Running and The Dynamic Stretch
It is generally accepted increasing the flexibility of our muscles promotes better performance and decreases injuries. Stretching is regularly included in both warm-up and cool down, with the notion that decreased muscle stiffness allows for increased joint range of motion. However, a number of recent research studies, using athletes in several sports, suggest that pre-event static stretching may actually negatively impact the performance of maximal muscle strength, power and even balance and reaction time. This means static stretching as part of a warm-up leads to greater potential for injury occurring during an event.
The scientific basis of stretching is that it increases the compliance of the muscle tissue for a short period of time. Unfortunately, increased compliance decreases the ability of the tissue to absorb energy and can potentially increase the chance of injury.
The most important aspect of the pre-match preparation should be on active warm-up and sport-specific movements. The goal of a warm-up is to gradually increase the metabolic demands required for running. By doing a progressive warm-up, muscle temperature and blood circulation will increase. More blood flow (and nutrients and oxygen which fuel exercise) to the working muscles helps prevent metabolic by-products such as lactic acid. Improved core temperature allows for increased elasticity of the soft tissue structures improving flexibility and range of motion. Nerve impulses also travel faster at higher temperatures preparing the muscles for increased speed of contraction.
For a runner, this means using movements that target the muscles used in running and taking those muscles through an active range of motion to prepare them for work. These movements will closely resemble what will take place during your actual training.
The following are a few dynamic stretches that can be used as part of your warm up:
1. High Steps Actively warms up the hip flexors and calves while passively stretching the hamstrings, glutes and low back (extensor chain). Begin by stepping forward. As you step forward, bring your knee to your chest – pull it into the chest with your hands. Next step, opposite knee. While doing this move, try to push up on to your toes – as you pull your knee into your chest. Walk yourself forward 15-20 feet/return to starting point.
2. Frankenstein March Actively warms up the hip flexors while passively stretching the hamstrings, glutes and low back (extensor chain). Begin by standing with your arms extended out in front of you. Swing your right leg forward and touch your left hand and return the leg and hand back to starting position and repeat on opposite side – kind of like a skipping motion While performing this move, try to avoid bending forward as you lift your leg and keep your leg soft (not totally straight) while lifting to your hand. Move forward 15 to 20 feet while performing this movement at a moderate pace/ repeat back to the starting point.
3. Back Pedal Simply run backwards over the 15 to 20 feet while over-exaggerating your stride. This helps warm up the extensor chain. Pace is slightly faster than moderate for this movement.
4. Fifty-Percent Sprint/Stride Sprint at 50 percent of your max speed for 15 to 20 feet, moving forward with a slight over-stride. These are just a few, but by adding these exercises to your warm up routine you can help reduce the likelihood of injury.
Static stretching is still fine – AFTER your event. Increasing your flexibility of your muscles is still desired; it’s just the timing of that static stretching. Remember dynamic before, static after!
So if you are in the Vancouver area and would like an individualized warm up program to suit your needs, please make an appointment with either our Chiropractors or Registered Massage Therapists.
Good luck with your runs.
The Vitality Clinic Team