For years, running podiatrists like myself have told you to stretch before and after you train. We’ve told you that it can help protect you from running injuries. But, as it turns out, we may have been wrong. Just take a look at what some new research suggests about the benefits of stretching.
Study Negates the Injury Prevention Benefits of Stretching
According to research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, stretching doesn’t lower your risk of running injuries (although it may help keep your joints loose). And it doesn’t help improve your training performance. At least, static stretching doesn’t.
Static stretching is the kind of stretching where you stand in one spot and reach for your toes or tug at your hammies. And, according to these researchers, it’s fairly worthless. But an active warm-up, on the other hand, where you slowly and gently ease your body into movement? That can yield all the stretching benefits you’ve been hearing about for years.
According to study author James Alexander of La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, “Runners have certain beliefs around running injury risks, injury prevention and performance that are in contrast to current research evidence. These beliefs drive runners to continue to pursue ineffective or non-optimal strategies… whether through static stretching for injury prevention or low-load strength training for performance.”
He’d much rather see runners focus on training moves, like active warm-ups, that can actually improve their training and reduce their risks of injuries. That’s why he and some of his colleagues a series of five “Running Myth” infographics that they will be publishing over the next few months.
Their focus on static stretching, the third installment in their series, suggests that the only benefit of static stretching is an improvement in your joint’s range of motion, or to help you relax after a run. If you want a better injury-prevention routine now, don’t worry. Alexander (and me) have you covered. All you have to do is keep reading.
Active Warm-Ups to Prevent Running Injuries
One of the main causes of running injuries is the stress the sport puts on your joints, tendons and muscles. That’s why so many runners develop problems like joint pain, shin splints, plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis.
To help prepare your body for the stress of a run, this is what your training session should look like: 1. Start with an active warm-up, walking or lightly jogging for 5-10 minutes. You could also incorporate dynamic stretching drills, like walking lunges, which can help move your joints through their full range of motion. This is particularly important if you’re going to be running at a quick pace.
2. Cap off your warm-up with three short speed bursts. Run for about 100 meters at your intended running pace.
3. Set off for your actual run, gently getting your body up to your goal speed.
Want to learn more about the way your body responds to runs? Come and see me for a comprehensive gait analysis. Together, we can come up with an individualized training plan to give you the best odds of staying injury-free.