When I first started running, I didn't really stretch. I would stretch out my quads and hamstrings briefly after a run but that was about it. As I added mileage and started taking running a little more seriously I started adding in stretches for my glutes and calves and holding static stretches longer after each run. I've never been much into dynamic stretching before runs, but if I feel particularly tight, I'll do a little.
When I was in physical therapy I did lots of stretches, particularly for my hip flexors. If you google any running injury the cause will probably be something about hip flexors.
Tightness in my muscles has always plagued me and I always thought I needed to stretch more. I tried more than one yoga studio but always felt like I was going to get hurt somehow.
The somewhere I read that being too flexible is actually bad for runners. I had heard bad things about yoga and runners, too (with the exception for whatever reason of Bikram which I have only heard amazing things about from ultrarunners). I already have a hyperflexible spine, meaning I just have an increased range of motion than normal. My newest physical therapist diagnosed this, though I have always been able to easily bend over and put my palms flat on the floor in line with my feet, even with my feet together.
Stiff muscles combined with hypermobile joints creates a problem. Basically it creates an imbalance that hurts the joints. This is said to be seen more in female runners than male runners. Having a pelvic tilt definitely doesn't help.
In other words, what I really need is a massage!
But that's why foam rolling helps. And it's why the right stretches help. Stetches for stiff muscles. While they make you feel more flexible, it's just the release of tension in your muscle, not an actual increase in the flexibility of the joint.
After I read "flexibility is bad" I misinterpretted this and stopped stretching. In retrospect, I felt awful. I sit all day at work (though I do get up often, I have a slightly compressed work day, and when I work at home I stand) so I'm already tense and the lack of release on my muscles was building up.
I also stopped foam rolling- not for any reason other than because (a) it wasn't hurting anymore making me think I didn't need it as much and (b) I was lazy.
Fast-forward to this past Sunday when I was in what can only be described as pure agony using that thing on my IT band, quads and even my calves where I hadn't felt a THING a month ago.
I spent Tuesday night before I went to sleep in the bed (on the heating pad because I had some debilitating back pain) stretching everything. I held glute stretches (these) for thirty seconds. I realized how much harder that was on the left side than the right. In fact, it was nearly impossible at first, but I think I have a joint issue on the left side. After I slowly tried it a few times I was almost able to hold it longer than the right. I held hamstring stretches for 30 seconds at a time. I stretched my hip flexors (ok, I had to get out of bed for that one) for 30 seconds at a time. But what I realized was when I got up to do the hip stretches was that my back pain was GONE. The heating pad hadn't helped much the night before, so I was attributing it to the stretching. I did my nerve glides (complicated to explain but basically a way to release tension on the nerve in my ankle) which doubles as a front-of-your-calf strengthening exercise. I also did some loooong static crunches which actually made my abs sore the next day (woot). Anyway, the next day I felt amazing. My back didn't hurt and my foot didn't hurt.
I wore low heels to work that day (as I always do) and at the end of the day my foot was a little sore again. I kid you not, i stretched out my glutes and it COMPLETELY went away. I went out for a run and NOTHING. It was so amazing.
I can't wait to get back into stretching. It's going to change so much more than just my running.
This is probably the most boring post in history, but I will be thanking myself later when it comes time to diagnose something else.
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