Are You About to Hit the Road? These Stretching Habits Could Slow You Down!

Always stretch before you run—you've heard it a thousand times. While the advice makes intuitive sense, you might be shocked to learn there's no research to support this wisdom.

To get the most out of your run, you need to be efficient. Imagine how far you could get—or how fast—if you waved your arms over your head while pounding the pavement. Wrong kind of stretches can undermine one measure of your efficiency—or "running economy:" How well your muscles use oxygen during a jog. Researchers discovered that certain moves actually make you a less efficient runner.

Here are 3 fundamental stretching mistakes you might be making:

You perform "static" stretches before running

Bend at the waist, come as close to touching your toes as possible, and hold the position for 30 seconds. That's a static stretch, and it can hamper your performance. In many ways, your muscle tendons are like rubber bands. The shorter and less flexible they are, the faster they snap back. In distance running, tighter hamstring tendons that snap back with less effort required on your part, allowing you to conserve oxygen and energy. Static stretching lengthens those muscles and leads to an inefficient stride.

You skip "dynamic" warm-up movements

Dynamic moves such as lunges, high-knee walking, and hip lifts are excellent for preparing your body to run. These full-body movements "activate" your muscles without harming running economy the way static stretching does because they warm up without being overstretched.

You lack hip and knee flexibility

Stiff hamstrings may help your running economy, but tight hips and limited knee flexibility can equal less efficiency for distance runners. When your hips are tight, they can throw off your alignment and impede your ability to get a good push-off during your running stride. Inflexible knees will add resistance to every step, and your running economy will suffer. Try something like the rear-foot-elevated quad stretch—just don't perform it within 30 minutes of a run. Try doing the move at least 3 times a week.

Source: Prevention

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