I’m Reconsidering Stretching After A Run
When I started running in 2006 I distinctly remember being told by more experienced runners, physical therapists, coaches and doctors, “make sure you stretch before a run to warm up your muscles.” Over the years when I have met with running groups, 15-20 runners stretching and talking was a typical start to our morning or evening run. Forward 7 years and and the pendulum has swung. Although debated by many, the expert advice seems to be leaning heavily toward no stretching. This is a perfect example of information overload!
Listening to a Trail Runner Nation podcast and was my introduction to Dr. Steve Gangemi (aka the Sock Doc). I don’t remember the specific podcast but stretching was brought up and why runners should not stretch. This peaked my attention because I’ve had what I can only describe as a pulling feeling or tightness at the bottom of my right calf that goes into in the heel of my foot. It’s not a pain but it’s enough of a feeling to get my attention. More importantly, it had my attention because I didn’t want it to become a pain or an injury. As a result, I have started stretching my calves about a mile or so into my run. It seemed to be helping. WRONG! Or so the Sock Doc says. I wanted to know more.
My takeaways (that have stuck with me) from the article by the Sock Doc and why I’m reconsidering my thoughts on stretching. Keeping in mind the article is primarily focusing on static stretches (stretch and hold). Dynamic stretching is a whole other post:
- research shows stretching has no value and may actually cause harm – show me the research and the data to support your opinion/recommendation
- flexibility is a reflection of health and fitness, not stretching – I was a believer of the more you stretch the more flexible you are and inflexibility was from not stretching
- stretching relaxes and is therapeutic for tight muscles is not only a misconception, it has never been proven – I usually look at the research, I guess I took the recommendation to stretch on blind faith
- Clinicians who evaluate muscle function in athletes observe that stretching a muscle could make it longer and increase flexibility but this resulted in a reduction in function from a loss of power. – the exact opposite of what a runner wants
- More important is the balance and symmetry between muscles [not flexibility]. – I need more information on this
- Stretching may increase your flexibility, but you will most likely be weaker and the results are often short-lived. – something I’ve done so often may actually have made me weaker? Ugh!
- Stretching does not help injuries because it elongates the muscle fibers. Stretching [an injury] will only make this worse. – a recommendation by a doctor or physical therapist for recovering from a variety of injuries almost always includes stretching
I get the impression the Sock Doc is serious about no stretching! I won’t be buying the t-shirt yet but I’m curious, what would Dr. Gangemi say about the tightness in my heel? Maybe I should just stop listening to so many podcasts 🙂