With the Poolwerx Moggill Marathon fast approaching, we here at Target Physio thought it seems like an appropriate time to dive into the importance, effects and strategies around stretching.
One of the more commonly neglected components to running is flexibility. Stretching is an easy way to improve your flexibility which allows your joints to move more freely through the required range of motion at the back, hip, knee and ankle. Research has demonstrated limited flexibility can cause compensatory movements through other joints, reduced power and altered biomechanics which may increase the risk of injury when running. On the contrary, excessive flexibility can lead to a reduced running economy as the muscles and connective tissues have lower elasticity. This means the muscle’s ability to recoil is lower leading to a less economical running stride. Therefore, contortionist flexibility is not particularly needed for running and nor is the ability to touch your toes! Therefore, there should be more of a focus on preventing any abnormal musculotendinous issues, muscular knots or chronic scar tissue.
As you may have heard, the more recent evidence surrounding stretching prior to running and exercise has slowly changed. The highest quality recent evidence suggests that an active warm up is the optimal preparation for distance running in terms of performance. An ideal warm up would include 5-10min of gentle aerobic exercise such as a slow jog, 6-8 dynamic movements/running drills and then 3 efforts of 80-100metres at race pace. A warm up structured like this allows your joints to move through range with a bit of load, stimulate metabolic changes, increase body temperature as well as activating neural and psychological changes to best prepare the athlete. Perform the dynamic movements for about 20metres with a few steps in between each rep. Some example dynamic movements include:
- Walking Lunges
- Sumo Squats
- Single Leg Arabesque (Drinking Birds)
- Ground Sweeps
- Figure 4 Stretch (Pretzels)
- Hip Openers (Open and Close the gate)
- Ankle Bounces (Pogo Hops)
- Butt Flicks
- Fast Feet/Ankling
- A March/Skip
- B March/Skip
Static stretches (a constant hold of a stretch) were once recommended in the warm up but now has no quality evidence to support increased or decreased performance. Static stretching should instead be performed post exercise to maintain joint flexibility and prevent any musculotendinous abnormalities. An easy and convenient way to maintain flexibility is taking 10-15mins on 3 days per week to perform some basic static stretches, rolling or trigger pointing. An easy time to do this is whilst watching tv or waiting for your pasta to cook. Don’t bounce when doing static stretches and only go to a point of comfortable tension in the muscle and then hold for 30s. Any longer holds have not been shown to have any additional advantages. Key muscles to target for distance runners include:
- Lower Back (Quadratus Lumborum and Spinal Extensors)
- Glutes (Gluteus Maximus and Medius)
- External Rotators of Hips
- Groin (Long and Short Adductors)
- Calves (Gastrocnemius and Soleus
We hope this helps out and good luck to everyone training and running the upcoming Poolwerx Moggill Marathon!