Question from a new runner – about stretching – who came from another training program and is loving the Galloway method.

Question:  Three months running without post-run stretch and the only thing that hurts is my brain trying to figure out how the post-run stretch myth began. Apprehensive at first, because it was drilled into us for years, but it does make sense to allow the body to do its job of recovery/rebuilding without interference. Either of you know where the myth began and why it seems to have spread through the running community? I did notice, with the other program, the slower groups stretched the most, usually together as a group. As you got into the faster pace groups, it was mainly left up to the individual to stretch as much and how they wanted, this was minimal stretching, followed by some planks and core strengthening workouts.

Answer:  I believe that pre- and post-run stretching came from coaches who were used to dealing with athletes in explosive sports like football and basketball. They ended up coaching track and cross-country runners by default or for an extra stipend, and they used the same pre- and post-workout activities that they used for their other athletes without considering whether they were actually necessary for distance runners.

Jeff Galloway says stretching is overrated!

You may be surprised to hear this, but Jeff Galloway is not a fan of stretching. After working with thousands of runners and studying the data, he has concluded that those who stretch more regularly are prone to getting injured as a direct result. Of course, there are certain stretches which may benefit some people—but usually when it comes to running and walking, stretching isn’t necessary at all!

Other sports such as tennis, basketball, soccer or golf require warming up muscles for activities our bodies weren’t exactly made for; however running is an entirely different story. Our ancestors used to run and walk great distances – sometimes even covering thousands of miles in a year! But overstretching forces tendons and muscles beyond what they’re able to handle right now—which can lead to injuries.

Before running?

When it comes to running, you’ve probably seen many runners stretching just before they go. But according to Jeff Galloway’s advice, this isn’t the best idea! Stretching cold muscles can easily cause them to pull or strain, especially if you’re running in the morning when your body is still feeling a little chilly. So it’s best to take care of yourself and warm up with some easy jogging first – that way, your runs will be fun and injury-free!

After running?

If you’ve just finished running, it’s best to wait a bit before stretching. The muscles are still in an active state and stretching right away can cause them to spasm. Instead of helping, this can leave your muscles tighter than when you started. To get the full benefits of your post-run stretch, give your body at least 30 minutes to cool down first!

When, then?

The best time to stretch is after the body is warmed up, relaxed, and when the blood is moving. Since many runners stretch incorrectly, it’s best to wait and stretch after warming up. Don’t stretch to warm the muscles up; it won’t work. Stretch in the evening, for example, or throughout the day as you have time. Many people use stretching as a nice way to prepare for sleep.