Should you stretch before running? - Flawless
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Should you stretch before running?

In our clinic, it’s common that we hear phrases such as, “Should I be stretching before running?” or “I don’t understand, why have I injured myself again? I do my stretches regularly before every run!” These are very common questions we get in the clinic from runners.

If you have been wondering about the same questions, look no further. In this article, you will find the answer to “Should you stretch before you run?”

Do you “really” need to be that flexible for running?

The need for an incredible amount of flexibility for a runner is questionable. There are exceptions, such as, people may demonstrate an impaired ankle range of motion as a result of injury, which should be addressed. However, in broad terms, we could say that general calf and hamstring tightness maybe just a sign of a weak or tired muscle rather than a muscle that needs to be stretched.

Stiffness can be beneficial

It may sound counter-intuitive at first, we get that, but feeling “stiff” may actually play to your advantage in running. You should think about your legs working more or less like springs: you want your legs to behave like stiff and bouncy springs in order to move you forward efficiently during running. Conversely, an excessively flexible spring will make your move in a far less efficient way.

Static stretching before a run reduces performance!

This might be a useful take-home message if you are a runner with ambitions to have a good result in your next 10k race. There is evidence to suggest that a period of static stretching before a run, hampers performance and reduces running efficiency. The reason for this is that static stretching can reduce muscle and tendon stiffness. Before you race, dynamic stretching and a dynamic warm-up with some plyometric exercises may actually be all that you need!

Does stretching reduce my chances of getting injured?

A runner needs to be relatively stiff to run efficiently. If anything, long periods of stretching before a run may reduce that tissue stiffness, with the result of increasing the load and effort demanded of our muscles and tendons. If this is done frequently over time, it could lead to an overuse problem such as tendinopathy or shin splints.

What should I do before a run then?

A quick dynamic warm-up to increase your heart rate will prepare you for the effort you are about to make, especially before a tempo run or a race. Otherwise, if you are planning an easy run, taking the first mile a little bit easier will reduce your risk of injury by increasing the blood flow to your muscles.

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