Will it make you faster? Unlikely.
Will it make you bullet proof as far as injuries go? Also unlikely and the research is still not clear.
Can it do harm and do you recommend it? No it can't do harm really (unless you're doing wild plyometric/gymnastics style moves) and yes I actually DO recommend it fir runners.
The thing is, it is so very common for runners to not be able to touch their toes, extend their lumbar spine more than 30degrees or even sit comfortably cross legged on the floor for more than 30seconds.
Does this mean you can't run well? No, but could you run more freely and also tap into a new range of movement mechanics and even recover better if you had slightly better hip and spinal mobility? It's not proven, but anecdotally and observationally in my practice, I DEFINITELY think so.
If we break down and define stretching: it is holding tissue at end range length either statically or dynamically for a period of time to release tension within the tissue in the hope of gaining more movement around the associated joint(s). This may include dynamic exercises, static holds, or 'through range' mobility flows (where you move a joint through range in a specific manner to help stretch and lengthen eg: yoga.)
Mobilistaion is when we manipulate a joint or tissue to help make the joint/limb move more freely through range of motion. This can be done through use of manual therapy from a physiotherapist, foam rolling, specific exercise techniques to mobilise a joint, or through the use of other aids such as balls/resistance bands/back balls. This is all with the goal to try and coax a joint into submission per se and gain better movement quality and range through a targeted joint.
We can easily check length/ joint mobility of a particular body part by measuring the joint range of motion PRE stretch/mobilistaion, and then again POST. Here is what I mean in practice:
EG: as runners we can get stiff through the foot and ankle complex.
1) Stretch/ mobility assessment: we can measure the front of the ankle joint via a "knee to wall stretch." Stand close to the wall with your big toe 5-12cm away from the wall. bend your knee to touch the wall. If your knee touches the wall easily, move your foot back until you cannot easily touch the wall but can gently make contact (your maximum distance from the wall without twisting at the knee or ankle to try and cheat). This gives you a decent measure of how the ankle joint is in terms of range. Ideally runners should have 7-12cm from the wall for optimal mechanics but there is some individual variation around this too.
2) Treatment/intervention: After this measure we can do a battery of stretches and mobility exercises. EG: some dynamic pogo jumps up and down on the spot, some foam rolling of the calf and soft tissue around the lower limb, some eccentric heels drops/calf lowers off the side of the step, some resisted ankle flexion exercises using a resistance band and some static calf and peroneal stretches.
3) Re-assessment findings: We then re-measure the knee to wall stretch and we may have a few extra cm's of movement! The joint glides better, the tissue around the area feels less restrictive and the foot mechanics feel more smooth. It's so satisfying and I am yet to have a runners who doesn't report feeling better after some ankle mobility work.
But what does this mean?
Will you run faster/further/longer/better? I absolutely cannot guarantee this.
Will you have improved foot and ankle mechanics, absorb ground reaction forces better and be less likely to compensate for lack of movement in the ankle with overloading other tissue and joints? I strongly believe so.
Having said that, do we need to do this with every joint in our body to get the benefits? Do we need to do this daily? When do we use dynmanic stretches? Static holds? Foam rolling? Everyday? WHAT IS THE BEST WAY?
Honestly, like everything in life it is dependent on the individual, what kind of running you are doing, what your injury history is, what your running goals are, how much time you have and if you personally feel it helps in practice.
Want some definitive ideas and moves to cover to start to implement on a practical level? Lifestyle friendly and effective stretch/mobility techniques to have in your weekly program?!
I GOT YOU :-)
Next week I am going to give you a program that I do myself, that I advise my runners to do and what I feel genuinely works to help you run smooth, free and efficiently.......
*drum roll please....
See you next week.
Ever stepped out of bed first thing in the morning and felt a shearing pain in your heel? You may have even looked down to confront the sharp toy truck or shard of glass that MUST be on the floor….there is nothing there, it’s an internally generated pain that feels like a cattle prod to the foot every time you plant your foot down.
The very likely diagnosis here is Plantar Fasciitis.
Where did it come from, AND HOW DO WE FIX IT!?
The mantra “don’t take back pain lying down” (which came into vogue in the late 90’s) could not be more accurate. I approach Pilates to overcome back pain like having your veggies. You need to get your salad (exercises) in before you can have all the dessert (pain free function) you like. It will vary from person to person depending on the nature and causes of their own specific Low Back Pain, but a holistic Pilates program to reduce pain symptoms and gain function would look like this!......
Are we talking a Chris Hemsworth 6 pack or shredded abs of any form? I’d love to say yes… but quite honestly as a runner and a physio, I am definitely more interested in function, posture and form.
We need core strength to simply live and function at a basic level, but for higher level performance (running) and injury prevention, we need optimal evenly distributed strength around the torso and pelvis.
Runners, listen up! Let's get to the core of the matter....