To Stretch or not to Stretch… That is the Question

Feel the burn.  That sensation that runs down the back of your hamstring as you stretch out your muscles before a run.

Head to knee. 90 degree angles. standing. sitting. balancing.  Stretching brings an awareness to your muscles- it feels like your muscles are acknowledging your hard work and then thanking you for stretching them out. Stretching has become part and parcel with my workout routine- which is why it took me by surprise when my bestie said, stretching isn’t good for you.

She swore up and down that a trainer in her gym is big into the don’t stretch movement. Movement?!  I didn’t even know this existed.

This catastrophic moment sort of felt like the time I was told Pluto wasn’t a planet…

You mean, abandon an essential part of my practice? How can I just give up all that I thought to be true.

As a perpetual student I decided that finding the answer to this question was not as simple as putting faith into some trainer at Danielle’s gym. It was of no offense to her, but who is this trainer… and what does he know?

I read articles. Note the (s) – that was a plural.  I read multiple articles that all concurred with this stranger who flipped my workout understanding on its face.

This article (Click: Reasons not to Stretch), for those of you that are not too lazy to read a blog, but are too lazy to read the New York Times, is not saying do nothing before you workout.  However, it is making a few interesting points based on recent studies that I chose to select as “bold statements”: 

  • if you stretch before you lift weights, you may find yourself feeling weaker and wobblier than you expect during your workout
  • pre-exercise stretching is generally unnecessary and likely counterproductive
  • A better choice…is to warm-up dynamically, by moving the muscles that will be called upon in your workout. Jumping jacks and toy-soldier-like high leg kicks, for instance, prepare muscles for additional exercise better than stretching. As an unscientific side benefit, they can also be fun.

According to the research that has been done, they don’t totally understand why stretching hinders performance, but many are agreeing it does.

Clearly, I had to try this new approach out- I’m also fairly lazy and have no problem reducing my stretch time. Since discovering this new way of thinking I decided to make myself a human guinea pig.  Starting last Sunday I have not stretched before running. The results are in.

10/6: 2.03 mi

10/7: yoga

10/8: off 

10/9: yoga

10/10: 1.75 mi

10/11: 3.31mi

10/12: 3.12 mi

10/13: 2.02

Making for a total of 12.22 miles of ZERO STRETCHING BEFORE RUNNING.

How do I feel?

I thought that after my first day of no stretching pre-run that I would be the most sore, especially since I took a solid 3 days off from running, but I felt exactly the same. I actually enjoyed feeling my joints loosen up as the run progressed.  In fact, every day this week I actually had great running sessions. On 10/11 I got out there and ran the most I have ever run without stopping- I felt amazing. I did it again the next day. The soreness set in by yesterday, but it wasn’t from not stretching- it was from pushing myself. I got out there again yesterday morning and did a solid two mile run and felt fine. This morning I said I was taking the day off- I was feeling it in my calves.  Now it’s 11 a.m. and I’m getting the itch to go- It’s only two miles.  

Maybe it’s because I incorporate hot yoga into my routine a minimum of two days per week, but I feel wonderful. I don’t know if I agree entirely that stretching isn’t an important part of working out, but it’s definitely an interesting perspective. I also believe many people do not know how to stretch properly- I was doing it wrong for years. By stretching the wrong way you can actually do more damage to your body. Post work out I also made it a point to stretch out my muscles.

On a final note- I am not a trainer, I have zero real knowledge of the body, I just like to read. So, my point is-

don’t take my advice, but feel free to read as I take my own. 

Happy stretching (or not) guys!

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One thought on “To Stretch or not to Stretch… That is the Question

  1. Pingback: New Routine. | Live Life; Be Mary

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