Tuesday, September 27, 2011

on stretching and foam rolling

I used to be a devoted stretcher.  Before, sometimes during, and after all of my runs, I would stretch all my leg muscles.  When my IT band issues started popping up in 2002, I learned how to stretch those and added it to my rep.  In late 2006, a PT introduced me to a foam roller.  I pretty much only think something is working if it REALLY REALLY HURTS, so I happily bought one and rolled those suckers out daily.  I shook my little angry finger at people who told me they ran all the time without stretching.
Fast-forward to 2011.  I've now met quite a few doctors who have informed me that I'm hypermobile.  Hypermobility essentially means what it sounds like - my joints have a lot of motion around them.  No one PT actually suggested that I stop stretching so much, but one did tell me to maybe focus on foam rolling instead of stretching.  The difference, to me, is that with stretching, you are lengthening the muscles and with foam-rolling, you're just hunting for knots and using pressure to release them.


This coincided with an article I had recently read by my hunky orthopedic hero, Dr. P.  It's about a very interesting study done on runners concerning the pre-run stretch, but it essentially boils down to this.  There was no difference in injury between the group of runners that stretched before a run and the group that did not.  The only point from the article is that the runners that changed their habits - started or stopped stretching for the study - had a higher risk of injury.  
Now, of course, I should have read that article and taken away the point about changing my habits.  However, over the summer I actually ran very low mileage, after taking quite a bit of time off to deal with the pain in my ass.  I've never stretched when going out for a 2- or 3-mile run, so for most of the summer, I wasn't stretching, and didn't feel like I needed to.  As I've ramped up my mileage, I haven't returned to pre-running stretching.  I still spend quite a bit of time on the foam roller as needed, but I don't stretch very much.  At some point I discussed this with my PT, and he gave me the okay to continue to leave the stretching out.  My weekly mileage has been in the 20-30 range for the past two months, without stretching, and I feel great.  My shin pain is completely gone, and actually went away once I stopped stretching my calves all the time.  Coincidence? 
So, of course I'm curious.  Do you stretch before running?  Do you just foam roll?  Are you not-so-secretly in love with your orthopedist too? 

32 comments:

  1. I do a lot of dynamic stretching to get mobility in my hips -- basically I balance a foam roller on its end, and swing my leg over it, both backwards and forwards.

    I also stretch my soleus and psoas several times a day, very gently. Those are two areas for me that get very tight and throw off my gait.

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  2. Once upon a time I had a few stretches I did before runs mostly because if I didn't I would feel uber stiff but nothing crazy, just some ITB stretching, butterfly stretch to pop my hips into place, and maybe a few calf stretches to get them loosened up. I foam rolled the bejesus out of myself though, like 3x a day, because I had more issues with knots then anything else.

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  3. I aim to walk around the block for a "warmup" and then stretch a few trouble spots gently before starting to run, but I probably forget to do that 1/3 of the time. I'm much better about stretching after, and I bought a foam roller about a month ago and it is my best friend. And as for your last question: yes. Definitely yes.

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  4. I am SO with you on this! I gave it up last year. My miracle IT guy (there's a them here) taught me not to stretch. You can read what he says about it: www.sock-doc.com.

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  5. I've never stretched before or after running... it started out as laziness... but its laziness accompanied by superstition now...

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  6. I'm not a pre-run stretcher. UNLESS it's before track work and even then I've already run a mile or two to warm up.
    I'm a VERY lazy post run stretcher. I know I should be better. I make time for pigeon pose though always after a long run! I do foam roll and it hurts so good! My foam roller is my best friend and my worst enemy!
    So much of this is trial and error. And what works for one person may not work for another. It takes time to figure out what works for you!

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  7. I have absolutely no routine for this at all. If I feel tight, I stretch. If I don't, I don't. I do however foam roll like woah, almost every day. I also have a lot of dynamic stretches/active recovery built into my strength training routine.

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  8. a year ago i had some knee issues and that got me on the stretching/rolling/yoga bandwagon. but once the issues were resolved, i quickly fell off. however, i haven't had any reoccurring issues...so there's that...hmmm....so, i'm not really sure where i fall on this issue.

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  9. I participated in that study! I didn't get hurt, but I did like two months later. That has nothing to do with your experience, obvs.

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  10. I'm not-so-secretly in love with my orthopedist too! I break things, he fixes them, what's not to love?? :-) Although I did see a new one this summer who was super hunky... so I may have a little triangle going on now... Buuuuuuuut, as far as stretching, I don't. I never really have, but I've always been a fan of the foam roller. When I asked my coach about stretching because something felt tight she said to roll more, not stretch more, because in her experience, when people try to stretch something out they usually overdo it and overstretch. The only exception I make it so stretch my quads because then I can dance while stretching :) I cozy up with a glass of wine and my foam roller in the evenings... add the orthopedist and you've got yourself a perfect evening :)

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  11. I don't stretch before running. I tend to have an achey lower back, so now and again, I'll plonk down on the floor and stretch out my back, maybe stretch the hamstrings a bit. I do love yoga though. If I could fit it into my schedule, I would do that once a week and call that my stretching.

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  12. I only stretch and foam roll AFTER running (too lazy before....). I noticed a difference when I stopped foam rolling for a period of months. When I had knee issues earlier this summer (different knee issues) I started up the foam rolling and voila! the knee issues disappeared.

    I <3 foam rolling. Took awhile for it to stop hurting on the ITB but now its a good pain. You ever try one of those foam rollers with the knobs?

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  13. Hmmm, I am so wondering about this myself. My butt to knee has been having this sharp pain lately and I have been contorting all around to stretch it out to no avail. But then sometimes after a run it doesnt hurt at all. Right not I stretch after and then at night as well. I foam roll a little too, though not like I should. Its tough to know what to do.

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  14. I almost always stretch after running, but never before. And though I own a foam roller, I don't think I use it nearly enough.

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  15. I only foam roll before a run if I'm sore...like if I'm doing a shakeout run the day after a long run, other than that, I usually just do a quad stretch and a calf stretch which I hold for maybe 10 seconds. It's not so much for injury prevention as just getting in a good stretch, the same way I stretch every morning. It's afterward that I think is most important.

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  16. I remember when that study came out. I used to stretch religiously when I was a treadmill runner. I felt I needed to because it was so repetitive. But now that I run outside all the time I don't stretch unless I feel like something needs to be stretched. I do, however, foam roll very regularly.

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  17. I neither stretch nor foam roll unless something feels REALLY tight, and I never NEVER stretch before running.

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  18. I foam roll occasionally but probably not as often as I should (or would like to... but I'm lazy). I never stretch before or after a run though. Occasionally if I'm stopped at a light and my lower legs are tight, I'll stretch them out a little bit but that's it.

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  19. yah most people don't get the hypermobility thing... sounds like u are well on ur way to figuring things out :) there are a LOT of stretching myths out there for sure.

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  20. I never stretch for running or anything for that matter. Which is odd because coming from a gymnastics background we had to stretch for everything.

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  21. I very rarely stretch before a run. The only time I'll stretch is for a shorter race, but that's after about a mile warm-up.

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  22. I've heard the same thing too! Stretching after...yes. Stretching before, not necessary. Keep on foamin' though.

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  23. The shin pain disappearance is very curious! I stretch occasionally, but far from habitually. I do yoga 2-3x/week (or once, when I'm being inconsistent...), and assume that makes up for it? Or maybe I don't "need" it? Who knows. Whatever I'm doing, I'll assume it works ;)

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  24. I stretch carefully post-run, but before I do dynamic stretches. Works for me - while I've had injuries, I have never had a muscle injury.

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  25. When I trained for my first marathon, I took to heart the advice that less is more in stretching after runs, because those little muscle fibers are already full of little tears. I heart the foam roller and think Bikram is the best thing EVER. But I think stretching is overdone and overrated.
    In my marathon training, I learned that long runs cause tiny tears in the muscle fibers (then they heal, stronger) and you don't want to do much stretching, and always keep it gentle.
    When I fell in with the ultrarunning crowd, no one ever stretched, owing to the long, slower distances.
    Finally, I read "Stretching: The Truth" http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/sports/playmagazine/112pewarm.html in the NYTimes and that shed light on some of the points you mentioned. Aside from Bikram, I don't stretch, unless something specific feels tight.

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  26. i don't stretch pre-run and i foam roll as needed. my shin is still being dumb this week. argh!

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  27. I foam roll the shit out of my legs and back, but I never stretch before a workout, mostly because my muscles take so long to warm up that I'm concerned about hurting myself.

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  28. Do you stretch before running? No. I stretch a bit after, but nothing crazy.
    Do you just foam roll? Oddly, it's been years since I've foam-rolled. Dunno why I gave it up.
    Are you not-so-secretly in love with your orthopedist too? DUH.

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  29. I'm a post- workout stretcher and roller. Before I start, I do a warmup core routine that I got from my chiro designed to beat my ITBS. I think it's appropriate that it ends with BS-ha!

    Anyway , so sorry I won't get to meet u at Poconos 70.3. Another race another day :)

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  30. I have got to get a foam roller! I don't know why I've waited so long!

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