by Khaled Allen

In the book Born to Run, the author, Christopher McDougall, refers to the world’s greatest ultra-runners, the Mexican Indian tribe known as the Tarahumara, as great athletes–not as great runners. Far from simply being good at covering ground, the Tarahumara are described as agile, strong, and well-coordinated. They manage to be all these things while still maintaining the ability to run hundreds of miles non-stop. Basically, they have the superhuman endurance of running specialists, without incurring the usual penalties of doing so.

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Photo Credit: Tobyotter on Flickr

by Khaled Allen

When I was running cross country in high school, we always began each practice session by stretching to avoid injury, and after we were done, we’d stretch again. We did this presumably to prevent injury, but despite the fact that I was the most flexible person on the team, I was injured most of my senior year. Nevertheless, I continued to stretch because I felt knotted and stiff when I didn’t.

A few years later, a number of studies came out suggesting that stretching wasn’t helpful to distance runners at all. According to some researchers, distance runners actually don’t need to be flexible. Some cite studies that prove stretching doesn’t prevent injury, and may actually make it more likely. Some say stretch only if you need to get more flexible.

The points against stretching are pretty harsh. According to a study published on the Gatorade Sports Science Institute website, stretching before exercise may cause temporary strength deficits, doesn’t prevent injury, and doesn’t improve exercise performance. The study did find that passive stretching, done away from the exercise environment, may improve flexibility, but the study also claimed that increased flexibility was detrimental to runners.

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