There are so many theories stating whether you should stretch or not stretch and my answer is this: if you have never stretched before and you are about to go and do a race then no I don’t suggest you start stretching. If you have always stretched and have gotten good results from it then yes continue to stretch the way you have always stretched. There will be times in your life however where the stretching will not be aggressive enough or it is too aggressive. You must guide and feel what your body does. It is like massages, sometimes they feel really great because you need them and other times they aren’t very good because your body didn’t really need it.
If you are a starting out and you are a young runner and are starting to learn what you need to to keep your body going strong for years to come then yes, with stretching you are going to have a longer life of exercise and fewer injuries. Look at the older generation of runners who are now 45 to 60 years old and most of these people hobble and can barely can get around. This is mainly due to the fact that they never stretched. It is a generation where marathon running was big and no one stretched and people are suffering from it.
I once met a very famous triathlete and coach who had done numerous ironmans. He was talking to one of my clients and proceeded to tell the person that stretching was not necessary. I wanted to tell him to come back and talk to me in a couple of years. Recently I heard that his career has come to a stand still because he had torn his achilles tendon and ACL. I have to wonder how much is due to him not stretching.
I currently have a meniscus tear and I have had three surgeons tell me that I need surgery because it has gotten worse, but the truth is that I know that a meniscus tear is something that would heal if I would just stop running so much. But I feel that the pain is bearable as long as I keep stretching. What happens is that my hips get tight because I am running in bad form, my ITB and my quads get tight and pull on my knee and then the pain comes. If you have knee pain start with looking at your shoes, then your shins, calf’s, quads, hamstrings and what is tight and is pulling on those tendons and ligaments that run through and around the knee cap. If you work on these things many of your injuries will go away.
Should you do active stretching, static stretching, or something as aggressive as I do such as yoga assisted stretching where I put clients into different poses and literally push, pull and shove their bodies. Sometimes some of my clients just need a restorative type stretch where their muscles can relax into it. I have a client who I’ve trained for many years and we have stretched and not stretched. He recently was on vacation and just got back and did not stretch much while he was gone and he says he felt great. But he was on vacation and I know he did not workout as much as he could have which is why he wasn’t as tight or sore as he is when he works out daily. He came back and worked out and then went and sat in his office and he was glad we had stretched after the workout or he would have been sore again the next day.
There are many situations where stretching is key and whether you spend 5 minutes or 10 minutes or whatever time you have it will only help. If you are active and you want to be active for a long time and be injury free then yes, I will say 100% say you need to stretch!