When it comes to endurance athletes, Ironman Hall of Famer Bevan Littler is an inspiring example of hard work and perseverance. He is also an excellent example of the benefits of adding injury prevention to a training programme, helping boost his performance in completing 13 Ironman events, including two World Championship appearances in Hawaii.
The Hamilton-based athlete sought professional advice almost four years ago, after tearing a calf muscle before the NZ Ironman event.
What followed from his initial consultation is a great example on how an elite endurance athlete can overcome injury, poor biomechanics and limited training time, and go on to complete five more Ironman events, including another Kona World Championship.
Bevan’s key strength is his running, with his best marathon time clocking in at 2h:40m. He knows he can rely on his run. However before coming to see us at Advance Physiotherapy, he was having problems with his back and then his calves and Achilles started to break down.
He had tried everything and had been to many treatment providers. Even after multiple bike fits and getting his bike set up perfectly, he still developed a sore back during the cycle and was having to slow down and stretch his back out.
With back pain from the cycle component severely slowing him down in the marathon, Bevan had already missed out on qualifying for Kona a couple of times because of this problem.
Once his calf injury healed, we completed a full functional movement screen and running analysis to solve the mystery as to why his back was causing so much trouble on the bike.
What we found didn’t surprise me at all, as I have seen it in every single one of the endurance athletes who have come through the clinic over the last 15 years.
Endurance athletes put their bodies through a tremendous workload. Any treatment the athlete receives needs to be holistic, multi-faceted and must keep the athlete training at some level to avoid any deconditioning.
With Bevan, as with every other endurance athlete I know, the four issues we found were:
– Poor core stability
– Tight psoas/hip flexor complex
– Tight ITB and hamstrings
– Over active calf muscles with tight Achilles
Time in training is critical and unfortunately we often see endurance athletes neglecting injury prevention work, resulting in serious injury and losing 6-8 weeks or more off training.
The principles in these four exercises of injury prevention allow you to train smarter, not harder.
The Oov is simply the best tool out there to strengthen the core. And because of the
Oov’s unique unstable base of support, it trains the core to support neutral spine and develop power into the legs and arms. Bevan performs 2-3 sessions per week on the Oov. Twenty Balance Stars (as pictured) should be easy for the endurance athlete.
Solution #2: Hip/Psoas Flexibility
Hip joint mobility is a critical component of good performance in the endurance athlete. This stretch works both the adductor/groin as well as the hip flexor/psoas.
The Obie roller used daily after training goes deep into the muscle and is the best tool for self-myofascial release to increase flexibility and flush out the lactic acid build up that comes with any endurance training.
The calf and Achilles tendon take a huge pounding in the long distance runner and cyclist. Performing the eccentric loading heel drop is a great exercise to protect the tendon from damage and increase flexibility. Sixty drops, both legs straight leg and then bent knee daily is critical for any endurance athlete.
The equation is simple. For an endurance athlete, the more miles you do, the more you need to do for injury prevention and body maintenance.