Friday, April 4, 2008

The Importance of Stretching

I have usually neglected to stretch. In fact, sometimes I purposely do not stretch before a race because it makes me feel as though my muscles are more responsive. Recently, however, with the increase in my triathlon training, I have encountered two injuries that could have been avoided through stretching exercises: an IT band injury and a torn calf muscle. The calf muscle injury is particularly disheartening because it keeps from racing in the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler this weekend. I am upset, to say the least.

My injuries show that I am on somewhat of a steep learning curve with regard to my training. I was not a Division I athlete and therefore do not have a truly comprehensive understanding of athletics and racing. In fact, until recently, stretching was seen as somewhat of an annoyance, something that was tangential to my race goals and training schedule. But I am quickly seeing the error in my ways. Without stretching (or massages), I believe one is only able to perform up to a certain level, a plateau if you will. But in order to be at the top of the pack, small things need to be taken into account, things like hydration, sleep, and muscle looseness. These are things that can be overlooked by the average run-of-the-mill athlete, but not someone who is looking to outperform the majority of the competition. Best of luck to everyone who is racing. Dunno. These are just my thoughts.




Peter said...

I agree that stretching is an important part of your overall training plan. However we must be clear about what kind of stretching is appropriate and at what point in your workout. At the USATF Level 1 coaching school I recently attended, they emphasized the fact the static stretching should only be performed after you workout, when the muscles are most warm and loose. Prior to the workout the emphasis should be on a dynamic warmup and dynamic stretching (like leg swings.) In fact, some recent research has shown that excessive static stretching prior to a race or workout fatigues the proprioceptic system. This means that the contractile mechanisms of your muscles fibers are already less then 100% ready to perform before you have even begun the running effort. This flew in the face of what I had always practiced but the research data is solid.

MAX said...

you are all too young to worry about these things too much. Go out dancing and have fun and the rest will follow.

Wait until you are 35, 36 and up to start worrying about injuries and recovery.