The eternal question - to stretch or not to stretch

Morning all,

As KJ_Matthews and I are new to running, although both graduates from the C25K programme now and training for 10k (eek), we have been following the plans with a 5 minute walk warm up, run, cool down walk and stretch.

Recently, we went for a run with a family member who was a seasoned half marathon runner a number of years ago, and he swears by doing 10-15 minutes of leg stretches as the warm up and going straight in to the run. We have been trying this ever since, and missing out the 5 minute walk, and we can't decide if it is a good thing to do or not.

I am finding the first 1km a struggle and don't really get in to the swing of it until 2km, and by 3/4km I feel like I can't go on. After that it seems to get easier.

I have read on a number of sites that stretching prior to running is no longer considered a good thing. I also noticed that none of the runners at the parkrun did any stretches, or any warm up of any kind prior to the start.

So we were wondering - how do you warm up for a 'normal' run, and what do you do for a parkrun or race?

Is stretching a big no no?

Chrissy & Kev


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21 Replies

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  • Apparently the idea is to be really warmed up before you start running to prevent injury. Cold muscles are more injury prone, apparently (again) I'm no doctor obviously! I am slow to warm up so as well as doing the brisk 5 minute walk I do a warm-up routine at home to make sure I'm hot before leaving the house for the brisk warm-up walk

    You are new runners, not a seasoned marathoners, so what is right for them isn't necessarily right for you

    At races and Parkrun I see folks warming up, particularly the fast cats.

    If you are slow to warm up then extend the length of the brisk warm up walk. I find that helps me

    Good luck

  • I'm glad you asked. I will be watching with interest because im thinking of doing a park run, but I can't imagine there will be anybody else starting with a 5 min walk. I'll be so far at the back of the field I'll never see anybody again and might as well run alone. But I can't imagine not warming up, or traipsing around the park warming up with a 5 min walk before the race begins rather than blethering with fellow runners.

    I should mention last time I did stretches first rather than at the end, I pulled a muscle in my groin which was unpleasant for days. I've got a dead fit mate who does crazy amounts of exercise, and I've watched him launch into a long fell run with nothing but a couple of lunges beforehand.

  • It makes sense to me that the running muscles should be warmed up before running hard. I tend to not do much of a warmup before starting out on easy/long runs. My easy pace is so easy that my muscles don't need any warming up. :)

    However before parkrun, I do a slow jog for a few hundred metres each way before doing some dynamic exercises as we wait for the start.

  • I always do some stretches before & after. Was on a Parkrun on Saturday and did the 5 min warm up walk right before the start which should have been 9am, but was hanging around until 9.15 for the off, so while standing around I did a few stretches, all was OK with muscles, maybe the warm weather helps.

  • I have been told that one should only stretch "warm" muscles, implying that stretching should be done post exercise. I guess that a lot of other people (those at your parkrun among them) have heard this too. I have no scientific understanding of it, but I enjoy a little stretching after exercise so I usually do it (I sometimes forget!). I don't bother with a warm up (other than jogging down the stairs from my fourth floor flat, and taking a short walk to the starting point of my run) but I always start off slowly. I am quite fit; I am now running 10k distances, and I also swim and do barre/pilates/yoga regularly - but I do rest if I feel tired, off-colour, or too sore etc. so I try to be a bit sensible!

    From what you say about what happens during your run, you may take about 2km of running to warm up, and another 1-2k to really find your stride. That sounds like me :)

    I think there is an element of habit involved here too - probably a human thing! Your runner relative likes his stretching routine; I personally am not happy going out without vaseline on my lips ... Who knows how necessary these rituals really are, but we wouldn't want to miss them!

    So I guess it's those old chestnuts: "listen to your body", and "horses for courses" :)

    NB I just had a quick look around for a bit more of said science, and found the article below, the findings of which suggest that stretching at least is not important for running either pre- or post-exercise:

  • Good article... my understanding of the science is/was that ' dynamic stretching' is still recommended BEFORE exercise ( as a warm up exercise ) and static stretching is useful afterwards..

    but that we don't need to overdo the ' warming up' procedure ( as some even say its not necessary at all)

  • All of the above - and I sometimes do like Bazza, and start a very slow jog as warm up. Or I walk and do walking lunges

    But stretching is important after a run - try not to stretch after a long or very hard run and see how you feel the next day.. (it may not be scientifically proven... but my body much prefers it!)

  • I dont find the brisk walk enough to loosen me up. I do a quick warm up in the house by trotting on the spot then do some high knee spot running then some jumping jacks. Followed by some easy stretches. When I start my brisk walk I can take longer strides straight from the start which I find helpful in giving me the good stretches I need before i run.

  • Ballistic stretches before (after a brief warm up - 30 seconds each of jogging, high knees, bumkicks, star jumps, spotty dogs, lunges), static stretches after.

  • Hey Rig , how ya doing ?

    I am going off to google spotty dogs :-) xxx

  • I'm good. I'm on drugs.

    Spotty dogs - I don't know if that's what they are really called - where you do a sort of straight legged walk on the spot while swinging,your arms in opposite motion.

  • " Im good, Im on drugs " ha ha :-D

    Yes I have googled it , they are called Spotty Dogs and you have described them perfectly .

    Hope youre back to full fitness soon xxx

  • Rigs, you forgot the squats!!!

  • Ha ha, must be the drugs :-) xxx

  • I was assuming you had done your first 200 squats when you got up.

  • Thanks for your advice everyone.

    I guess as I currently only run short distances it isn't going to matter too much either way, but I will be mindful of stretching cold muscles. I will keep a better eye on my running comrades on Saturday at the parkrun too, maybe they are sneaking in some walk up jogs that I didn't notice - i was clearly too busy yakking to new friends.

    I will make a mental note that I have said I only run short distances, when a few months ago 5k seemed such an impossible target, and I now do 5k 3 times a week.

    The support on this forum is fabulous, and I blame you all for being so supportive that I have changed my 'Things to do before I am 40' from a 5k race to a 10k one. Thanks - I think!

  • :D go you!

    Now I think of it, I see a lot of people running to our parkrun, so those folk will be pretty warm before they start!

  • I live about a 5 minute walk from my local parkrun :) I try to do a bit of a jog around too, while I'm waiting for the whistle.

    I try to do a few stretches afterwards, but not every time.

  • Do your stretches every time rmn. Calves! Look after those calves!

  • I'm naughty and don't really do any warming up/down regularly. Before a big run I might bounce about a bit first, and if I feel like a stretch afterwards I find the best is a kind of cat/cow/downward facing dog yoga sequence which I may have invented (can't remember where or when I learnt it). I do, however, do heel drops, because my Achilles is sulky.

  • I warm up and stretch before a run, and then cool down and stretch again afterwards. I have a troublesome hip abducter (originally damaged during pregnancy or childbirth many years ago) and if I don't thoroughly stretch I am in serious trouble after a run. When I started C25k I didn't do any stretches (because there's little mention of it) and spent the first few weeks stiff and limping between runs, and unable to sleep at night. A simple routine (with some input from one of the trainers at my gym) solved most of my problems at a stroke.

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