In order to properly free up the areas where triathletes tend to be tight, a proper warm-up should entail more than just a jog, said Erin Carson, founder of ECFIT Boulder and strength coach to countless Boulder-based pros. “Swimming, biking, and running work our joints in a limited range of motion,” she said. “Our hips, ankles and thoracic spines in particular get tight and short from so much repetitive motion. Mobility helps undo this tightness and allows us greater access to the muscles we’ve developed through training.”
Carson recommends incorporating mobility exercises into your weekly training as well as your pre-race routine (after a 8-10 minute warm-up jog). Here’s her favorite race day routine, which can easily be performed at home, in the transition area, or on the track.
Start in a half-kneel position, right knee up. (Tuck a towel under your left knee for cushioning if necessary.)
Using your thumbs, rub from top to bottom across the top of your right ankle. “It’s a release technique using your thumbs like a foam roller. You want to be sure that the retinaculum [the band of tissue across the top of your ankle] is free and that the skin moves easily across it. If you’re tight in front, you can’t fully use your calf muscle,” said Carson.
Keeping the right foot rooted on the ground, rotate the knee several times each direction in big circles to further loosen the ankle.
Repeat on the opposite side.
Return to a half kneel, right knee up. Raise your arms to chest height straight in front of you, thumbs together.
Simultaneously drive forward from the hips and rotate your arms and torso to the right. Return to neutral and repeat, 15x per side.
Start again from a half kneel, right knee up. Raise your left arm (as if asking a question).
Simultaneously drive your hips sideways to the left, while reaching your arm to the right overhead. Return to neutral and repeat, 15x per side.
Stand with feet facing forward, hip width apart.
Perform a “perfect lateral step” by stepping your right foot wide to the side and bending your right knee, while your left foot remains rooted on the ground with knee straight. Be sure to keep the stepping foot and knee aligned and facing forward (the tendency is to rotate them outward).
Return toward neutral, but swing your right leg behind your left leg, landing the ball of your foot on the ground, and come into a half squat. Move back and forth between the two positions for 8–10 continuous rounds, then repeat on the opposite side. “Make sure the movement feels free and dynamic,” said Carson.