The Dos and Don’ts of Stretching Before a Triathlon

stretching before a triathlon

If you’ve never taken part in a triathlon before, you might not know how to go about stretching for one.

Stretching before a triathlon is incredibly important because it will prepare all of the muscles in your body for your race.

But where should you start? By running? Swimming? Biking? Doing a little bit of each?

The truth is that stretching for a triathlon isn’t as complicated as some people make it out to be. Here are some dos and don’ts that will help you prepare your body and mind for your big race.

Do: Start the Stretching Process With a Light Jog

One of the toughest parts about stretching before a triathlon is easing into it and slowly warming your body up.

Most triathlon participants are all juiced up prior to a race and want to get things going as soon as possible. As a result, they will often jump right into the more advanced stretches rather than taking the time to get their heart beating and their bodies warm.

When you arrive at your triathlon, you should begin by jogging very slowly just to get your body into race mode. You don’t want to run too fast or tire yourself out too quickly while doing this.

You should then transition into some very light stretches that will get your leg muscles active and ready to move into some more advanced stretches.

Again, the goal is to ease your way into stretching rather than rushing right into it.

Don’t: Start Stretching Before You’ve Warmed Up Your Body

You would be surprised by how many people drop their things at the starting line for a triathlon and immediately jump right into stretching.

Cold stretching, as it’s often called, can be very dangerous for your muscles. If they don’t have blood flowing to them, you could sustain an injury while stretching that could put you out of the race from the start.

While you might be tempted to cold stretch, it’s always good to jog slowly first and then move into your stretches. It’ll prevent you from dealing with any pain during your race.

Do: Use Dynamic Exercises You’ve Done in the Past

Once you’ve jogged slowly and then done some light stretching to warm your muscles up, you can move on to the next stage of stretching before a triathlon.

It’ll involve doing dynamic exercises that will keep your blood circulating while working specific muscles throughout your body.

Some dynamic exercises you can do include:

  • Walking lunges
  • Butt kicks
  • High knees
  • And more

At this point, you can start to move a little bit more quickly. Your body will gradually be able to handle more motion and respond accordingly.

After you’ve done your dynamic exercises, you might even want to consider doing some controlled sprints. This will bring your heart rate up and get your muscles all the way ready to go.

Don’t: Copy the Stretches You See Others Using

When you step onto the scene of a triathlon, it’s very easy to fall out of your usual warmup routine and copy others.

You might see someone next to you doing a stretch that looks like it’ll be beneficial to you. You might even speak with someone who tells you about a stretch that they think you should try.

You’re more than welcome to ask those around you questions about the stretches you see them doing. But you should not, under any circumstances, try stretches that you’ve never attempted before.

You could end up hurting yourself while trying a new stretch. You’ll also cut into the time that you would otherwise use to do your normal stretches that you feel most comfortable with.

While you can think about incorporating the new stretches you’ve learned into your warmup routine later, right before a triathlon is not the right time to start experimenting.

Do: Give Yourself More Than Enough Time to Stretch

On the day of a triathlon, you should make sure that you give yourself plenty of time prior to a race to warm up.

There are some triathlon participants, especially those who are running one for the first time, who will show up for a race 20 or 30 minutes before it’s set to start.

That won’t give you enough time to check in and prepare yourself for what’s ahead. You should plan to arrive as early as possible and give yourself plenty of time to jog, stretch, and get a lay of the land before the race begins.

Even though it’ll take a bit of a time commitment on your part, you’ll be glad you set aside more than enough time to stretch once you’re all warmed up and not rushing to the starting line.

Don’t: Sit Around and Wait for a Race to Start Once You’ve Stretched

While getting to the site of a triathlon early is a good idea, you don’t want to jog, stretch, and get warm only to spend an hour sitting around waiting for a race to start.

Once you’re warm and have stretched, you should keep moving around so that you don’t give your body the chance to cool off.

That might mean taking another short jog right before a race starts. It might also mean going back through a part of your stretching routine again while you wait for a triathlon to tip-off.

As you gain more experience, you’ll know exactly when you should start warming up for a triathlon. But at the beginning, the key is just to get warm and stay warm without going too overboard.

As long as you do that, you’ll feel good during the triathlon and put forth a great performance out on the course.

Make Stretching Before a Triathlon a Priority

While stretching before a triathlon might not sound all that exciting, it’s actually one of the most important things you’ll do before a race.

If you don’t stretch properly and get your body warm, you might tighten up before the end of a race. You might also have to pull out early due to tightness or cramping.

Read our blog to learn some other training tips that will allow you to stretch more effectively prior to a triathlon.