Soft Tissue Therapy for IRONMAN Preparation

Massage Therapist Elissa Millhouse explains why Soft Tissue Therapy is an important part of IRONMAN preparation.

Ironman Triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle and a full 26.2-mile marathon run. Training is extreme and averages around 12-13 hours a week. 

Competitors experience a broad range of injuries, including over-use, because of the great stress this places on the entire body. Up to 74.8% of age-group triathletes that participate in IRONMAN-distance races will be injured at least once during each training season. 

Insidious onset of overuse injuries during training represent 75 to 80% of all injuries to ironman athletes; while 15 to 25% of injuries occur or are exacerbated during the race to the point that it forces the athlete to withdraw from the event. They are at increased risk for developing a wide range of injuries due to the three different disciplines of the sport. 

Soft Tissue Therapy can improve circulation and break down scar tissue, which improves the function and flexibility of soft tissues being pushed to their limits. Regular treatments are crucial for triathlon / IRONMAN competitors. Each session may require focus on a different area depending on what assessment at the beginning of each appointment reveals, what the athlete is feeling that day or where they are focusing their training. It can be seen as a preventative measure, dealing with niggles before they become an injury. We would recommend fortnightly or weekly treatment during training, preferably on a rest day, and weekly treatment in the month before your event.

A Soft Tissue Therapy appointment is something that can be looked forward to in the training schedule. Not only is it beneficial for stress relief and anxiety about the event because of the effect it has on the nervous system, but also makes training more enjoyable than if the athlete was in pain or tight all the time.

Chrissie Wellington OBE, four-time Ironman Triathlon World Champion, said “being an ironman is a 24/7 job. It’s not just training, which I do up to six hours a day; it’s eating right, it’s recovery, it’s massage, it’s injury prevention and it’s sleep.” At that time she was seeing a Physiotherapist three times a week and getting Massage Therapy up to three times a week too. 

References:

  1.   O’Toole ML, Hiller WD, Smith RA, Sisk TD. Overuse injuries in ultraendurance triathletes. Am J Sports Med. 1989;17: 514–518.
  2.   Egermann M, Brocai D, Lill CA, Schmitt H. Analysis of injuries in long-distance triathletes. Int J Sports Med. 2003;24: 271–276.
  3.   Tuite, 2010
  4.   Chrissie Wellington Interview: The Iron Lady, Lena Corner, Sunday 2nd January 2011, The Observer