To Stretch or Not to Stretch

Below is a quote about stretching:

If you’ve never stretched, though, don’t feel obligated to begin now, Dr. Herbert says. “There is little evidence that stretching does anything important,” he says, “but there is also little to be lost from doing it. If you like stretching, then do it. On the other hand, if you don’t like stretching, or are always in a rush to exercise, you won’t be missing out on much if you don’t stretch.”

Although it seems as though stretching doesn’t do anything beneficial, consider this scenario:

At a New York City party in SoHo over a decade ago, a good friend casually mentioned to me that he was playing basketball the next day.  I didn’t think much of his comment at the time as the party was lively and festive. As I was leaving, I said for all to hear “Make sure you stretch your achilles”.

He laughed it off having never been seriously hurt and only in his early 30’s. The next day, he tore his achilles tendon.

Do you think he stretched? Of course not. When I’ve asked those who have torn their achilles if they stretched beforehand, there was rarely a positive response.

My friend might have been injured anyway although stretching in this instance may have prevented 2 months on crutches. I could only chuckle when I saw him limping around after since I did give him ample warning.  I’ve always stretched my achilles before playing basketball or any other sport and I believe it is one of the reasons I’ve never injured it.

As a former division 1 basketball player, I was taught early on to stretch and do a light warm-up before taking the court. The stretching frequently made me feel better and more limber. Surely, there has to be some benefit to that.

The real key to avoiding an injury with running or sports in general is to know your body, compete within your limits and be careful not to injure yourself because of carelessness. Below is a quote and link from a previous article:

A message to all 40 something’s or older – stay within your abilities or comfort zone when competing athletically and don’t try to act as if you are twenty again. I have seen numerous people injured (often with pain for years) simply because they trained or competed as if they were still in college. A woman in my hometown was playing softball and ran the bases as if she was a track star; she never made it to home base and died. If she had run easily and comfortably, she might be on this earth today. Quality of life should be important and as we get older there needs to be a focus of sound judgment in any chosen athletic endeavor or you could have an aching knee or bad back for the rest of your life.

There has never been a moment in any type of sport/activity where I wasn’t aware of my body and competing in the proper way, especially with regard to my knees and back – areas if injured, can limit one’s life in a major way.

I’m less than three years from 50 and my body has rarely felt better.

One final thought on avoiding injuries in your day to day life; a quote from my article called “Avoid Injuries Due to Your Own Actions:

Remember the following story the next time you find yourself near ice:

In 2003, Dr. Atkins was enjoying the moment particularly because his controversial weight loss philosophy was finally getting the respect he thought it deserved. He was in his early 70's and life was good.

As he was walking down a New York City street, he slipped and fell on ice. He suffered a severe head injury and never recovered. He died just as the glory was shining upon him. What a shame.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

The October Foliage at our country home in Sweden.


Anonymous said...

I do stretch before exercising.. and before working. I am a Massage Therapist.

Anonymous said...

I have been dealing with achilles problems for two years. Very frustrating. My sports doctor is the Carolina Panthers doctor and he also goes out on the PGA tour and treats the athletes. Stretching is crucial!!

Anonymous said...

Yes! Stretch, roll, massage - anything to move the lactic acid through the muscles, move the lymph and stimulate the connective tissue is healing and restorative to the body. Key for Recovery.

Anonymous said...

Hi G. I have a yoga client whose personal trainer has told him not to stretch and has given him a hard time when he sees him stretching before or after their workouts. Yes, he's been hurt three times in six months. He's now stretching regularly before and after (on the sly!).

I forwarded him your blog post and he said, "I've been a human experiment for this and stretching definitely helps."