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I do three stretches every morning and the same three stretches following most training runs. I never stretch just prior to the beginning of a run. I am slow.
The three stretches I do are:
Scott and LadyG discuss stretching,
"When I first started doing ultras I noticed that very few people stretched before a race. This worked out fine for me because within a few miles I was all warmed up. But, now that I am over 50 and within the past year I have noticed that I need to stretch a little before each run including training runs. They seem to go much better if I do."Call me weird or something, but I stretch after a run. I never used to stretch before but last semester i started running with the graz univ. marathon team and they make us do about half an hour of stretching after the workout. i never really had problem bending down or something but the difference in agility that i get from this feels amazing. After long runs I also often had a knot in my left lower leg, since i am stretching following my runs i don't have that problem. i started pretty recently with this but would not want to miss it now. stretching before a run? tried it once but that just did not feel good - so i don't do it.
I gave up stretching a couple years ago, figuring that I would just loosen up in the first couple miles of whatever run I was on. In the 20 years of running before that, I never did much stretching anyway, and figured that it wasn't doing anything for me.
A few weeks after Pueblo Nuevo 100 this past February, I developed an ITB pull that pretty much wiped out my running for April, May, and June. Ice, ibuprofen, and laying off running didn't make it better, like it always had in the past. It finally got better after I went to Physical Therapy at the local hospital. They were appalled at how inflexible I was, and fixed me up by stretching various things and having me stretch at home several times daily.
Now I do about 15-20 minutes of stretching before any run. It takes a lot of extra time, but it's much better than being injured and unable to run for three months. I'm 37, and guess that's old enough that I need to take a little better care, if I plan on doing ultras for another 20+ years.
Ran across this today and was wondering what you all think about the need/desirability of stretching before your training and/or races.
Clin J Sport Med 1999 Oct;9(4):221-7
Stretching before exercise does not reduce the risk of local muscle injury: a critical review of the clinical and basic science literature.
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the clinical and basic science evidence surrounding the hypothesis that stretching immediately before exercise prevents injury.
DATA SOURCES AND SELECTION: MEDLINE was searched using MEDLINE subject headings (MeSH) and text words for English- and French-language articles related to stretching and muscle injury. Additional references were reviewed from the bibliographies, and from citation searches on key articles. All articles related to stretching and injury or pathophysiology of muscle injury were reviewed. Clinical articles without a control group were excluded.
RESULTS: Three (all prospective) of the four clinical articles that suggested stretching was beneficial included a cointervention of warm-up. The fourth study (cross-sectional) found stretching was associated with less groin/buttock problems in cyclists, but only in women. There were five studies suggesting no difference in injury rates between stretchers and nonstretchers (3 prospective, 2 cross-sectional) and three suggesting stretching was detrimental (all cross-sectional). The review of the basic science literature suggested five reasons why stretching before exercise would not prevent injuries. First, in animals, immobilization or heating-induced increases in muscle compliance cause tissues to rupture more easily. Second, stretching before exercise should have no effect for activities in which excessive muscle length is not an issue (e.g., jogging). Third, stretching won't affect muscle compliance during eccentric activity, when most strains are believed to occur. Fourth, stretching can produce damage at the cytoskeleton level. Fifth, stretching appears to mask muscle pain in humans. CONCLUSION: The basic science literature supports the epidemiologic evidence that stretching before exercise does not reduce the risk of injury.
I don't, because I remember years ago reading a study like one of the ones cited. It said that stretching before running increases the injury rate, but that stretching after running decreases it. I do stretch after running, or after warming up before a race. Flexibility does help you run faster.
Matt, There's an apparent discontinuity between your second sentence and your last that doesn't seem to make sense. If stretching (before) enables your muscles to help you run faster, then how does one become more injury-prone? Must have my blinders on again.
It seems like when I have stretched before I run I over stretch a ligament or tendon. I usually warmup up at a very easy pace for 1 mile then do "light" stretching and few fast strides with walking between before the harder part of the workout.
I've also had good results with doing range of motion stretches, like high knee kicks, alternate legs, almost like skipping along and also easy deep knee bends, anything that mimics the running motion.
The studies posted only said that stretching before exercise doesn't help and probably hurts. It didn't say anything about stretching after exercise. I read that somewhere else. I warm up and then stretch before a race so I can take longer strides. Other than that, I only stretch after running.
Right, I understand all that. But before races you'll stretch so you can stride it out, something you couldn't do w/o the stretching due to the high potential for injury.
Hmmmmm, perhaps stretching only partially increases flexibility... You stretch and think you're warmed up but in reality not all the muscles are ready to go, resulting in injury.
No, I generally do not stretch before running. I often stretch a little at random times throughout the day, but not regularly.
Stretching to prevent injury is futile. Which injury are you trying to prevent? If the answer is "all of them" then you will stretch for 2-3 hours per day Yes, it will prevent injury because you have no time to run.
Stretching to MANAGE an existing injury is a different story. You know which 4 stretches to do, it takes a realistic amount of time. I have had some success managing injuries with this "physical therapy" approach which also includes targeted exercises.
I expect a reason for some of the results in the studies is that people who are injured do stretch, hence you find that stretching and injury are related. You could conclude that stretching causes injury, but it is the other way around.
My experience is that massage is MUCH more effective than stretching for preventing and managing injuries. I never got massage until my wife became a massage therapist. I had a lot of injuries. She cured them all. I get one full massage (approx. 1.5 hours) per week. Without this I feel there is no way I could run 100 mpw. Plus its a lot nicer than stretching.
Just my experience. Yes I have financial interest in massage. I'll give you her card.
No, I do what I consider loosening up before running. Someone who was watching might not be able to tell the difference, but all I do before running is some warmup and some very gentle stretches to make sure I'm capable of full range of motion.
I consider stretching to be a workout in itself if you are trying to actively extend your range of motion beyond your current ability. This is the sort of thing you have to be careful with so you don't cause an injury or over stretch and weaken a muscle.
I don't ever stretch without running first (as a warmup or as the only run of the day) for the reasons cited in the abstract you posted. I have read a bit of the literature and agree with the finding that there's no benefit to "cold" stretching and often it's detrimental. Counting all the times I perform stretching exercises, it's involved in no more than 1/7th of the runs I do (light stretching after a warmup before track intervals). I don't think stretching has any/much benefit in injury prevention, but I agree with Matt that it definitely positively affects stride length during speed work or races.
Twenty years or more ago I read articles suggesting that it was better to stretch immediately after running rather than before. The reasons given were that runners who stretched before running when the muscles are not yet warmed up suffered more injuries than those who stretched immediately after running when the muscles are warm. I have followed this regimen for all those 20+ years; and, while I have not been completely injury free, I have had very few injuries.
I only stretch before a run only after doing a worm-up run to loosen up the muscles which usually consists of about a three mile jog.
Well, since all of you are peering at your computers right now with probably a slightly thrust forward chin and rounded shoulders (and perhaps you're permanently going in that direction), a good stretch and one that opens up your chest cage so you can actually breathe better while you run, is to find a corner in your home or office that permits you to put your fingertips (palms down on the walls) at about shoulder height and about a foot (12")out from your body on each side and lean into the corner. It's a wonderful stretch.
In answer to the question about stretching, I try to remember to stretch after a run but often forget. I usually stretch before a track workout but only after I've jogged along for at least a mile and a half so that my legs are warmed up and blood is circulating. I stretch because it feels good. After watching my beloved cat stretch for 16 years whenever she got up, I figure it's a good idea. Her stretches, in particular, were good ones for back flexibility.
What Matt says sounds illogical but I agree with it 100%.
I spent the better part of 25 years running without stretching. It used to make my cross country and track coaches mad.
When I was in my mid twenties, I thought, "Man I'm getting old. Better start stretching before I run." Wrong! I got injured. I didn't get injured again until about age 37. I didn't start stretching at that point either.
At age 40, I'm still learning when and how to stretch.
I still don't stretch before a run, but I do warm up. Usually for me, that's hand messaging the muscles in my legs. Before a short race, like a marathon, I will do some jogging and then some light stretching. But I've "run" before the stretching, not necessarily before the race.
I don't think there is a steadfast rule on stretching. I think whatever works for the individual, whether it's stretching, training or vitamins or whatever else we are talking about, is what anyone should do. Whatever works for YOU, do it, end of discussion. I personally DO NOT stretch. Why, don't know, maybe too lazy, but it works for me and as long as I can do 50k's and 50 milers without stretching and feel "normal" in a day or two, I see no reason to change. After 24 years of only trail running, I run barefoot in the deep sand on the beach 2 - 3 x per week at 4 miles each, which I think is really good training, but no stretching and that's that.
Twenty years or more ago I read articles suggesting that it was better to stretch immediately after running rather than before. The reasons given were that runners who stretched before running when the muscles are not yet warmed up suffered more injuries than those who stretched immediately after running when the muscles are warm. I have followed this regimen for all those 20+ years; and, while I have not been completely injury free, I have had very few injuries.I second Dan's post. I stretch after my runs. What I have found particularly helpful has been stretching before sleep.
Here's my two cents, based on my own experience only. Before I started doing yoga regularly (about 5 times/week for 20-50 minutes/time), I was frequently injured, and suffered from debilitating back pain much of the time. Pre-yoga, I couldn't even come close to touching my toes. Within months after starting a regular yoga program, I felt an incredible difference. I have no more back pain, and have had no significant injuries for a year and a half (since starting yoga)! I can touch my toes, too. The aspect of the article that I would agree with is that I think it doesn't matter whether you stretch before exercise or not - if you are flexible from regular stretching you don't need to, if you are tight from not doing any other stretching it won't help anyway.. Just my opinion..
I asked my Physical Therapist (PT) about this (he was the PT for the Olympic Track team for 16 years) Ballet dancers and gymnasts have been stretching before their workouts for years. The key (to preventing injury) is to warm up a bit first. (10 - 15 minutes) And stretch gently..most people pull much to hard. In your stretch, if you feel the pull DECREASING as you stretch, its the right level. If the pull INCREASES, you're stretching too far. Think of your muscles as taffy that needs to become a little pliant first!
A neat article on this subject (http://www.coolrunning.com.au/editorials/2000e023.shtml)
I alway stretch before running and it works for me. I even try to avoid running across the street to catch a bus, since I will not be able to stretch beforehand. I also quickly stretch before I get out of bed in the morning or if I have been sitting for a long time. I learned to do this from observing my dog. He will not do anything without stretching first. Most important for me, however, is to spend five to ten minutes stretching after a race. I see very few runners doing this.
I never stretch before or after a run. I used to and would develop minor muscle tears from overdoing it. It seems logical that once your muscles adapt to the running you impose on it, muscle memory will accommodate you as long as you stay within the range of hip or knee flexion that you are used to. The problem develops when you change running programs, such as adding speed drills.
But by not stretching, you limit your ability to do other physical activities. For example, yesterday I had to castrate a horse. For most of an hour I was bent over bracing my knees against the horse's back while trying to muscle the cojones out enough to ligate and transect them. This was in 30mph wind and 5 degree wind chill. Today I've got muscle soreness from my shoulders to my calves. Maybe I shoulda stretched first.
I have been stretching and stretching to relieve tightness in my hamstring. I have since been advised to lay off the intense stretching routine as this may be exacerbating the situation. Especially if I am dealing with a pinched nerve. I stretch minimally now and the shooting pain in my leg is now reduced to just a little tightness. Could this advice be true? I always hear you need to stretch the sh** out of your legs after any run.
Stretching should be gentle. "Shooting pain".... could be sciatic nerve in the hip and/or lower back.
I almost never stretch because I found it causes injuries & it takes too much time & is boring. I only do some light stretches after running sometimes. I found what works very well to prevent and treat injuries is massage. There's a nice article about sports massage in this month's Outside Magazine. Recommends getting a massage every 70 miles, which sounds about right to me. Can be expensive, unless you happen to be married to a Certified Message Therapist (CMT)!
intense stretching ... may be exacerbating the situation.Definitely. In fact over stretching can create new injuries - I'm living proof of that. I over stretched my left hamstring a while back, and it took 10 months to heal.
Stretching is important, but sometimes you need to patient and work on it gradually. And as someone else said, warm up before stretching. I think pre-run and post-run stretching are helpful, as is stretching on non-running days. But again, don't over stretch areas that are overly tight - give them time to heal and gradually & gently stretch them.
I have found a method to reduce the amount of time needed for stretching and which also takes the stretch further than I could get with conventional methods. My method is a follows:
For the hamstrings, I like to use the stretch where you lie on the floor with the leg extended upward and pull it gently with my hands until I feel resistance. Then I push my leg part way down toward the floor while resisting that motion with my hands. Repeat and be surprised at the amount of gain made without ever using a "painful" stretch.