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Training for a pentathlon

Lorena Heubach is one of Dalhousie University’s most unique track and field athletes.

She’s the only athlete on the team that participates in the pentathlon: an event that includes high jump, long jump, shot put, hurdling and an 800 metre race. The athletes compete in these events over the course of a day.

Heubach’s currently ranked fifth among Canadian university athletes in the event.

Heubach is relatively new to the sport; she started track and field when she was in grade 10 and has excelled to the point where she’s one of the top pentathlon athletes in Canada in just her fourth year participating in the sport.

“She’s a raw talent,” says Head Coach Rich Lehman. “She’s had some coaching, but not a whole lot.”

Lehman says that Heubach can spend up to 15 hours a week training like all track and field athletes. Heubach simply spreads her time out over each event that she trains for.

Lehman trains Heubach for the 800 metre. He notes that while the 800 metre isn’t her strongest event, she does well in the high jump, long jump, and shot put.

He says it’s important to balance training based on her strengths and weaknesses, and which events score more points in competition.

“It’s hard with the 800 metre, because it’s aerobic training, cardio and endurance; and that sort of takes away from jumps and hurdles, because jumps and hurdles are all strength,” says Heubach.

Aerobic training is a blanket term that can be applied to any form of exercise that quickly exhausts a person’s breath.

In addition to training almost 15 hours a week, she also enjoys going for half-hour runs on her own time.

Heubach trains with four different coaches: one for each area of skill, sprints and hurdles, jumps, throws and the 800 metre.

With heavy training comes increased possibility of injury.

Heubach is currently dealing with shin splints, a condition caused by repeated trauma to the shinbones and connective muscle tissue surrounding the shinbone.

She says that the injury makes practicing difficult, particularly for the 800 metre.

Lauren Johnston is the head athletic trainer for Dalhousie’s track and field, cross country and swimming teams. She says that shin splints and tendonitis are common injuries among people who train for multiple events.

“If it’s true shin splints and you’re not fractured, it still takes a couple months to be healed, but then if you get a stress fracture, you could be out (of regular training) for probably a good four months,” Johnston says.

She also says that having shin splints makes athletes a candidate for stress fractures.

Heubach goes to physiotherapy after practice where she has ice baths to help control pain and swelling. She also tapes her shins and wears compression socks during training.

Johnston says that when an athlete obtains a chronic injury such as shin splints, they almost always have to dial back their training.

Lehman commented that when Heubach is feeling sore and fatigued he and the other coaches communicate with one another to prepare appropriate training sessions, ensuring that she isn’t being overworked.

For Heubach, it’s all worth it.

“I just love going to meets and competing,” she says,


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