06 March 2012

Too Flexible?

Guerrilla Race by scarbellyracer at Garmin Connect - Details

I know I've praised adaptability and flexibility in this blog, but today I'd like to think about whether or not I might be too flexible.  I think in general, fitness gurus, personal trainers, and many coaches over-emphasize the importance of flexibility as a component of overall fitness.  I would prefer to see the same emphasis put on balance and stability and less emphasis placed on flexibility.  To a large extent, flexibility is genetically determined, and those who are most flexible and least flexible have a higher chance of injury when it comes to running.  With regard to physical health, flexibility is one area where average seems to be best.

Today, I tweaked my schedule again.  If you click on the link above, you'll see that I ran my medium long run today (11 miles), a run that I would usually do on Wednesdays.  Why this change?  The weather was the primary determinant.  Today was a cool (7 C), sunny day with a slight breeze.  Tomorrow calls for wind, rain, and a slightly cooler temperature.  Because I ran 11 miles today, I will only have to run five or six tomorrow, and because my wife came home from the hospital today, I can run tomorrow at 6:00, which means I can avoid the worst of the bad weather.  I might have been able to run my 11 miles early in the morning tomorrow, but that would have been difficult for me, as I would have to start at 5:30 (I must be finished with my run by 7:00 on weekdays), which means that I'd have to wake up at 4:30.  (I am not the type that does well by rolling out of bed and into a pair of running shoes and out the door.)

Also playing into my decision was a long run on Sunday that was fairly easy on my legs.  I thought my legs could handle the additional mileage earlier in the week.  As well, last week I struggled a bit during my Thursday tempo run after running 11 miles on Wednesday, so I thought I would experiment this week by giving myself a day of recovery between my medium long run and my tempo run.  Furthermore, I will be able to run with The Jewish Stallion tomorrow, and I haven't been able to run with anyone in almost a week.  I miss the camaraderie.

As you see, moving my medium long run to Tuesday seems like a smart, well-thought-out decision.  What worries me is a phenomena that I've seen in young kids.  Sometimes a young boy or girl will work hard to finish a piece of artwork--a crayon drawing, let's say.  At some point, they'll claim they are finished and while showing the piece to an adult will discover something they don't like about it.  They'll sit down to modify their work and face a period of eternal disappointment with what they have produced.  They'll keep tweaking and modifying until the paper they're drawing on resembles less the original drawing than a smear of overworked and blurred colors and images. The original drawing was a pretty nice piece, but the kids ruined that first quality effort by allowing perfection to become the enemy of good.  They over-thought and over-tweaked their work.

Am I beginning to modify my training too much?  Only time will tell.  Right now, I think I'm still being reasonable.  I hope my legs, knees, ankles, and/or feet don't tell me something different in the next few weeks.


  1. Could you please explain further, or give a more detailed medical reason for why those who are "more" flexible are more prone to injury? Thanks. Oh, and love the blog! -RTA

  2. Thanks, RTA.

    http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-241-287--7001-0,00.html This link will take you to a nice review by Amby Burfoot of what the scientific literature has found about stretching. I wonder if a person who is more flexible might have less stability at a joint and, therefore, is more susceptible to injury.

    1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15495679 This is an abstract of a review of the scientific literature on flexibility and injury prevention from the National Institutes of Health.

  3. Thanks! I'll check it out. I have been battling a case of ITBS (left thigh) for the last several years. I've had a fair amount of PT with most folks saying that it's something I'm just going to have to deal with for the rest of my life to some degree...as well as x-rays and MRI revealing the beginnings of arthritis in my left knee. So I've been relegated to the elliptical and have to limit "running" to just a few miles (and no more than 45 minutes) only a one or two days a week, lest swelling around my left knee increases and the IT band begins to become aggravated. I try and do a fair amount of stretching and warm up, so that's why I was curious about how much to stretch and such.

    Thanks again for the links and the info. And again, love the blog! -RTA