Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Stretching a point

I was gratified to see that the media is starting to report the results of a scientific study which claims that stretching before a run has no positive (or, for that matter, negative effect) on the prevalence of injuries. I already mentioned some time ago, in a review I did of the book "The Runner's Body", the most convincing reason I have seen for not stretching: that, if you subscribe to the school of stretching, the one single adaption that the body makes in response to running that is detrimental, is that the tendons become stiffer. I prefer to believe in the wisdom of evolution. I'd be interested to see someone take the study one step further and to study the impact of stretching on performance. Apart from being boring and annoying, stretching has always seemed to me to be a kind of barbaric thing to do to your muscles, especially when they are either cold or just after exercising. Anecdotally, I have had no injuries since I completely stopped stretching (touch wood!) and I also feel that my running is "stiffer" and more springy (whether as a result of not stretching, it's impossible to say). Personally, I believe that the emphasis should be on warming up and warming down and, once you are sure that you are doing that properly, think about including some stretching. The new trend towards dynamic stretching seems to back up this idea, whereby the stretches are performed as part of a warm up routine.

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