The Importance of Flexibility (says someone who isn’t flexible)
I am not flexible. In fact I am about as far from flexible as they come. Touch my toes? Please, I am happy that I can touch me knees. I have tried daily stretching regiments in the past to no avail and chalked up my inflexibility to heredity and my father’s rigid-as-a-board body structure.
While it is fun to joke about, lack of flexibility is a serious disability in triathlon. I am all too often expending energy to fight the limitations of my body — my shoulders and ankles in the swim, my hips in the run — instead of using that energy to further propel myself forward.
While most people generally affiliate Physical Therapy as a post-injury rehabilitation tool, (or “P”ost “T”rauma torture, as I use to refer to it – those rollers hurt!) addressing your physical limitations through physical therapy, or physical “maintenance”, can greatly reduce your chance of injury and make you a far more efficient athlete.
The key to continued improvement as an athlete is to consistently and continually address your limitations. So this offseason I have made it a focus to work diligently on improving my flexibility – specifically, opening up my shoulders for a lengthened and more efficient swim stroke and my hips for a more relaxed running stride. And guess what? It’s working!
In just a few short weeks of working with the team at Finish Line, using a combination of soft tissue work and dynamic flexibility oriented stretching, I have witnessed a great improvement in the streamline of my swim stroke. I have seen my base 100m swim times drop by about 3-5 seconds and ultimately I am swimming faster and more efficiently. I also learned that all the daily stretching I had been doing was all wrong. (Who even knew there was a wrong way to stretch?)
No one likes to address those things that they do not excel at. We all like to do go out and overload the areas that are our strengths. For me that is the run. I would be perfectly content to go out and hammer hard track workouts every day. Unfortunately, that won’t make me a better, more complete triathlete.
Take a look at those specific areas that are holding you back in sport. I’d suggest focusing on those, at least for a little while, because even small adjustments can make for amazing improvements and more enjoyment in the sport.
Finish Line PT is sponsoring local elite triathlete Garen Riedel this year in his quest to return to the Ironman World Championship in Kona. In 2012, Garen was the top New York finisher at the Ironman U.S. Championship in New York City, finishing 28th overall — the 5th overall amateur and 2nd in his age group.