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What Is The Deal With Stretching For Running?

"Running Stretches, Are They Effective And Injury Preventing...And What Is The Best Way"

stretching for runningStretching for running is a much discussed topic. You are in from a run and ready for a shower. But before that, some light running stretches.

Because you have always done so and because it is suppose to be injury preventing and at the same time increase general running economy.

A common question from runners is : should I be stretching after a run ?

I want to tell you a story about this : a few years ago I was in Kenya on one of my regular altitude trainings.

High up in the Rift Valley where most of the great Kenyans do their training.

Right beforehand I had a discussion with one of the experts on stretching in the Olympic team. We disagreed on whether or not I should do stretching in my training or not.

We ended the discussion like this : if the Kenyans are flexible (as he proposed as they looked so smooth in their running), he would help me improve flexibility. If not, I would not get into stretching.

Since then, I have not stretched the normal way a single minute.

See, in Kenya we measured some of the top Kenyan runners in the world. And found out exactly that : they were even more "stiff" and inflexible than the European, American runners.

And I was off the "stretching hook" ;)

In addition to the Kenyan runners fact, studies show that stretching for running does not improve running economy like a normal "argument" is.

So what is the deal with stretching for 5k,10k and marathon runners ?

Should stretching be entirely avoided ?


But the "regular" way can probably be put aside.

This is the deal :

Yes, You Guessed Right : Eccentric Stretching For Runners

Go for eccentric stretching as part of the regular strength training routine

While stretching, the "normal" static way (against the wall) does you not much good - what you want to start doing is something called eccentric training.

So what is eccentric stretching/training ?

With eccentric training, you are putting weight on while moving in the lengthening direction of the tendon/muscle.

As an example, if you want to do this on the achilles :

  • Stand on the stairs.
  • Move up on your toes, with about 2/3 of your feet outside the step and 1/3 inside.
  • Go up on your toes using both feet.
  • Then, if you want to go eccentric training on the right foot, let the left foot leave the step and put all load on the right foot as you slowly move down to the step again.

So, up with both feet. Then put all weight on the one foot as you slowly move down.

You are putting weight on, as you move in a lengthening movement of the muscle/tendon.....

This as oppose to "regular" strength training where you are contracting the muscle only.

I asked one of those involved in the training of Stafano Baldini, the Olympic marathon Champion from 2004 about this. Not to my surprise, he did loads of eccentric training on the hamstrings and other main running muscle groups.

The result ?

One of the least injuries maratoners, with the longest careers and the fastest finishes over the lat 10km on each race ;)

Spend your time doing this - a mix between stretching and strengthening and you will not only run faster, but also prevent injuries to a great extent.

This goes for all tendons/muscle groups. And especially the common musclar parts of Leg Pain Running problems (this is a specific article about leg injuries for those interested...) or even Hip Pain Runners Trouble.

Yes, this goes for hamstrings (can use machines) and quads and the calfs.

To Conclude The Stretching For Runners Topic

Point is, while muscles are hard to lengthen and shorten through regular stretching, when doing eccentric stretches you actually change the structure of the tendons .

That is ; the end points of your main running muscles.

And the last part before their insertion point to bony structures.

Good luck with your eccentric stretching work !

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