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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

To stretch or not to stretch?

Recently there were some articles in the media about stretching before exercising. This follows yet another recent study by USATF. Naturally, there were some discussions on this in the forum as well.

I shall now throw in my 2 cents worth. Traditionally, runners have always been advised to stretch before a run. I remembered when I first joined the Running Lab Thursday Night Run, we will kick off every session with a close to 15 minutes of stretching conducted by a qualified trainer. Ditto, the I-Run in its early days before the Fatbird took over.

Some time later, after studies came out that proclaimed stretching on ‘cold body’ before exercises can cause muscle tear, the idea became not to stretch but to do warm up. However, many people do not think that they need to warm up. Statements such as “my first 10 minutes of the run is the warm up”; “I run so slowly, there is no need to warm up” were thrown about frequently.

A while ago, I attended a Nike Trial session and this young man, Ben Pulham from Racers’ Toolbox took us through an interesting pre-run routine. We were kicking our legs up and down, sideway and generally looking like a monkey who has lost its balance! Upon further research, what he took us through was the latest in pre-running routine: dynamic warmups. Read more about it here. So now those of you who are in the RL TNR knows – the monkeying around we do before our run has a name:)

So exactly which is the correct routine before run? Personally I subscribe to the idea that there is no need to do a warm up if the objective is just a jog or a slow run. And if the run is at the end of the day, because our body is generally warm up by the end of the day, there is no harm in doing some static stretches before a run. If however the run is early in the morning when the weather is cooler and the body is still in half asleep/half awake mode, a static stretch is a big no no. But generally what I do is a combination of everything (kiasu people are like that), jump around a bit, kick the leg up and down a bit (dynamic warm up), and when there is a thin layer of perspiration on the body, some static stretches like calf stretch, hamstring stretch, lunges before going off with a slow run or jog as a warm up which is why you will never catch me chionging off at the start of a run.

So there you have it – 3 in one warm up/dynamic warm up and stretch. The answer to all the questions about whether to stretch or not to stretch.

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