Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Triathletes, on Your Mark...Whoa!

by Sean D. Hamill for the New York Times

RICK MOTTER remembers the first twinge.

He was about to finish first in his age group at the Reeds Lake Triathlon in East Grand Rapids, Mich., when, after swimming a half-mile and biking 17.2 miles, a younger competitor began to surge by him at the end of the 4.9-mile running portion of the race.

“I thought, ‘Well, that’s not going to happen,’ and I sprinted really hard — that’s when I felt it,” said Mr. Motter, 61, a manufacturing plant manager from Plainwell, Mich., who began competing in triathlons three years ago when his doctor told him he needed to reduce his cholesterol.

Soon the twinge in his right ankle evolved into severe pain, severe enough that he wound up in physical therapy with Achilles tendinitis. “A lot of my triathletes end up here because they do way too much too soon,” said Scott Miller, Mr. Motter’s physical therapist.

As more casual athletes like Mr. Motter sign up for triathlons, the sport has seen a corresponding rise in injuries. The newcomers are particularly injury-prone, doctors say, because of the rigors of training simultaneously for swimming, bicycling and running.

Paradoxically, many people move from a single sport to triathlons because of the oft-heard promise that adding variety to their exercise regimen will reduce injuries. The theory is that the three sports work different muscles, ideally minimizing the strain on any single muscle set. For runners in particular, adding biking and swimming to their repertory means less pounding against pavement...

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