In the world of endurance sports, there’s nothing better than race day. The offseason grind, the countless hours of training, the meticulous planning – it’s all worth it when standing at the start-finish line.
The one thing that can put a damper on that race-day euphoria? Injuries. For one world-champion athlete this spring, that was certainly an understatement.
On April 23, Ironman champion Frederik Van Lierde was leading the Fuerteventure half-distance by four minutes when a man crossed the road in front of him near an aid station, causing a bike crash that left the triathlete with a broken collarbone. The injury cast a cloud of uncertainty over the remainder of his season.
However, thanks to smart recovery planning and dedicated training -- and with help of his Kinetic Rock & Roll Smart trainer -– Van Lierde returned to competition a mere six weeks later at Ironman France, where he finished in an impressive fourth place.
While Van Lierde is an elite athlete, the following lessons learned in his recovery offers valuable insight for every racer -- from weekend warriors to aspiring pros -- dealing with an in-season injury.
Lesson #1: Patience is a Virtue
The natural inclination of any racer is to get back to full speed as soon as possible. Van Lierde say that’s the wrong approach, instead preaching patience as the number one factor in successful recovery.
“You need to recover first,” says Van Lierde. “Don’t put a date or a plan together in the very beginning of the recovery process. Take it day by day at first and listen to your body. Don’t try to train through the pain.”
Lesson #2: Celebrate Small Milestones
Van Lierde advises starting slow and celebrating small milestones. He began his recovery training with spin sessions on his Kinetic Rock & Roll Smart trainer, where he closely monitored output via the Fit app and trained in a safe environment that still provided a realistic ride feel.
“In the first weeks, it was all about spinning the legs at lower wattage and it was nice not having to worry about traffic or road hazards,” Van Lierde says. “As little as it may be in the beginning, the increased blood flow helps you recover a lot faster. Later, when I was working to build up my fitness with harder blocks, I could compare data to see my progress.”
Lesson #3: Stay Positive
Maintaining a positive attitude coming off a serious injury can be difficult, but it’s as important as the right training plan and a major factor in successful, enjoyable recovery.
“Positive thinking is key,” Van Lierde stresses. “Visualize the healing of the injury, see yourself competing again, and use that positive energy to help make your recovery go faster.”
Lesson #4: Set Your Return Goal
As the injury heals and your training capacity returns, establishing a goal for when you will compete next is the last step and adds some final motivation. It certainly doesn’t hurt if the next event is a signature race.
For Van Lierde, returning six weeks later at Ironman France, a race he’s won three times, provided extra incentive – and his strong finish validated his approach to recovery.
“It's a great feeling! I love being back in the exciting race atmosphere,” Van Lierde says. “Despite not being at 100 percent of my capacities, I'm really happy with my results. Being able to battle for the podium was far beyond my expectations.”
Van Lierde followed up his strong showing in France with another impressive sixth place finish at the 70.3 in Luxembourg, where he also raced up front for part of the day. He noted that, in both races, both his cycling and running were strong, thanks in part to his time on his Rock & Roll Smart trainer.
“My running was on a better level and I was able to maintain my power on the bike,” he added.