Should Runners Stretch?

Lately I have been asked by many people about stretching, particularly in relation to running.  My answer is yes, but it needs to be done correctly and at the right time.  There has been recent research about the effects of static stretching prior to runs and the decreased ability to run as fast as if you did not stretch.  This is true because with static stretching you are lengthening a muscle, then to run fast you need a quick response from that muscle to shorten (contract) to move you fast.  There are ways to loosen up muscles prior to a run that can be more effective without negatively affecting your running speed.  Dynamic flexibility or drills move your joints and muscles through a larger range of motion but utilize movement to loosen muscles vs. a static stretch.

As for static stretching with longer holds, do it, but do it after your runs and on days you are not running. You may wonder why do them at all?  The answer is that your muscles tighten up with running and daily life, and the shortening of your muscles is not always symmetrical.  This creates an imbalance in your body when either one side (right to left ) or front to back of your body has asymmetrical  pulling across your joints.  In the big picture if you have an area that is always tight it may affect your form with running or other activity and lead to an injury.  The key to static stretching is using correct form and being active to keep good form while holding the stretch for a full 30 seconds.  You need to stretch a muscle from both it’s attachments (origin and insertion) to be effective at lengthening it.  This should be done after your runs or other activities. For runners the areas that commonly get tight are:  hamstrings, quadriceps, calf muscles ( gastroc and soleus), and hip muscles (gluts, hip flexors, etc).

Kristi Moore, MSPT
Alpine Physical Therapy North
2965 Stockyard Rd.
Missoula, MT  59808

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