Stretching For Triathletes

Please oblige us by doing this: Get up and attempt to reach your toes with your fingertips without bending your knees.

Can’t do it? That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Research has demonstrated that muscles and joints that are properly tightened permit runners to move with greater efficiency, enabling them to use less oxygen while running at a set speed.

Several finds over recent times have prompted specialists to examine and change their long-held practices of stretching.

For many athletes, it can be hard to know what exactly stretching does and whether to engage in it, as there are so many reports disputing what the latest stretching science and methods are. Furthermore, if athletes choose to stretch, they need to understand how and when to do it. We sought out professionals to provide reliable responses so we can have a healthier and more successful lifestyle.

What Does Stretching Do

A precise differentiation needs to be established before attempting to explain the particulars of stretching, which would be between static and dynamic stretching.

A static stretch is when you keep a certain muscle group in an extended posture for longer than thirty seconds, as in the usual toe touch. Whereas a dynamic stretch includes regularly stretching and then releasing a muscle group.

Jay Dicharry, physical therapist and author of Running Rewired, explains that the reason for two different kinds of stretches is due to their various purposes.

He explains that static stretching is done to increase the amount of flexibility in the joint it is connected to by increasing the length of its soft tissue. By doing static stretching over an extended period, it can be verified that muscles and tendons will become more elongated and the range of motion would amplify.

Dynamic stretching targets the nervous system. The point of the exercise is to get the brain and muscles working together in a manner that sets up the body to be ready for exercise, as Dicharry clarifies.

Should You Stretch

In a recent evaluation of past studies related to how stretching impacts runners, British and Australian researchers figured out that although static stretching increases flexibility, it does not provide any meaningful benefits for endurance runners in terms of better performance or avoiding injuries. Does this mean you shouldn’t bother with static stretching? Not necessarily.

A.J. Gregg, a chiropractor and expert in strength and conditioning based at Hypo2 Sport in Flagstaff, Arizona, informs us that stretching can be very helpful, and even necessary when the range of motion in a certain joint is impaired due to some cause.

He states that if an injury causes your right hip flexor to become tense and limits your mobility, it is essential that you address it before you start running again.

Apart from the hip flexors, issues concerning the ankles and the big toe are commonly seen in runners and can restrict their movements, such as the ability to extend their legs behind them while running. Easy evaluations can help pinpoint any problems with mobility in these areas.

Although the scope of movement in any of the three regions might be minor, it does not mean that static stretching is necessary.

Gregg states that “normal” is unique to everyone and the key to being aware of your body is to ensure that your left and right sides are in equilibrium. If you find that your right ankle is not as flexible as your left, it is advisable to do some stretching on the right one to equalize the differences.

Gregg highly recommends that every runner engages in dynamic stretching. This is an excellent method for becoming attuned to your physicality before you start running so that your movements while running are much more accurate and natural.

How Should You Stretch

Jay Dicharry a renowned physiotherapist, is an expert in the field of movement and biomechanical analysis and has helped thousands of triathletes overcome injury, collaborated with other authors on a substantial study exploring what happens when men and women with rigid hip flexors undergo a rigorous stretching routine.

The investigation his team conducted demonstrated that by using 3-5 minutes of hip flexor stretching throughout each day of the week for ten weeks, people who initially experienced impaired mobility regained normal mobility.

This set of numbers outlines the typical approach for improving joint flexibility through stretching.

If stretching for three to five minutes seems like too much time – yes, it is. The good news is that it does not have to be completed in one go. After making sure that each stretch lasts a minimum of 30 seconds, according to Dicharry.

Dynamic stretching is less rule-bound. Dicharry recommends picking between one and three exercises to complete before beginning a jog – enough to be adequately prepared.

When Should You Stretch

It has been established that dynamic stretching is meant to be done before running. Do you have to do it before every jog?

Dicharry advises that those who are used to waking up in the morning to run or those who spent a lot of time bent over a desk should take action to increase mobility in their back and hips.

It’s not essential to do dynamic stretching before running if you’ve already been engaged in physical activity, but Dicharry says it is a beneficial practice and would never do any harm.

Holding stationary stretches can be done anytime except before running, as it weakens muscular strength momentarily. Gregg says that it is common for well-known runners to do stretching when the muscles are warm after their run, as well as in the evening because it helps them to unwind.

He warns people that engaged in recreational running and lack time for other activities to think about putting their few minutes into a more advantageous activity.

Gregg suggests that if you do not have a concrete purpose for wanting to stretch, you might as well invest your time into foam rolling or strengthening your core muscles.

Mobility Test

Check if you have a lack of mobility in your hips, ankles, or large toes using these three self-exams.

Hip Mobility Test

Assume a semi-crouched position within a door frame, with your right knee and left foot on the floor, your right thigh pointing directly upwards, and the middle part of your back resting against the door frame.

Try to drop your tailbone and make an effort to press your lower back flat up against the entranceway. If you sense an intense or uncomfortable pull in the region of your right thigh where your pocket would be, you lack hip expansion flexibility. Switch your stance and do the same test again on the left side.

Ankle Mobility Test

Perch on a seat with both feet squarely on the ground and bend both legs at a 90-degree angle. Move your chair forward until the front of your knees is positioned directly in front of your toes. If you are not able to put your heels on the ground, it means your ankle flexibility is not adequate.

Big Toe Mobility Test

Take a seat and rest your feet on the ground while keeping your knees bent at a 90-degree angle.

Raise your right big toe to its highest point without the sole of your foot leaving the ground. If you are unable to lift your big toe to an incline of 30 degrees, you lack adequate ankle mobility. Now test your left big toe.

Importance of Stretch Training for Triathletes

Stretching stretches out the muscles in the body and, if done regularly, can increase its flexibility and the amount of movement it is capable of. The extent of movement that one can perform before harm is inflicted on their muscles and tendons is known as the range of motion.

By consistently stretching, one should recognize that they will be able to move portions of their body farther and more effortlessly than when they first began. In other words, you’re improving your flexibility.

Having suppleness offers one the ability to move without difficulty or discomfort, and for someone that is involved in sports, this is beneficial — especially if the sport requires using your muscles in a variety of techniques.

The improved coordination is a result of increased flexibility. The more fluid your body is while performing various movements, the more your coordination improves, which can enhance your abilities in all aspects of a triathlon, including your cycling cadence, swimming kick, and running posture.

Another benefit of stretching is increased muscle power.

The amount of force your muscles can produce is determined by the degree of their contraction; as their length increases, so does the power created from their flexing. Therefore, to further increase your muscles’ potential power output, you should aim to enhance their length. In other words, longer muscles are more powerful.

Stretching can even help reduce muscle fatigue. Each muscle in the body is balanced out by another muscle that is in the opposite direction. When one muscle contracts, it applies pressure to the muscle which opposes it.

If a muscle has greater flexibility, it will not experience as much tension when its opposing muscle is activated.

Exercising can provide an advantage post-workout, including alleviating muscle soreness. Stretching boosts the flow of blood, aiding in the elimination of unwelcome chemicals from the muscles caused by physical exertion, such as the surplus of lactic acid.

Furthermore, stretching after physical activity can alleviate muscles that have tensed due to exercise, and provide serenity for your body and mind following an intense workout.

It is unquestionably beneficial to devote a few moments to performing exercises both before and after a workout.

Which body parts should a triathlete prioritize for stretching, and what kinds of stretching should they do? On the following page, we’ll examine the advantages that some of the stretches performed by athletes in other sports may have for a triathlete who is participating in a practice session.

After a short activity to raise the heart rate, stretching can generally require approximately 10 minutes before and after physical activity. It should be slow and relaxed. If you focus on doing something properly, you will get the most out of it.

The exercises beneficial for swimmers, cyclists, and runners are likely to be advantageous for a triathlete, considering they are involved in three distinct sports.

Swimming is a physical activity that requires the use of many different muscle groups. Swimmers extend their shoulder and arm muscles to expand the scope of movement associated with their swimming stroke.

The muscles throughout the body are linked, so exercising the muscles in the back and sides can boost flexibility in the shoulders.

Attention paid to the ankles can be beneficial to swimmers as increased flexibility of the ankles can enable faster kicking.

A cyclist would focus primarily on the legs. After consistently riding a bicycle, your muscles may become less flexible due to the effort and motion involved. To prevent this, it is important to stretch the muscles in the legs to counteract it [source: Burke].

In addition, similar to swimming, improving ankle flexibility can make each pedal more effective.

Runners, like cyclists, focus on the legs. The length of your leg muscles will determine the length of your running stride for the most comfortable experience. Stretching out the calf muscles and hamstrings can help you travel a greater distance with each stride.

Dynamic and static are the two primary types of stretching. Dynamic stretches make use of motion and the body’s own motion to extend the body. This could comprise booting, leaping, contorting the body and turning the arms.

Rather than movements, static stretches consist of keeping the body in a single posture for some time. An illustration of a stationary stretch is extending backwards to get and clutch your foot (which draws on the hamstring).

Investigations indicate that doing dynamic stretching before a match is better because it increases blood circulation and relaxes the muscles, whereas static stretching after a game is more comforting and a good way to cool down.

What are the consequences if you are injured while training for or participating in a triathlon? It appears that stretching can be beneficial in aiding the healing process if you have sustained an injury. Read on to find out more.

 

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