Is Flexibility Overrated for Runners?

Amanda Loudin

The Washington Post 
" For runners 'Flexibility is Overrated'
A recent Washington Post Article (excerpt below) has our patients asking some some insightful questions about flexibility.  To begin with, flexibility refers to elasticity of muscles/tendons, whereas mobility (referred to in this article as range of motion) refers to the movement of our joints.  Both of these components are important to our performance, but often non-traumatic injury, or performance limiting pain is predicated by a lack of mobility (or range of motion.)  It is important to get this distinction right before beginning treatment, and it is one of the first pillars of analysis that we use at Atlantic Spine Clinic.
Instead of seeking extreme flexibility, says Gene Shirokobrod, a physical therapist in Maryland, runners should focus on exercises that target abilities that need improvement, such as strength and range of motion. Those attributes are different from flexibility, and they’re more important for runners.
Range of motion is the ability of joints and muscles to move well and far in a given direction. Runners, for instance, benefit from good hip extension because this is the origin of most of a runner’s power, allowing them to push into and off the ground, Magness says. Hip flexibility, however, is simply how far a muscle can be stretched in a mostly static state. If runners stay injury-free, odds are their range of motion is just fine. “You should be striving for the range of motion that your event requires of you,” Magness says. “As long as you have that, there’s nothing to worry about.”

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