Professional Ironman athlete Eleanor Haresign is no stranger to the highs and lows of cycling. Following a successful rise through the Pro Ironman ranks, Eleanor nursed mystery injuries until finally being diagnosed with a large cartilage tear in her hip. Here Eleanor provides her top tips for avoiding injury as a long-distance cyclists and managing pre-sportive niggles.
1. Prevention not Cure
“It's very easy to do no (p)rehab when you are injury free, as it seems unnecessary. Whilst I was always good at doing stretching and using the foam roller, they weren't enough on their own to address functional weaknesses or muscle imbalances. I now do a gym workout three times a week which builds strength where I need it to help prevent injury.
“Now following hip surgery, my program is essential for muscles which have been 'switched off' due to the injury. The ‘traumatised’ muscles need to be reactivated and re-learn their role in moving the body. Even simple glute activation exercises on a daily basis makes a big difference and I notice it a few days later if I forget to do them.”
2. Combine Your Experts
“I have been working closely with a specialist hip physio since my surgery, with my gym program coming from the personal trainer who works with the physio.
“Muscles around the hip (back, hamstrings and hip flexors) get tight as a protective mechanism so I also get regular massage to help me with this. I also see Giles Muller at Woodland Chiropractic in Harrogate, who keeps me musculoskeletally aligned while these muscles imbalances exist through the recovery process.”
3. Stretch and Mobilise
“I learned from my mobility specialist Sarah Pitts how important it is to stretch the muscles which get shortened by cycling. It's not necessarily the ones which are sore. For example, a tight feeling in your glutes often means you need to stretch your hip flexors on the front instead. And hunched over a bike you might get achy shoulders but actually stretching your pecs helps more. Those are my go-to stretches.
“That said, if you have a hip injury, you need to be careful not to overstretch the hip flexors and aggravate the hip capsule- it's all a juggling act!”
4. Build Strength Elsewhere
“It's always hard being injured and seeing everyone else heading out on their bikes. I find that Strava is best avoided! Focus on what you can do, rather than stressing about what you can't.
“As an Ironman athlete, I’ve really enjoyed improving my swim strength since hip surgery. I can't tumble turn, or push off with two feet or use my legs much, so my shoulders have had to get stronger."
5. Keep Yourself Fit
“Work out some other ways to keep fit. Aerobically, swimming is pretty good and aqua jogging (deep water). Try pool walking (shallow water) or the cross trainer keeps your lower limbs moving.
“I have also learned to enjoy my rehab; to focus on the process, not on the outcome. Have faith that it will all work out in the end."
6. Eat Yourself Cured
“I’ve tried to focus on reducing inflammation with my diet. I eat ginger and turmeric every day and try to reduce refined sugar, which is difficult when you have a sweet tooth! Working with nutritionist Tim Yarrow has helped keep me on track and still enjoying my food.
“There isn't much blood flow to cartilage so, since hip surgery, I have started making my own chicken bone broth in a slow cooker - to get my lysine and collagen in to help repair my hip.”
7. Watch for Warnings
“My injury took a long time to diagnose (2 years) and the symptoms were wide ranging. If something hurts and doesn't go away the next day, or keeps coming back every time you train, get it seen to and, if necessary, get a scan and a clear diagnosis. It's better to eliminate possible causes than ignore it completely.”
8. Be Forward Thinking
“I am hoping to be back on my bike in time to ride Struggle Dales again this year as I am really missing cycling in Yorkshire and loved riding the Struggle last time I did it. I will build back to some half Ironman races with my new Team Vitfor. I did Edinburgh 70.3 last year with my injury so I am keen to go back there fit and healthy.”