When I was studying for my NAASFP coaching program written exam and read the guideline to delay stretching immediately after a long run, I wasn’t too sure what to think of it.
The more I learned and thought about delaying stretching, the more it started to make sense.
It is recommended that any run longer than 90 minutes, or 15 kilometers, that any stretching be delayed 1 hour, and any distance over 3 hours, or 30 kilometers, that stretching be delayed for 2 hours to allow the muscles to cool slightly.
Since the muscles are so warm, and have had so much stress put on them over the course of the long run, it can be very easy to over stretch the muscle and actually cause more harm than good.
As soon as you finish your long run, your focus should be on hydrating and refueling.
Depending upon the length of the run, you can begin some light and gentle stretching.
I’ll usually rest and eat and once I’ve finished my breakfast then I’ll so some light stretching of my major muscle groups.
Q: Can overstretching cause any problems?
A: Yes, mostly to connective tissue.
“Connective tissue [like your tendons and ligaments] is damaged when stretched beyond its limits,” says Shrier. Some sports physiologists note that bouncing, especially, tugs on tendons and insertion points instead of lengthening the muscle itself. This can lead to hypermobile joints and muscle imbalances.
Listen closely to your body, says Bracko. “You’re probably overstretching if, instead of feeling good, it’s uncomfortable both during the stretch and afterward.”
It’s also important to note that by running for 2-3 (or more) hours, the ligaments and tendons are also warm and stretching may cause lengthening of the ligaments and/or tendons and not the muscle. This is something you definitely don’t want to happen.
Later in the Day
It’s advisable to not stretch cold muscles because stretching cold muscles can also cause injury through over stretching.
The most common problem is when runners stretch while the muscle is still cold. By trying to lengthen muscles in a tightened state, there is a risk of of causing “micro” tears which can stop a training program in its tracks.
I’ll warm up my muscles my doing some foam rolling of my major muscle groups to warm up. Going for a quick walk, or some jogging in place are some other great ways to warm up muscles before stretching.
I’ll then move into my stretching routine (quads, hamstring, calves, glutes) and move into a more intense myofascial release program (look for a post coming soon).
I agree that it can be extremely easy to over stretch very warm muscles. I’m a bit disappointed that the coaching manual doesn’t provide additional sources to support the recommendation to delay stretching for longer distance runs.
I generally delay stretching, mostly because I’m lazy, and I don’t believe it’s had any negative impact on my muscles or recovery. I personally find that massage and foam rolling does more for me in recovery and releasing tight spots than stretching alone.
What are your thoughts on delaying stretching after a long run?
Disclaimer: I am not yet a certified running coach but do my best to perform additional research prior to presenting any information or recommendations. Always listen to your body throughout your exercise program.
Disclaimer: Posts may contain affiliate or referral links. Your support is appreciated. Thank you!