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Hello, I am new to this community and to running. I've been working hard at getting into better physical condition for about six months. I do a lot of cardio as well as resistence work as well. I started the C25K program this week and I am pretty excited about it. For the record, I am a 48 year old male... Anyway, I am trying to gain an understanding of when and how to stretch. I have read that you should never stretch pre-run, ony post-run. I've had people tell me that's crazy, you have to stretch first. What I really DO NOT want is to injure myself, so I am looking for some advice about this. Thanks in advance! Ozzie
I'll make this real simple; if you want to get injured, stretch before you run.
The thing about stretching cold muscles is that they aren't terribly elastic, and when you stretch them, something has to give. Either the muscle "pulls", or worse, a ligament or tendon becomes strained.
The above said, if you've mid-run and already have a mile or two under your belt and feel tight, stopping for a few gentle stretches is a very good idea; by then your muscles are a bit warmed up and the risk of injury is reduced.
Below are a couple of Runners World articles that deal with stretching - when and what type. The before-run exercises are more range-of-motion warmups (which is what stretching is really all about) than anything. These articles also contain links to other articles on stretching. If you want to know more about doing static stretching after your run look on YouTube and other sources (google it).
As one of the articles says "“If you can run comfortably, and without injury, there is no need to stretch”. I rarely stretch, and never before or after my runs.
Yup, I'm an "old school runner" (I'm 56) who was taught to stretch before and after running. I figured out along the way that stretching before was not good for me and was glad to see the running community gradually move in the direction of "stretch after".
As for a stretching program to follow, I still do my old school stretches, however, I've heard that they too are now out of favor; hopefully someone else can chime in here for that one.
Looks like Len has already commented on stretching programs; thanks Len!
Read the article below for some of the (very good) reasons not to use static stretching before your exercise. To summarize, "The numbers, especially for competitive athletes, are sobering. According to their calculations, static stretching reduces strength in the stretched muscles by almost 5.5 percent, with the impact increasing in people who hold individual stretches for 90 seconds or more. While the effect is reduced somewhat when people’s stretches last less than 45 seconds, stretched muscles are, in general, substantially less strong."
The answer when /how to stretch depends on varying factors. Let me give some background, I started running seriously around age 13, ran competively for my college at decent level, and never did I stretch and I had zero injuries ....but then I stopped running mid-20's and started again in my early 40's like you are (now 46) .....and boy I've had nearly every injury/problem possible ... i've been under medical care alot and to fix most of them ..but it takes a long time and alot of exercises/stretching, and the most common reasons for them is 'accumulated damage' over years when younger ....the body 'adapts' really well when young and covers up problems ...you pay later! ....
I also have health issues that make me very prone to tendon problems in particular, so I've had alot opportunity to test what works/doesn't.
Pre - workout stretching
Studies show is reduces performance. OK ....yep, it also can lead to pulled muscles if cold.
However, this is not the full story - if you really want to reduce risk of injury and over 40, spend more time warming up.
My typical warmup is as follows and has worked really well to prevent problems -
1. Gently warmup
Start from walking (even some marching is good , yep looks silly but!), to very slow jog to slow running pace for about 1 mile.
During this, note anything that's 'twinging' or worse.
2. Light stretching
For 'twinges' stretching them out really helps here - yep, it will reduce performance a bit, as long as its not a race who cares! ...in training I just don't want injury.
( IF pain doesn't release, stop the workout and figure out what's wrong..training on 'twinges' leads to injury.)
- the most common area's to work on-> calves, quads, hipflexor, IT band, trunk rotation ...don't do excessive or deep stretches, just light stretch to
increase 'range of motion' a litte...runner don't want execessive flexibilty as that leads to injury.
3. Dynamic warmup
I have specifc exercises I got give so hard to explain ..but basically, you want to simulate running movements in good form for to produce stability, and also warmup supporting muscles. I suggest google 'running dynamic warmup' ..
4. Do the 'main workout' - the higher the intensity, the more careful the previous steps 1-3, eg. for a slower long run I don't do much i.e. just stop after a mile and so some light stretches, but for a track workout of 400m intervals I spend a good 30-45minutes ( people who train for 400m spend at least that long and they are adapated for it!).
5. POST workout - stretch out known problem area's,.....for me, my hamstrings, calves...I've found deeper longer stretches help more post exercise. ( it believed to help recovery by aligning muscle fibers ...not sure about that, but definitely helps preventatively).
If you suddenly increase either intensity or volume( more miles) then those are two factors that increase risk of niggles and injury.
I know alot of 'over 40' athelete's both runners and tri, and most have major injuries sooner or later, most skimp on warmup and dont' listen to body at early signs.
I'm actually injury free now, and this routine has kept me that way after 5 years of endless issues.
* for a race, I skip step2 'light stretches' or do them VERY lightly ...because then you do want maximum peformance.
I've run for 30+ years. I have run close to 22,000 miles in that time. The only time I ever stretched in these years was in the Corps when required to stretch --- Aye, aye!
Before becoming a runner I played football through highschool and into college. Stretching is obviously part of the deal. I'd stretch a whole season and work at it. My flexability never improved. Physically we are who we are.
To compare the two periods of time -- I had more muscle pulls -- ham, groin, calf, etc --- problems while playing football. The muscle pull injuries have been minimal over the years of running -- and this has been while I have gotten older.
I dismiss all stretching and do fine. I have learned to warm up running slowly with light running and walking to warm the muscles --- it works for me.
A week before the MCM -- I tweaked my left hamstring. I rested it, and did no running during the week prior to the marathon. I did no warm up running before the race. I knew the slower pace of the beginning of the race would be good enough to warm up, and know whether I was good to go. I had no problem. Years ago I would have thought to stretch. I have learned the stretching would have tweaked it again.
Oh wow, I didn't know that! I'm big into stretching before and after (especially) before running and have never gotten injured. Of course, now that I read this I will be more careful. Thanks for sharing.
I wouldn't worry about it too much, if that's what you've always done and you've been fine, no reason to drastically alter your routine ( and vice
versa, a person who never stretches and has no problems, best not to suddenly start).
The reality is, like all things physical, there's genentic differences between people, thus some people can stretch night a day and get
no problems, others are prone to injury from it, especially PRE exercise, and especially BADLY performed or new stretches.
In reality nearly everyone does stretch somewhat before/during exercise if they feel tightness, its a natural response, otherwise
tightness progesses to muscle pulls especially in calf muscle ...most runners have experiences that except the lucky few.
But what I avoid and studies suggest can increase risk, is holding stretch longer than say 30seconds, and don't do deep ones (where you feel pain, rather than just releasing tightness) and never do them 'cold'....that's where problems come from . I prefer 'active release' and foam rollering to stretching.
There's alot of 'fashion' in sport physiology, studies/experts split pretty much 50/50 on this value of post stretching.. the one pieces of advice I would give from my own issues and experts who helped me is to post stretch the calf and hip flexor, as tight hip flexors restrict form and cause gait changes that stress other parts of the chain ( a problem I had and cause alot of problems in knee, achillees etc)...the other is the IT band, especially if you do track work ...(oh, and don't always run the same way!) ...IT band is really hard to stretch though.
I can quickly google and find 10 experts quoting studies and saying the opposite with total confidence lol ! ..i'm not sure what I can link here, but here's one on this site.