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Training & advice

Mitchell Phillips of StrideUK - Stretching: Straining to find time to do it?

It is inevitable that muscles will tire after prolonged durations of running. Have you ever noticed how our running technique can somewhat change from the start of a marathon in comparison to how we run at the end? There are various reasons why this happens: 26.2 miles is quite a long distance for most of us to run and other factors include weather conditions, running surface, route gradients, even clothes and footwear. Most of these are unavoidable, but have you ever thought how poor flexibility creates muscle resistance and will suppress performance and create injury? Injuries are more likely to occur when muscles, over a continuous period of loading, become tight and range of movement (ROM) decreases. The objective, therefore, is to keep the muscle as flexible as possible, for as long as possible to keep the inevitability of muscle tightening from happening as late as possible!

Contra to other media and medical beliefs I advocate that stretching is good for you and should not only be promoted pre and post exercise, but also on non training days as a means to improve muscle fibre elasticity for long-term benefits.

The most commonly found stretches are  -
Dynamic - the process of moving the joint  / limb in either a rotational or swinging pattern to help increase lubrication into the joint itself.

Static - the process of extending the muscle just past its normal daily manner to help expose the limb to sudden moments of lengthening during sports.
Ballistic - the process of extending the muscle past its normal daily manner but pulsing at the end delivering a 'stretch, stretch, stretch' to the muscle, ideal for explosive sports.
Any person that suggests that I shouldn't rotate my arm around a few times (dynamic) before playing tennis should really get a check up from the neck up!   Regarding static stretches, it's always best to perform after dynamic movements, or even after a few steps into your run, having given the body time to warm up. Ballistic is one of the stretching methods that is often promoted for top end  / elite sports people, or unless you are certain you know what you are doing and why you are doing it!
Please don't believe that stretching doesn't work or will injure you. I believe that in the right order and at a sensible level of intensity (guys - it's not supposed to be a toe curling / facial grimacing muscle attack!) stretching will improve your current performance and keep injury at bay. 
I was fortunate enough to meet an old running scholar who, over his 25 years of marathon running told me that he never attempted to stretch, nor did he ever change his running shoes much either. And although he remained injury free over this period, i couldn't help but wonder how his running times and overall performance could have improved should he have invested a lil more stretching into his program. As far as his running shoes went, I took the liberty of confiscating them and told him to treat himself to a new pair.  His old running shoes, a faithful pair of 1987 Nike Airmax still have pride of place on a shelf in my running gait lab for all to see! 
Mitchell is a running performance analyst at StrideUK, one of the UKs leading video gait analysis companies, based in Brighton. For more information, please visit