I am often sent questions from triathletes as to the merits of some equipment designed to heal an injury. For the most part, these items are expensive and not usually worth the expense. What many don’t realize is that often the best way to spend your money on injuries is to invest in things that help to prevent them in the first place.I have compiled here some simple and often inexpensive ways that the beginner triathlete can get the most bang for their buck in terms of keeping themselves healthy for the duration of the season.Bike fit: $50-$200Biking injuries come in two flavors: those that result from a crash, and those that arise from overuse. Crashes are of course unpredictable, but hopefully keeping your bike maintained and wearing a properly fitting helmet can mitigate them. The latter group of injuries is varied and includes shoulder and back strains, and leg problems such as iliotibial band syndrome and jumper’s knee (patello-femoral syndrome). Almost all bicycling overuse injuries arise as a result of an ill-fitting bicycle. Perhaps the seat is too high, the top tube too long, or the pedals misaligned. Whatever the case, a professional bike fit is the best way of avoiding these problems in the first place. If you are in the market for a new bike, a bike fit should be figured into your budget. Many bike stores will actually deduct a percentage or all of the cost of a fit from your purchase. If you have a bike already, a bike fit may still be useful in that problems can be diagnosed and often remedied by tweaking various adjustments or purchasing some relatively inexpensive replacement equipment.Bike tune-up: $30-$100Help prevent crashes by keeping your bike in optimal performance shape. A professional bike mechanic will adjust and inspect your brakes and ensure that your drive train is functioning properly. An accident is a lousy way to find out that something is amiss in your setup.Properly fitted running shoes: variable costA lot of running injuries come about as a result of athletes wearing shoes that are not suited to them. Simply heading to the nearest shoe store and buying the newest or cheapest shoes is not the best approach. A good running store will be outfitted with a gait analysis system comprising, at the minimum, a treadmill and a video camera. Higher tech stores will have a computer with some sophisticated software to assist in the analysis. By employing these tools, the salesperson can evaluate the foot strike and weight transfer. Over-pronation or supination of the foot can be spotted and a properly fitted and supportive shoe prescribed. Bicycle/running water bottles: $3.50-$10.00Proper hydration during training and racing is critical for maximal performance and for injury prevention. As the body becomes progressively dehydrated, muscle performance diminishes and the likelihood of injury rises. You can’t keep hydrated if you don’t have the means to carry fluids. Buy several bottles and use them!Sweat/water proof sunscreen: $5.00-$20.00The risk of skin cancer is rising with the depletion of the ozone layer around the earth. Skin cancer accounts for almost 50% of all new cancer in the U.S. every year and the number one predisposing factor remains sun exposure. The use of high SPF sunscreen is the only way known to diminish the likelihood of this potentially fatal disease amongst those who participate in outdoor activities. Apply regularly and repeatedly throughout the day.Hire a coach: variable costHaving an on-line or live coach confers numerous benefits to triathletes, one of which is a decreased likelihood of injury. Coaches will set schedules to your individual ability and level of training. As a result, common errors made by beginners that often result in injury are avoided. Furthermore, coaches build in recovery periods that are critical for both improved performance and a reduction in the likelihood of injury.Buy a book: $10-$40If a coach is too pricey or too much of a commitment, there are a host of well-written books on triathlon and triathlon training that make an excellent resource and can help you accomplish some of the same goals. Several of these have been reviewed on this site in the past and numerous others are available. A search on Amazon for “triathlon training” yielded 136 titles, many with reader reviews.Heart Rate Monitor: ~$80-$500These little wonders have become more and more sophisticated and complex. At the low end, most HRMs provide HR, time and stopwatch functions. At the high end they can be miniature wrist top computers with GPS, power meters and overall fitness assessment—just some of the built in tricks that they can do. Whatever your budget, an HRM is an invaluable tool for the beginner and advanced triathlete alike. By tracking your HR you have a means of assuring that you don’t train too hard and an insight to when you might need to rest. An HRM can prevent injuries if it is heeded.Massage: $30-$100The benefits of massage are often underappreciated. Massage improves blood flow to muscles and results in a washing out of toxins and improved healing of the low level tears associated with everyday training and racing. The result is improved performance and a decreased risk of injury. Massage can be at the hands of a trained massage therapist or with many tools on the market. Massage balls, sticks, and other implements take a little more work but can achieve many of the same results as a pricier visit to a massage therapist.There are innumerable other things that you can spend your money on to improve your performance come race day. But the best improvements will be seen if you can stay healthy. This list was not intended to be exhaustive, but if you have some or all of the items contained herein, then you have spent your valuable triathlon budget wisely.Train hard, train healthy.
Long time triathlete with multiple IM finishes and over 30 HIM since 2001. 70.3 WC x4, Kona x 1.
Previous medical contributor to Triathlete Magazine and Inside Triathlon now the author and producer of the TriDoc podcast on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher