How to Run Faster

Stretching and Running

There are two types of stretching, static and dynamic.

Static stretching is the stuff like yoga exercises where you hold a stretching position for a period of time and relax, then do it again.

Its purpose is the lengthen your muscles and it allows you a freer and greater range of movement.

Dynamic stretching implies movement. These are exercises like high kicks and high knee lift running drills.

They are done to help warm up your muscles  and to loosen up. As you are only moving slightly beyond your normal range of movement and you are in a dynamic state, you are not likely to overstretch and do serious damage.

Much of the discussion I have read about the detrimental effects of stretching has partly been caused by confusing the two types and when to do them.

When I was young, we warmed up by doing static stretching followed by dynamic stretching exercises.

Now it seems that research has shown that static stretching exercises reduce your performance at maximum effort.

In summary, if you are running 100m races, or need fast accelerations for short distances, static stretching beforehand may well reduce your performance slightly.

For those of us who go out for a few miles to keep fit, it is not a problem.

But, if you want to do it properly, you should only do dynamic stretching before you run; swinging your legs and arms, striders and drills, and save the static stretching for afterwards when it palys a role in helping you to cool down after your run.

I was warned, when younger, that doing stretching after weight training was a bad idea because the exercises weaken your muscles and so there is a danger of over-stretching.

I have read recently that static stretching after training, especially using a partner, is useful to lengthen your muscles resulting in fewer injuries from over-stretching during your run.

This seems somewhat contradictory.

You need to carefully balance the two; dynamic stretching before you go out to get you warmed up, static stretching after training to lengthen your shortening muscles (see shin splints article), but do it with care so you do not over-stretch.

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