Exercises to help triathletes recover from injury quickly and safely

220’s resident physio offers some ‘safe’ exercises you can do to maintain fitness, increase strength and speed up recovery…


Injuries are, unfortunately, an unavoidable part of any athlete’s career. Increasing the number of races, qualifying events and training pressures mean that, even with the best screening, diagnostics and planning, many athletes still find themselves struggling with an injury of some kind at some point in the season. 


As a physiotherapist, a major part of my role is diagnosing and rehabbing these injuries, so that an athlete can return as quickly and safely as possible, but most importantly, to perform back at the highest level. To ensure this, it’s vital to maintain as much cardiovascular (CV) fitness and muscular strength endurance as possible.

So, when you’re injured and told to ‘offload or rest’, what training is safe to do? And how can you maintain fitness levels? The level of training will obviously depend on the type and severity of your injury, but it’s very rare that an injury will stop training altogether (one of the benefits of a sport like triathlon!).

If you have an injury: 

■ Speak to your doctor or therapist to find out what type of training is appropriate.

■ Look at equipment available. If you’re in a cast you can purchase or hire protective covers that allow you to swim or aqua-jog.

■ Work on technique, add in drill sessions.

■ Get in the gym and work on any strength and conditioning issues that may have contributed to the injury.

■ Research resources available in your local area. Many private physiotherapists and sports clubs have a wide variety of equipment that you can access, such as AlterG (anti-gravity) and underwater treadmills.

■ Don’t push through the pain. You should be able to find ways of training that don’t overstress the injured area. So if the training’s causing extra pain – stop!

Adapting the disciplines

Triathlon injuries tend to focus themselves around the lower limbs, so normally limit, principally, the run. It’s relatively easy to maintain some level of CV fitness: hand bikes, seated boxing and gym circuits all increase the heart rate. Swimming and cycling can also be easily adapted to continue training.

Swim: Use a pull buoy and band for pull-only sessions. Push off the wall using the non-injured leg only.

Cycle: Turbo or roller sessions are easier to control and if you experience any pain you’ll be in your living room, rather than half way round a 40km loop! If you’re heading out on the road, stay flat, with low resistance and stay in the saddle. 

Run: This is often the most difficult, but there are lots of alternatives out there to keep you training. On the following page are some options and the reasons one may be your preference over another.


(Main image: Jonny Gawler)

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