Should you stretch as part of your warmup for running?

hamstring-stretch-on-floorShould I Stretch or Should I Go Now?
If I don’t there will be trouble and if I do there could be double,
so come on and let me know…should I stretch or should I go?

The great stretch debate has been going on for several years now with lots of conflicting views leaving the average weekend athlete confused and unsure what to do.  It’s a question I get asked a lot as a physio.

“Should I stretch before or after exercise and what type of stretching should I do”?

This is a quick and simple guide into the benefits of stretching for warming up and cooling down during your half vbhm-sussex-beacon-runner-smmarathon training.  At this point it’s probably worth mentioning that there is no one size fits all plan, every individual is different and because of the conflicting evidence on this subject this post is partly based on research and personal experience as a runner and physio.

A study by Simic et al (2012) concluded that static stretching as a sole activity during a warm up routine should generally be avoided, as it was found to reduce power, strength and explosive performance.  However, the negative effects were only short term and generally returned to normal after 5 to 10 minutes, these negative effects were also unlikely to occur if the stretch was kept under 45 seconds.

Behm et al (2011) documented that dynamic stretching either has no effect on performance or may improve performance especially when the stretching duration is prolonged.  However, the study also went on to say that static stretching used in a separate training session could actually improve range of movement and health.

Confused?  Join the club.

Behm et al concluded that:

“Generally, a warm-up to minimize impairments and enhance performance should be composed of a submaximal intensity aerobic activity followed by large amplitude dynamic stretching and then completed with sport-specific dynamic activities. Sports that necessitate a high degree of static flexibility should use short duration static stretches with lower intensity stretches in a trained population to minimize the possibilities of impairments”.

In other words if you’re doing an activity that uses long drawn out movements such as martial arts or ballet then static stretches may be useful.  However, if you’re a runner then short low intensity aerobic exercise, followed by dynamic stretches and finished off with a few running specific dynamic exercises is likely to be more important.

In my opinion stretching is very much a personal thing, I tend to spend 10 to 15 minutes warming up with a combination of light aerobic work followed by dynamic stretches and sports specific exercises.  When it comes to static stretches this is very much dependent on how much time I’ve already had away from the wife and kids, If I can get away with it I might spend 5 minutes doing short duration (under 45 seconds) static stretches on all the major lower limb muscle groups.

So to conclude you can find lots of conflicting views and counter arguments for all types of stretches, if you want my advice do what feels good for you but don’t spend all your non-running time stretching!  In my opinion a good balance between warm up, running, cool downs and strength work is the winning formula.

James
Sundial’s Physiotherapist

VBHM logoSundial is a partner for the Vitality Brighton Half Marathon on 26th Feb 2017  providing clinical care and advice for sports injuries for the runners. If you have any niggles then give us a call and our physio’s, chiropractors and massage therapists can see you quickly. Running the Vitality Brighton Half Marathon? Call for a free Runners MOT

 

Great stretches for running

Stretching may help reduce injury and improve flexibility in runners. Most runners include stretches in their routine. It is important to prepare your muscles for a run by gently warming up and keep flexible by doing these stretches. These exercises put together by our physio can help stretch the main running muscles.

These stretches should be held for over 30 seconds – don’t rush. Aim to do these exercises once a day although doing them twice a day is three times as beneficial. Stay relaxed and breathe out as you develop the stretch. Develop the stretches gently to avoid overstretching and injuring yourself.

The 3 stretches we recommend for running are: hamstring, hip flexor and calf and here is how to do these.

You can download the stretches for running for free here VBHM stretches

Hamstring stretch

Dynamic hamstring stretch

Sets three each side

Hold 30 to 60 seconds

  • straighten one leg, grabbed the back of your thigh and target your leg towards your chest until you feel a gentle stretch.
  • Bend your leg at the knee slightly coming off the stretch
  • repeat by pushing your heel towards the ceiling
  • alternate your legs

Note: avoid kicking violently or arching your lower back

If it’s shaking your doing it well!

Hip flexor stretch

Hip flexor stretch

Sets three each side

Hold 30 to 60 seconds

  • hands on hips, tuck your tailbone under to flat on your back
  • lean forwards while maintaining a straight posture and keeping your head up
  • avoid arching your low back or letting your hips roll forwards

Note: do it next to a wall if you feel out of balance

Calf stretch

Sets three each sideCalf stretch

Hold 30 to 60 seconds

  • have front toes and knee touching the wall
  • move your foot back a little until you can just about keep your knee against the wall and heel on the floor
  • hold
  • Move the back foot away from the wall to feel a stretch
  • keep back heel on the ground and knee straight as possible
  • hold
  • swap legs

In partnership with the Vitality Brighton Half Marathon

VBHM logo