Analyitics

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Running and Flexibility

For as long as I can remember, I have been insecure about my lack of flexibility.  Bend over and touch my toes?  I can't even bend over and grab my ankles.  And no amount of stretching seems to help.

Part of the reason for my insecurity is that everyone tells me that I need to be flexible to run well.  But, when it comes to running, science has a way of arriving at counter-intuitive findings.  Here are links to two academic studies showing that less flexible runners tend to use energy more efficiently.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11774065
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19050648

Why should this be so?  The scientists aren't sure, but they theorize that less flexible muscles and tendons tend to facilitate a greater elastic energy return during the shortening phase of the activity cycle.  (Think of how much faster a tight rubber band snaps back, in comparison to a loose, stretchy one.)

Of course, there are other reasons that flexibility may be valuable, including the prevention of injury.  Energy efficiency isn't everything.  Still these studies give me a little more freedom to ignore the common wisdom and feel good about my body.

Related posts:
Icing Can Be Make Sore Muscles Worse

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