How James is using Osteopathy and self management strategies to help him train for his half ironman

Allied health practitioners such as osteopaths and physiotherapists are there to fix injuries and pain once they occur right? Well yes they are, but wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t all just wait until we experience pain to take care of ourselves and our bodies. We only get one body so we should all make the most of it and take care of it whenever we can. In this blog, I talk about how I use osteopathy and other self management strategies to combat the pain and stiffness that arises with my half ironman training

Hi I’m James, and I am one of the osteopaths here at Total Balance Healthcare. I am currently in the middle of training to complete a half ironman in November this year. For those that don’t know, a half ironman includes a:

  • 1.9km swim
  • 90km bike ride
  • 21.1km run

Training for this is something very foreign to me as I have never done too much training in these disciplines, therefore I am currently training roughly 12-15 hours each week. This type of training and duration of training is not something that I am used to, so it is likely that my body will have some level of pain, discomfort and tightness at some point throughout the 8-12 month training period that I will be doing. My mindset to osteopathy and training has been prevention before intervention. 

Prevention before Intervention

Osteopaths far too often are treating problems which have already occurred. I guess this makes sense. You go to the mechanic to get your car fixed and you go to the osteo to get your body fixed. But wouldn’t it be great if we all did a little bit more regular maintenance on ourselves to avoid the $1500 lump payment that we have to make at the mechanic because we haven’t serviced our car in a year or the 10-15 weeks of treatment in a row to fix our bodies. Now, I am not saying that we should just come to the osteo every week for 52 weeks of the year. This would be very, very silly and make me a terrible osteopath. Some healthcare professionals may suggest this and I absolutely hate it.

What I am saying though is we SHOULD ALL do regular services and maintenance on our bodies every day, every week, every month to avoid the big blow up where significant pain or injury occurs all at once. You don’t have to be doing as much training as I am for your body to feel pain and tightness. You may be an office worker and sit down for 8-10 hours everyday. I can guarantee that your hips and glutes will be tight, your low back and core will be weak, and your deep neck flexor muscles will likely be under utilised. A great way to maintain the health and function of our bodies, is to come to the osteo however this can only do so much. We still need to look after our bodies using a variety of other methods which I will touch on below. 

My injury prevention strategies when training for my ironman
Regular osteo appointments

I typically like to have an appointment with one of the osteos here at Total Balance Healthcare every 1.5 – 2 months (This is a maximum of 6-8 treatments for the year). This is a lot less treatment across the course of the year than it would likely be if I left it all to when I start to feel significant pain or a real injury has occurred. For me, this is when I feel like I typically need to be seen by an osteo and my body is beginning to feel a bit tense and tight. I tend to think that I am pretty in tune with my body and what it is telling me so this seems to work well for me. For other people, they may like to be seen more often and for some less often. Everyone is different and everyone requires different treatment frequencies for themselves. Often people can get a bit slack on this and forget to rebook their appointments which usually isn’t an issue in the short term, but in the long term may be a problem. Even for myself sitting here right now writing this blog I am thinking back to the last time I had an osteo appointment and it was certainly longer then the two months ago that I know typically works well for me and my training regime. So thankyou all for reminding me to rebook an appointment with one of our osteos this week! 😂

Foam rolling
  • Regular foam rolling and stretching work: Due to the nature of my training, I spend a lot of time hunched over on the bike or putting in a lot of kilometres running. This means that my muscles (particularly in the lower limb) become very tight and rigid. Therefore I like to keep loose by trying to do some foam rolling at least every second day. Not only does this help to release some of the muscular tension and rigidity, I also find it mentally very relaxing and therapeutic. Now you may not be sitting down a lot to ride a bike, however you may be sitting for hours at a desk for work or in a car driving from worksite to worksite. This same type of tightness will be occurring in your lower limb as well so regular foam rolling and stretching can be highly beneficial. 
Rehabilitation exercises

I tend to suffer with achilles tendinopathy. A very common condition in people who run a lot. My specific rehabilitation exercises include a lot of standing calf raises, seated calf raises and some occasional plyometric and explosive jumping to try and load up my tendon. In all honesty I absolutely HATE having to do these exercises. They are boring, mundane and really feel like they are doing nothing. But because of my studies I know the importance of doing them and how much they help. So if your osteo asks you to do some rehab exercises please, please, please make sure that you try to do them. They are often the only thing that is going to make your pain improve. I am also not perfect with my exercises and sometimes life gets in the way and I will go a whole week without even thinking about them let alone doing them. But I know that the minute I stop doing them, this is when my achilles flares up again. 

Resistance training

Regular resistance training. In my opinion, this is a very important one. Strength training should be a part of everyones weekly schedule to help boost metabolism and burn calories, decrease your risk of falls (particularly in the elderly), lower the risk of injury, improve cardiovascular health, strengthen your bones and improve brain function and mental health. I do regular resistance training three-five times a week which I most importantly use as a great mental escape from work and the other pressures of life, but also as a great way to keep my muscles and joints strong to cope with the demands of the exercise that I am asking them to do.


Take away messages

1. Prevention before intervention. Prevent first, cure second.

2. Regular maintenance beats waiting until it’s too long. We can regularly maintain our bodies with the use of:

  • Osteo treatment
  • Foam rolling
  • Resistance training
  • Stretching
  • Hydrotherapy 
  • Specific prehab/rehab exercises 
  • Mental relaxation (meditation, deep breathing etc.)

3. Have a training and exercise goal and try to stick to it. Mine is completing a half ironman……yours might be running a marathon, cycling from your house to work, paddle boarding the Patterson river or simply walking around your block. Wherever your physical capabilities currently sit, just make sure you try and challenge yourself by moving your body each day and you will be amazed at where it can get you and how it can improve pain. 

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