Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. Just because I do not stretch and cannot touch my toes does not mean that is right for you. Please consult your doctor if you are not sure you should stretch. Also I think yoga can be very difficult and can result in impressive flexibility. No offense intended to any of the yogis out there.
Over the years I have heard so many different things about stretching. Some runners insist that everyone should stretch and that skipping a pre-run stretch will result in immediate injury. Others say that stretching can cause injury especially when your muscles are tight or cold. Then there are the crazy yoga people who think stretching is a religion. You certainly don’t want to say anything negative about stretching around them.
So who is correct? I have a bad back and my chiropractor has told me for years that gentle stretching will help “warm up” your muscles. Once your muscles are warm, you can then slowly start your workout at an easy pace and gradually work up to normal effort.
This type of stretching does not look anything like the stretches I did before cross country or soccer in high school. These stretches are more gradual and do not force the muscle. I tried this type of stretching for years and it seemed to help. Gently rolling your shoulders, knees to your chest while lying on your back, and easy wall stretches for your calves are all classic moves that when done gently can warm up/cool down your muscles.
Personally I do not see any benefit to the dramatic stretching done in yoga for runners. Runners do not need to touch their toes or transform their bodies into a random animal position. I do believe yoga is an interesting way to build strength and flexibility but not sure that I would recommend yoga for a runner. Could someone also explain “Hot Yoga” to me? Usually I try to avoid working out in extreme heat.
One of the good things about running is that you really don’t need to be flexible. Basically good running form is a steady slightly forward position. There is no lateral movement, quick stops and starts, or jumping as is frequent in basketball or soccer. Increased flexibility is not a bad thing but is not necessary to run a fast 5k. Unless you have extremely limited motion I do not believe your run times are affected by flexibility. The only times I have felt an issue with flexibility is when I have had to run with a bad back. Not being able to lean forward will definitely reduce your ability to run hard.
What are your thoughts? Do we need to stretch?