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Coach Steve being aero!

STRETCHING: I always stretch before beginning a run (OK one exception, when I do a ride-run brick with no break between, but I do stretch before starting the ride). For me, taking time to stretch a crucial part of the warm-up process. Just 5-minutes of stretching allows me to relax before I start moving, and I consider this important, as many athletes rush into their run increasing risk of injury. If you carry stress of the day while you run the tension can cause trouble.

My pre-run stretch is not an effort to increase my flexibility; in fact I stretch with the same amount of light-to-medium tension each time. The days when I don't run are when it's appropriate to push it, trying to go further and gain some range of motion.

Most athletes stretch like crazy when they get injured and this is exactly the wrong thing to do. Consider what happens to a rubber band with a cut in it—where will it break if you stretch it tight? Most injuries are micro-tears of muscle either in the belly of the muscle, or where it attaches to a tendon. If you keep tugging on a tear you risk making it worse or re-tearing it. When you have an injury abstain from stretching initially, then stretch with only light tension until it feels solid.

I know many therapists and coaches will disagree with this advice, but for me the risk of making a tear worse with overzealous stretching is real. After having done it to myself several times I've learned my lesson. More than once I pushed too hard before a run and initiated a tear; by the end of the run I was limping. Stretching a strained muscle has never felt right to me. Sometimes the toughest thing to do is just patiently wait and leave it alone.

Timing is important: days when I don't run are when I'll do a full range of core movements and stretching at high tension. This can also work well if you do the stretching workout early in the day and the run is late, or vice-versa. If you can't motivate to do it on your own try a class, maybe Yoga or similar

Maintaining your flexibility is pivotal to good range of movement, which in turn affects run speed. I see a few young runners, and lot of older runners, with short choppy strides; they're going slower than they would if they just took more time to stretch daily. I consider flexibility maintained (or lost) a measure of physiological aging. Maintaining flexibility is one way older athletes can 'set the clock back.'

As runners, there are several areas we should all stretch. Everyone knows the calf stretch(s), and this is the one where I most often find athletes overdoing it pre-run. Hamstrings need a good stretch before a run; again don't over-do it. Stabilizing muscles like abductors, adductors, and the IT band all need some light stretching before you start. Quad stretches (especially for those with cycling background), and hip flexor stretches allow the leg to sweep back with minimal resistance. I also like some upper body stretches which help me relax and hold good run posture. Swim stretches work well.

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