Editor's note: The 37th annual Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic Run and Walk and related events are set for today and Saturday in Wheeling. To help prepare for the race, staff members at CentreTown Fitness have prepared a series of training articles.
Whether you are a professional athlete, training to run a race or lacing up your running shoes for the first time, assessing your current flexibility, gaining flexibility and maintaining flexibility should be an important part of your running regimen.
Flexibility is a key component to injury prevention and core stability - two mainstays for runners desiring to run for a lifetime.
When the body is flexible, the joints stay supple. A supple joint provides increased range of motion and allows for functional biomechanics.
A practical guide to applied flexibility science for runners will provide the "flex-appeal" necessary to take you from novice to enthusiast in no time and keep you running injury-free up to and beyond race day.
Flexibility is the maximum range of motion a joint can achieve without injury to the supporting soft tissue.
In regard to a runner's flexibility, the diarthrodial joints (arms and legs) are the primary focus. The diarthrodial or synovial joints allow movement while holding the bones together.
Articulating cartilage covers the ends of these opposing bones and provides the needed cushioning to prevent wear during movement. Attached to the bones of the joint is a capsular ligament that is lined with a thin membrane that secretes synovial fluid into the cavity of the joint.
This hydrostatic stress joint support converts the physical activity compression to reduce the risk of injury. Joints are also protected by thick, fibrous ligaments that bind the bones together and help to prevent bone dislocation.
A runner's flex-appeal quotient is the direct result of genetics. You are either naturally flexible or are in need of flexibility training to acquire it. Functional flexibility is a universal gauge for all runners to assess their training needs. After all, is it necessary to touch your toes to run? The answer is clearly, "No." Runners can train successfully by means of functional flexibility. Functional flexibility is the range of motion the body is capable of producing to accomplish daily activities or to engage in sports. The factors that affect an individual's functional flexibility are age, gender, lifestyle, joint differentiation and strength training.
Current evidence-based research investigating the need for endurance athletes to stretch prior to running has produced important new guidelines for flexibility training.
Former promotion of static stretching (holding stretches for long periods of time in a sequential order) is now contraindicated to avoid over-stretching muscles and muscular injuries produced by stretching cold. Stretching warm is the best pre-running training technique and includes a pre-training jog of 800 meters to 2 miles.
Dynamic stretching follows the pre-run and includes a series of exercises that promote physical movement with simultaneous stretching/running technique drills. These exercises are used regularly by the United States' Olympic athletes. Search online for "Dynamic Stretching Routines" for Galen Rupp or Mo Farah to develop your own personalized pre-run warm-up series.
Post-run, endurance athletes should incorporate Power or SportsYoga posture flows, stretch-bands and deep-tissue massage to keep their flex-appeal optimized.