Home > Education and Articles > Lets talk Triathlon and Range of Motion. by Coach Lew Hartley.

Lets talk Triathlon and Range of Motion. by Coach Lew Hartley.

By Coach Lew Hartley

No, the intent is not to go into the age old “to stretch or not to stretch” debate. I put that subject in the “Believe what you want” category – “Some will believe, Some won’t, some will prove and some will disprove it”.  What I do wish to do is to discuss some articles I’ve read and I would like to hear your thoughts on these matters.

A few months ago a good friend and training partner of mine, a physiotherapist by profession, sent out a link to an article, Stretching to prevent or reduce muscle soreness after exercise’,  a study done by Robert D Herbert, Marcus de Noronha and Steven J Kamper1. The aim of the study was to determine the effects of stretching before or after exercise on the development of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

So the first question is why? I’m reading this article and I’m thinking, interesting but why would you do a study to see if stretching reduces DOMS when, in my experience, stretching can actually cause DOMS? I mean, as recently as last week I felt the effects of my yoga class while doing my brick session the following day. Perhaps a study should rather be done on the effects of stretching on DOMS after DOMS has already set in, but then experience tell us that just about any movement helps to alleviate that tight sore feeling.

Naturally this had me thinking a bit more about the whole subject and about what should be important for endurance athletes. What is it we’re trying to do when we go for a massage, or do Yoga, Pilates, Thai Chi or Gyrotonic™ or whatever new derivative is launched next week? The answer, for me at least, is to restore Range of Motion.
I’ve read two very good descriptions dealing with endurance sports and range of motion. The first description I took from an article on TrainingPeaks.com: “Year-Round Strength Training for Triathletes, Part 1: The Off-Season” by Shane Niemeyer.

“­http://d.adroll.com/cm/x/outIt’s important to remember that endurance training is repetitive and mechanical by nature.  Throughout the course of an athlete’s season there’s an accumulation of thousands upon thousands of individual repetitions in a limited range of motion occurring in one plane. A great example of this is cycling, where the athlete performs thousands of pedal strokes in a fixed plane (hips in the saddle and feet clipped into the pedals with force directed in a very linear way). Since tissue remodels along lines of stress, the affected joints and tissues become very strong in a limited segment of the continuum, thereby destabilizing the joints which are designed to move through multiple planes and ranges of motion. All of this increases the risk of injury for the athlete as they are unable to effectively reduce, stabilize, and produce forces dynamically in all planes and ranges of motion as the joints are designed to do.”

The second one is from an article I found on sportsmedicine.about.com: “Stretching and Flexibility for Athletes” By Elizabeth Quinn3

“We adapt to what we do. If we consistently play one sport, or perform the same (limited) movement patterns over years, we will adapt to those patterns.”

Guess which one I prefer…

Given that there is a reasonable amount of consensus that the repetitive nature of our sport can affect our range of motion, it seems only sensible that we place some focus in our training to reduce any negative effects on our range of motion.

Elizabeth Quin’s article articulates this quite well and is well worth reading but in summery including and doing strength workouts in your training program may be more important than you thought, so do them and post exercise stretching could be very important, even if it doesn’t reduce DOMS.


1Stretching to prevent or reduce muscle soreness after exercise

2Year-Round Strength Training for Triathletes, Part 1: The Off-Season

3Stretching and Flexibility for Athletes

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