Stretching A Point

by DavalosMcCormack on September 9, 2010

Here’s why I don’t wear pajamas. The other day my brother-in-law, let’s call him “Ken”, was putting his pajamas on and twisted his back. He hurt himself so badly he could barely walk for a couple of days. He’s ok now but obviously he’ll think twice before wearing pajamas again. Or maybe he’ll just start doing some stretches before getting ready for bed.

Speaking of stretching, a lot of people have completely the wrong idea about stretching. They think that you should stretch before you exercise, to loosen up the muscles and get your body ready for activity. The truth is, and there’s science to back me up here, that you should warm-up before you exercise but only stretch afterward.

Bad stretch

Stretching before running

Now, the latest piece of research in this area says that stretching before you run may have some really unexpected, and not desirable, results. In fact, the researchers say that distance runners who stretch before setting out may not be able to run as far as people who don’t stretch, but they’ll also expend more energy doing it.

The study, in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning, involved ten college distance runners who did two 60 minute runs on a treadmill; one run was after a 16 minute series of static stretches, the other run was without any stretching. At the beginning of each session the athletes were told to run as far as possible, but they weren’t able to see how far they had run or what speed they were running at, they simply had to go as far and as fast as they felt comfortable doing.

Shorter distance, greater effort

When the athletes stretched they ran 3.4 percent less than when they ran without stretching. What was just as interesting was that they burned 5 percent more calories when they ran after stretching than when they ran without. So, they ran less but burned up more energy.

Now, if your goal is to lose weight that’s great. But if you are a collegiate athlete the odds are that you are already pretty thin – not to say skinny – so you are not trying to shed pounds, you are trying to shave seconds off your time. Stretching is not going to help you.

So. To recap. If you are exercising warm-up first, stretch afterward. That’s it. Simple eh.

Unfortunate pajamasUnless you are putting your pajamas on. Then you might want to do some loosening up moves just to be on the safe side.

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