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Why you shouldn’t static stretch before you run

Fitness shows, running magazines and your old football coach from school have long hailed the virtues of stretching before exercise, so much that it’s become a conventional part of any fitness regime. The most common form of pre-work out stretching is ‘static;’ a form where you pull your body into position, grit your teeth, practice your breathing and hold in place for thirty to sixty seconds. However, over the past few years, numerous studies have be conducted with the results confirming that holding poses for a set period of time is counter-productive to your run; in fact, it reduces your performance, is traumatic on your muscles and makes little difference to preventing injury.  

What happens to my body when I static stretch?
Stretching has long been seen as a way to increase flexibility, loosen and warm the muscles, as if thirty seconds of pain will strengthen them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. When you perform what is known as a traditional stretch, like bending down to touch your toes or raising your leg against the wall and extending, you are essentially extending the imaginary rubber band in your body to its limit. For a workout like running, this is the last form you want your figure to be in. Running is a rigid exercise; your legs are experiencing a repetitive motion the entire time and they need to be strong and elastic-like to do this. By stretching, you are loosening the muscles and their accompanying tendons to the point where they are less able to deal with the large energy load placed on them by running, making them less able to spring into action. This theory is supported by researchers at the University of Zagreb, who analysed 104 studies on the effects of stretching; they concluded that competitive athletes who did static stretching before exercising reduced the strength in their muscles by almost five and a half percent, with muscle power falling even more if the stretch was longer than 90 seconds.

What should I do before my run?
Stretching cold, tight muscles can lead to muscle strains, tears or other injuries, so a better choice would be to warm-up dynamically by moving the muscles that will be used during your run. The idea is to get slowly increase your heart rate and warm the body so that it doesn’t go into shock when you put impact on it by running. Brief sets of jumping jacks, leg kicks, shoulder rolls are light aerobic style workouts that focus on agility will prepare the muscles for running better than stretching will – and they are way more fun.

When should I stretch?
There is a place for stretching in your workout and it’s best done after your run when your muscles are warm and full of oxygen and nutrients. Be careful not to overstretch or move outside of joint friendly positions as there needs to be a balance between flexibility and stability to prevent injuries. If you can, partake in a controlled yoga class once a week to reduce the strain.

So now you know what to do, it’s time to get out there and start a new lease on your running life. But don’t forget the difference a good pair of shoes make, we found that has affordable designs specifically for runners. Most importantly though, have fun!

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