Great article in Sunday's Tribune, originating from the AP in London. The verdict is in, there is no evidence that stretching before a run is good for you, and, in fact, it could do more harm than good.
For years, people have been surprised that I do little stretching, and none before a run, and despite that have experienced no serious injuries in over 30 years of running. Well, this article supports my behavior and results.
"Most experts agree that this kind of static stretching before workouts is not just counter-productive, but potentially harmful."
In the article, Kieran O'Sullivan, an exercise expert at the University of Limerick in Ireland, says that it does help with flexibility but that the time to stretch is after the activity or "...at the end of the day."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed over a hundred stretching studies and concluded "... people who stretched before exercise were no less likely to suffer injuries."
They suggest emphasizing the warm-up instead, which makes great sense to me. I think it's good, even advisable to 'loosen up,' but not to stretch. The article points out that being tight may be your muscles' way of protecting against injury, and when you do a static stretch before exercise, the muscle may even compensate by contracting, its way of defending against overstretching, which could actually slow you down by keeping you from moving as freely.
Don't get me wrong; I'm all for stretching, carefully, at the appropriate time, and I wish I had done more of it earlier in my career, but I imagine not stretching, ever, before a run, has benefited me.
They say it will probably be a long time before the message trickles down to the masses. I imagine so; many, many people still go with the old adage of "Drink before you're thirsty," even though that was disproved a few years ago, in favor of the much more logical, "Drink when you are thirsty." More people die in marathons from drinking too much, hyponatremia; in fact that's a real problem, but I'll save that for another post.
Here is the stretching article. It is critical for athletes to keep up with the latest research. A good way to do that is to read running magazines, reputable mainstream health and fitness magazines, and listen to podcasts. There is plenty of info out there, and it is constantly changing. Be careful about getting advice from fellow runners; that advice is sometimes outdated. Stand near the starting line of any race twenty minutes before it starts, and you will see people sprawled on the ground, stretching, because, hey, that's what you're supposed to do, right? Those people should all be in the middle of an easy warm-up run at that time.