Q&A: Stretching

by hillarybiscay

Q from Kati:

My question is about stretching. I am coming back to tris after a year off from surgery. I am finding that I lost so much flexibility that it is really affecting my ability to regain my run, bike, and swim. I have flopped around from some yoga to general stretching. What I would love to hear is about your ‘must do’ stretches and how often you do them.

My answer:

Great question, Kati. I will preface my answer by saying that most people look at me like I am nuts when I answer this question, but here goes . . .

I actually don’t stretch. I haven’t really stretched in years. On one hand, this is a bummer, because I actually love yoga. When I am retired from racing professionally, I will probably go back to it at least a couple of times per week.

However, if you’ve been reading here for awhile you probably know that much of the way I train and race today was shaped by my experiences training under Brett Sutton. When I joined his squad in the fall of 2005, I was practicing yoga for about 5-6 hours per week on top of my swim-bike-run training. But it turned out that one of the many things that I enjoyed which he did not permit—in addition to eating bread and hydrating during swim practice—was stretching. Anyone he even saw stretching would get yelled at.

Training under Brett was an “all-or-nothing” thing. He outlawed stretching, so I didn’t stretch. And—touch wood—I essentially never got injured (I had a hip fracture before my time with Sutto), and got faster. So I have stuck with it.

Am I flexible?


But I have done okay, and I don’t think flexibility is the limiter between me and what I have yet to accomplish. Plus, the way that Sutto always explained why we should not stretch made sense to me. What he said was that for my little short-strided ironman shuffle, pedaling a bike, and swimming freestyle the way we do, we “didn’t need range of motion.” I can still see him now, standing there, doing a furious bike-pedaling/ shuffling/ swimming simulation, saying, “Do you think you need range of motion to do this, or this?!?”

He argued that people often turn niggles into injuries or exacerbate existing injuries by stretching the heck out of them, which seems to be people’s natural instinct. So his point was that the potential gain in stretching was just not worth the risk.

recovery pumping

There are a couple of things that I do which I think make my body feel better before and after hard training and racing in much the same way that stretching did. These are:

  • Massage: I try to get deep-tissue sports massage once per week. We have an amazing therapist here in Tucson, Bill Kruse, who works exclusively with a few professional athletes and the University of Arizona Track & Field and Cross Country teams. He is an expert in dealing with beat-up bodies like ours!
  • Chiropractic Work: We also have an awesome chiropractor here in Tucson, Dr. Eric Vindiola, at The Joint. This is a walk-in clinic, so Monday through Friday we can drop in anytime and Dr. Eric will put us back together. His services are affordable and efficient; if you are training in Tucson and every need an adjustment, you can drop in most anytime Monday through Friday!
  • Recovery Pump: I have talked frequently here about how these recovery boots work for my recovery after training each day. You can check out a full blog on it here. Also, I see people searching often for my Recovery Pump affiliate code, so here it is again: A11021 . This gets you free ground shipping and $25 off.
  • Foam rolling: If you don’t have a foam roller, get one! This is a super-cheap and quick feel-good option. Just last Tuesday I had a pair of very tight, beat-up legs that honestly didn’t even loosen up during my whole first run of the day. I knew I had to smash out some speedwork on the track, so I made myself spend a whopping 3-4 minutes with the foam roller beforehand, the legs loosened up, and I had one of my best track sessions yet.

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