Triathlon training? More swimming and cycling, less running

“I have been doing a triathlon every day this summer.” This is what my patient told me one month ago. He returned to my practice for care from his training. He has decided to do the Lobsterman’s triathlon this weekend.

He is a wonderful athlete. He was a high school track star and ran for a Division I college. He won a number of prestigious races in southern Maine.

His family has been associated with my practice for four generations. His grandparents were patients of my father, and now his nieces and nephew have been to see me.

His father and mother are terrific people. His father was a basketball star at a local high school and went on to captain his Division I college basketball team. His father has been ill the last several years. He still affectionately calls me “Roberto,” the nickname he gave me years ago when he would come into the office.

Both of his brothers were outstanding athletes for their high school and college teams. They continue to be in great shape.

This was the first time a patient told me they were doing a triathlon every day. He rides his bike about 15 miles per day before going to his summer job.

At his summer job, he and the other lifeguards will run 3 to 5 miles per day as part of their training. They also will swim each day and practice rescues. All of the lifeguards take their job seriously. Their lives and the lives of the beach goers depend on their training and fitness.

He usually will swim between a third- and a half-mile each day, depending on the tide.

He’s in the shape we all dream of being in. I have cycled with him. He talks during most of the ride while I’m breathing like a freight train trying to keep up.

His chief complaints are neck pain and tightness in his calf. He also has some stiffness in his lower back.

I have found other swimmers to have neck issues, especially if they breathe out of one side. This will cause a muscle imbalance on one side of their upper back and trapezius muscle.

Treating this type of neck pain is not complicated and it responds very well to conservative care. Preventing it from recurring takes work. I ask the athlete to get a swimming coach.

A good coach can make you more efficient in the water. This will place less stress on your body as you propel yourself through the water.

Breathing out of both sides of your swimming stroke makes you more symmetrical. This reduces the stress on one side of your upper body and neck. It’s hard to learn and takes practice.

His calf muscle had a mild strain. He has had this before when he increased the intensity of his running. I performed deep tissue work on the muscle. We reviewed stretching exercises as well.

His lower back showed some joint restriction in his lumbar spine. I used spinal manipulation to restore joint mobility.

I encourage my triathletes to do more swimming and cycling than running. Both of these sports are less stressful on the body than running. They also will maintain their cardiovascular fitness.

I hope you will consider trying a triathlon. You will be glad you did.

Dr. Robert Lynch is a former president of the Maine Chiropractic Association and head of the Lynch Chiropractic Center in South Portland. “Staying in the Game” appears every other Thursday in the Press Herald. Contact him at: