The Great Debate: Should You Stretch Before a Run?

Apr 15, 2014

Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy

by Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy

Our AZ physical therapy experts are of course no strangers to the recent fitness great debate. They’ve heard the pros, they’ve heard the cons, and now they’re here to weigh in on the question that has been shaking runner’s beliefs for some time now.
Should you stretch before a run?
It’s safe to say that for decades now running magazines, experts, and blogs have been touting the pre-run ritual. But with new research garnered by a number of well-respected exercise physiologists, there is now some doubt attached to the act of stretching before rigorous exercise. Today, our AZ physical therapy professionals will give you the facts along with a rundown of the pros and cons.

The Benefits of Pre-Run Stretching

The long-held belief behind stretching before a run was initially based on the idea that stretching could effectively “warm up” the muscles before more demanding exercise. The muscles would be loosened, the joints would improve their range of motion, and in the end, the runner would ward off most pain and injury during and after the run.

The Doubt

However, while more research has been done to test the benefits and effects of stretching on the body before rigorous exercise and physical activity, more and more doubt that the routine isn’t quite as useful as it was once regarded has come to the forefront. The most common myth-busting result? While warming up is still certainly beneficial to the body, stretching, in fact, does not prevent injury. Instead, though light stretching can be beneficial for, say, serious athletes who need to move their muscles in multiple directions before a big game, stretching can cause pain and discomfort due to the slight tears that occur in the muscle on a microscopic level, rendering the technique not only useless, but potentially detrimental.

The Solution

While stretching before a run may not cause immediate or severe damage, it is important to consider replacing the habit with a more beneficial one – one that will not cause you to run the risk of injury before you head out on your daily run. One solution advocated by the pros is to skip the deep stretch and instead devote a few minutes to slowly warming up. This could mean anything from a power walk to a brisk jog, intended to increase stability, assist in flexibility, and prepare your legs for similar movement in the near future.
In the end, it’s important to understand that stretching before running is a very different endeavor than stretching in other capacities, such as at your desk in the middle of a long work day, in a yoga class with trained professionals, or during a session with an experienced AZ physical therapy expert. 
For more information on stretching and the benefits of physical activity, visit us at and learn more about physical therapy in Arizona today!

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