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Runner Therapy: Reader Q&A, Stretching Before Running

Posted Mar 25 2010 12:00am

iRunnerBlog has been sent multiple emails, comments and tweets with your questions for Runner Therapy.  We will try our best to answer all of them for you over the coming days.  The following question was submitted by a reader via Twitter:

The Question: They say its bad to stretch before running, but I find that I get hip pain if I don’t. Is it really that bad?

Runner Therapy Says: Looks like you have answered your own question! Congratulations, you have common sense! First of all, if something feels better when you do it, I would be hard-pressed to say you were wrong even if you were! (You’re not here).

Yes, the latest ‘trend’ is research designed to worry you about stretching before a run, or even stretching at all! Remember, research is not necessarily fact, often biased, and often designed to help a person get published and have their name out there. There isn’t much we haven’t tested in sports, so now folks are looking at ‘tried and true’ methods such as stretching, to try to find an ‘angle’ much as journalists searching for a story.

So use my general rule: stretching BEFORE a run helps the muscles function better DURING that run. Stretching AFTER a run helps the muscle function better on your NEXT run. So do both! Especially if you have a known injury or achilles heel. Just remember to not stretch ‘cold’, as in after sitting on the couch or your work desk. It doesn’t take much…walk a few minutes, even if its around the house. Your muscles are plenty warm from simple movement. No need to bust out a hot pack…save it for your grandma. Active warm-up beats passive any day of the week as it generates tons more heat to the soft tissues. Just 30 seconds of a light, easy, static stretch without bouncing or holding your breath. Don’t yank it so hard or it will want to yank back. Think yoga. You are looking for release and more movement, not stress to the muscle. Then repeat.

Your research is better than anything scientific you read! Trust it!

Run smart. Use your brain, too.

(Marisa, MS PT SCS ATC, is a physical therapist in private practice in midtown NYC.  She is now one of only a dozen or so therapists to be board certified in sports.)

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