As any athlete knows, stretching is a very important component of a training regimen. There are a few well-regarded thoughts on stretching.
First – always warm up before stretching. My PT gave this example – imagine putting a rubber band in the freezer for a while and another one under warm running water. Which do you think will stretch more and stretch easier without breaking? The one that has been in warm water, of course. You do not have to run several miles to warm up enough to stretch but even walking a little bit until you feel your body more active. Your body will thank you with fewer injuries. Stretching cold is putting more stress on muscles that are not ready for it and are likely to create a circumstance where injury can occur.
Second – Understand that a long lean muscle that has been trained and stretched through its range of motion and can used through its range of motion is more useful and efficient than a shortened tight one.
Third – have a stretch routine. In triathlon, you use many parts of your entire body – core, shoulders, arms, hips, neck, legs, and feet – so have a routine that stretches them. Remember, you can use compound stretching which are movements that stretch more than one muscle at the same time, thus saving you time.
Fourth – My physical therapist tells me I should hold a stretch for 30 seconds or longer for it to have lasting benefit.
Stretching has been a huge part of my rehab from injuries. My PT tells me I have very tight hips. I try to work on that consistently. It amazes me that muscles “over here” can play a significant role with injuries or tightness “over there.” Learning the intricacies of of how muscles work together has been a fascinating study for me. If I were younger, I would probably go to graduate school for further study.
Toward that end, I have tried to find books that help me with stretching. A lot of people recommend Bob Anderson’s stretching book and I found it useful. However, I have just found, “Stretching Anatomy” by Human Kinetics, who pride themselves on having high quality, well-researched and reviewed, scientifically sound books.
What I found particularly useful was:
- Several pages per section of the body and how the muscles relate and move
- Numerous high-quality illustrated pages of stretching movements with detailed
instructions, which muscles are stretched more and some less, and variations as you progress
- A recommended stretching program from beginners to advanced
Here’s a link to a few sample pages:
- Seated Hip External Rotator and Hip Extensor Stretch
- One-Arm Shoulder Flexor Stretch
- Forearm Pronator Stretch
- Double Plantar Flexor Stretch
- Standing Knee Flexor Stretch
No one likes down-time due to injury, being away from their sport. So, enjoy stretching and reduce the likelihood of injury.