Did you know that regular stretching is just as important as regular exercise? It is important for a well-rounded and balanced exercise regime to include regular stretching to keep your muscles loose supple and pain free. Stretching goes beyond simply warming up the muscles as it improves the range in motion by releasing tension, helps to reduce post exercise soreness by increasing blood and nutrient supply to the muscles.
Triathlon training involved using the same muscles to perform the same motor patterns over and over again. Hence there certain muscles are prone to tightness, e.g hip flexors.
There has been much controversy in the recent literature regarding stretching, however this is out most up to date way of thinking.
Stretching pre session/race
Before an event or a training session, stretching should be performed dynamically. Static (still) stretching will not aid performance and there is some evidence to suggest that it might actually increase the risk of injury. So stretches should be short – less than 10s holds. Or they should be with movement – for example leg swings.
Stretching post session/race
This is when stretching is of most benefit. Stretching should be done within an hour post finishing. Generally, if you stretch straight off the session/race it can be rushed. The best thing to do is shower and then have a good 20mins of stretching while your muscles are still warm but you won’t get cold having just finished. But time is always a factor – so just do as much as you can. Theses stretches are static and should be held for longer than 30s. Don’t push to the point of pain as the muscles will fight against you. Ease into the stretch – use your breathing to push a little deeper with each exhale.
Foam rollers are excellent tools for stretching and self-massage. They are usually very painful to start but the more you do the less sore it will become.
Any yoga or pilates style exercise is great for triathletes too.
Here are 9 simple post training stretches you can do to maximize your recovery:
In a lunge position, drive back hip through to feel a stretch in the front of the back hip. Keep the back straight.
Feel stretch around bum of front leg. To increase the stretch lean forward with elbows and forearms resting on the floor.
Keeping knees as bent as you need to hold onto your toes, then drive your bottom up toward the ceiling to feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Keeping your knees locking straight means that you will be stretching your back so keeping knees soft targets the hamstrings specifically.
Sitting on floor, one leg out straight out leg bent over the straight one. Rotate towards your bent leg using your arm to pull yourself around more. Feel the stretch in the middle of your back.
Standing in a corner, arms out to the side, push your chest into the wall to feel a stretch across your chest and should feel your back straighten out.
Foot on chair behind, keep body up tall and push pelvis forwards to feels stretch across front of your thigh. An alternative is standing with heel to bum holding onto your foot.
Standing front leg bent and back leg straight and weight forwards. Then repeat with back leg slightly bent for a stretch lower down the calf. Also can try off the edge of a step.
If you have a foam roller
Lie with roller across back. Use the roller as a pivot to arch your back. Then repeat as different points down the spine
Roll up and down the outside of the leg. Offload weight onto your arms or other legs if too sore – aiming to increase the weight onto the roller over time.
Our bodies give us a lot during those long events so let’s give a little back to our bodies, happy stretching everyone