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Injuries... love it or lose it!
Posted by: Ninam91
Posted on: Wednesday 2nd May 2012


Tags  Injuries  |  Injury  |  Joe Skipper  |  Nina McArthur


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Here is the latest update of our new series from Nina McArthur. Nina recently launched launched her own blog (www.sinkorswimnina.blogspot.com) to track her progress after returning to the sport, three years after losing her motivation and health as a 17 year old elite junior triathlete. Alongside her own blog, Nina will be contributing to Tri247 regularly on...whatever she wants!

Having interviewed Elinor Thorogood last time out, in this piece Nina looks at the impacts of injury - physical and mental - and includes an interview with club-mate Joe Skipper who has shown a positive attitude to his own recent bike crash.


Injuries...love it or lose it, featuring Pro Triathlete Joe Skipper

Many of you will have seen the recent BBC article on Alistair Brownlee's battle with his achilles injury since early 2012. Dealing with injuries as an athlete is possibly one of the most frustrating experiences as I, and I'm sure many of you, will know well. In the Olympic year it can only be an elite athlete's worst nightmare, however I have been massively impressed and inspired with how Alistair has spoken to the media about it.

In an interview with the BBC Alistair said "If I said it was a good thing and gave me some rest and put a positive spin on it, that wouldn't be quite right, but it could have been worse. It could have happened in two months' time or been a more serious injury... there's plenty of time and my focus at the moment is just getting it healthy'.

This emulates the entire theme of my blog of maintaining a positive outlook and enjoying every aspect of the training that I have returned to. This is a tough mental state to maintain when you are hit with an injury just as things are going well, be it training for a 5km charity run or to complete an Ironman.

An athlete that I am sometimes dragged along by in the pool and that speeds around my Club's running track, whilst disappearing into the distance on the club ride is Joe Skipper. Joe is a Pro triathlete who started triathlon when he was thirteen back when it was apparently ‘proper old school with everyone going starkers in transition' which I am happy to say is no longer the case! He switched to road racing at the age of eighteen whilst studying at Essex University, loving the tactical ‘mental' element although being irritated by the fact that the strongest person wouldn't always win. At the end of 2010 he competed the Bustinskin Middle for a laugh (as you do!) therefore being under-prepared for it but loved the suffering of long distance triathlon and hasn't looked back since.

Joe SkipperRecently, he competed in the Buxton Mountain Time Trial and on the second lap coming down a fast descent he went flying off his bike going round a bend. His comment afterwards was ‘I wish I used my bloody brakes more', typical of mad thrill-seeking triathletes I think! To be fair, I'm one of those who is guilty of using my brakes too much and arriving at the bottom of a hill about ten minutes after everyone else. Needless to say I would respond ‘yes you should bloody well slow down!' but that wouldn't be typical of his competitive nature and admittedly wouldn't have gained him some of his best results. Back when I was a Junior Elite doing weekly 50 mile rides, every few months I would have to have the brake blocks on my bike replaced because I'd worn them down that much. My Dad, aka bike mechanic and financier, was less than impressed.

So I thought I'd ask Joe a few questions on how he coped with having to take a week off training, missing a race when being so close to competing in TriStar Cannes .

So tell me about the injury you sustained in the Time Trial Race Joe?

‘There was a load of mud and grit on the road which made my front wheel go and then next, bang, I was sliding along on my leg. It was the most painful injury I have ever experienced and for 10 days I have had a throbbing pain and been struggling to sleep'.

What advice would you give to athletes who are feeling de-motivated with an injury at the moment?

Don't dwell on it, you can't change what's happened and always try and look for the positives. It may be hard but there will always be some, every cloud has a silver lining. Also, it is do-able to get back to the fitness level you were at before you got injured. If you are out for three-four weeks it will probably only take one-two weeks to get back to where you were, if that.

Joe Skipper, Buxton TTI like the quote ‘every cloud has a silver lining', have you got a quote that you live and train by?'

‘To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift' - Steve Prefontaine

What are your goals for this season?

‘Ironman 70.3 and Challenge Henley are specific races that I want to do well in but I just want to be consistent throughout the season. I want to get my name out there and take some scalps of some established pros along the way.'

I know you're currently sponsored by Royles, do you have a favourite piece of kit and why?

Definitely my P3, it is so fast and just makes you want to smash it [the training!]

I must say, I prefer my pink and white bike to the speedy looking ‘P3' but each to their own. I've recently bought some matching pink compression socks for when I compete in the Club Relays so if you're down in Nottingham on the 25th/26th August then keep an eye out for a flash of pink, speeding (or ambling) by. Have a look at the photo on my blog ‘Running the IKEA Way', colour co-ordination matters!

I asked Joe's coach and physiotherapist Paul Savage (www.physio-coach.co.uk) for his take on how best to help triathletes in particular to cope with injury.

'As a physiotherapist who works with a lot of triathletes, I find that the best way to help athletes cope mentally with an injury is to make them see the injury as an opportunity. For example, Joe had an ankle injury last year that prevented him from running for a month, but with that injury he was still able to swim, bike and use a cross-trainer. I was impressed by how focussed he remained and used the opportunity to work on his swimming. After a month he was swimming better than ever. His running fitness returned in a matter of weeks and his swimming stayed strong having benefitted from the specific swim focus for a month.'

This recent ‘road-rash' injury has been terrible for Joe though, because he was unable to swim, bike or run! In this case Joe has used the opportunity to earn more money by working more hours at [the triathlon shop] Royles whilst he is unable to train. Perhaps taking the opportunity to earn the extra money will enable him to fund a trip to a big race in Europe where he will get the break-through result that he deserves.'

Joe has supported my own return to the sport and I've really enjoyed doing some of my swim sessions with him and a few other friends on the promise of a coffee afterwards. I have seen his positive attitude (as mentioned in my blog ‘You are Braver than you Believe, Smarter than you Seem, and Stronger than you Think') to other athletes such as myself even when he is doing the same session. When training with a group or club, this is what pushes you complete that extra rep, pump your legs that bit harder and flip around the tumble turn that bit quicker. It is said that you should consider your behaviour at work; are you an energy sapper or emitter to others within your team? We'd all hope to be the latter but have been at the receiving end of the sappers I am sure!

Paul says ‘it's the athletes that generally have a more positive outlook on life that deal better with the frustration of injury and also recover quicker. Those that may have a more pessimistic outlook can tend to go off the rails a bit, end up losing a lot of fitness and take longer to recover from the injury.'

Coffee and cake!This echoes my stance of how important it is to be positive and to stay smiling always with your glass half full, or in my case coffee mug bubbling to the brim. For me, it is the little things alongside the training that make me smile. At the moment, I am loving pushing myself hard in the pool and at the running track but I also make sure that I reward myself for the hard work too. Be it a coffee & cake stop on a Sunday ride or a warming drink and munch after a wet track session with other club members, I count myself lucky to have the opportunity to train with such good friends as well as athletes. Similarly, it also means I am more likely to complete the warm-down and stretches with the group, re-fuel properly (cake is allowed when you're burning up so much energy on a bike ride!) and remain healthy and happy.

But given the pressures that injuries put on both amateur and elite athletes, I asked Paul what his best injury prevention tip would be for triathletes?

My best injury prevention tip for triathletes is to do a lot more steady running mileage than higher intensity running. There are many triathletes who think that because of their swim and bike training they only have to run twice a week and these runs can be of high intensity, perhaps a track session and a tempo run. The problem with this is that whilst swimming and biking improves cardiovascular fitness, it doesn't condition the body to the eccentric loading and pounding forces of running. I advise triathletes to work on their steady running and long runs as the priority and not the speed-work. Elite runners may run 100 miles per week but will do as little as 20% of the total run volume at faster than race pace. Compare this to some triathletes that I've seen in the physiotherapy clinic who probably do 70-80% of their weekly run volume at a pace faster than their triathlon race-pace!'

I suffered numerous injuries in my time as a Junior Elite including tendonitis in my ankle and bursitis in my hip but it is heartbreaking when people begin to lose confidence in you due to you missing target times and qualification races. Complete fatigue and exhaustion is not usually classified as an injury, but I actually feel it is much more debilitating to go through. It is harder to keep yourself positive when faced with not understanding why you feel completely drained mentally and physically, however I pride myself on overcoming that challenge and subsequent ones stemming from that over the last three years. It is the attitude of yourself and your support team be they family, friends, coaches or physios that makes the difference. Together, ‘every wall is a door' - Ralph Waldo Emerson.

‘Joe is one of the most mentally tough athletes I have ever met and nothing seems to faze him' Paul Savage (physio-coach.co.uk) talking about Pro Triathlete Joe Skipper.

So with the positivity of GB athletes such as Joe Skipper and Alistair Brownlee, I can only say bring on the competition for GB over the next few years and in 2012! For me, I hope to continue to inspire and encourage participation within triathlon with individuals content to train for their own personal aspirations and goals. It is just as important for us to remain injury-free and motivated to continue to do what we love.

I feel blessed to have regained my love for the sport that is triathlon.


You can read more from Nina via her blog: www.sinkorswimnina.blogspot.com.


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