Category Archives: Stretching

Loosen Up & Run Better? Book Review: Ready to Run

readytorunI received an advance copy of Ready to Run by Dr. Kelly Starrett to read and review here.  Getting our bodies to a point of injury reduction and improved mobility isn’t an easy process but he lays out his philosophy in a pretty easy to read and understand format, that includes lots of pictures! This is not your typical running book that helps you fix a problem with your mechanics to make you a better runner.  Starrett takes a pretty broad view of running.  He has created a plan/system that looks at 12 “standards” that make us better runners. I think it is a valuable book for runners of all levels.  Some runners may be turned off by his references to Crossfit and terms that are thought of as being Crossfit related.  But the book is clearly for any runner and not just the “crazy” Crossfit type athlete.

The book is broken into 4 sections.  Part 1 is an introduction to his philosophy and some of his basic ideas about runners and running.  Part 2 is a more in-depth look at the 12 standards that are at the heart of Ready to Run.  Each standard has its own chapter in which Starrett goes in-depth about what that standard means and how to reach it.  Part 3 is a detailed explanation of each mobility exercise mentioned throughout the book.  Both Part 2 and Part 3 include a lot of pictures of the movements and positions to help the reader/athlete ensure they are performing the mobilization correctly.  In Part 4 Starrett highlights several major running injuries and details which mobilizations would be the most helpful to complete to help you overcome it.

Here is a quote from the preface of the book that I think really sums it up:

The ideas and framework that Kelly sets forth in this book are not just about preventing and dealing with injuries. A tremendous bonus to solving injury-related problems with solutions based on mechanics, position, and mobility is that it also frees up extra performance that you may not have known you had. The same tissue restrictions that are causing your knee pain may also be robbing you of some hidden flow of power output. By improving the positions you adopt and the health of the tissues involved and installing normal range of motion in your joints, you may find additional energy to help you run faster and longer.

The 12 chapters highlighting the 12 Standards are broken down into a few sections.  Each standard is listed as a question; “Can you squat correctly” is the 4th Standard.  Following the question is a brief introduction of the standard followed by why it is important or why you should be motivated to care about the standard.  The chapter also includes a list of mobility exercises to help you reach the standard, a more in-depth look at why the standard is important, pictures and steps to check to see if you meet the standard, sometimes a picture of bad form, and finally a section called Runner to Runner from co-author T.J. Murphy who shares his experience related to the standard.

The 12 standards include some common sense standards (and practical tips) like – hydration, warming up, and getting up and walking during the work day.  They also include some that might be seen as more controversial such as wearing compression gear or neutral shoes (he does recommend gradually working down if you aren’t already wearing neutral).  From my experience as a runner I think working towards most of the standards definitely won’t hurt!  After reading the book I’ve already noticed myself occasionally looking at my fight while standing around and putting them into a neutral position.

The standards are the meat of what it means to be “ready to run” but the bulk of the book is really about the mobilization exercises. Throughout Part 3 are written explanations as well as high quality pictures so that the reader can read and see what is supposed to happen.  Starrett also highlights some tools that are useful for the home gym.  He highlights some cheap tools like a lacrosse (lax) ball and then some higher end equipment as well.

I think we all know the value of being more supple or flexible and the ideas of improved mechanics.  Ready to Run actually lays out the tools and tips to get there.  The book doesn’t offer a specific training plan laid out over time, but it can allow you to build around your specific needs.  Starrett has a lot of resources (some free) available on his website Mobility WOD.

Ready to Run is available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

Here is a video trailer:

Got IT Pain?

A tight IT Band is not a good sign.  It needs to be stretched out and loosened up or it could turn into the dreaded IT Band Syndrome.

I was told my a massuse last year that my IT Band was extremely tight.  So I started stretching it on a regular basis.  I did some research and found this excellent information sheet about the IT Band.  By a trained physical therapist it lists some of the who, what, when, where, why, and how questions of the IT Band.

I think most of us are most concerned about not having problems with it and could care less about some of the anatomy that surrounds it.  She lists five keys to preventing ITBS – but they are actually almost identical steps to preventing any injury!

The list is:

– Changing running shoes every 300-400 miles and alternating between shoes with every run.  I’ve occasionally talked about my shoes and shoe preferences.

– Slowly increasing mileage (no more than 10% a week or on any run), including adding hill workouts gradually.  Downhills can add a lot of strain to the ITB.

– Avoid uneven surfaces.  More likely always running on the same side of a cambered or cantered surface like a road.  One leg can become predisposed to ITB because of the extra pressure placed on it.

– Keep the knees warm. Seems like if you are predisposed this might be helpful.  She said below 60 – but above 40 I’m wanting to wear shorts.

Cool down and stretch after a run.  Ice if needed.

The article continues on and offers some stretches and strength training ideas specific to the ITB.  For now you’ll just have to go read up on it.

[tags] IT Band, ITBS, iliotibial band [/tags]

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Stretching Poll Results

The results from the highly scientific Team Cross Runs stretching poll are in!

I’m sure you are sitting on the edge of your seat waiting to find out what most people do so I won’t make you wait any longer.

An overwhelming 33% of runners stretch before and after every workout.

There is a 5 way tie between second place with 17% of runners doing each. The second place categories are:

  • Never
  • After Hard Workouts only
  • Before Every Workout
  • I Stretch All the Time

Ok so this poll isn’t really generalizable due to the large size of the poll – only 6 readers responded to my first ever poll. Thanks to those who did! You can see the full results here.

I might try some more polls in the future – keep an eye out for them!

A Controversy of Stretching

I recently reported that I signed up to be included in a USATF sponsored Stretch Study, which is looking at a broad cross section of regular runners to determine if stretching before running (and warming up) helps prevent or causes injuries. A recent New York Times article actually looks into some of the current research around athletes and stretching and comes up with a conclusive answer that isn’t very conclusive!

That doesn’t make any sense does it? Well it seems that the body of current research is very mixed about the importance of stretching and is actually beginning to lean towards the idea that stretching doesn’t actually help an athlete perform better. But when the reporter asked the various researchers if they stretched or not – all of them did!

It has been bantered about in the running community for awhile and more people are beginning to shy away from so called “static stretching” where you hold a stretch for 10 seconds and leaning towards something called “active or dynamic stretching” where you take you muscles through a range of motion and hold any one position for at most 3 seconds.

If your goal is to prevent injury, Dr. Gilchrist said, stretching does not seem to be enough. Warming up, though, can help. If you start out by moving through a range of motions that you’ll use during activity, you are less likely to be injured.

Runners often think that flexibility is important, even to the point of spending hours stretching and doing yoga. One quoted study actually found that…

…distance runners do not benefit from being flexible, he found. The most efficient runners, those who exerted the least effort to maintain a pace, were the stiffest.

A private practice orthopediest went so far to say “If stretching was a drug, it would be recalled,” Dr. Kenny said. He claims that stretching actually weakens performance and increases risk of injury.

So what does all of this really mean? Who knows! I think as with much in this life moderation is the key. If you spend lots of time focusing on stretching – it might be better spent somewhere else. You need to find what works best for your body but the extremes probably don’t work for anyone!

Do you stretch? When do you stretch? Take the poll (on the right) and let us know!

[tags] Stretching, Stretch, Training, Research, Running [/tags]

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USATF – Ongoing Stretch Study

USA Track and Field is in the middle of a very large study on the impact of stretching before you run and running-related injuries.

From their background information:

Many studies have been conducted to understand the impact of stretching or warm-ups on the risk of injury, but with conflicting results. A broad review of “stretching” has not conclusively determined whether a pre-run static stretch protects runners from injury during their routine training.

After reading through the research aka protocol I decided to join the study. The study is focused on three major muscle groups – calves/Achilles, hamstrings, and quadriceps. Volunteers who meet their criteria – any person over 13 who runs 10 miles a week, hasn’t had an injury which prevented running for more than 3 days, is planning on running for the next 3 months, and who is willing to commit to either stretching before running or not stretching before running. The last part may sound kinda logical but there are some who

believe that [pre-run] stretching is important for you to prevent injuries, [if that is you] then you should not volunteer for the Study. If you do not stretch before you run and you believe that stretching before running will increase the possibility of injuring yourself, then you should not volunteer for the Study.

The sign-up process is pretty painless, I think it was 13 simple questions about major health-related issues, your weekly mileage, and a few questions about chronic injuries.

The study process is fairly simple. If you are assigned to stretch, then you stretch. If you are assigned not to stretch, then you don’t stretch the 3 muscle groups. Either way you are allowed to continue with other normal stretching routines before, during or after running. To ensure everyone stretches in a similar manner they have created a how to stretch page to make sure your stretch properly. After the three months you file a report which contains 2 questions – I did or did not get injured during this study and I stretched x% of the time before running. If at any point during the study you get injured which is defined as not being able to run for 3 consecutive days – you file an injury report 3 weeks after the injury occurred.

The study began in April of 2007 and will continue until the maximum size of 10,000 is reached or they produce a statistically significant result.

Be sure to click on over and do your part to help the running community better understand injury prevention!

[tags] USATF, Research, Stretch Study, Stretching [/tags]