Running jargon busting No. 4: Stretching

Common usage: “I did plenty of stretching before that run”

Non-running types must be quite bemused when they spy a pack of runners before a race. They’d probably see a big group of people prepare by contorting themselves into all sorts of unusual and vaguely uncomfortable positions – and all in the belief that such stretching will make them run faster, quicker and, er, better-er.

Most regular runners seem to have developed their own pre-race stretching routine. These vary, but usually involve some variation of lunging, squatting, strutting, jumping on the spot, hopping and folding one leg behind another.

It looks odd and it can be vaguely painful, but hey, if it improves performance it’s all good, right? Yeah, about that…

Thing is, there’s some debate about whether or not pre-run stretching actually makes a difference or not. There are, like, proper medical studies with fancy titles and everything (you mean you haven’t read Static Stretching Alters Neuromuscular Function and Pacing Strategy, but Not Performance during a 3-Km Running Time-Trial yet? AND WHY NOT?).

As a result of such studies, plenty has been written about the benefits or otherwise of stretching.

I’m not going to add to that here. I’m not a doctor. Not even close. So I have no idea if stretching actually improves my pre-race routine or not. At my level, I’m guessing probably not. And yet, before a run, I keep on stretching… and I think I know why.

It’s because I have to do something in the moments before a run (aside from going to the toilet, obviously). I need to distract myself, calm my nerves and all that sort of thing. And that’s where the stretching comes in. It’s sort of like my pre-run nervous twitch. And probably the belief that doing some pre-run stretching boosts my performance provides something of a psychological boost.

Probably. Either that, or deep down I cling to the hope that it makes me look a bit more professional. “Oooh, look at him, he’s doing stretches. He must know what he’s doing…”

I’m running the 2016 London Marathon to raise money for the South West Children’s Heart Circle. Please sponsor me by clicking the ‘Just Giving’ button below. Thanks!

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  1. Brandy

    James I love your story and your charity. I would love to donate one of our stretching tools to help you stretch either before or after your runs. It could make you look even more professional 🙂 Check out our website and let me know if it is something that you would be interested in! We love giving back to the running community as much as we can! (our blog is and website is


  2. Pingback: Running jargon busting No.5: Parkrun | Atters Goes Running

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