Sue Read came to give a session on stretching and massage to the Broughton Ladies running group and I was invited along too.
Sue started with a general discussion about what was wrong with everyone, so she could concentrate on those areas. Part of this was a look at whether people had hyperflexible joints, i.e. elbows and knees that go beyond straight. There were a lot of people that demonstrated this. The implication of this was that might need to stretch hamstrings and other muscles slightly differently, as their tendons flexed allowing them to look as if the muscles were flexible.
The first part worked on was the calf. The stretches suggested were the standard straight leg with heel on ground for the gastocnemius and with a bent knee and heel dropping off a step for the soleus. Sue checked all our soleus muscles and pronounced that they were all tight. She showed how to massge them with flowing strokes towards the knee. We did this to each other and then tried it on ourselves.
She also talked about shin splints and compartment syndromes and how they were different. She also suggested self massage for these.
A key point was that as long as the pain inflicted was in the 5-6 range then we shouldn’t do ourselves any harm.
Next were the three hamstrings. Sue showed how to stretch each muscle by putting the foot on a chair and tilting inwards our outwards whilst leaning forward, to get each bit of muscle. She then suggested using PNF stretches, where you push the foot down into the chair for a count of 8 before trying to extend the stretch.
In terms of self massage Sue suggested using a cricket ball or potatoe under the thigh whilst sat down, then moving gently up and down. This simulates having an elbow pressed into the area (of which more later!)
Then onto the four quads. This time the stretch was standing with the knee bent and foot held, first by the same hand, then turned slightly out with that hand, then in by using the other hand. Sue suggested we used a bottle or can to massage the quads.
Next we came to the ITB and the TFL (tensor fascia lata). Sue showed that the ITB does not stretch easily, but is often tight becuse of the TFL. She demonstrated on me how to test the flexibility of the TFL by having me on my side with my knees bent, then lifting the top leg by the foot. If my knee dropped towards the other then there was some flexibility, otherwise the TFL was too tight. This is very hard to stretch, so she suggested having someone else use either their elbow or knee (only if young and small) to press into the TFL. This was pretty painful (Sue suggested up to 8 on our pain scale) but eased off after several seconds. At this point the pressure should be increased and this repeated. The effect on my TFL was quite dramatic when it was tested again.
Finally the piriformis, deep in the glutes. To stretch this one was simply a matter of lying on ones front, with someone’s elbow into the bottom (in the right place, which is somewhere near the top/middle of the buttock).
It was at this point that our two juniors decided that they would try to torture me. At one point I look round to see one of them kneeling on my buttock, rather disappointed that it wasn’t hurting enough.
This was a very valuable session.