To Stretch or Not To Stretch….What’s an Athlete to Do? – By Beth Shaw

We’ve all been told since we started physical education class in elementary school that you need to stretch before exercise. Actually, I remember the sit and reach very fondly, even though now my sit and reach is probably quite shameful. Thanks, running. That being said, I do not practice as much stretching as I probably should. But what does that mean exactly? How much should I be stretching?

Before I get into the data that is out there, and it isn’t a ton, we all probably know the two basic types of stretching: static and dynamic. Static is stretching that you sustain a position for several seconds. Dynamic is where you take a movement through repetitive motion.

Still somewhat debated is what types of stretching to do pre-run and post-run and if it’s even worth it. Does it reduce soreness? Does it reduce the risk of injury? Or just the opposite…does it lead to injury? The most recent science and research on this suggests that you should never stretch cold muscles, ease into any stretches, and basically the one thing all stretching will do is get you moderately better at stretching.

Now, dynamic stretching is a little bit better, but for our purposes as triathletes and runners the drills that can be done pre-run are much better for warming your muscles which actually do help with injury prevention. I highly encourage everyone to do drills before runs even if they aren’t specifically prescribed workouts. The drills include A, B, and C skips, carioca, high knees, butt kicks, etc.

My personal rule of thumb is that if you always stretch pre-run and have no issues – keep doing that. If you never stretch pre-run and have no issues – keep doing that. If you never stretch and feel you should – do it post run. Keep pre-run stuff like drills or jogging to warm you up.

If you’d like to read a fairly comprehensive article that uses actual references on scientific studies done on stretching, read: https://www.painscience.com/articles/stretching.php#sec_conclusion.