As we move into July, the race season is in high gear (pun intended). After the last few months of training, I am sure your bodies are strong and ready for action.

I am 8 weeks out from Ironman Canada and my weekly training volume is huge when compared to my historical 'big weeks" for other endurance races like marathons, bike rides and Half Irons.

At the start of my journey to Ironman Canada, I decided to pay really close attention to the small things:

  • Getting sufficient and quality rest / sleep: I purchased a new mattress and started getting to bed 1 hour earlier.
  • Nutrition and hydration: I planned to eat very small meals every 2 to 3 hours and to focus on balanced meals and correct portion sizes.
  • Remaining flexible and mobile to remain injury free: I committed to stretching, rolling and icing after every training session.
Sleeping and eating have never been to much of a problem for me. Flexibility training, on the other hand, has always been one component of fitness I have pretty much always breezed past - until the start of this journey.

I committed to stretching and rolling for a minimum of 10 minutes after each and every training session, and after a few sessions, my mental aversion to stretching began to dissolve.

I began to actually feel the difference in my joints and muscles and realized that stretching has as much to do with our mental and emotional training as it does with our physical training.

I realized that to get the most from my stretching, I would have to accept that stretching was an integral part of the training session. Without it the session was not done to perfection. I even adjusted my program so that a 90 minute run became a 100 minute session (allowing for my 10 minutes of stretching).

This little bit of "psychology" pushed me passed the mental state of not really wanting to stretch -- a state I'm sure many of you can relate to.

I also laid my hands as many resources to help me get the most from every minute of stretching. I incorporate rubber bands and tubing, foam rollers, massage balls and rollers, and a rolling wand into my stretching sessions.

Each day I try to use a different piece of equipment which helps me to avoid the boredom that inevitably creeps in when the same stretches are done from one day to the next.

I also like to use trainer led stretching sessions. These seem to make the time pass by a little bit faster.

We all know the benefits of stretching and maintaining our flexibility, yet the majority of athletes do not spend nearly enough time working on flexibility and range of motion training.

I believe that the decision not to incorporate a comprehensive flexibility plan into our training on a regular basis is due to the belief that we will not suffer if we don't stretch. I've hear a lot of "I have never had an injury before and have never stretched. Why should I start now?"

Like you, I devoted most of my training hours to improving my swim, bike and run performance. So there was never a whole bunch left over for other modes of training i.e. resistance training, yoga and flexibility training.

After a decade and a half of training this way, I've notice the difference the last six months of stretching has made in my training.

It is clear to me how even a short 10 minute stretch can speed up recovery, reduce Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and joint tenderness, increase energy levels from both physical and mental stand point, and help me to remain niggle-free through more than 20 hours of swimming, running and cycling per week.

Starting tomorrow, I challenge you to spend just 10 minutes stretching after every single workout. Do it for 14 days, religiously, and I have no doubt you will feel the difference for yourself.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.
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