Should runners stretch before or after a run?

Stretching for runners

When should a runner stretch? One school of thought suggests stretching beforehand prepares the body for a run and protects it from the harshness of a run, while the other camp believes stretching offers little benefit and can actually cause injury. So who's right? Here's your guide to stretching:

Not to sit on the fence, but it seems that both camps are right to a point. Stretching, when done properly, can decrease the chances of a running injury, provided that it is performed correctly. Incorrectly performed stretches will increase your chances of an injury.

The benefits of stretching

The importance of stretching to any training programme cannot be overstressed. Stretching reduces the risk of injury to the muscles, joints and tendons, and can improve your all-round performance. Care should be taken when stretching – if you stretch too quickly the muscle can contract and increase tension. Never stretch an entirely cold muscle – only stretch after a warm up. Muscles should always be stretched slowly and the stretch should be held for approximately 30 seconds, this way the muscle tension falls and the muscle can be stretched further.

man stretching beach

Stretching no nos

When stretching don't 'bounce' the muscle. It's a common mistake but bouncing up and down in a stretch can pull or tear the muscle you're trying to ease. Don't stretch if you feel tightness in the muscle or if you feel any pain or discomfort.

Stretching should form part of each and every training session, both before and after, your run. The benefits from stretching correctly can only improve your performance and reduce your chances of picking up a running injury.

Comments (2)

  • TonySmith2 'This is one debates that you frequently come across - whether to stretch before running. I tend to take the approach that it may be worth doing some stretches only after you've done a warm-up of say perhaps five minutes of light running.'

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  • Chris_Whitehead 'I know far too many people who don't bother stretching and then wonder why over time they get all sorts of injuries as their muscles gradually tighten up. Stretching is good not only for runners, but for everyone, especially as you get older.'

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