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THE CONTROVERSY OF STRETCHING AND RUNNING



Have you ever gone to the derby and watched a race? You probably noticed that you did not see any horses stretching before the race. Horses, our puppies, and other animals do not stretch before or after they run. Now, at your last half marathon how many people did you see in the corral stretching? It seems to be something that only we humans do. When I first started running, our group would stretch before our runs and after our runs. It was portrayed to me that in order to prevent injuries and to improve the quality of my workouts, stretching should be performed before and after each run. But was that really

true?


The great stretching controversy. Since elementary school gym class, most of us have stretched prior to any athletic activities. We were taught that it would prevent injuries, improve performance, and reduce muscle soreness. Depending on the type of activity and the type of injury we’re trying to prevent, it is true, yes, stretching may play a safety role. If the activity includes power or springing movements, stretching can reduce injuries by increasing the compliance of tendons and improving their ability to

absorb energy. However, for lower intensity activities (that don’t include bouncing) such as running, cycling, and swimming, stretching doesn’t prevent injuries as we do not need our tendons to be compliant for these activities.


Stretching before strength training may limit how much weight lifted by an athlete because stretching affects the ability of their muscles to contract effectively. Stretching has a minimal effect on how sore someone feels after their workout. The harder or longer someone exercises microscopic damage occurs to the muscle fibers. These microscopic tears are a normal part of training. In response to the muscle fiber damage, our bodies get inflamed as blood travels to the site of the damage, the blood bring white blood cells the area to begin healing process.


An important benefit of stretching is to increase a joint’s range of

motion. When the joint is flexible the muscles are able to move dynamically through their full ranges of motion, which is important for runners. Stretching to increase flexibility, done alone and not as part of your workout, will make your running more effective. Higher weekly mileage and your long run has the potential to shorten and tighten you muscles, implementing a stretching routine throughout the week can help keep your muscle primed for your long run - before, during, and after.


Several factors that influence our flexibility:

♦ Joint functionality: The type of joint will determine the range of motion.

♦ Age: With age, muscles can shorten from a decrease in physical activity and a loss in elasticity in the

connective tissues surrounding them.

♦ Sex: Females tend to be more flexible than males of similar age throughout life, mostly due to anatomical variations in joint structures.

♦ Exercise: Exercising on a regular basis generally increases flexibility. A more sedentary lifestyle decreases

flexibility.

♦ Temperature: An increase in either body temperature or environmental temperature increases range of motion. That’s why it’s better to stretch after a warm-up.

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