It seems like most runners have an obsession with stretching. I used to be like that, too. We've been told since we were little that to be stiff is most definitely a bad quality. But let me tell you that in MY experience, many folks could use more stiffness.
Who are these people? The folks who can bend over and palm the floor, but can't balance on one foot quietly while swinging their opposite leg would be one example. Lot's of mobility, but not enough control.
As in anything else where moderation is best, we need “enough” flexibility and more isn't better. If you ARE very flexible, you'd better be able to control all of that range of motion.
Now, don't get me wrong. Being too stiff isn't good, either. Imagine running with a parking brake on – you're always fighting against the resistance of your own body! You need to be able to get into certain positions for optimal performance and if those places are inaccessible, you'll compensate somehow.
Timing is KEY
Ideally, you can create tons of stiffness through your stance leg at the right TIME quickly and then immediately relax. This is what separates good, efficient runners from the rest. They're not wasting energy by fighting against their own stiffness nor are they sloppily collapsing into themselves by failing to create enough tension.
Try This Drill: Ankling
Typically used as part of a good warm up, practicing the “ankling” drill will teach you how to be stiff at the right time and how to react off the ground properly. The key thought is to pop off the ground as quickly as you can. Imagine you are on a very hot surface!
**After your forefoot touches down, DO ALLOW your heel to drop and briefly/barely connect with the ground. You want to take maximum advantage of that Achilles' tendon recoil.
**Unlike the subject in the video, I like the arms to mimic a running motion rather hand hold the hands on hips.
This drill, and others that are just as beneficial, are a regular component of our warm up routine every Tuesday night @ 6:30pm @ Temple University's track. Please feel free to join us – your first workout is complimentary! Contact me for more info.