I’m sure most of us who have been around for a while have heard both sides of the story. First, we were told pre-run stretching was an important component of injury prevention. Then we were told that stretching before working out was useless and could, in fact, hamper your performance.
Well, this study tested that second theory. The result?
Participants felt they were more likely to perform well when stretching was performed as part of the warm-up, irrespective of stretch type. However, no effect of muscle stretching was observed on flexibility and physical function compared to no stretching.
Whether static or dynamic, stretching seemed to make no difference in performance. This seems to confirm what we’ve seen in other recent studies.
So what do we do with this information? We do what feels best. If you feel better after some pre-run stretching, then do it. If not, then don’t.
Athlete development process
This is why I changed the format of these monthly posts. It isn’t science but it’s a great summary of a well designed long term development plan for an athlete.
The picture is worth a thousand words but I’ll try to summarize in relatively few words.
A new athlete first needs to develop a baseline fitness. Once that fitness is built, you can work on technique. For runners, in my opinion, this primarily means things like basic form drills. As the runner continues developing, you can get more specific and strenuous with conditioning (things like more strenuous workouts, higher volumes, and race specific workouts). Finally, you can get more advanced with your technique training.
At no point do you drop what you’ve done earlier in your progression but, as you develop as a runner, you add new elements that will further your progression.
Tom Brady and junk science
Tom Brady is a highly successful quarterback. Like him or not, can we at least agree on that? We may argue about how great he really is versus the greatness of the people around him but you don’t maintain the level of success he has for as long as he has without being great.
What does he know about why he’s great and how he’s maintained it at an age where most other quarterbacks are either retired or greatly diminished? Well…
Why am I bringing this up? Because I see the assumption that someone who achieves at a high level knows the key to that success all the time. This is a great example of one who either doesn’t or is cynically using his fame to sell junk science.
In the running world, often the greatest coaches and people generally with the greatest advice are not those who were setting world records and winning Olympic golds. Look at and learn from what those runners do but don’t think that, just because they are so fast, their advice is better than you can get from others, especially coaches whose runners consistently beat expectations.
Running and your knees
We’ve gone over this numerous times, right? Is running good, bad, or no difference for the health of your knees? There’s plenty of evidence that it’s not bad for your knees and some solid evidence that it’s actually good for them.
Given that, I was a little skeptical as I started reading the abstract of this study:
Existing evidence on whether marathon running contributes to hip and knee arthritis is inconclusive.
Inconclusive? Really? Well, let’s keep reading and see what the results are:
Arthritis prevalence was 8.8% for the subgroup of U.S. marathoners, significantly lower (p < 0.001) than the prevalence in the matched U.S. population (17.9%) and in subgroups stratified by age, sex, body mass index (BMI), and physical activity level (p < 0.001).
Well, that sounds pretty convincing. Roughly half the rate of knee arthritis in the runners compared to a similar cross section of the general population. Knee or hip pain were pretty high but I can’t find a comparison to a matched non-running population.
So what’s the conclusion?
Age, family history, and surgical history independently predicted an increased risk for hip and knee arthritis in active marathoners, although there was no correlation with running history. In our cohort, the arthritis rate of active marathoners was below that of the general U.S.
So risk factors are risk factors, runner or not. However, running was NOT a risk factor for knee arthritis. In fact, this study suggests not running is the real risk factor.
It’s just one study but, combined with many others we’ve seen, when can we stop saying existing evidence is inconclusive?