Stretching lowers endurance
Despite all the limbering that you see going on before long distance running events, new research has found that stretching may reduce endurance.
For the study runners undertook a treadmill test on two different occasions. Once they did the test after stretching and on the other occasion they did it without stretching. The sixteen minute stretching routine consisted of stretching each of the muscles of the lower body to their maximum length and holding that stretch.
On each occasion, with and without stretching, the runners were instructed to run as far as possible. Both their speed and the distance they had run were kept secret from the runners.
The results were surprising. When the runners stretched their average running distance was 3.4 per cent less than when they did not stretch. Despite covering less distance when the runners stretched they burned about five per cent more energy (kilojoules).
These negative effects of static stretching may seem surprising but a few recent studies have begun to point this way. The theory is that reducing muscle tendon stiffness and muscle strength may have a negative impact on running performance. Although the differences are not massive, for elite level athletes they are certainly enough to make a difference.
It may be worth noting then that come the next Commonwealth Games, before the marathon or 10 000 metres, look for the athlete who is standing calmly behind the start line. The one who is vigorously stretching the hamstrings doesnâ€™t stand a chance.