october 18, 2014
By Coach Valdez
Due to the high repetitive nature of running, microtears occur in your muscles, largely due to overuse from muscle weakness and imbalance. Or to put it simply, your body is not strong enough to handle the pounding (hence the need for ALL runners to perform some form of strength training at least 1-2 times per week). Scar tissue forms a safety net over these areas and over time, if enough of it accumulates, a tight spot is formed.
Traditionally, runners have stretched their tight areas which loosens them a little, but mostly loosens up the entire muscle in general so it doesn’t help that much. Recently, more runners have resorted to foam rolling which gets deeper and has its own useful benefits for loosening up the body in general, but it’s still not enough. As a result, many folks see a health professional who performs some sort of deep tissue therapy such as active release and graston to finally loosen up their tight spots. I used to be one of these people and for a decade averaged a visit per month.
However, I started experimenting with self-active release and was amazed at the results. It was a seismic shift to think that I could take care of my own stubborn tight areas and not rely on anyone else. In Anatomy for Runners, Jay Dicharry talks about it in his book complete with demonstration photos and refers to it as ‘flossing’.
Just as flossing your teeth gets at those hard-to-reach areas that brushing cannot, flossing your muscles is a wonderful way to get your mobility back. Essentially, you put pressure where it’s tight while lengthening the muscle repeatedly – that’s it! You can use a ball, your hands, or really anything to create that pressure. For example, during my runs, if my left hammy acts up (not as frequent now that I’ve been strengthening my left glute), I’ll find a park bench, picnic table, guard rail, fence, or fire hydrant to sit on while straightening my knee 5-10 times. I’ll press firmly to get the desired deep tissue loosening and that usually does the trick. The combination of warming up the muscles and being motivated enough to do something about it during the run has caused me to see my recovery runs as the best time to loosen everything back up.
I encourage you to experiment with muscle flossing to experience the benefits firsthand. If you’re the most motivated to do something about it while running like I am (i.e. you won’t get around to doing it in between runs), look for places to stop at to do it – the time you stop to floss will be far more valuable than simply running.
On a side note, I invite you to attend the April 24 clinic on “Runners G.I. Issues” at 6:30pm at the 119th & Quivira Garry Gribble’s Running Sports store. Gastroenterologist and runner Dr. Stella Quiason will address common digestive issues faced by runners and how to effectively deal with them. The clinic is free and open to the public. RSVP to me at email@example.com