The Way You Use It: Functional Movement, Injury, & Prevention


Let’s start off with talking about functional movement. These are movements based on real-world situational biomechanics. These movements occur in multiple planes, involve multiple joints, and place a great demand on the body’s muscles.

How does this apply to swimming, cycling, running and form?

“Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.” Frank Lloyd Wright

From the time you begin running, until today…I am sure your running form (or other movement) has changed. Everyone out there is giving you advice on your running form right? Running friends, social media groups, coaches, the latest self proclaimed guru, the guy at the shoe store, someone at the drinking fountain. Lets not forget all the advisors out there on your aches, pains, and injuries. Most often advising you to stop running (doing activity) or putting a Band-Aid on it, and not discovering the source. Basically defending against or following the pain. You need to do some “forensics” work so to speak now! The best advice out there is simply, what works for you… Of course the answer has to be reasonable!

Some examples of this are:

  1. No shoe is going to “make you a better runner”
  2. No BODY is the same
  3. Patterns do change
  4. Injuries occur

Most injuries in triathlon are caused by overuse. This does not just occur from overtraining, but inefficiency of movement (improper form). Efficiency is an excellent measure of how coordinated any action is. Inefficient movement will compromise performance and create the environment for pain and injury; overuse.

An example of this is two people weighing the same, run the same 5 miles in the same amount of time; but one burns 1000 calories while the other burns only 700. Which is more efficient? Burning fuel at a slower rate is what we want! So where does all this extra energy go? It goes into making ugly or body compromising movements.

To become more efficient, whether its running, cycling, or swimming; breakdown the biomechanics. What each body area should be doing and IS doing.

  1. Head
  2. Shoulders
  3. Hips
  4. Knees
  5. Ankles, Feet, Toes
  6. Arms, Wrists, Hands
  7. Core

Take a look at the different types of runs you do when training. How does your form vary? Get a gait analysis. Swimming with different tools to aid training. Have your swim form analyzed. Utilize different techniques. Have a proper bike fit. Learn how to really ride the bike (not just pedaling!) Cycling indoors versus outdoors. How form can vary in alternate settings.

The most common injuries that athletes suffer from can be prevented. After rehabilitation from an injury, it is also important to make some changes. Discover the cause of the injury, not just manage the pain. A doctor, a physical therapist, a movement specialist, or a coach, can all assist with this.

An injury does not have to be caused by sport, but it can contribute. Injuries also can be related to each other. Tight calves can lead to tendon tightness, then lead to Plantar Fasciitis issues. All of which have contributing factors such as how one walks up the stairs, driving position, how one sits at their desk, hip placement, and more!



  1. Following a training plan
  2. Additional activities
  3. Work atmosphere
  4. Cross training
  5. Nutrition
  6. Missed workouts/miles
  7. Increasing speed?
  8. Shoes
  9. Trauma/prior damage
  10. Activity surface

What can YOU do?

Stop activity if you are experiencing inflammation. If pain is present, and does not go away after you warm up, try walking, if it persists, stop activity. If the area is not functioning normally, stop activity. You can take time off of running without losing a significant amount of your conditioning.


  1. Insert walking breaks
  2. Space out your training plan; don’t overload
  3. Account outside of training activities
  4. Ease your way into faster running
  5. Be careful with stretching
  6. A warm up and a cool down

We swim, cycle, run. We do other workouts like strength, weights, yoga; then add in eat, live a life, chase our kids, and so much more. Trying to fit it all in so we can Tri! Injury often occurs when a person exceeds what their body is able to recover from with regards to strenuous exercise. This also can happen when one trains at an intensity or volume too high without enough recovery. There are physical, hormonal, and mental symptoms of overtraining. Learn to recognize warning signs. Take care of the machine and the machine will take care of you.

Before I forget…most of all, never forget the fun!

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Terri was not an athlete growing up. Maybe a bit “athletic” and definitely awkward. Now she is not only a runner and triathlete, but a Coach as well! She has been a part of the Chicago “sport” community for 25 years as a Licensed Massage Therapist and Movement Specialist. She has her own business, Urban Wellness Chicago, in the city, works with the Northwestern University Athletic Department. As a Coach with Chicago Athlete Coaching and the Chicago Manager for Running Tours USA, she does now consider herself an athlete, and regularly competes in races of multiple distances. Oh and yes, still a bit awkward!


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