It’s a Fine Line Between Listening to Your Body and Training Through an Injury

Triathlon Training NZIf you have a question you would like me to answer, click on this link here. This is a response to a question from a reader who askedWhen recovering from an injury, how fine is the line between listening to your body & working with the recovery to just pushing through, ignoring discomfort?

Maybe you are like John in this story here, who would just push on regardless of his injury and/or then try and play catch up with the training. That story is a cautionary tale that came right with the correct advice in the end.

However we need to get back on task and answer the question at hand. To purely answer the question the line is pretty fine. Push too far and you may find yourself re-injured again. Don’t bother trying to push yourself and you may never get back to full fitness.

The All Blacks and other elite level sports teams are surrounded by support staff to assist them get the best advice possible. You also need support staff, be it your doctor, physiotherapist, coach and other key people, depending on the nature of the injury.

The key to deciding how close to that line to push is not a sole decision. You also need to draw on the knowledge of your physiotherapist and doctor, as well as your coach. If your coach has a background and qualifications in Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation then they can be a great benefit to you.

The lead person making the decision at any one moment in time needs to be yourself, as often your coach, doctor or physiotherapist will not be right beside you whilst you are out training. You need to be responsible for driving yourself back to full fitness and not allowing yourself the excuse that you are injured. The information and guidance you receive from your support staff will assist you in making the decision of how hard to push you.

If your doctor or physiotherapist is saying ‘no running (or some other activity)’, then ask them “at what point can you commence running again?” Don’t accept the answer of in a few weeks or some other arbitrary time frame.  Ask them what physical tests can they get you to do to determine if you are ready to commence running again. Ask about the pathway to the solution to get back doing the activity that you currently can’t do. Have that as a goal and discuss it with all your support staff.

All injuries heal at different rates depending on a number of factors:

  • How fit and strong the injured part was when it got injured.
  • The nature of the injury (traumatic or overuse).
  • The duration you’ve had the injury.
  • What you’ve done since you got the injury.

What else can you still do despite being injured? Rather than getting down and out whilst being injured, look at what you can do. If you are a triathlete or multisport athlete you can focus on other aspects of your sport. If you are a single sport athlete, you can look at doing other exercise that will assist with developing key components of fitness for your sport. A marathon runner needs efficient heart and lungs and so does a cyclist, so maybe you can commence cycling whilst being unable to run to maintain or enhance the efficiency of your heart and lungs. Discuss this with both your physiotherapist and your coach.

Now back to that fine line. If it is physical pain you are trying to push through, this is no good and will put back both your training and your injury. However if it is discomfort from being unfit having not been able to train for a bit, then push on through it. There is a difference between the two, so listen to the cues your body is giving you.

Look for solutions from your support team and develop a plan to build you back to your previous fitness level.

Coach Ray is the Head Coach & Director of Qwik Kiwi – Endurance Sports Consultant and is a prominent triathlon and marathon coach in New Zealand. He holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Sports Medicine and a Post Graduate Diploma in Rehabilitation from the University of Otago, along with other tertiary qualifications.

Coach Ray specialises in assisting first timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. He can be contacted at, and 021 348 729. Make sure you sign up to his monthly informative newsletter.

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Response to Lance Armstrong indicating that he wants to become a Trail Runner

This is my opinion in response to this article:

NZ Tri Training
Armstrong’s win at the Woodside Ramble 35K has set off debate over whether he should be allowed to compete in trail races. Photo by Jesse Ellis / Let’s Wander Photography

Those that know me, know that I am ANTI-DOPING and ANTI-DOPERS.

When Floyd Landis was announced as coming to NZ to ride in the Tour of Southland (TOS). I was like ‘No way’, ‘That’s wrong’, ‘WTF’, even though he had done his time. But over the week of the race, I was able to observe the positive role modelling he gave to his team members (he was leading a composite team of young Kiwi riders). He taught them the tactics of riding big multi-day tours and gave them a schooling they could only have got from riding ‘under the wing’ of a rider who has ridden at the level he has ridden at, which is not often available here in NZ. He also ‘sucked up’ and absorbed a LOT of banter and flack from a lot of riders and people involved in the TOS (not the organisers).  He has obviously developed a very thick skin, which also showed his team mates a level of professionalism that many would not be able to display.

What is the difference between Lance & Floyd?

Tri Training NZ
Floyd Landis
  • Floyd wasn’t given a life-time ban, that is one difference.
  • Floyd didn’t try and intimidate and dominate support personnel (mechanics, masseuses etc…) who tried to blow the whistle on his doping.
  • Floyd didn’t make the life of people who spoke out against him living hell.

At the awards function for the TOS I found myself standing alongside him and had a brief discussion, where I told him my opinion of drug cheats and thanked him for what he did for the young Kiwi cyclists. I am hopeful that his Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) days were long in his past (he certainly isn’t riding at the level he did whilst using them) and in the week he had with the young Kiwi cyclists that he only exposed them to the negative side of PED use. I had no involvement with the team he was riding for so I have no knowledge of what he did out of the spot light to confirm this, so I cross my fingers.

On the other hand Lance denied his cheating (until he had no other option but to admit it). Lance has an arrogance that he uses to bully people that don’t have the financial resources to stand up against his ‘legal team’ – people who when their life and family were threatened that they packed up their family and moved to the other side of the world giving up the career they loved to avoid the threats that Lance personally made to them ( &

Lance’s attitude and approach is not good for sport. If he had said ‘Yeah I used them’ then done the ‘time’ for his crime and got on with his life without the associated ‘drama’ (like a number of other convicted PED users have done in a range of sports) he possibly would have avoided the life-time ban. If he had initially worked with the investigators he possibly would have avoided the life-time ban. But he didn’t do either of these things and he got a life-time ban from sport (which I believe he deserves).

He hasn’t done anything positive since ‘coming clean’.  A more apt term might be ‘coming out’ but that would be insulting to compare and associate Lance with the GLBT community.  They actually have pride in who they are Lance on the other hand only has arrogance).

Even as recently as last week the PR machine that is Lance was trying to convince the world that he didn’t actually do anything that was too wrong:

A life time ban should mean a life time ban.

Keep him well away from trail running and any other sport that has any credibility.

I am proud to stand behind this opinion piece and have this represent Qwik Kiwi.  Nothing can be more annoying where an opinion piece is followed by a disclaimer that it doesn’t represent the business that the author is associated with. – Ray Boardman.

12 Weeks to an Iron-Distance Swim PB: Week 4

Over the coming 12 weeks I will post a series of workouts building your swim fitness as you prepare for either Challenge Wanaka (18 Feb) or Ironman NZ (04 Mar). I am a multiple Iron-distance finisher including doing both these events in 2011 (the year of the wind in Wanaka and the year of the rain in Taupo).

12 weeks out from Challenge Wanaka started the week of Monday 28th November. For those of you doing Ironman NZ two weeks later, your sessions commenced the week of Monday 12th December. Continue reading “12 Weeks to an Iron-Distance Swim PB: Week 4”

Kepler Challenge – What an Adventure

Heather wrote an article a few weeks ago about her training in the great outdoors as she trained for the Kepler Challenge. This is her race report for the Kepler.

I was expecting to do the event in about 10 hours, but it took me 11 hrs 25 mins and 49 secs.  My left piriformis was really niggly a few days before (all the usual things didn’t make it feel better so I knew it was going to be a problem – bugger), and the stiff muscle morphed into a sore hip which then led to a really sore knee. Bugger.  Didn’t stop me though!

The race went well and I stuck to my plan.  The climb to Luxmore was easier and less steep than I expected (easier than the Pukaka/Mt Robertson climb).  The weather was rather extreme on the tops: gale force wind, rain/sleet, wind chill of -6˚.  I was running in all my gear (overtrou included) and I managed to stay warmish, but if I stopped I got cold very quickly.  I was being blown around by the wind which was a little nerve racking, but I found the conditions quite exhilarating.  Coming down off the tops on the long down was great fun – especially when I got out of the wind and rain – and I was laughing as I was running.  I realised at that point that I was going to finish!

Left Iris Burn hut in really good shape.  Legs were strong, nutrition and hydration were spot on and I felt amazing.  Plan was to run 15, walk/run 5 then run the last 10km.  I was feeling so good that I had to slow my pace down.  Unfortunately I started to get sore in my hip about 5-7 km, then in the knee about 10km.  I started power walking and walked the last 18km.  Luckily I had practiced power walking. The last 5 km were slow and painful but I finished.

All I could think about was imagine what I could have done if I hadn’t had a sore knee. I think I’ve been bitten by the Kepler bug.

I was surprised by my physical fitness, my physical endurance and my mental toughness.  I felt at the finish that if I hadn’t had a sore knee, I could have kept on going. My feet and legs were OK.  I was really surprised by that.

Thanks for the training and the encouragement – I DID IT!!!!

– Heather Collins

What are the Consequences of Missing a Workout?

What are the consequences of missing a workout? Although this isn’t a common question the implications of the answer affect anyone following a training plan. A training plan is only as good as the adherence to this plan. As a result I am often asked “What do I do if I miss a session?” but before I answer the more common question I will explain what I refer to as the ‘Why factor’. The ‘Why factor’ will help provide you with the information as to why that is the case.

Lets look at a hypothetical training programme that goes for a 4 months building up to an event with 6-10 workouts per week. So that is a total of between 96 & 160 workouts as part of that build up. If you miss one workout over that 16 week period, that is somewhere between about 0.5% & 1% missed or a consistency rate of about 99-99.5%, which is pretty damn good and I don’t think I’ve had any client that consistent (although a couple spring to mind that might have got close). Lets look at the other end of the spectrum of someone who constantly misses a session or two per week.  That represents missing 10-33% or a success rate of between 67% & 90%. Now only missing 1 session a week when there are 10 sessions to do, represents  a success rate of 90% which is pretty good in anyone’s books, but when there are only 6 workouts in that week then that drops to 83% which is starting to get pretty thin on the ground and consistently missing sessions is far from optimal, especially if that is every week without fail.

The key to successful training is consistently doing that training. This is the time of year where there are other distractions that take you away from your training, which takes you away from your goal.

As a coach I am not worried if one of my athletes misses one session once in every blue moon, but if they are missing a session week in and week out then lets be honest they are also setting themselves up for failure. Especially if that is a key session or consistently the same session. A key session for a cyclist is the Long Bike Ride and as a coach if I set that every Sunday morning for them and they are consistently missing it for what ever reason they are missing a key opportunity to condition their body and develop their aerobic energy system. Maybe they are trying to set a PB for 10km and their Wednesday Interval session gets missed constantly. This session is what will give them speed and the ability to buffer lactic acid, missing this session will potentially mean they miss their goal time. If you are missing the same session every week (regardless of the reason why you miss it) it will severely limit your ability to develop the component of fitness that that particular session was developing. It is in your best interests to get this session done, but how? Do you double up somewhere else in the week or do you try and catch up by doing it on your rest day?

Lets look at what happens in these situations. Firstly lets look at why we have a rest day. By the way, I like to schedule training that will improve you without being physically demanding on your rest day, hence why I schedule Flexibility Training for you. I’ll discuss the benefits of Flexibility Training further down this piece. But the key is that a Rest Day (or a day that only involves Flexibility Training) allows your body to recuperate and repair itself. When the body does this as a response to training it makes itself a little bit stronger, a little bit more powerful and a little bit more efficient than it was previously. Without recovery between sessions like this your body never gets this chance to develop. This IS the reason why we conduct training (to make our bodies better). Without the recovery our bodies don’t and can’t improve.

So what happens if I just double up my training on another day and do both my scheduled training and the training I missed from earlier in the week? It’s seems fair enough that if I do more training than scheduled then I will surely get better right? Not so fast. I’ll use the example of a client who did all their training from the weekend and squashed it into a single 12 hour period. Don’t get me wrong, it was an epic training stimulus, but a training stimulus is only as good as the recovery from that training load. As this person works they had a big training session scheduled on Saturday and then another one on Sunday in a different sport. If the programme was done as planned they would have had the opportunity to recover (nearly fully) from the Saturday session overnight as they slept.  They would have been relatively fresh on Sunday for the next big session that was planned. What actually happened was they did the first big session, then jumped in a vehicle and drove to the venue where they were conducting the next session and conducted it. As they hadn’t really got much recovery prior to the second big training session, they wouldn’t have got much benefit from that training session and consequently loaded themselves up with a great load of training that they now need to recover from before they would start to see any improvements. As a consequence, their training over the following days (whilst they continued to recover) will also be compromised.

I hope from these two examples you can see that there is no benefit to trying to catch up with the training that you missed. What should you do? If you miss a training session, acknowledge that you missed it (it isn’t the end of the world) and just move on with the remainder of the training and don’t worry about catching up. If you are missing the same session each and every week, talk to your coach about why you struggle to do that particular session at the scheduled time and look into solutions that involve scheduling the week differently so that the key sessions are scheduled and then conducted at a time that ensures that you can get them done.

As an aside a number of my athletes are training for a major event, but like to include low key local races as part of the training and preparation. This I fully support where it doesn’t impact the key sessions of training for what they are ‘focussing on’. There are some great benefits physiologically to doing this type of racing. It is also a great way to be involved in sport socially and support local clubs and events. But if this low key event doesn’t totally line up with preparing you for your key event it might not be the best thing for your long term goals. Further more, if this local event (or event series) then leaves you too tired to do the most important training sessions of your build up…….is it setting you up for failure?

Earlier in this piece I said I would discuss the benefits of conducting the flexibility training. There are two key reasons why I schedule the flexibility training into the programmes of my athletes.

  1. Enhanced recovery. By taking the time to stretch and focus purely on stretching with no distractions, you can relax into each stretch and slowly lengthen out each muscle being stretched. This has been shown to be therapeutic and to enhance recovery. The perfect activity to conduct on a rest day.
  2. Decreased risk of injury. Training by it’s nature shortens muscles, although some forms of training can lengthen muscles.  In general repetitive activities such as running and cycling etc shorten the muscles. By conducting flexibility training, the stretching helps lengthen the muscles returning them towards their original length.

Further to the two key reasons a third reason to do the flexibility training is to increase the range of motion at a joint that can then turn into a performance advantage that allows you to increase your mechanical efficiency  i.e. to make you faster. We all want that.

In summary, rest and recovery is very important part of your training but you are only ever going to be as good as the consistency of the training that you do. So if you miss a training session for what ever reason, don’t try and ‘catch’ that session back up if it is going to compromise your recovery from the other training that is scheduled for you.

If you would like further advice feel free to contact Coach Ray.

Coach Ray is the Head Coach & Director of Qwik Kiwi – Endurance Sports Consultant.

Coach Ray specialises in assisting first timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. He can be contacted at, and 021 348 729. Make sure you sign up to his monthly informative newsletter.

Share this post so your friends can benefit as well.

12 Weeks to an Iron-Distance Swim PB: Week 3

Tri Training NZ

Over the coming 12 weeks I will post a a series of workouts building your swim fitness as you prepare for either Challenge Wanaka (18 Feb) or Ironman NZ (04 Mar). I have been a professional triathlon coach since 2000 and am a multiple Iron-distance finisher including doing both these events in 2011 (the year of the wind in Wanaka and the year of the rain in Taupo).

12 weeks out from Challenge Wanaka starts the week of Monday 28th November. For those of you doing Ironman NZ two weeks later, your sessions will commence the week of Monday 12th December.

This is the third week, you can find the first weeks sessions here and the second weeks here. Continue reading “12 Weeks to an Iron-Distance Swim PB: Week 3”