Does triathlete stretching have a place in your first Ironman or triathlon preparation?
Stretching Is one of those gray areas that nobody seems to really understand. Sometimes I watch people go through the motions just before a race and you can just tell they are unsure exactly what it is they are supposed to be doing.
Is stretching really a good idea? A triathlete stretching improperly will most likely do more harm than good.
I tried it for a year or so and came to the conclusion that for me it was a waste of time. Actually more to the point, it did more harm than good. I injured myself twice in the process and ended up missing training time.
I think part of the problem is that people(like I did myself)just go ahead and start stretching without a full understanding of what they should be trying to accomplish. Ultimately this can result in injury from attempting too much too soon.
I truly believe there are better and safer ways to prepare your muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments before they are stressed by training or racing.
WHEN STRETCHING MAKES SENSE
I watch young kids in swim clubs who stretch every day for fifteen or twenty minutes before a training session and that makes sense to me. Their bodies are used to it and it is part of their everyday routine. Also, they’re being supervised by a coach.
When it comes to triathlete stretching it makes more sense to me to swim, bike or run slowly at the beginning of a training session for at least 5-10 minutes. This lets your body ease naturally into the function they will be doing in a few minutes at a faster pace.
If you stretch now and have a regular program and it works for you, then you should stick with it. Otherwise I wouldn’t even start unless you receive knowledgeable guidance and are willing to stay with it on a daily basis.
STRETCHING SHOULD BE UNIQUE TO YOUR SPORT
A common mistake made by many people is to just do what they see other people doing in the gym or perhaps in the moments leading up to the start of a race.
That’s not a good idea for several reasons. First of all, you have no idea what they’re stretching for as far as what they are hoping to gain or what sport they’re involved in.
Secondly, there is no guarantee they are even doing the stretch properly themselves, and thirdly you have no idea how long stretching has been part of their routine.
For instance, they may have been stretching for several years and you may not be quite ready to stretch quite the way they are. Just possibly the triathlon stretching you should be doing is different from their program.
TRIATHLETE STRETCHING THE COMMON SENSE WAY
The best way to prepare your body for a particular training session is to ease into it. For instance, if you’re planning a two hour training run, walk at a good pace for five or ten minutes and then ease into your running rhythm. This way, you’re warming up the muscles you’ll be using beforehand without having to stretch.
If it’s a swimming workout do a few easy laps before beginning the workout you have planned. If you’re biking, sit up in the seat and spin in an easy gear until your muscles warm up. While you’re at you can also do some shoulder shrugs to loosen up shoulder and back muscles. This is especially helpful if you expect to be in the aero position for an extended time.
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