When to Stretch

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I am new to running; only started in March ’09. The advice I get at my running club does not always match what I read in running magazines or online. One example of this is in regards to stretching. Should I stretch before or after running, or both? It seems that everyone at least agrees that one should stretch once the muscles are warm, be that after warming up or after the run. But if I do stretches before my run, how long should I warm up for?
* Danie Steyn


ANSWER
There is always a lot of debate around stretching. Most scientifi c evidence seems to support stretching before exercise, as well as a warm up session before stretching, e.g. cycling, light jogging, etc.
Unfortunately, the majority of road runners are amateur athletes and their commitments to work and family do not allow them the luxury of a warm up before training. Most of us just manage to arrive at our runs and do not have time to spare at either side of sessions. After many years of treating runners, I have learned that the ideal is not always possible and that stretching when it is convenient is better than not
stretching at all.


I should stress though, that stretching should be gradual and at no time should it produce pain. Painful stretching could result in micro-damage to muscles and end up doing more harm than good. For this reason, I also advise stretching the day before a big event rather than on the day, when there is a chance of overstretching cold muscles.


It is also important to note that most road runners start each run at a gentle pace, unlike sprinters or athletes whose sports demand sudden bursts of speed. This allows the muscles time to warm up before the pace increases and reduces the risk of muscle injury. Bearing this in mind, it is therefore important to
try warming up and stretching before starting a speed session or time trial.




Toni Hesp – Modern Athlete Expert


Qualifications:
BSc Physio (hon)
BSc (Med) Sports Science (hon)

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