Thursday, 13 August 2020 13:08
By Matt Goodemote, MPSPT, Dip. MDT | Families Today
Photos by Sarah Avery. Photos by Sarah Avery.

Recently a runner asked me, “How can a runner best utilize 10 minutes a day for stretching?” 

This is a great question and one that requires a bit of information to explain the answer.

One of the most common misconceptions in fitness, and for that matter the medical communities, is that “stretching” will help to prevent injuries. Researchers have conducted multiple studies through the years and have concluded, repeatedly, that stretching is NOT effective for injury prevention. 

Flexibility typically means increasing the “length” of the muscle. This is just an expression of course because our muscles/tendons always attach to the exact same location on the bone. The research shows that even after months of stretching the amount of change to the tissue is in millimeters...meaning you are not likely able to see much change to the tissue unless you use a microscope. So, although it is possible to increase the length of tissue it requires a lot of time and effort for even mild changes. But more importantly, these changes do NOT help reduce the risk of injury. 

Stretching is less about tissue length and is more about neurological inhibition. Meaning by holding the position we are essentially telling the nervous system to tell the muscles it is OK to let go. This is why we “get looser” as we stretch. The muscle’s length doesn’t change, we just let our bodies know that it is safe to do the movement so our alarm system is relaxed, and as a result, we go further into a movement...we “stretch out.”

Unfortunately, when our alarm system is relaxed we may be more susceptible to injuries. So being stretched out, although some love the way it feels, has no real benefit to a runner. For me, despite the recommendations from most fitness coaches and medical practitioners, stretching will not make my top “4-5 best things a runner can do to prevent injuries.” I no longer try to convince people to change, but focus on what is likely to have a more beneficial effect. 

TOP 5 INJURY PREVENTION STRATEGIES FOR RUNNERS
1. SLEEP is the most effective strategy that has the biggest effect on injury prevention and sports enhancement...8-10 hours per night. The better your sleeping habits the better you will feel and the better you will train. 
2. STRENGTH TRAINING is one of the most effective injury prevention strategies runners can do to help themselves stay injury-free. Strong muscles are resilient muscles and strong muscles improve performance. 
3. FOAM ROLLING is an effective way to warm up tissue without negatively affecting performance. Research has shown foam rolling improves tissue and joint mobility and serves as a more effective “warm-up” than stretching. 
4. NUTRITION MATTERS. A scientifically-backed approach that does not include any fad diets. Recovery meals are as important as pre-run meals.
5. HYDRATION is essential for recovery and injury prevention.

TOP 4 ACTIVITIES/EXERCISES I RECOMMEND FOR MOST (IF NOT ALL) RUNNERS:
1. Foam Rolling:
a. Calf
b. Glutes
c. Hamstring
d. Thigh (Front-Outer-Inner)

2. Hip/GluteStrengthening:
a. Single-Leg Bridges: The straight leg bridge is performed by lifting the buttock into the air and then straightening one leg.
b. Lateral Toe Taps: This is performed by standing with bands around the knees. The first cue I give is to stand in an athletic position with your butt back and knees bent. Then shift your weight to one side and hold that position throughout the entire exercise. Now without moving the torso or stance leg then tap the opposite foot out to the side and slightly backward. You will feel this in the hip/butt region.

3. Calf/Foot Strengthening: 
Stand tall on the balls of your feet firmly planted on the ground. Raise your heels a few inches so that you’re on your tiptoes. Hold the position for a moment, and then lower your heels to the ground.
Sit tall on a bench or chair with your feet flat on the ground, holding a dumbbell on top of your knees. (Make sure the weight is positioned atop muscle and not bone.)
Lift your heels off the ground as high as possible. Slowly lower your heels back down to the ground and repeat.

4. Proprioception/Balance 
Balance while standing on one foot. Use a Yoga mat to increase your level of difficulty. Hold for 30 seconds.  When it gets easy try with your eyes closed.
Balance while standing on one foot. Reach with the opposite foot to the front, side and behind you, while maintaining your balance and try not touching down if possible. 

Programming the proper exercises for optimal results is dependent on the individual and the specific goal. It is very important to understand the clues the body is giving regarding the training because although the intention is to improve or prevent injury, then too much training can be the very thing that causes injury. This is where guidance is recommended. 

At Goodemote PT we work with runners recovering from injury and at FysioFit PT we work with runners that are done with rehab and want to progress their programs. We also work with runners looking for an assessment or to build on their existing program. If you have any questions call 518-306-6894 to set up an appointment or find us at GoodemotePT.com and/or FyisoFitPT.com.

Read 471 times