I finished my first Olympic-distance triathlon in October 2016 and my left hamstring and lower back have become tighter and more aggravated during the off-season.
Can neck tightness and lower back stiffness on the bike be resolved with core exercises like yoga? I also have left leg tightness through my hamstring, piriformis, quads, and IT band. My plan is to get that left leg as limber as the right by foam rolling, massages and strength training. Am I on the right track? What is your advice?
Massage, yoga and strength training are great but increasing your hip, quad and back mobility are the key to both of your questions and it would be smart to do at least 8 to 12 minutes of stretching every day to keep you muscles limber and functioning properly. Yoga would be a brilliant addition to your routine but keep in mind it’s important to stretch every day, not just a couple times per week.
Here are 3 more of my most useful tips:
- Improve Back Mobility. To address your lower back and neck stiffness you need to roll the heck out of your thoracic spine and then your entire spine using a foam roller. Also stretch your back before your training sessions. Low back stiffness is usually an indicator of tight hip flexors so stretch them, as well!
- Roll Your Legs. You can also foam roll your quads, shins and gluteals to help with your tight left leg. Don’t roll your IT band, though! See my post on Don’t Roll Your IT Band for my explanation.
- Strengthen the Glutes. My guess is that your left leg is tight because your gluteals are weak. Tightness in the hamstring, IT band, quad and piriformis are all symptoms that can be corrected with a few effective gluteal exercises that I recommend doing four times a week.
Finally, here is a video that demonstrates 3 of my favorite gluteal exercises:
Stick with this routine for a couple weeks and you should begin feeling relief. Let me know how it goes.