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Should I Be Stretching?

(C) KimbiaPhysio LLC
(C) KimbiaPhysio LLC

Admittedly when I was in my 20’s, it never occurred to me to stretch after running, so I did it only when something felt “tight” or “sore” because let’s face it, you’re invincible when you’re in your 20’s, right? It wasn’t until I started treating and training endurance athletes full time, that I realized just how many of us don’t stretch on a consistent basis.

A lot of my running is along a portion of metro Washington, D.C’s Capital Crescent Trail (CCT), a paved route stretching (pun intended) from Bethesda to Georgetown where cyclists, walkers and joggers all converge.  It’s during my weekend runs where I observe the multitude of athletes from the novice to experienced for form and mechanics for my own curiosity and because it’s fun. While no two individuals are a like on the CCT, it’s very clear that stride and how their bodies support them varies greatly. Some runners make the sport look effortless and pleasurable while others you wonder, does the punishment fit the crime? How can this be? aren’t we all made of the same human “stuff?” well,  yes and no.

It should be noted that flexibility is not the only thing that sets these two examples apart, it is however, a major contributing factor to performance and reducing injury rates, so for this post, i’ll stick to just that aspect. The secret lies in the available Range of Motion (or ROM) and flexibility each one of us possesses which is different from person to person.
Think of ROM as the how much joint motion (or Joint Play) is available to each joint and flexibility as the amount of stretch the muscles and connective tissues that cross that joint can provide.
A more “natural” runner exhibits better joint mobility and flexibility.  This enables their muscles to shorten and lengthen with far better ease and more efficiently.  Attaining this quality of muscle and joint mobility is what allows for optimum length and tension to muscles that cross the various joints, ensuring better force production and reducing your risk of chronic injuries like sprains, strains and abnormal joint wear-and-tear.

Neglecting flexibility routines will often lead to loss in ROM to multiple joints and diminished soft tissue extensibility to various muscle groups.  Restriction due to lack of flexibility and joint mobility often time lead to reduced performance over time, leading to higher injury rates. Additionally, the changes are very energy consuming as our bodies from head to toe attempts to compensate for the reduced flexibility. Over time this chronic and repetitive stress on the body causes joint and muscle breakdown to our joints, specifically low back, knees, hips and ankles. We’ve all seen the runner slumped forward, knees knocking with each stride, don’t be that runner.

Stretching routines targeting hamstring, calves, piriformis, hip flexors and low back should be performed at least 3 times per week using a low force and avoiding pain. Hold each stretch for approximately 45-60 seconds repeated 3-4 times. You can find more examples to follow are on my Kimbia Physio Exercise page.

See a Physical Therapist if you make little or no progress from stretching various muscle groups on your own or continue to experience pain despite doing routine stretching. They can help you identify the root cause of your limitations in order to ensure normal joint motion, flexibility and health.

Don’t let your nagging aches and pains go unaddressed. Schedule today for an assessment.

Happy running.

Contact me directly at hiza@kimbiaphysio.com or visit KimbiaPhysio.com to schedule your appointment or leave a comment.

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