Charles Allen: The importance of flexibility in runners

Flexibility to key in runners, says Charles Allen. Picture: Archant

Flexibility to key in runners, says Charles Allen. Picture: Archant


Head of Physical Performance at Walk to Run, Charles Allen, discusses the importance of flexibility to runners.

I work with runners in different capacities every day, all of whom have varying levels of, let’s call it “bendiness”.

But what impact does our flexibility really have on our ability to perform well when running? Research has shown us that there are many physiological factors that we need to pay attention to, to perform at our best, so what does it say about flexibility?

One perspective presented by Craib et al (1996) and Godges et al (1989) suggests that being tight with a shorter range of motion could positively encourage our fibres to become more efficient and in doing so, use less energy when we run.

Trehearn and Buresh (2009) on the other hand, have a very different perspective. They suggest that improvements in an individual’s ability to perform the sit and reach test directly correlated to improved running performance.

MORE: Love running? Join the Run Anglia Facebook group here

I always encourage my clients to work on keeping as much flexibility as they can. But that doesn’t mean everyone will achieve the same level of flexibility at the same rate.

When I listen to individuals talking about their quest for an increased range of motion, I hear stories of mixed success. Some individuals experience little development or change when they start out whereas others report big improvements and, for some, a reduction in joint pain and muscle tension.

Much of it can come down gender, genetics and lifestyle. I think it’s also important to mention muscle spasms.

Spasm in the muscle can easily be passed off as tension from training. If these continue to happen within a six-month period these can develop into fibrotic states. These can change movement pathology and reduce flexibility. So, it’s important to get these assessed and addressed before starting a stretching and flexibility regime or if you are having little success.

At Walk to Run Ltd we often use both stretch and anti-spasm to address tension. An appointment with us can help you learn how your body works and help you find the right balance in your training regime. As always, if you want to know more feel free to book in with either Amanda or me.

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