New ways to gain flexibility, improve performance, and protect against injuries.
Watch a group of elite runners warming up and you won’t see any of them bending over trying to reach their toes. Instead, you’ll see athletes moving their bodies to improve their range of motion, increase flexibility, and guard against injury. “Stretching has progressed to a more functional, dynamic method,” says physical therapist Chris Frederick, codirector of the Stretch to Win Institute in Tempe, Arizona. “It helps runners of all levels perform better.”
You may be familiar with dynamic warmup moves like butt kicks and high-knee marches. But physical therapists and trainers have developed other ways to stretch your body in a more functional way. Consider the upsides and downsides of these three new methods to decide which works best for you.
FASCIAL STRETCH THERAPY
Unlike stretching that attempts to isolate and stretch specific muscles, fascial stretch therapy (FST) targets fascia, the connective tissue found in, around, and between joints. To stretch the fascia, a certified FST therapist gently pulls then moves the legs, arms, spine, and neck in a smooth motion at various angles to remove pressure between joints, release joint-lubricating synovial fluid, and improve flexibility of muscles. “The function of muscles cannot be separated from the movement of fascia,” says Frederick, who has worked with Olympic gold-medal sprinter Sanya Richards. After an initial session with a therapist, runners can continue this stretch therapy on their own.
UPSIDES: “Runners tell us that after the first FST session they move with more ease and feel stronger and faster,” Frederick says. Runners using FST also report increased stride length, less pain and tightness, and faster recovery.