Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Reality of Stretching

Tuesday night marathon clinic at the Running Room started with a discussion on stretching. This is a subject guaranteed to get yours truly really going, having endured more than my fair share of injuries and lengthy post-injury rehab programs, including coming back from back surgery.

First off, I stretch just about every day. But I do it at a set time, in the morning, and it is completely seperate from the set of exercises I also do on a regular basis to maintain my core strength.

I happen to think that the best way to prevent running injuries is to do a warm-up that ramps up your pace for at least 5 to 10 minutes, and when finishing a work out, to ramp down for a similar period of time. And I try to never increase my speed or disdtance by more than ten percent in any given week. Hence, my passionate advocacy of training with a heart rate monitor. A heart rate monitor is a sensible best friend on your wrist.

Here are a couple of interesting links -

A recent study of 1500 participants in the Honolulu Marathon actually linked the pre workout stretching with a higher risk of injuries, particularly in white males. The warm up for your run should be 5-10 minutes of walking or slow jogging. If something feels tight, you might stop to stretch that area. After the workout, which should include a 5-10 minute cool down period of the same gentle exercise as warm up, is a good time for a short stretching routine. Do not stretch immediately after a long run or strenuous workout when your muscles are apt to be fatigued and dehydrated. Rehydrate and rest before stretching. The best time is to set aside a separate period 3-5 times per week for a complete stretching routine of the exercises shown below which should take about 20 minutes. Many runners find a gentle stretching routine done before bedtime a relaxing habit.

For many athletes it is axiomatic that stretching before or after exercise reduces subsequent muscle soreness, cuts injury risk and may even improve their performance. But are they deluding themselves?

The answer, according to Australian physiotherapists Rob Herberts and Michael Gabriel, is ‘probably yes’. The pair, based at Sydney University, carried out a systematic review of relevant good-quality literature on the impact of stretching in order to produce the most reliable estimate of benefit, and their results were published recently in the British Medical Journal.

And the workout? Did 6K in about 30 minutes. Doing my MAX VO2 this week, so I didn't go out too hard. Average heart rate was 158 and never got above 162.


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