We all like to think that if we train more or harder we will get faster and running will feel more effortless. For some that may be the case , but for the masses it may feel like you have to work hard all the time.. Maybe you are working too hard and muscling through your workouts , receiving some rewards for your work, but not quite what you expected….
In my last 2 blogs we looked at the topics of posture, core strength and tissue mobility.
Now we must look at flexibility in the joints and the muscles . How much range of motion is needed to run efficiently?
One of the biggest concerns in the runners I treat is the idea that they think they are not flexible enough and they show me this by demonstrating their inability to touch the ground when standing and bending forward. The real problem I see in most runners is the inflexibility at the hips not the hamstrings. Yes you do need at least 70 degrees of flexibility at the hamstrings to run efficiently , but most runners have this.
We live in a society that sits for large portions of the day for work ; computers, phones, driving , eating and social entertainment . What happens is we put our tissues / joints in positions that start to adapt? This adaptation produces limitations in our ability to extend our hips. In running, this is a very important movement . When we run, one leg is moving forward while the other is behind. If there is not adequate range of motion there will be some compensation in the body to make that movement happen This compensation may go on for quite some time as the miles increase and the intensity of training increases. After thousands of repetitive movements in this dysfunctional pattern in the kinetic chain, the body breaks down and pain / injury presents. Where the injury or pain exists will most likely not be the source of that problem , it will be the symptom of it.
In my profession I see a lot of runners that continually chase pain , never getting to the source of the problem which is the compensation due to inadequate range of motion in a joint. The following is a way for you to test yourself and fix the four areas that are imperative to have enough range of motion when running.
1) How to test your hip extension
The testing position is the correction for lack of hip extension. Studies show that if you are lacking hip extension stretching must be done daily with holding 3 minutes to achieve a length in these tissues. This will most likely take weeks to get that range of motion back . The payoff for having this flexibility is great! not only will you have the range of motion essential for running , but you will much less likely break down along the kinetic chain ( your body).
Another positive thing is that in this stretching position you can easily multitask: text message, email or talk on the phone at your desk. Most people are on the phone for at least 10 minutes at a time ; Plenty of time to get that stretch in..
2) The next important area is the big toe. Your big toe provides 85% of your stability when running. Without adequate extension in the big toe, the body can not move forward efficiently. One of the ways to improve this mobility is to also improve the mobility of the plantar fascia .
In the first video you will see it done manually and in the second one you will see how to do it with a mobilization ball.
3) The third area is the ankle . Having enough dorsiflexion allows the body to move forward over the ankle efficiently. Here is a way to test that mobility and to correct the deficit and to test the great toe mobility as well:
4) The fourth area is the thoracic spine . We as a society spend a lot of time sitting : whether it be driving or at a computer. Our common sitting postures lead us to dysfunctional positions that hinder our mobility at the spine . This is where the foam roller comes into play . Try this exercise to get your back moving . Don’t be concerned if you feel a crack – consider it a free adjustment (don’t tell my husband I said this – He is a chiropractor )
There you have it : a way to check the major areas in the body that are essential to have when running .
Runners really need more than just running to keep a healthy, efficient body. Running puts a lot of force on the body ( 2-3 times one’s body weight, depending on their running form) It is important to assess these areas as well as core strength needed in part 2 of my blog. You are putting money in the bank as you become more efficient and stronger. The pay off is getting to the finish line without your body breaking down. I wish you all well in training and racing !
Cathy Parbst-Accurso PT, CKTP