I have a great question to start off the New Year, a question I get asked regularly….
Do runners need to Stretch?
I mention runners as it was a runner who most recently asked, but really it applies to everyone!
I’ll start with a few definitions:
Flexibility is the ability of the body to actively work through a range of motion to allow efficient movement without unnecessary stress and strain on the body.
Stretching is the process of trying to maintain/improve lengthening in the muscle and soft tissue to increase flexibility so you can attain maximum reach and efficient movement.
The research on stretching demonstrates its ability to increase the range of motion within a hypertonic (tense) muscle, when muscles become tense they effectively give you a shorter available length. However, if you’re functioning at the 100% maximum of range of motion then you’re not going to get any more out of a stretch routine, you just need to maintain it.
Stretching is not designed to increase muscle power or performance, it won’t make you run faster or lift heavier, it simply influences the range of motion, understand this action and apply it, use common sense, there are much better ways to improve muscle power performance.
Performance in any sport, including running is dependent on the programme you follow, such as distance, time, strength and conditioning of the muscles.
Does flexibility have a part to play?
With any sport it makes sense to have a full range of motion, we know it is important for any athlete or runner to have a full functional range of motion.
If functional range is vital for performance, having the flexibility to perform that action is also vital.
Running only requires that you can move your legs in the functional range for that activity, so if you can run comfortably and without injury, then realistically is there a need to stretch?
This is where a therapists and coach will part ideas…
Coaches and maybe you only consider a plan to achieve the desired results. A personal best for a 5k or run a marathon in 4 hours, each can be an excellent objective, however, therapeutically we have a wider objective.
Here’s where tunnel vision is at its strongest and the largest misrepresentation of research occurs on the internet with common sense left in the starting block.
Running is not the only thing you do!
Let’s repeat that… Running is not the only thing you do!
Not being able to touch your knees as a runner is ok, but try picking up the kids, laying a carpet, gardening, or even putting on your shoes and socks on in the morning, have you ever wondered why the older generation wear slip-on shoes? In the past we just crouched down, now we have to lift the foot onto a higher surface and to try and meet in the middle.
When we examine some of the common injuries for runners we see here at the clinic:
Not an exhaustive list of what we see, but some of the common ones..
Do you think we find any differences in:
Movement avoidance because of pain.
Absolutely, movement away from an optimum full range of motion, or altered patterns that can cause our body to place undue tension on joints and tissues?
As a therapist, we address these imbalances, the reduced ranges of motion, lack of flexibility and strength deficits with treatment and exercise protocols, whilst taking into consideration external factors.
Participating in any sports running included, is a lifestyle choice, and when we love to exercise it’s fantastic it keeps us fit, it’s great for our mental and emotional state, however most sports are not complete in what they do.
We shouldn’t look to take away aspects of training because a coach or a social media post says we do not need it, or maybe someone who has read a 3rd hand watered down post about a research paper.
Understand what you are trying to achieve….
As a coach myself I’ve always followed a common-sense approach to training which is:
-Warm up- get the body ready for the task at hand, our physiology likes it, and it does prevent injury.
-Exercise-participate with a smile, this is the bit we love!
-Cool down-bring about a more relaxed and restorative state.
-Breathing exercise along with Stretching- helps to identify points of pain, and tension and applies therapeutics actions.
Therapists need to consider a much more global approach to treatment and rehabilitation.
Even Mo Farah visits an Osteopath…
With exercise you need to consider:
What are the lifestyle demands being placed on the body?, is the exercise plan complete enough to fulfil these?
Are you mobile and strong enough and conditioned to perform the required actions?
If I am enjoying my sports injury free and these aspects are covered then I don’t need to add to it, I don’t need to stretch or add more strength training…I have a complete exercise routine.
If you are looking to develop your sports, improve times etc then address the body as a whole.
Stretching is misunderstood and misrepresented so keep it simple, ask your self…
Would it be beneficial to improve your range of movement, would it be useful to be able to touch your toes?
This is also true for any aspect of training, strength, endurance and even to technique.
Most of us are born with certain characteristics and physical attributes, and most of us enjoy certain sports or activities, with this in mind we need to be aware of what results our actions gives.
Hope that’s useful and you can answer the question, Do we need to stretch?.
Keep Well, Keep Active, Stay Active
Deansgate Osteopathic Clinic