Pliability for Runners: The Breakthrough Method to Stay Injury-Free, Get Stronger, and Run Faster, by Joseph McConkey, MS. Hatherleigh Press, 2022. Reviewed by trail runner Laura Clark. Laura is an avid mountain, trail and snowshoe runner who lives in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she is a children’s librarian.
If you are like me, you turn to targeted workout books when you are injured and your usual go-to resources fail to get you back on the road or trail within the probably too brief period of time you have set for your recovery. It is a normal reaction and one which has most likely met with mixed success. But with Pliability for Runners, Joseph McConkey, an exercise physiologist and director of Boston Running Center’s Gait Analysis Lab, focuses on prevention. You are not going to get a quick fix here. What McConkey does offer, however, is a targeted plan for averting injuries, not curing them. Which requires an entirely different and most likely unfamiliar mindset for the average runner.
I had always assumed that pliability and flexibility were synonymous, but that is not the case. According to McConkey, flexibility is the range of motion in a particular joint. Think yoga or picture a kitty’s fluid contortions as she plays with a toy mouse. Pliability, on the other hand, refers to the softness of a relaxed muscle, which can smoothly glide over a foam roller without unleashing a string of expletives from the person in charge. There is no inflammation.
In his numerous depictions of pliability self-tests, McConkey allows you to target every imaginable body part. But don’t let his thoroughness overwhelm you. If you resist the temptation to flip through the pages and begin at the beginning, the author provides a doable series of symmetry and posture guides that enable you to accurately pinpoint your weakest areas. Then you are free to skip ahead and isolate your personal checklist.
Lest you echo my typical copout, “Yeah when I retire I’ll have time for all of that,” McConkey demonstrates how you can reach and eventually expand your goal in just 10 minutes per day. We all can find 10 minutes to give to the cause! Still not sure where to start or seeking further shortcuts? Then explore the back section, with checklists for range of motion and strength maintenance, as well as those directed at more specific needs: master runners, youth athletes, as well as job-based and sports-specific requirements.
Regard this offering less as an entertaining read, although the author’s considerable sense of humor does lighten the way, and more as a life-reference guidebook for a continuously healthy running body.