I see that sheepish look all the time from my runner patients when they tell me, "I definitely don't stretch enough..." Let's take a step back for a moment and ask the question, do runners really need to stretch?
First off, does stretching even do what we think it does? Does stretching make our muscle tissue longer?
- Short term stretching, like reaching for your toes for a minute or two, DOES NOT make our muscle tissue longer. It simply increases our tolerance to stretch. These changes are temporary.
- Long term stretching, like years and years of yoga, can make our muscle tissue slightly longer.
Is this something runners need to be concerned with, however? The typical distance runner's stride is fairly compact, and does not require a lot of range of motion from the involved muscles or joints. Additionally, runners benefit more from having muscles that resemble short springs as apposed to long, wet noodles.
Instead of aimlessly stretching before and after you run, have a plan.
Before You Run:
- You simply want to make your muscles warm. You can do this with an easy spin on a bike or a light jog. Follow this up with some dynamic warm-up drills like leg swings.
After You Run:
- Replicate the dynamic drills you did before your run.
Do I Give My Patients Stretches?
I do give many of my runner patients stretches to do, but they typically have some dynamic component. Dynamic mobility drills will give you the best bang for your buck. They involve the nervous system more than your typical static stretches, thus ensuring more lasting results.
Do runners need to stretch? No.
Can targeted, individualized, dynamic mobility drills be beneficial for runners? YES! You can check out our YouTube channel for mobility drill ideas, or schedule an appointment with Dr. Sankey for a personalized plan.