Warm Up and Cool Down Like a Runner: The Static vs. Dynamic Stretching Debate

Hey Runner, does this feel like you?

"There are millions of stretches, Dr. Whitt. I get 10 minutes after a run to stretch. Which ones should I throw into my a daily rotation?

Not to mention, should I be doing dynamic or static stretching?

…I just want to maximize what I'm doing!"

I agree.


Something like warming up and cooling down should be simple. But it tends to feel overwhelming and complicated and when you start looking into "what should I be doing?"

So what do you think about a power circuit?

A circuit that could potentially do-it-all in a pinch?

A quickie that works BOTH as a warm up and cool down when you're pressed for time?

Would you be interested?

Ok, you can think about it for a minute.

But in the meantime…

Look at this stat:

"Up to 75.4% of runners…name static stretching as the most frequent warm-up strategy to prevent musculoskeletal injuries. The popularity of static stretching among the athletic population can be misleading, as it has been shown to affect athletic performance and injury rates in a negative way and may have little to no significant impact on soreness levels when used as a pre-activity technique" (Ullman).

Holy guacamole, running fit fam.

No wonder we're all so confused!

75% of us are still hard-core static stretching before we run while the other 25% is trying something new…and that's only talking about a warm up!

But why the confusion? Well, there's this quote from the same research article:

"Static stretching…demonstrated a decrease in variables associated with injury over extended periods" (Ullman).

Whoa, whoa, whoa.

Didn't we just say static stretching is "bad"?

And now it's not?

Aaaahh, literature review and research. You know all the answers and none of the answers all at the same time. And the best answer is always, "it depends".

Here's one more quote for you which will help clear this up:

"However, due to impacts on short term performance, static stretching may be best suited for post-activity recovery rather than as part of dynamic warm-up. Static stretching following running activity in combination with recruiting and strengthening proper musculature using isometric hold prior to performance may prove to be an efficient training method…" (Ullman).

Wow.

What a kerfuffle already.

With this week's blog post I want to help clear the air a little. I want to help you decide how best to use those precious 10mins before or after your run. Because clearly, every runner is different and every body is unique in how it responds to a warm up or cool down. And just from those 3 quotes, we've already learned static stretching isn't so great for a warm up but might not be the worse for you in a cool down. But those dynamic stretching exercises are the new gold standards for a solid warm up.

So let's sift through the research and literature together and see what we come up with.

You ready? Let's run down this rabbit hole!