I recently reported that I signed up to be included in a USATF sponsored Stretch Study, which is looking at a broad cross section of regular runners to determine if stretching before running (and warming up) helps prevent or causes injuries. A recent New York Times article actually looks into some of the current research around athletes and stretching and comes up with a conclusive answer that isn’t very conclusive!
That doesn’t make any sense does it? Well it seems that the body of current research is very mixed about the importance of stretching and is actually beginning to lean towards the idea that stretching doesn’t actually help an athlete perform better. But when the reporter asked the various researchers if they stretched or not – all of them did!
It has been bantered about in the running community for awhile and more people are beginning to shy away from so called “static stretching” where you hold a stretch for 10 seconds and leaning towards something called “active or dynamic stretching” where you take you muscles through a range of motion and hold any one position for at most 3 seconds.
If your goal is to prevent injury, Dr. Gilchrist said, stretching does not seem to be enough. Warming up, though, can help. If you start out by moving through a range of motions that you’ll use during activity, you are less likely to be injured.
Runners often think that flexibility is important, even to the point of spending hours stretching and doing yoga. One quoted study actually found that…
…distance runners do not benefit from being flexible, he found. The most efficient runners, those who exerted the least effort to maintain a pace, were the stiffest.
A private practice orthopediest went so far to say “If stretching was a drug, it would be recalled,” Dr. Kenny said. He claims that stretching actually weakens performance and increases risk of injury.
So what does all of this really mean? Who knows! I think as with much in this life moderation is the key. If you spend lots of time focusing on stretching – it might be better spent somewhere else. You need to find what works best for your body but the extremes probably don’t work for anyone!
Do you stretch? When do you stretch? Take the poll (on the right) and let us know!
[tags] Stretching, Stretch, Training, Research, Running [/tags]