stretchRunning is a favorite way to get out-of-doors exercise for many people;certainly one of my favorites. Running for pleasure can stay pleasant when runners add some preventative practices to their routine.

Stretches are important, but there have been extensive studies through the CDC as reported in Runner’s World that stretches before or after running will not mean you avoid injuries. Instead, the studies are showing vigorous stretching and running are not a good match.  Dr. Gennady Kolodenker, DPM recently was interviewed for the Orange County Times, where he recommends a good warm-up of walking, then working into a slow jog and on into running as a before run stretch session. Kolodenker said it is more important to stretch after a run, with an emphasis on the major muscle groups used for running: the quads, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, glutes and lower back. Research for the article found recommendations in for ‘before run stretches’ still coming AFTER a warm-up; that the muscles not be ‘cold’ for the stretches.

In the Orange County News article, written by Landon Hall (11/7/12) and reported in PMNews, Dr. Kolodenker’s most interesting recommendation was to ease into running. Running every day isn’t necessary to qualify as an exercise runner. Quality exercise through running can be accomplished in short sessions ( 20 to 30 minutes), two or three times a week. If running really grows on you, begin to add miles, but in the beginning, running long distances every day isn’t going to make you a happy runner. Exercise should benefit you, not become self-inflicted torture. Ease into it and enjoy it. That will make extending the distance a happier experience.

The CDC studies mentioned earlier and quoted in  Runners World articles by Susan Paul and Amby Burfoot found that runners who practice good strength training, balance training, and warm-ups before running are less likely to suffer injury. The desired flexibility that stretching is supposed to accomplish is not best for running performance. Some professional runners don’t use typical stretching exercises any more, but use AI flexibility exercises to encourage blood flow and joint lubrication ahead of flexible muscles.

Take it easy on yourself as you prepare for the season’s most fun running, the annual Turkey Trot in your community. Wear good shoes, warm up with walking and gradual speed-up if you want to be running at the finish. Pace yourself for more fun.