Stretching Out My Runs

I’ve stumbled on something amazing.  Something that’s dramatically improved my running experience, helping me to not only increase my distance but also my desire to hit the pavement again.

It’s called stretching.  And I highly recommend it.


I’ve always been somewhat athletic.  I’m not athletically gifted – let me laugh a minute at that – but I’ve always enjoyed being active and participating in sporty-type activities.  I played basketball in 8th grade – I couldn’t shoot a basket to save my life, but I could run & dribble with both hands pretty well.  I was on the volleyball team at my church for part of high school.  And I was on the swim team all 4 years in high school.  But in all of those activities I had a coach making sure I stretched before participating.  Now I’m a – gasp – grownup, and it’s up to me to take care of myself before engaging in physical activity.

I’m a pretty impatient person; I like things to keep moving along.  Stretching before a run sounded like it might slow me down.  My running time is precious, and it’s not easy to fit a run into my schedule, especially when I somehow manage to get some time to run without the jogging stroller.  I didn’t want to spend any time in the house doing “nothing” when I could be burning calories.

When I started running I did a little research on stretching before a run, and I was beyond thrilled to see that there are a good number of runners who support the “Cold Run” theory (I think I read that name somewhere, but I can’t find it now… there’s a good chance I dreamed the whole thing up).  Basically, it’s the belief that doing static stretches before runs is actually more detrimental than helpful.

So, for a long time, I didn’t stretch.  Not before a run, not after (mostly because I was pooped). My body adjusted to the 3-mile routes, and my legs were rarely tired or sore.  But once I started doing longer distances, my legs were crying. As Ursula would say, in pain.  In need.   Clearly something wasn’t working as well as it used to.

I began stretching, just to see if I noticed a difference.  Not before my runs, but in the evening before I went to bed.  I focused on the muscles that typically “feel the burn” while running.  And I began to notice an immediate difference not only during my runs, but between my runs as well.  In fact, it’s made such a difference that on my longer runs I’ve even taken a stretch break partway through to loosen up a bit more.

It’s safe to say I’ve converted.  I’m no doctor or expert, and I know this method doesn’t work for everyone.  I haven’t fully abandoned my previous line of thinking – I still prefer to not stretch before a run.  However, I do think that stretching in the evenings has contributed to the success of my longer runs – even if I didn’t run at all earlier in the day.

I think I’ll keep it up.

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