Just a couple of days ago, I joined Jojo’s evening session at Ultra track. I noticed a big group of runners doing some static stretching (holding the muscle in an elongated, fixed position for 30 seconds or more – runnersworld.com) before their workout, while we did dynamic stretching (quick-paced movements like single-leg swings, moving lunges, high knees, etc. to help fire up the muscles that you want to perform – runningtimes.com) before ours.
We were well into our main workout set when I noticed that the big group had just finished their routine and were just beginning their warm-up jog. They had probably done close to 30 minutes worth of static stretches and floor exercises! I wanted to approach them and say, “Noooooo! Nooooo, you just wasted a huge chunk of your precious time! I know a more effective and more efficient way of warming up! Let me show youuuu!” I wonder what would have happened if I did that. Haha. Would probably be crowned Biggest Epal, or nicknamed Epal Runner. Hahaha.
So I decided to just blog about it! And since I’ve gotten a lot of messages over the past few months from newbie runners asking for tips and advice, this post is dedicated to all of you who “like” our page and read our blogs! Hope you learn something new!
Why should we NOT do Static Stretching BEFORE a run?
- Static stretching activates a protective neuromuscular reflex that tries to prevent muscles from being overstretched. The muscles become inhibited by the brain after static stretching and cannot contract as forcefully and efficiently as normal. (running.competitor.com)
- Licensed athletic trainer and director of sports performance for St. Vincent Hospital of Indianapolis, Ralph Reiff, has worked with collegiate and elite runners for many years. He explains that “static stretching causes an inhibition or a breakdown of the excitability of the muscle tissue.” The immediate effects from static stretching actually include decreased muscle function.
- Reiff also says, “To get a good static stretch you are asking the body on a subconscious level to relax. From a muscle-recruitment standpoint, you don’t want to turn the muscles off in a relaxed state prior to asking them to perform. The elastic energy of a tighter muscle is going to have more recoil and power than a heavily stretched muscle.
- Research shows that pre-run static stretching causes flexibility in the muscle that may actually lessen your running economy, which is a measure of your overall efficiency.
- A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2009 enlisted male and female collegiate distance runners to complete sit-and-reach tests to measure flexibility, and then put them on a treadmill to determine running economy. The result: An increase in hamstring flexibility generally correlated with a decrease in running economy. According to the researchers, “the less flexible distance runners tended to be more economical, possibly as a result of the energy-efficient function of the elastic components in the muscles and tendons during the stretch-shortening cycle.” (runningtimes.com)
- In running, efficiency depends on stiffness in the leg as the foot makes contact with the ground. Key muscles and joints must be tight enough to absorb energy from the ground and use it to spring forward. Static stretching has been shown to reduce leg stiffness during running and thereby spoil running economy. (running.competitor.com)
- Another study’s results suggest that “stretching before an endurance event may lower endurance performance and increase the energy cost of running.” (medicalnewstoday.com)
Why should we do Dynamic Stretching BEFORE Training and Racing Instead?
- Reiff describes dynamic stretching as a way to stimulate the neurological system, which in turn activates the muscles. This makes the muscles more resilient to external stimulus, which leads to a quicker neurological response, “so the muscle is standing ready when called upon to run faster, jump higher, and do what the athlete wants it to do.”
- Dynamic stretching can assist in bettering performance, while simultaneously reducing injuries. (runningtimes.com)
DYNAMIC STRETCHING ROUTINE
I usually just do leg-swings, a warm-up jog (5-10 minutes), some striders (4-6x of 50-100m quicker paced running) and some high knees & butt kicks and I’m good to go for a track workout or a run race. For an easy run, I just do front and back leg swings (20 each leg) and side to side leg swings (20 each leg as well) and start running.
Side to Side Leg Swings (menshealth.com)
Front and Back Leg Swings (menshealth.com)
To implement a dynamic warm-up routine, Reiff suggests choosing a set of exercises you will remain committed to and practice before every run and race. The routine below can be done in 10 minutes. (runningtimes.com)
|1) REVERSE LUNGE WITH TWISTTake an exaggerated step backwards with the right leg. Go into the lunge position, twist your torso to the left, and reach for your right heel with your left hand. Come back to lunge posit ion, stand up, and step back with the left leg to repeat on the other side. Continue for 50 meters.|
|2) KNEE CRADLEStanding, lift your left leg with the knee facing outwards. Use your hands to cradle the leg at the knee and ankle; avoid pulling on the foot. Simultaneously rise to your toes on your right foot before releasing your left leg, stepping forward, and repeating on the other side. Continue for 50 meters.|
|3) STRAIGHT LEG MARCHMarch forward and swing your leg straight in front of you with each step. Attempt to touch your foot with the opposite hand upon each swing. Continue for 50 meters.|
|4) BUTT KICKSAs you run, bend your knee and bring your heel back to your butt with each step. Steps should be short and rapid as you focus on the frequency of the butt kicks, rather than the pace at which you move forward. Drive your arms forward with each step. Continue for 50 meters.|
|5) HIGH KNEESRunning on the balls of your feet, bring you r knees up as high as possible with each step. As with butt kicks, pay attention to frequency rather than pace. Steps should be small and quick. Drive your opposite arm forward as each knee comes up. Continue for 50 meters.|
|6) CARIOCAWith your shoulder s square and facing one direction, get into a semi-squatting position. Cross your left leg in front of your right leg, bring your right leg through, and then cross your left leg behind your right leg. Go 50 meters one way, continue facing the same direction, and go back.|
|7) SCORPIONLying face down with your chest on the ground, pull your left leg up and across the right leg to the opposite side of your body. Switch sides continuously until you have performed the stretch 10 times on each side.|
Good luck and see you at the races!!!