To Stretch or Not To Stretch?
With the gyms and any exercise/ classes studios being closed many of us may be tempted to take on running. Regardless of whether one has done it before or not, there are some questions that arise before hitting the pavements. One of the main ones is ‘ to stretch, or not to stretch’ before running. Even though this question may not be of the same existential value like the famous ‘to be, or not to be’, it definitely presents importance to the interested individuals. Everyone wants to be injury free, right?
For years there was a quite popular opinion that we must stretch before running. Stretching was also seen mainly as passive exercise in which a person was expected to hold a pose challenging their range of motion for an amount of time. Some level of discomfort normally would be also associated with that activity.
However, times changed and there has been numerous studies on stretching and mobility which lead to new concepts emerging. One of them is dynamic stretching. It is a type of stretching that features repetitive movement in which the joint is taken to the end of range of motion but does not stay there for a period of time. The best way to describe it is: hamstring stretch vs leg swing.
The argument of whether to stretch pre or post running or any other workout goes then hand in hand with which type of stretching to use: dynamic or static as the difference between these two is quite substantial.
Recent studies have shown that dynamic stretching combined with warm up brings the best benefits for runners and participants in other sports. At the same time static stretching is linked to reduced power of the muscles and despite the common (and bit old fashioned opinion) it does not prevent injuries. Therefore it is better to be used after work out.
Now, if the idea of dynamic stretching is not something that you fancy doing before your run, another option is a foam roller. Foam rolling can be performed pre- and post work out. It stimulates the blood flow to the massaged areas and improves tissue elasticity. It also helps to speed up recovery if used post workout again, by increasing flow of the oxygenated blood to the muscles. This is also one of the reasons why many athletes have sports massages, as it helps with muscle recovery.
In conclusion, before you tie your laces and hit the pavement, do some warm up and dynamic mobility exercises and leave the static stretches for later or just simply grab the foam roller and start rolling pre and post your workout. Your body will thank you for that.