There is so much conflicting information when it comes to the truth about stretching for athletes, especially for runners.
Some experts swear that stretching prevents injuries, while just as many say that stretching has nothing to do with injury prevention. Some runners include stretching as a vital piece of the warm up, and some only stretch after their runs. Some believe in static stretching, while others only hold each stretch for a few seconds.
The truth about stretching is that there are no cut and dry answers to anything related to stretching. Stretching has been studied time and time again, and ultimately there have been very few (if any) black and white conclusions that have been drawn, especially in regards to injury prevention.
Here is the Truth About Stretching
Stretching HAS NOT been shown to reduce injuries. That said, maintaining adequate flexibility by stretching regularly does allow your joints to operate within their full range of motion which can put less stress/strain on your muscles and tendons. Excess strain on the muscles and tendons can cause irritations (such as tendinitis, bursitis, and any other itis), so it could be seen as logical that regular stretching CAN reduce the risk of injury over time, yet it is far from conclusive.
It has long been believed that effective stretching requires holding your stretch for 15-30 seconds (or more). Going hand and hand with the static stretching theory is the assumption that bouncing while stretching is a sure fire way to pull or tear a muscle, which is an even worse injury than any itis you were trying to prevent in the first place. So what’s the truth? Static stretching is a fine way of increasing your range of motion, but should only be done as part of a cool down. Dynamic stretching is also a great way to improve ROM, and is fine to do before or after your run, but make sure your muscles are warm before you begin. The key is to hold each stretch for 2-6 seconds before releasing it. As long as your muscles are already warm, and you’re not reaching too far, dynamic stretching is safe AND effective.
My Take on Stretching
In my experience, both me personally and with the runners I’ve worked with, regular stretching is a good thing when done correctly. I almost always wait until after the run/race to do my stretching, but will occasionally do a minimal amount of dynamic stretching after my warm up but before the race.
My preferred method of stretching, however, is to pop in a yoga DVD on days that I’m not running as part of a recovery day. I don’t do this as often as I’d like to, but whenever I do I feel better and my next run is usually better as well.
What do you do when it comes to stretching? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, pro or con, when it comes to stretching.
And if you’d like to hear me expound a little bit on the virtues of stretching and elaborate a little more about what I talked about here in this post, just press play on the player below.