No matter if you are a longer or shorter distance runner, at some point in your training regime an element of stretching should be included. Many of you may already be carrying out some stretching, but if not, I strongly recommend you consider it.
There is much speculation of how and when stretching exercises should be performed. Traditionally the static, standing still, stretches are performed before exercise to somewhat stretch out and lengthen our muscles before exercise. However, during exercise our muscles shorten so here we pose the question why stretch your muscles out before exercise?
Recent research suggests that dynamic, active stretching, like a drill based movement activity which warms up your muscles in movements associated with the exercise you are about to complete. This could include skips, side running or light bounding, have a search around on the internet, there is a great variety of drills people use. These drills prime the muscles into a perfect state for exercise. Economy of your exercise can be greatly enhanced if this is completed correctly.
It is best to perform static stretching post exercise to return the muscles that have shortened to their original position. These stretches should be held for 10-15 seconds to achieve this. If you hold a stretch for longer this will help to increase you flexibility. You could introduce an entire session dedicated to stretching to enhance not only your flexibility but to have a time to relax and think about you training whilst aiding your performance. Nearly all sports will benefit from increased flexibility despite you may thinking otherwise. With more flexibility comes a greater range of movement therefore reducing the chance of incurring an injury.
So if you are not currently stretching give it a go, and if you are give this alternative approach a go!