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Pre-Run Stretch Hampers Endurance

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Here’s another entry in a growing list of studies that suggest that pre-exercise static stretching may hamper athletic performance. This current study, published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2010; 24 [9], 2274–79), included 10 male collegiate athletes who participated in a 60-minute treadmill run on two occasions. One run took place after 16 minutes of static stretching of the major lower-body muscles; before the other run, participants simply sat quietly for 16 minutes. Subjects were then instructed to run for as long as possible without any knowledge of distance or speed. The study authors found that “performance was significantly greater in the nonstretching vs. the stretching condition, with significantly greater energy expenditure during the stretching compared with the nonstretching condition.”

Why does pre-run stretching hinder performance? “When you stretch prior to exercise (or you’re not warmed up), you stimulate the ‘protective mechanisms’ within the muscle,” states Jason Siegler, PhD, ATC, FACSM, professor in the department of sport, health and exercise science at the University of Hull in England. “Depending on the level of the stretch, you override the [muscle] spindles and probably also inhibit some of the afferent neural pathways to the brain.”

In lieu of static stretching, IDEA member, personal trainer and running coach Meghan Kennihan of Chicago suggests incorporating dynamic stretching techniques into a pre-run routine. “With dynamic stretching you combine the stretch and warm-up.” Kennihan suggests the following sample exercises to help your clients prep for the long run:

  • walking lunge
  • high-knee running
  • butt kickers
  • carioca/side shuffle
  • straight-leg march
Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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