Do You Make these Simple Stretching Mistakes as a Runner?
While no one would argue that a good diet and a reliable marathon training schedule are invaluable in preventing injuries, there’s a surprising amount of controversy regarding the role of stretching.
Some people swear by it, while others shun it.
To Stretch or Not to Stretch?
In one of the largest studies conducted on the importance of stretching, Dr. Herbert Pope concluded that stretching before physical activity had no effect on injury frequency in athletes.
This finding is consistent with several other studies that have demonstrated that stretching, particularly stretching before activity, plays little to no role in injury prevention.
However, this study failed to include the effects of stretching after exercise.
Luckily, in 2005, a group of Australian doctors set up a study to measure the effects of stretching after exercise and whether it reduced hamstring injuries. At the end of the study, the stretching program decreased hamstring injury rates from an average of 10 athletes per season to three athletes per season.
Also, the number of days lost from competition was reduced from 35 days in the no-stretch group to 10 days in the stretching group.
Not only did this study show that stretching after exercise was beneficial, these findings are consistent with other studies that demonstrate that muscle tightness is a predictor of injury and that increasing flexibility by stretching reduces injury rates.
So now that we have proven that stretching after exercise does help prevent injuries, the question remains as to what type of stretching is best suited to accomplishing this result?
Research has proven that stretching with mild to moderate force for 15-30 seconds two to three times is the most effective method to increase muscle length and reduce injury. There were no additional benefits to stretching to the point of pain, longer than 35 seconds or more than 4 times.
What do the Findings Conclude About Stretching and Running?
1. Avoid pre-exercise stretching. We covered this in further detail in another post, Is Stretching Before Running Bad?
2. Stretch after a light warm-up. A proper warm-up consists of slowly jogging (or even walking) for the first five minutes of your run, followed by some dynamic stretching exercises. This approach increases circulation and warms your muscles gradually without over-stressing them.
3. Never stretch to the point of discomfort.
Never push the stretch to the point of discomfort. It’s better to hold a stretch for 15 seconds and repeat it throughout the day than to spend long periods stretching specific muscles.
Stay tuned for a stretching guide and routine designed specifically for the muscle groups involved in running.