The eternal question - to stretch or not to st... - Couch to 5K

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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

21 Replies

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:

AnaveragemanGraduate in reply to roseabi

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.

poppypugGraduate in reply to Rignold

Hey Rig , how ya doing ?

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

Rignold in reply to poppypug

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.

poppypugGraduate in reply to Rignold

" 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

IannodaTruffeAdministrator in reply to Rignold

Rigs, you forgot the squats!!!

poppypugGraduate in reply to IannodaTruffe

Ha ha, must be the drugs :-) xxx

Rignold in reply to poppypug

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!

roseabiAdministrator in reply to Chrissy_b123

: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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