STRETCHING RITUALS GET NEW RESPECT. It was gratifying to read Robert Roy Britt's article on the Elemental page of Medium.com, “The New Bottom Line on Stretching and Exercise”. The subtitle also attracted my attention, indicating that if performed correctly, it can be beneficial.
Pre-competition or -speed workout stretching, especially static, has been discouraged because research had shown the practice can hurt performance. Dynamic stretching seems to have enjoyed a better reputation. However, Britt’s article’s title suggests expert’s thinking on the subject is changing. His piece begins with an opinion of one expert, David Behm, who testifies to stretching’s personal value to him over the course of many years of high-level sport participation.
Behm indicates that stretching, as an everyday-without-fail routine, is an activity intended to preserve or increase range of motion and overall to decrease the chances of injury in the enjoyment of various physical activities.
Additional experts quoted in Britt's article weigh-in on other aspects of stretching, like the acute/short term effects when done as preparation for athletic activity (warm-up, static then dynamic stretching, and finally sport-specific movements) that can prevent injury, and the long-term effects which can lead to increased range-of-motion and improved balance even in inactive people.
What Britt has written explains why my daily static stretching and dynamic mobility (myrtl’s) routines, which now take as long to get through as a 3 to 4-mile run did years ago, are so valuable to my continued participation in exercise and recreational sport, and overall to moving freely and feeling great.
His article distinguishes between maintenance stretching for musculo-skeletal health and pre-performance stretching in preparation for intense training and competition. That’s what I ‘m reading into it, anyway, possibly because of a secret belief that all the time and effort I put into it each day benefits more than just my fitness life. That this ritual will allow me to retain qualities of posture and movement that signal a younger rather than an aging physiology. Not a map to the fountain of youth but the map’s key?
Matt Fitzgerald, in an article for PodiumRunner.com, agrees that attention should be paid every day to maintaining and improving flexibility for runners. Fitzgerald argues that if physical therapists repeatedly prescribe stretching to help athletes rehabilitate from injuries. “it only stands to reason that it can also prevent many cases of these same injuries”, or at a minimum the re-occurrence of injury.
Exactly! The stretch and mobility routines I now perform daily were originally were prescribed to me by physical therapists or trainers as part of rehab sessions that also included strength and balance exercises. Fitzgerald’s advice is to stretch specific muscles (hamstrings, calves, and hip flexors), tendons (Achilles) and the ilio-tibial band, all known to be tight in runners, daily.
Check out both articles if you think you feel better after stretching and have wondered why trainers, in the recent past, have argued against it. The information is refreshing in my opinion. It provides permission to concentrate on stretching as a singular goal or for easing into other exercise, even when the purpose is not to prepare for a performance workout or competitive event. Behm provides a general guide for pre-performance stretching. Fitzgerald offers specific moves for both static and dynamic sessions.
Stretching done properly can benefit health and performance it seems, both in the short term and long term. When searching for stretching advice, it seems that an updated approach, which may involve old-school moves, could be most helpful.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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