Should I Stretch More? Insight from Top Running Physio Jorin Kamps

Talking with guys on this level: you can learn a lot from these guys, they have so much experience in training, and the way they’re living as an athlete…

Especially Zane [Robertson], he’s in Kenya for over ten years now and you can see that he’s living an African lifestyle. And it’s now beginning to work out. He’s working with a coach here in Kenya, Renato Canova from Italy, and you can see that it’s working out properly for him.

These guys, they are able to train really good, and I’m happy to help them out. It’s quite an inspiration.

A national standard athlete - he’s come fourth in the Dutch national championships 3000m steeplechase - and a very knowledgeable physical therapist, Jorin Kamps splits his time between Amsterdam and Kenya, working with everyone from beginner runners to world record holders. His twin role offers him an unusual insight into the contrasts between the world of elite professional distance running and the problems of the everyday recreational jogger.

His specific professional role at his Running Solutions clinic in Amsterdam is a Mensendieck Kinetics Therapist - as distinct from a physiotherapist.

Somehow the same as physiotherapy but there is a slight difference. We look more at the total posture of the human body and try to find something within the things you are doing in your daily life that is causing the problem.

In the case of a runner: total mobility, strength, muscle problems, coordination, and most importantly look at the way they run. That’s what I learned in my studies and what I was interested in; my thought is that you can find the cause of an injury within the way they are moving.

His stints in Kenya working for Voltare Sports generally consist of treating a handful of athletes each day out of the agency’s roster of 40 odd top class runners, with a particular emphasis on keeping the stars healthy.

I’m here for seven weeks, and the seven weeks is preparation towards the Tokyo Marathon with Wilson Kipsang - he’s running Tokyo Marathon on 25 February. We make sure that he doesn’t get an injury. He comes around for massage therapy, for everything else, that includes physiotherapy, to make sure the joints are moving and the muscles are okay, we help him in strength training. Things like that.

All of the Volare athletes are coming to visit now and then for general treatment, and when they have an injury they come by more often. On a day to day basis there are maybe four athletes coming each day for a one hour, one hour thirty treatment, depending on their needs.

He observes that the Kenyan athletes he works with are generally more flexible than his European clients, but whether this can be put down to body type or lifestyle is impossible to say.

Maybe it’s because the people round here aren’t sitting on chairs all day? If you look at the mobility work they do, it’s almost nothing.

With world class performers demonstrating good flexibility but seemingly doing little to deliberately achieve this, it seems unclear how much effort average runners should put into stretching.

What I think about stretching is you should not stretch every time or every muscle. You should focus on the muscles that are tight. Could be static, could be dynamic, depending on the goal you have.

In the warm up I like to do dynamic mobility work rather than really stretching the muscle out.

If you have no injuries and the muscles are feeling good, why would you stretch?

Rather than idling away time touching your toes, he suggests a better way to avoid injuries for runners is to work on improving stability while running.

Most injuries are coming because of bad running stability. You can find most people have weak stability from the hips. I think running is all in the hips. If you want to reduce the chance of injury it’s very important to train the glutes, and especially the one in the middle, the glute medius it’s called, the stabilising muscle for the hip and upper leg.

You can find some great demonstrations of exercises and techniques that can help you become more resilient and maybe get a bit nearer to Jorin and Wilson Kipsang on the Running Solutions YouTube channel.