The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.
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Stretching - Bogus Necessity or Key to Success?
A general stretching program should be an essential component of every endurance athlete’s warm-up prior to training or competition.
By Michael A. Yorio, MD
University of Maryland Sports Medicine
Will stretching before a race make an athlete perform better? Not necessarily. So why should you waste your time stretching?
A general stretching program should be an essential component of every endurance athlete’s warm-up prior to training or competition. Maintaining optimal flexibility can directly and indirectly reduce the chances of developing an overuse injury. Full flexibility of the calves and hamstrings is an important component of helping to reduce the chances of developing Achilles tendonitis or hamstring strains. Running with tight muscles can cause a change in your running gait which can indirectly lead to low back pain or overuse syndromes. A muscle group’s poor flexibility can impose stress on other body parts which can lead to an inability to perform its required action.
HOW DO YOU STRETCH?
When you stretch, be sure to stretch only until you feel the stretch. Do not push past to the point of feeling pain. And don’t bounce. There is no benefit to bouncing while stretching, so save the bouncing for the dance floor after the race. For each stretch, hold the position for about 30 seconds.
When stretching your calves, find a wall and stand facing it about three feet away. Lean forward against the wall and keep your toes pointing towards the wall. Maintain one foot flat on the floor and the knee straight on the same leg; feel a stretch in the back of your calf and in your Achilles and hold that position. Continue the calf stretch on the same leg by bending the knee and dipping down towards the floor while keeping your foot flat on the ground. Feel a stretch in the same areas and hold.
While standing, support yourself with your right hand against the wall and grab your left ankle with your left hand. Bring your heel up towards your butt by bending your knee as far as you can and feel a stretch in the front of your thigh in your quadriceps. Hold that position and then repeat on the right side. A quadriceps stretch for both legs at the same time can be performed in a kneeling position by leaning backwards onto your legs.
The Hip Flexors
Now, step away from the wall and you’ll be ready for your hip flexor stretches. Stand with your hands on your hips and stride forward with your right leg while keeping the left foot planted. This is known as a lunge. Stride forward until you feel a stretch at the front of the hip of your trailing leg (in this case, the left leg). Hold this position and then switch legs.
Hamstring stretches can be performed in the seated position. With your right knee fully extended, reach for your right ankle and point your chin towards your right knee until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. If this is difficult to perform, start out by stretching with a bent knee. Hold this position then repeat on the left side. A simple groin stretch can be performed in the seated position. Place the soles of your feet together and bring your heels as close to you as is comfortable. Using your elbows gently press your knees towards the ground until you feel a stretch in your inner thighs. Hold this position.
The Lower Back
Core strength and flexibility is essential for maximum performance, so a quick stretch for your low back would be helpful, especially for swimming. Lie flat on your back and bring both knees up towards your chest. Squeeze your knees towards your chest until you feel a stretch in your low back. Hold this position. Then, lie flat on your back and pull your right knee up with your left hand and pull your right leg across your trunk until you feel a stretch in your low back. Hold this position then repeat on the other side.
It’s All About Perception
A quick simple stretching program should be a part of a triathlete’s warm-up routine. A brief warm-up jog should also be a part of a pre-activity routine, and some athletes like to take their warm-up jog before stretching because they feel it makes the stretching easier and more effective. Everyone is different, and everyone should have his or her own pre-race routine. Take what you like and what works best for you and make it your routine. Then, go out and have some fun.
The information, prepared by a member of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, is not medical advice and should be used for informational purposes only. Please consult your own physician or health care provider about any opinions or recommendations with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.
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