Flexibility isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of
running. It’s something that makes you think about strength and stamina. But
flexibility is crucial to any running plan. It’s the difference between
stopping and pushing through your pain barrier.
One reason why flexibility is so important is that the way we move our body is
different to the way we move when we run. Most of us spend a lot of time
sitting down at a desk so straightening up your limbs and joints before you run
is really important, so you don’t shock your body.
Working on your flexibility encourages your muscles to more easily lengthen
into a natural position after long periods of inactivity which reduces the
likelihood of injury. I’m not suggesting that you become a yoga master with
your flexing. In fact being too flexible can be as much of an injury risk as
not being flexible enough as it can lead to instability around certain joints.
As a runner you can incorporate regular stretching into your training plan so
you’re flexible enough to run freely and efficiently.
Working on your flexibility will also help you to address any impact that
regular running has on your body. Running works that quads, glutes, hamstrings
and valves for motion and your thighs for stability. These muscle groups
contract and relax to cope with the demands we make on our bodies. This
combined with the physical impact of running on different surfaces can cause
micro damage to the muscle tissue, which leads to post run tightness as the
muscles repair themselves in time for the next run. If you don’t stretch your
muscles may remain in the contracted state and in time lose the ability to
elongate fully. Stretching after each session will encourage the muscles to
open out fully allowing you to run in your natural position every time you take
to the streets.
The main reason that people avoid working on their flexibility is that it takes
time and there’s a perception that this isn’t time well spent. You need to
think of stretching as an investment into making your body more able to perform
faster and to recover quicker for frequent runs. I’m not suggesting that you
spend hours stretching, just do a short burst after a run and try to get up
during the day to stretch out your legs. In the long term it’ll make your runs
a lot better.