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.