and repeat.

    For me, I've accepted the situation that my season is over before it began this year. I hope to be back in early 2021. After all, this is my December now, so why shouldn't next January be my summer? I try to be in in top form in January/February, hoping that races will take place and I'll be a better athlete than before.

    At least one thing is for sure: I'll never take pain-free running for granted anymore and be super grateful when I'm back to full fitness, getting back in some sort of form and getting back for race preparation. Here's to 2021!

    About the author: David Rother is a German professional triathlete who competes at full and 70.3 distance.

    Posted by Guest Account
  • The Sustainable Athlete - How To Eat Sustainably

    sustainable eating food health

    Whether you are a competitive athlete or a recreational sports enthusiast, it’s imperative to fuel your body appropriately. We’ve all read articles about consuming enough protein for muscle growth and repair, eating enough carbohydrates to fuel our training, and choosing drinks with added electrolytes to stay hydrated. What we often neglect to consider is the impact that our diet is having on the planet and how we can eat a more sustainable diet whilst not impacting our performance.

    The food we eat contributes to around 30% of greenhouse gas emissions globally and if we don’t take action this figure will continue to grow. To help tackle this issue I have put together my top ten tips for eating your way to sustainability whilst still maintaining the golden ‘rules’ of what an athlete needs to consume in order to perform.

    Moderate animal produce

    Animal foods have a much larger carbon and water footprint than plant foods. In today’s modern agriculture, we grow plants to feed animals which are inefficient converters of plant matter into food. By cutting out the animals and eating those plants directly we can dramatically reduce our carbon footprint.

    You don’t have to take the pledge of veganism to do your part for the environment. Try and make some simple swaps to plant based meat and dairy alternatives which are packed with protein and fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. Whether you opt for meatless Mondays or choose to have one plant-based meal each day, every little will help!

    Locally source seasonal fruit and vegetables

    Foods that travel long distances have a high environmental impact. Buying seasonal fruit and vegetables from your local market can help to lower your carbon footprint whilst contributing to your local economy. If you can’t live without certain foods in their off season, opt for preserved foods that are lightly processed. Canned and frozen fruit and vegetables are more sustainable than the produce grown in a heated greenhouse or shipped in from another country.

    Waste less food

    The average household wastes around 30% of the food it buys. A vast number of resources are used to produce food that is never eaten- soil, water fossil fuels, crop inputs.

    Food waste occurs at a consumer level and so we can really make a difference by cutting back our waste by:

    • Planning out your meals for the week and only buying the produce that you need.
    • Freezing items like bread to make them last longer.
    • Thinking of creative culinary ways to use up unwanted vegetables that would otherwise be chucked in the bin- use the leaves and stems for mixed salads, the off cuttings to make stock, and the wilted items to make hot pots.
    • Use dinner leftovers for lunch the next day.
    • Buy food that meets a credible certified standard

    It’s important that we start to become more aware of what is on the packaging of the food we consume. There are various logos you can look out for to ensure that the food is sourced and produced in a sustainable way.

    Next time you shop, look out for the following logos:

    • Fairtrade, which protects farmers and workers in developing countries.
    • Freedom food, which protects animal welfare.
    • MSC and ASC, which ensures sustainable seaweed production.
    • RSPO, which guarantees that the standard of palm oil production is sustainable.

    Avoid Highly Processed Food

    The more steps involved in food production, the higher the carbon emissions due to the transportation, manufacturing, and distribution involved. A sports nutrition bar or powder with a long list of ingredients is highly processed and therefore has a high carbon footprint, compared to a handful of nuts or piece or fruit which comes from one food source with minimal processing.

    Try these real food swaps to replace your favourite sports supplements:

    Raisins instead of sports jellybeans

    A more natural way to get your carbs in during moderate to high intensity exercise.

    Homemade rice cakes instead of sports gels

    White rice is high in fibre and calories for both during and immediately after training.

    Chocolate milk instead of recovery sport shakes

    Providing water and sodium to rehydrate, carbohydrate to refuel, and protein to repair damaged muscle fibres.

    Beet juice instead of nitric oxide

    Naturally high in nitrates which have been suggested to increase blood flow to your heart and muscles.

    Coffee instead of a pre-workout formula

    Packed full of caffeine, coffee can increase endurance performance by an average of 26%.

    Buy organic foods

    Organic food regulations significantly limit the synthetic pesticides that can be used in crop production which supports more sustainable soil practices; such as the use of cover crops, composting and manures.

    Look out for organic food swaps on your next grocery shop, you’ll be surprised how affordable they actually are.

    Reduce food packaging

    Packaging can make a huge impact on sustainability, as it can fill up landfills. Fruit and vegetables have a natural wrapping and do not need to be encased in plastic. Companies are now wising up to the need for packaging modification to help combat our waste problem.

    Choose to buy loose fruit and vegetables and look for brands that have the least amount of packaging to help reduce the waste that goes into landfill.

    Limit your number of food shopping trips

    Travelling to buy groceries is very impactful in the number of miles food travels to get to your plate.

    Try to limit the number of trips you make and condense your food travel trips to reduce your travelling carbon emissions. For example, if you’re headed to the farmers market, do all your food-related trips in that nearby location for the week.

    Grow some of your own food

    The most sustainable way to obtain food is to grow it yourself as there are no food miles involved, no packaging, and no use of fossil fuels.

    Even if you start with just one herb pot on your patio and progress overtime, that’s one thing you don’t have to buy on your supermarket shop.

    Initiate conversations about sustainable eating

    Perhaps one of the most important things we can all do is start conversations about the importance of sustainable eating. By sharing experiences, knowledge, and resources we can begin to foster a much more sustainable attitude towards food consumption.

    Whilst we proceed with training and live our busy lives, it is very easy to forget that the food we eat has a huge impact on local communities and businesses, individual farmers, and the environment. It’s imperative that we all take a step back and start to consider how our diet is impacting the environmental, social, and economic concerns.

    Do your part to support a greener, healthier and fairer future for our world, and start your journey to a more sustainable diet.

    Thanks for reading!

    If you enjoyed this blog, look out for next month’s edition of this blog series on how you can be a sustainable athlete.

    About the author: Laura Smith is an accomplished athlete and university graduate. She has been a Sundried ambassador since 2017.

    Posted by Guest Account
  • Training Update By Athlete Ambassador Austin Hall

    Sundried ambassador running Austin Hall triathlete

    Since starting training again at the start of November after recovering from a knee injury, I have been getting in the base miles in all 3 disciplines. Since the start of January I have teamed up with Race Hub and coach Piers Plowman who is also head coach of Loughborough Triathlon. Piers has worked hard to put together a full bike development programme for me up until the European Championships in July. I am continuing training with Loughborough triathlon club but head to race hub twice a week to make the most of the Wattbike studio and the lake come April.

    My fitness has really progressed and 6 weeks on and at the end of the first block of training I have increased my bike FTP by 20 watts and hope to push towards an FTP of 300w by July. On the running side, things have started to take shape after smashing a new 5km PB on Sunday 11th March at the Bedford Duathlon. One of my goals for the season was to go sub 17 minutes over 5k and to do this in a duathlon in March is a massive achievement so early on in the season preparations.

    On the racing side of things, I took 3rd place at the Birmingham Aquathlon in February for an early season hit out. In the Bedford Duathlon I finished 8th in my Age Group and thus gained qualification for the 4th Brit for the World Duathlon Sprint Championships held in Spain in 2019.

    I now move into the next block of training including a 10-day training camp in Mallorca at the start of April. I very much look forward to putting in a lot of miles in the sun and further developing my aerobic fitness.

    As ever thanks to Sundried for their support, providing me with quality kit to train in. My go-to item this winter has been the Grand Combin Training Top, which has proved to be brilliant at maintaining my body temperature on rides and runs. I am sure during the spring I will be using the Grande Casse Hoody to provide a little extra protection in the milder temperatures. 

    Upcoming key dates/races:

    • 1st-11th April Loughborough Training Camp in Mallorca
    • 6th May BUCS Sprint Triathlon
    • 20th May BUCS Standard Triathlon
    • 17th June Sundried Sprint Triathlon
    • 21st July European Standard Championships – Tartu, Estonia
    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Training In An Altitude Chamber By Natasha Pertwee

    altitude training cycling triathlon triathlete

    Last year, an altitude chamber opened in my local town.  Altitude chambers have been growing in popularity as athletes strive to find an extra edge to their training. In this case, it is a mobile unit that creates a training environment that is low in oxygen and simulates the feeling of training at high altitudes.

    In December, one of my fellow club members won his age group in an Ironman 70.3 race by a whole hour.  He felt very strongly that his training in the chamber had had a massive impact on his fitness and training. Over the coming months, more anecdotal stories appeared on Facebook reporting the fitness and speed benefits of training in an altitude chamber and I started to look into it a bit more closely.

    In the sports physiology world, the benefits of intermittent exposure to exercising in a low oxygen environment (known as intermittent hypoxic training or IHT) has been met with mixed reports. There are many studies which tell us about the increase in red blood cells that occur if we train at high altitudes for weeks or months, but there is actually very limited data on the effects of intermittent exposure in a chamber such as this one.

    cycling triathlon training bike riding altitude training

    On searching more deeply I found some studies in this area and there is growing evidence of the benefit of IHT on certain types of exercise, particularly exercise involving sprinting. It appears to show that the low oxygen puts increased stress on the muscles and encourages adaptations to the muscles and improved blood flow. It may also help to delay fatigue of peripheral muscles. There is much more research needed, mostly because all the papers examined used very small numbers of athletes. However, the overriding feeling now is that IHT is likely to be beneficial in terms of a fantastic addition to your training regime with each session adding more value to your training than the equivalent session outside.

    So, with 12 weeks before my A race, I decided to sign up for a 10-week training package with Altitude WA. The chamber isset to an altitude of 3300m with an oxygen level of 14% (normal levels being 21%). During my first session I was asked to record my blood oxygen saturation via a finger monitor while my heart rate was in different training zones. I discovered that I was working with an oxygen saturation of 84% to 94% depending on my training zone (normal levels being 98-99%). This helped to work out where the best benefits would be found while training.

    Each session lasts 45-60 minutes and follows a cycle-based workout on the large screen at the front of the chamber. Beside the screen are monitors with my heart rate, my training zone and the oxygen levels in the chamber.  The workouts are set according to heart rate and usually involve a variety of sprints or sustained sub-maximal efforts. I did 2 sessions per week over a 10-week period.

    It was hard to know if I was gaining any benefit as I was doing lots of different races which made it hard to compare my performance, but in general I was feeling strong and started to see some improvements while training. I was seeing improvements in my cycle sprint ability, my running endurance and most interestingly, also in my swim.

    By week 9, I decided it was time to put this to the test and repeat our local Parkrun. This is a good repeatable 5km run, which makes it a useful comparison. I had never been able to get below 22 minutes for this run. I felt as though I was pushing hard, but felt comfortable throughout the run. I stopped my watch at the end and had to double-check as I saw 20:57 staring back at me.

    As for my A race? I have 2 weeks to go…

    About the author: Natasha Pertwee is a Team GB triathlete who moved to Australia. 

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Dan Tate Athlete Ambassador

    running marathon athlete

    Dan has always been into sport and has realised his dream of achieving World Championship level. He talks to Sundried about life in multi-sport.

    Have you always been into sport?

    I have always been into sport and competing from a very young age. It is a major part of my life. 

    What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?

    I have always enjoyed running and cycling and felt I was reasonably strong in both disciplines, swimming on the other hand was something I really needed to work on. I thought it would be a good idea to put all these together and give it a go. Needless to say I am sticking to duathlon.

    What’s been your favourite race to date and why?

    The first time the World Triathlon series came to Leeds was pretty special. This is where I grew up, so for me to race around the centre of Leeds on closed roads was a great feeling in front of a fantastic crowd.

    And your proudest achievement?

    This has to be racing at the European Championships in Ibiza last October wearing the Team GB trisuit. I was competing in the Sprint Duathlon. This was a very proud moment with my family watching on. I finished  8th in the race.

    Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?

    Fortunately, I have not had any racing disasters in duathlon/triathlon to date. However, my toughest cycle event was the Tour de Yorkshire in 2015. I suffered serious cramping, extreme cold/wet and needed a tyre change. I never thought I would see the finish line, but I eventually made it.

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    I have had setbacks with various injuries. I make sure I get the correct treatment/physio and make sure I rest properly and don’t rush back. I always try to stay positive in this situation to get through it.

    What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?

    For me, it is the amount of hours you need to be prepared to train and the cost of taking part in races across the country.

    What are your goals for 2019?

    My goal for the last couple of years was to be competing at the World Championships. This year I will be at the World Championships in Pontevedra, Spain representing Team GB and hoping for a strong finish.

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    Over the years I have watched so much sport including the Olympics and seen what the Brownlee brothers have achieved. This is inspiring to anyone interested in sport. 

    What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?

    Sundried is an ethical company that does not produce harmful products. It also has a pledge to charity ‘Water For Kids’. As a parent, this is something I am keen to support.

    My favourite bit of kit is the Sundried Roteck 2.0 mens leggings, they are comfortable and great for running in.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren