Coach Mike Mead

March 2010

More on Less Stretching

We all have those “duh” moments now and then. I had one of them just a few days before writing this piece. I was doing a little post-run stretching. One stretch I do sometimes for my lower back had me lying on my back with legs extended over my head. I’ve heard some “experts” say that this is not good for you, but I’ve always felt that it was good for my back and helped me with my hamstrings. That’s when the “duh” moment hit me.

A couple of runners during my coaching years have had hamstring and lower back trouble. Doing my stretch seems to work both these areas. It was not so much about stretching, but how different parts of our bodies are related that if you neglect one, you may negatively affect another.

I wrote in my September 2009 column about stretching and I continue to read more about research being done that stretching is not as important as it has been led to believe. A recent article that I read from Running Research News ( stated that increased flexibility led to decreased running economy.

The main premise to the Running Research News article was that there are two ways to improve running performance – one by running efficiency and the other by running economy. Running efficiency deals with body mechanics and design while running economy involves the energy necessary to run at a given speed. The article proceeded to look at the various ways one can improve running economy whether it’s utilizing interval training, plyometrics, or strength training and cited the related research that supported these methods.

What I took most from the article is that various studies claim that less flexible runners tended to have a better running economy. I would like to read more about this and other findings that support this statement.

I guess some studies can be slanted toward a given outcome. Regarding flexibility and stretching, I don’t believe this is the case. I confessed in my September 2009 column that I have never been one to do a lot of stretching and my wheels are still turning. I do believe that these studies about less stretching are valid. I also believe the issue is more about moderation when it comes to all facets of training to be a better, faster runner.

Runners need to work towards improving their running economy by incorporating a total training routine. Including such things as hill training, intervals, fartlek and tempo runs, plyometrics, strength training, form drills, flexibility and the like will make you more of a complete runner.

I do not believe runners should totally eliminate stretching from their daily workout routine. But by limiting when (after your run) and how much (10-15 minutes) stretching is done, one should feel more of a “bounce” in their step and experience improved running economy over the course of 6-8 weeks.

Today’s runner does more to prepare for racing than just run. Just be sure not to allow the non-running workout tasks to overshadow the actual task of running. For example, I’ve observed some runners spending more time weight training than running.

Runners still must run, so don’t forget that! Duh!