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.

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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