Great article from May Runners World by Beth Dreher. Flexibility and strength training are so important for anyone who runs. As you run each day in your training regiment you place tension into your body, its important to remove that tension each and every day. If you keep on top of removing this tension you will evade injury and consequently see your performance soar!
New ways to gain flexibility, improve performance, and protect against injuries.
By Beth Dreher
Image by Michael Darter
from the May 2011 issue of Runner’s World
New ways to gain flexibility, improve performance, and protect against injuries. By Beth Dreher Image by Michael Darter from the May 2011 issue of Runner’s World
Watch a group of elite runners warming up and you won’t see any of them bending over trying to reach their toes. Instead, you’ll see athletes moving their bodies to improve their range of motion, increase flexibility, and guard against injury. “Stretching has progressed to a more functional, dynamic method,” says physical therapist Chris Frederick, co director of the Stretch to Win Institute in Tempe, Arizona. “It helps runners of all levels perform better.”
You may be familiar with dynamic warm-up moves like butt kicks and high-knee marches. But physical therapists and trainers have developed other ways to stretch your body in a more functional way. Consider the upsides and downsides of these three new methods to decide which works best for you.
FASCIAL STRETCH THERAPYunlike stretching that attempts to isolate and stretch specific muscles, fascial stretch therapy (FST) targets fascia, the connective tissue found in, around, and between joints. To stretch the fascia, a certified FST therapist gently pulls then moves the legs, arms, spine, and neck in a smooth motion at various angles to remove pressure between joints, release joint-lubricating synovial fluid, and improve flexibility of muscles. “The function of muscles cannot be separated from the movement of fascia,” says Frederick, who has worked with Olympic gold-medal sprinter Sanya Richards. After an initial session with a therapist, runners can continue this stretch therapy on their own.
UPSIDES: “Runners tell us that after the first FST session they move with more ease and feel stronger and faster,” Frederick says. Runners using FST also report increased stride length, less pain and tightness, and faster recovery.
DOWNSIDES: You can’t do the initial session on your own. The at-home stretches can take some time to master.
HOW TO: Visit stretchtowin.com to find an FST therapist. A session with a certified FST therapist costs $60 to $200 per hour. Frederick’s book, Stretch to Win, and DVD, Flexibility for Sports Performance, also offer FST instruction.
KI-HARA RESISTANCE STRETCHING
Most forms of flexibility training start with relaxing the muscle you’re about to stretch. But with Ki-Hara, you use resistance (by yourself, or with the help of a trainer) to keep the muscle that you’re stretching contracted throughout each movement (see “Leg Warmers,” below). Keeping muscles engaged stabilizes them, which can help prevent injury, says trainer Anne Tierney, cofounder of Ki-Hara. “This method stretches a muscle the way it’s used.” The technique also focuses on training opposing muscle groups together, like hamstring and quads, to address imbalances. During assisted sessions, Ki-Hara trainers use a technique called mashing, where they use their feet to help loosen muscles and release fascia to flush toxins and improve circulation. American steeplechase record holder Jenny Barringer Simpson is a Ki-Hara devotee.
UPSIDES: Ki-Hara’s unique approach builds flexibility and strength at the same time and helps remove lactic acid. “An assisted Ki-Hara session that incorporates resistance stretching and mashing can really aid recovery,” Tierney says. Athletes use Ki-Hara before a run to loosen up, or after to reduce stiffness and tension.
DOWNSIDES: The movements can be difficult to learn to do effectively without one-on-one help from a Ki-Hara trainer.
HOW TO: To buy an instructional DVD or to find a trainer in your area, go to innovativebodysolutions.com. Sessions cost between $75 and $350.
FEEL BETTER: A dynamic warm-up for runners includes walking lunges, leg lifts, and butt kicks. For a video demo, go to runnersworld.com/dynamicstretching.
Enhance mobility with three Ki-Hara stretches before you run
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Bring your left knee toward your right shoulder and grab your heel (or calf). Press your left heel down toward your glutes as you contract your hamstring. Then lengthen your leg toward your right shoulder. Repeat three times per leg.
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Drop your right knee inward and place your left ankle just above your right knee. Using your left leg for resistance, slowly raise your right knee. Next, push the right knee toward the mat while resisting with your left leg. Repeat three times per leg.
Lie on your back and cross your left foot over your right knee. Clasp your hands around the right leg. Push out with the left leg, contracting your glutes and the outside of your thigh, while using the right leg and your arms to pull the leg toward your chest. Repeat three times per leg.