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Who is injured more often, a runner competing in one sport or a triathlete competing in three sports: swimming, running and cycling?

The average marathon runner is injured more than twice as often as the average triathlete. Training intelligently for three sports is less likely to injure you than training foolishly for one. Injuries prevent athletes from reaching their full potential by limiting training and improvement. All athletes should train by the 48 hour-or-more recovery rule. Every time that you exercise vigorously, your muscles are injured, making them feel sore on the next day. It takes at least 48 hours for muscles to heal and the soreness to go away. If you try to exercise vigorously when your muscles are still sore, you are at increased risk for injury.

Each sport stresses primarily a particular group of muscles. Marathon runners train every day, so they stress muscles that may not have recovered from a previous day's workout and are at increased risk for being injured.

On the other hand, top triathletes rarely train in the same sport on consecutive days. They train at different sports on consecutive days. Running stresses primarily the lower leg muscles, cycling stresses primarily the upper leg muscles and swimming stresses primarily the arms and shoulders. Triathletes should set up a workout schedule that includes two sports on one day and one on the next. Of the three sports, running causes the most muscle damage. Muscles are protected by the water in swimming and by the rotary pedal motion in cycling. However, the force of the footstrike in running tears up muscles. So a knowledgeable triathlete on one day runs and on the next takes two workouts, one cycling and the other swimming.

By Gabe Mirkin, M.D., for CBS Radio News

1) Sheehan, The Runner October, 1986.

2) Sports Medicine Clinic and Forum.

3) RRCA Footnotes 14(1), Spring, 1987

June 3rd, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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