When you look online for information about stretches, it gets confusing. Pretty fast, you start to read everything and its opposite. Stretch. Don’t stretch. Before the run. After the run. Both. Only for a few minutes. Or for fifteen.
Where is the evidence?
Performing stretches before running has often been examined as a potential risk for injuries. The truth is, conclusions remain conflicting. Some studies report an increase, some show no associations. But no serious studies have reported a reduction in the number of running injuries with pre-training stretches.
So what should you do?
Stretches have been advocated as a way to prevent injuries for many sports. To this day, it seems that other factors, like your training volume, load, or running technique may have a bigger impact on the injury rate, compared to stretches. Knowing and understanding your anatomical and biomechanical limits is key. Determine your current state of training, strength, and flexibility of specific tissues and muscles to define a baseline to work from. Our team at Hong Kong Sports Clinic can help you with this.
Stretch if this makes you feel good. The evidence is not really there to prevent you from doing it. Our advice would be to stick to dynamic stretches before the run, and static stretches after. Because studies have shown that static stretches decrease the resistance of the tissues for 90-120 minutes after stretching, it is safer to save these for after the effort.