Wednesday, March 16, 2011

To stretch or not to stretch...

That is the question. For years, runners have been taught to stretch after every run. I've always done it, and always thought I was doing a good thing. It feels good and it would seem to be the right thing to do. Lately, however, I'm starting to change my thinking.

A good deal of evidence is starting to suggest that static stretching--the kind we all do post-run--may be doing more harm than good. It seems that when you stretch a muscle statically, you may actually be causing micro-tearing in the muscle. This leads to weakening, and the weakening can lead to injury. Not what anybody wants, to be sure.

So what should you do instead? Try performing dynamic moves at the beginning of a run, for one. There are lots of good articles out there that can lead you through some of these moves--about 10 to 15 minutes of high knee walking, butt kicks, leg swings, etc., can get you out the door ready to run. Then post-run, try walking for about 10 minutes to actively cooldown and get your legs ready to stop.

Yoga and Pilate's are another great way to stretch. These forms of exercise produce slow, easy motion that can help keep you a bit looser. Again, however, make sure you come in with warm muscles to these classes--just 10 to 15 minutes of pre-workout walking or easy cycling can do the trick. Then approach the class with patience, working through the moves at an unhurried, relaxed pace.

As athletes, we are on a constant learning curve. After 13 years of running, I feel that I still have so much to learn. This rethinking of stretching is just one example of why it pays to stay on top of the latest findings and information available.

17 comments:

  1. I have heard if you aready stretch then don't stop. If you don't already stretch then don't start.

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  2. I was just reading about dynamic stretching - I need to incorporate it into my warm up. I'm a big fan of pilates and find a couple of the yoga poses really help with my ITB.

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  3. Awesome info and just the kind I like to hear! I hate stretching but Angela is always telling me to do a dynamic warm-up. She has all of her clients do dynamic stretches. It looks dorky, but I'm sure it's good for you.

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  4. Great post! For pre workout stretching, I use foam rolling & then dynamic stretching.

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  5. Interesting! I forget to stretch a lot of the time... looks like it might not be such a bad thing!

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  6. you know I am still undecided as to which way to go on this..One day they say stretch another don't.

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  7. I just learned to not do static stretching on cold muscles, now I shouldn't after exercising. :/ My plantar fasciitis screams for stretching, I'll keep doing that, but it's good to look into it and get more info (including dynamic stretching -- that's new to me, at least the term).
    Thanks!

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  8. Hi,

    Just thought I'd let MsZipCoach know that I agree with this. I have stopped doing static leg stretches for the last 2 months or so. I used to HAVE to do them for my A.T. (I thought)..I could barely hobble until I warmed up and did my stretches.

    Nope, not true.

    I have to give credit to Dr Gangami (Ganglion?, Gangameri?,...damn can't remember that name until I hear it pronounced) he's on to something with that ;)

    Muscle imbalances were/are what threatens me with Achilles Tendonitis and static stretching doesn't help.

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  9. Its all so confusing...I just feel so tight after and am afraid about going back to a stress fracture. I have been doing hot yoga to help stretch everything out. I'm going to try and read more about this...seems like it makes sense.

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  10. I have found in my limited- and fairly newbie- experiences that stretching has actually hurt me more than helped me. Personally I support the new findings, I will stick to doing to knee bends and such to get my legs ready for my runs! Thank you so much for sharing this!
    Visit me @ http://notyouraveragerunningmom.blogspot.com/
    N.Y.A.R.M :)

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  11. Such a great topic!!! I started doing Bikram Yoga this year and it has made THE BIGGEST difference in my flexibility and overall performance as an athlete...I love hearing your thought and the thoughts of your followers!

    xo
    Sarah
    Get Up & Go

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  12. Very interesting topic! It seems like the experts go back and forth about stretching and when to do it, whether to do it. Not sure what to believe.
    I wonder why yoga would be considered any safer than regular static stretching after 10 minutes of warm up.?

    BTW.. I had also read the same thing about an hour - but I had read it as what you could run for an hour racing, which would end up between 10k and HM pace. I always appreciate getting your thoughts! :)

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  13. I love this post. I do NO stretching prior to a run but do a good solid warm up and after every run/workout I stretch everything out for at least 20mins :)

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  14. Love the yoga idea! Alot of my stretching comes from there. Great advicce!!

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  15. Hi, After reading post, I appreciate your thought because yoga is good stretching method than exercise. Even though warm up is good self body fitness exercise. thanks you for sharing good information.

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  16. Crazy that you feel you have a lot to learn still. :) I guess I won't sweat it as a newbie then.

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