Stretching Doesn’t Prevent Injury in Runners! Find Out What Does

May 2, 2011

Yes, you’ve got that right! I’ll say it again; stretching doesn’t prevent injury in runners. And, there is now a body of growing research to back that up. A study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons in San Diego in February of this year, concludes that injuries were more likely depending on the number of miles run than on pre-run lengthening routines.

Think about it, if you stretch an elastic band what happens? It snaps back to its original length and of course the harder you stretch it the stronger the recoil. As humans we have a distinct advantage over an elastic band because our muscles are directed by our brain and our brain has the capacity to lengthen a muscle if it’s functionally appropriate to do so. The body is an interdependent system that maintains equilibrium through balance and counter balance; if the brain didn’t orchestrate this we’d fall over. In other words, if our muscles are tight there is a functional reason why and unless we give the brain new information to convince it otherwise the brain will insist on maintaining muscular tension.

Lengthening creates not only flexibility, but coordinated congruent movement; this coordination is what makes athletes appear effortless and graceful. The question is, how do we get the brain to allow muscles to lengthen when we need them to be long and contract when we need them to contract?  A sequence of movements designed to inform the brain to allow lengthening is the key. I just happen to know how to do that and I’m willing to share it with you.

Here is a pre-run lengthening sequence based on a Feldenkrais® Awareness Through Movement® lesson that I give to my clients.

1. Stand in the middle of the floor. Have your feet a comfortable distance apart and your knees soft but not bent.

2. Bend forward gently and allow gravity to take you down.  Allow your head to hang forward and your arms to dangle. Do not push! When you’ve stopped moving notice where you are. Slowly come back to standing and relax.

3. Without moving your feet, turn your upper body slightly to one side (15 degrees at most).  In this position, bend forward allowing gravity to pull you down. Once again let your head hang forward and your arms dangle. In this position your range will be smaller than when you were in the forward position. Slowly come back to standing and relax.

4. Turn to the other side and repeat the bending.

5. Now bend forward again and notice how much farther you are able to go now.

If you have any questions or comments visit me, as feldylady on Twitter or on my Facebook page under Sandra Bradshaw, Guild Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner. 



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Feldenkrais®, Feldenkrais Method®, Awareness Through Movement®, and Functional Integration® are registered service marks of the Feldenkrais Guild® of North America. Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner ™ and Guild Certified Feldenkrais Teacher ™ are certification marks of the Feldenkrais Guild®.