If I stood on the sidewalk outside my house for an hour and asked every runner who passed about his stretching habits, I’ll bet at least half would tell me they don’t stretch at all. I’d be part of that group, too.
Before you gasp in shock, go online and poke around. For every article you find about the necessity of stretching before a run, you’ll find another saying it doesn’t matter. Some even go so far as to say it does more harm than good. Both sides offer seemingly sound arguments, both sides boast venerable physicians, and both sides use data to back them up. How do I know which argument is right?
Like so many things, there’s probably truth in both. Unfortunately there’s no single authority to offer a definitive ruling, so it’s up to me. Being naturally impatient and the kind of person who just wants to “get it done,” I have diligently eschewed a pre-run stretching ritual in favor of hitting the pavement that much sooner. I keep the anti-stretching articles in my proverbial back pocket as justification, but I got to this place all on my own.
The problem with my cavalier attitude is that recently I’ve noticed some new twinges and pains in my legs–nothing serious and nothing that seems permanent, just some tightening and weirdness at certain times. While this could have something to do with a heightened sense of awareness of my body the more I run, I wonder if it wouldn’t help to stretch my calves a little before I beat feet. I think it might be worth a try.
Of course, this kind of change in direction causes a tremor in my mental fault lines. I’ve been running successfully for several years. I haven’t materially altered my routine. With all the variables the same (ignore the fact that I’m aging, please), I should have no reason to change a thing, yet here I sit considering doing just that–and anticipating, or at least hoping for, success. To me, this begs a question: If this works, what other areas of my life deserve this kind of re-evaluation? What else have I been doing that merits a potential change of routine? To what end? What results to I want to achieve?
That last question is a tough one. What results do I want to achieve? With running, I’m not too concerned about my muscle aches; they’re just a springboard for trying something different, injecting my running game with new life. Maybe I’ll run faster. Maybe I’ll run longer. Maybe my legs will feel better. Maybe nothing will change and I’ll go back to the old way. It might be a stretch, but it can’t hurt to try.
Running is my metaphor. What’s yours?