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.
RUNNING! It's a wonderfully addictive sport and as far as km's go you can feel like a kid in a candy store who's saved a tonne of pocket money. We discover new trails and parks, run longer/faster/harder and it almost becomes a game of 'running roulette': how far can we go and still tolerate the impact?
Maybe not straight away but, inevitably, we fall victim to injury and niggles at some point to varying degrees which can be multifaceted in cause.
BUT How do we bounce back safely and effectively without running the risk of re-injury? What does a 'Return to Running' program look like?
Here are my thoughts....
If you are a runner, inevitably someone has said something along the lines of:
"Oh No! Your poor joints. How do your knees hold up?!"
We can often dismiss this, but the question does not go unwarranted....
There IS a knee condition that is close to my heart and can side line you from running which is called patellofemoral pain or RUNNERS KNEE. It doesn't mean you are going to have "bad knees when you're old" but if you ignore this condition it can kneecap your training for months (pun intended) and take the buzz out of your training. Been there.
Here is the low down!
Mobility and stretching shouldn’t feel like a chore. I have learned to actually look forward to it! I know in myself I always feel less of a 90 year old if I take time to do a stretch warm up and also don’t pull up as stiff the next day if I factor in some post run mobility work.
Stretching and mobility is not the golden ticket to running performance enhancement, nor is it the magic pill to injury prevention….
Do I recommend it to clients and factor it into my weekly routine to stay limber and fresh?
Here's is how and why I recommend regular stretching to runners as part of a holistic training program to help with movement efficiency and recovery.....