Thursday, February 16, 2012

Best Stretching Book for Runners

The best book that we have found for runners interested in Active Isolated Stretching is "The Whartons' Stretch Book".
     The Active Isolated (A.I.) Stretching technique involves holding each stretch for a maximum of only two seconds. The theory behind A.I. is that if a muscle is stretched too far, too fast, or for too long, it elicits a protective action known as the myotatic reflex. This relex causes the muscles to tighten as protection. Many A.I. stretches use a rope to gently assist in pulling muscles a little farther than the body would ordinarily allow. This form of stretching reprograms brain and body to remember new ranges of motion, and runners often see fast improvements in flexibility.
  Many of the older runners that we meet that swear at stretching, instead of swearing by it, associate stretching with static stretching-- holding a stretch for 10 to 30 seconds or more.
They swear stretching made them tighter in their younger days, and gave it up-- and they were right-- it did make them tighter and more prone to injury. (See "I hate stretching!")

For an explanation of the difference between static and dynamic stretching

To see a video demonstration of the Wharton method for strengthening the muscles from the knee to the foot:

To see a video demonstration of the Wharton method of Active Isolated for the calf muscle:

We have found Active Isolated Stretching beneficial to the Gloucester Catholic Cross Country team as an aid to stretching and strengthening muscles safely, and increasing flexibility.
     A.I. also the only stretching technique that we have found that eliminates some persistent stubborn muscle tightness areas like piriformis syndrome (exercise #2 on page 30 of the Whartons' Stretch Book).
    We asked Jim Wharton for more information on why the A.I./Wharton Stretches worked so well in this case when even a cortisone shot had not-- "It is important to address all of the muscles in the area of concern due to compensation patterns that may have developed, or imbalances (flexibility/strength) that might be influencing the piriformis. I recommend always performing  the exercises on both sides (not just the effected area). If flexibility alone doesn't resolve the condition, then specific strength exercises around the hip area would be appropriate."

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