It’s a common and persistent myth that static stretching improves running performance and decreases the risk of injuries, researchers say.
Instead, an active warm-up can help with running performance, and progressive training can reduce injury risk, they wrote in British Journal of Sports Medicine earlier this month.
Scientists from La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, may have debunked one injury-prevention technique for runners, but they say you can still cut risks of shin splints and tendon tweaks by warming up with a walk or light jog.
Australian scientists say you can skip static stretches for hamstrings and glutes before a run, as these won’t prevent injury, just perhaps help you feel a little less stiff
‘Runners have certain beliefs around running injury risks, injury prevention and performance that are in contrast to current research evidence,’ James Alexander of La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, told Reuters Health
Since running places stress on the joints and soft tissues, runners face a high risk of developing running-related overuse injuries such as joint pain, shin splints, IT band syndrome and Achilles tendinitis.
To help the body adapt and strengthen, runners should build their running performance through progressive training sessions, which should incorporate an active warm-up that involves 5-10 minutes of walking or light jogging.
If preparing for a fast race or training session, this could include 6-8 dynamic stretching drills to move the joints through the full range of motion, particularly in the lower limbs, such as walking lunges and leg swings.
In addition, the authors recommend ending the warm-up with three short running bursts at the goal running pace, such as three 100-meter dashes.
Importantly, the authors note, research shows that warm-ups improve running performance, but the evidence is still unclear about whether they reduce injuries.
Progressive training and the improved running performance itself will reduce the injuries, they add.