Sports Medicine - Triathlons & Injuries ׀ by Kevin M. Conto, MPT, L-ATC, COMT


Kevin Conto received his athletic training degree from the University of Wisconsin- Madison and obtained his Master of Physical Therapy degree from Concordia University. He has his certification in manual therapy from Maitland-Australian Physiotherapy Seminars and is currently a physical therapist at United Hospital System. Kevin works with a variety of patient populations and also specializes in industrial rehabilitation and orthotic fabrication. 

Training for Triathlons

Training for a triathlon can be a challenging task. Improper training can lead to poor performance and worse yet an injury. Common factors which can result in an increase likelihood of injury can include and is not limited to: training errors, anatomic and biomechanical factors, improper footwear, gender, age, experience and a history of previous injury. The article below will discuss training errors and injuries associated with training for a triathlon.

Training Errors and Injuries
Experienced runners are as likely to make the same mistakes as beginner runners (1). Factors to consider when training for running are not to increase your running distance too soon and to avoid a sudden change in the transition of your program.

A training program should consist of hard or quality days with interspersed easy days to allow for recovery (1). Most athletes can safely tolerate 3 hard days a week. When training for distance, the weekly increase in mileage should be no more than 5-10% (1). For example, if an individual is currently running 20 miles a week, he or she should only increase the distance to 21-22 miles for the following week. An ideal training program is at a level just below “the line” at which an injury becomes a serious risk. Injuries usually occur when emphasis is placed on training the aerobic system while disregarding the ability of the musculoskeletal system to accommodate (1). Setting appropriate goals and incorporating common sense is essential to minimize the occurrence of an injury as well.


Should an injury occur which is mild, an individual should reduce training for the activity which causes pain: i.e. biking, swimming or running. It is usually more acceptable to reduce training rather than cease training altogether if the injury is not serious. When injured, it is often common for the individual to maintain aerobic conditioning at all costs by performing cross training with no or low impact activities and integrating replacement sources of fitness training (1). Such activities can include running in the water, spending more time on the bike, steppers and elliptical training (1). Mileage, frequency and pace of an activity can also be adjusted to minimize exacerbation of the injury while maintaining performance.

With running when injured, often times the injured tissue is able to sustain a moderate amount of stress which is evenly distributed throughout the week, but unable to take longer runs (1). Injured tissue may be able to take 10 miles in 2 days of running but not the stress of a six mile run. Therefore, the individual can run two consecutive five mile days rather than a six and four mile day. A common modification is to simply take your weekly mileage and split it into equal distant runs. The weekly mileage stays intact, but there is more control and understanding of the pain level per weekly mileage. A typical progression is to start running every other day at that distance and increase it by one half mile every other workout (1). Please remember that these are general guidelines and that you should contact your physical therapist, physician or athletic trainer for obtainment of a training program specific to yourself and your injury.

Common Injuries Associated with Training for a Triathlon
- Swimmer's Shoulder
- Biceps Strain/Tendonitis
- Rotator Cuff Tendonitis (supraspinatus tendonitis)
- Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITB)
- Hamstring Strain
- Pes Anserine Bursitis
- Ankle Sprain
- Peroneal Strain/Tendonitis
- Plantar Fascitis
- Achilles Tendonitis

Last revised: May 5, 2008
by Kevin Conto, MPT, L-ATC



1. Brotzman S.B., Wilk K. (2003). Clinical Orthopaedic Rehabilitation. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby.

Terms & Conditions

Please review our terms and conditions carefully before utilization of the Site. The information on this Site is for informational purposes only and should in no way replace a conventional visit to an actual live physical therapist or other healthcare professional. It is recommended that you seek professional and medical advise from your physical therapist or physician prior to any form of self treatment.

..="font-size: 2pt">.