The importance of stretching for runners.

Wow, I really can’t believe that I just wrote that title. You see, a few years ago, I was firmly in the ‘stretching is for wimps’ camp. And then, having picked up one injury too many, a few years ago I joined the ‘Oh, OK, I’ll stretch, but just for a minute’ camp.

I kept seeing the benefits, and stretching a little longer all the time, until a month ago, I was making sure that before my run I did all of the necessary stretches, holding them for 30 seconds each; then after my run, I had a 1/2 mile walk as a warmdown, followed by another round of good stretches.

The benefits of taking all that time have really been massive over the last few years. I can’t remember the last time I woke up with cramp, and feeling heavy-legged when I’m in marathon training is pretty much a thing of the past too.

And then, a month or so ago, my physio told me that I should be stretching every day, even if just for a couple of minutes, even on days when I have no physical activity planned at all…

Well, obviously, I was horrified at the thought. Stretching is surely the very dullest thing on the planet. Could I really be bothered to do it when I wasn’t even going for a run? Well, for just over a month, I’ve been stretching out as soon as I get up in the morning, as well as last thing at night, 7 days a week.

It’s an easy habit to get into, and there’s something pretty natural about having a good stretch as soon as you’re awake.

Best of all, it seems to have multiplied the benefits of pre- and post-run stretching that I’ve been enjoying for some years anyway. My legs feel fresher right from the start of runs, and while there may be a little bit of a placebo effect coming into play, I’d swear that they’re also feeling better at the end of my runs too.

Even if I’m kidding myself a little, most experts agree that increased flexibility is a good thing for most active people, so adding a set of gentle, daily stretches to your routine is unlikely to do you any harm, and you just might see some of the benefits that I think I’m getting.

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