Triathletes and injuries go hand in hand. Sports therapist, Jamie Webb, says: “We tend to see similar types of repeating movement patterns in the triathletes we see. Leading to injury and breakdown in different parts of the body. If we can change the way your body works and make it more efficient then you can get a whole lot more mileage out of it.” See Jamie’s recommended stretches below.
The static posture of the thoracic (middle bit) spine for long periods on the bike has a lot to answer for – especially during transition. This slightly awkward-looking pose should help. Start sitting on a chair facing forward, with your arms across your chest. Now rotate your torso as far as you can to one side. Then put a side bend in – to leave you in the position as shown. Come out of the side bend and then try to rotate further. You should notice you can now see further behind you. You can then repeat the side bend in order to go further. This is also particularly useful for any naughty lateral breathers out there on the swimming leg and for those who are weaker when breathing to one side
This will stretch the obliques and the muscles above (intercostals) and below (gluteus medius) and possibly even your lats. The obliques can get overworked due to the rotation in front crawl but, more of an issue in triathlon, is the fact that they tighten as a compensation for weak quads, usually as a result of endless miles on the bike. Try this stretch before and after a ride to see this in action! As such, this is the first port of call for anyone with knee issues. Simply stand feet together with the arms outstretched above (think streamline position off the wall in swimming) and bend over to the side i.e. make like a half moon. I’ve yet to meet a triathlete who’s not stiff as a board on this one!
It’s like an arm pit but in your leg! More importantly the “gap” between your quads and adductors houses the fermoral nerve which gives sensation in the knee. If we can make this nerve feel “happier” about life then you feel less pain in your knee. Simply stand side on to a sofa, wall, table (depending on what’s convenient and how flexible you are to start) and put your leg on it. Rotate your whole leg forwards to the point where your inside ankle bone is in contact with the surface. Then bend your other knee to drop down and get a stretch along the inside of the thigh.
It’s a well-known fact that cycling gives you tight hamstrings but why? And how does that impact potential overuse injuries? Firstly, tension in the hamstrings will affect tension on the sciatic nerve which can in turn affect tension in the calves and the plantar fascia, increasing the risk of injury in these areas. Glutes enable hip extension (pushing your leg backwards in plain English) which makes the bike go forwards. As a result, the glutes get tired and look for help from your hamstrings. To stretch, sit on the floor with the side you are not stretching in front of you. Then place the foot of the side you are stretching on the floor on the outside of the opposite knee. Then hug your knee to the opposite side and rotate the side you are stretching. As shown in the picture.
You can prove to yourself the relationship between hamstring tightness and glute tightness by doing this stretch before and after the glute stretch above. It should work in the majority of cases. Simply place your foot on a table or something of a suitable height and lean forwards to increase the stretch. I’m sure you’re all seen this one. The subtle change however is the position of the foot. There are three hamstring muscles (not a lot of people know that!) and the foot position can isolate different ones. Start with the foot pointing straight up. Then try rotated outwards and then rotated inwards. See which one works best for you.
So, you’ve been sat on a bike for hours and then you expect you calves to get you round 10k, 13 or 26 miles! The least you could do is give them a bit of stretch! Again, this goes back to the glutes – if they are tired and tight, your body needs to look for more spring from somewhere. After your hamstrings your calves are next in line. The standard stretch which I hope you all know is leaning against a wall with the heel down and your knee fully extended. Try bringing the foot forwards slightly and bending at the knee you may need to turn the foot inwards slightly when doing this as shown. This should stretch a different area in your calf.
For more information please visit www.brightonsportstherapy.co.uk