Host: Dr. Matt Minard

Episode Summary

Dr. Matt Minard is a Physical Therapist who enjoys both the physical and mental benefits of running. He is passionate about helping others run safely.

In this episode, Dr. Minard expounds on the role of stretching and warm-up in exercise. In detail, he explains how to employ both activities separately in relation to running and general workouts.

Learn to Run | Season 1, Episode 3 | Warm up before, stretch after running

Top Takeaways

  • “When we stretch, it’s everything; it’s both bone and muscle”
    – [Dr. Matt Minard]
  • Can we just say Lengthening instead of Stretching?
    – [Dr. Matt Minard]
  • “Muscles need to be off in order to lengthen them”
    – [Dr. Matt Minard]
  • “That’s the key with everything in life, slow and gradual”
    – [Dr. Matt Minard]
  • “Warm up before; lengthen after”
    – [Dr. Matt Minard]

Episode Highlights

  • [01:29] Today’s question is “What is the skinny on stretching”?
  • [02:10] Define stretching
  • [04:36] Should we stretch before or after running?
  • [08:38] What should we do before running?
  • [10:40] Does stretching prevent injuries?
  • [12:48] The aim of stretching
  • [15:20] Specificity of training
  • [17:30] How to warm up before running

Episode Notes


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What is stretching and why should it be referred to as lengthening?

To stretch is to lengthen. When we stretch, we stretch everything including bones and muscles.

Try a classic quad stretch: Stand up, find something to hold on to for balance, shift your weight to your right leg, bend your left knee, have your left arm reach around, grab your foot just above your ankle, and pull the heel towards your buttocks. Doing this, you feel your quadriceps muscles stretch. Mostly, when we stretch, we stretch the muscles.

To make it easier to understand, we will refer to it as “lengthening” instead of stretching.

When should we stretch or lengthen our muscles?

Woman stretching after running

Lengthening (stretching) should be done after running with the goal of preventing adaptive muscle shortening or muscle tightness from the repeated muscular contractions that occur during exercise.

It is crucial to note that “muscles need to be off to stretch or to lengthen.” If you have a muscle contracted or activated, you cannot stretch it. It is more important to hold your stretch for about 20-30s for maximum relaxation.

Instead of stretching/lengthening, warm up before your run.

A couple warming up before their run

Just like you would warm a car engine up before driving out, your body should also be allowed to warm up. Then slowly increase the intensity of activity before running.

Why should I warm up before a workout?

Very often, people erroneously advise you to stretch when injured; this is tantamount to lengthening a cut on the skin which would open the cut increasing healing time. Hence, if there is actual pain in the muscle, not tightness or discomfort, it signifies an injury to the muscles. And stretching should be avoided as it is likely to increase healing time. It is important to note the difference between lengthening a muscle to cool it down after running and addressing a likely muscle injury.

Lengthening prevents injuries

Running injury

Lack of motion can cause compensations; as discussed in detail in Episode 1. If muscles are restricted (shortened or tight), it can limit motion. Over time, as this tightness occurs repeatedly, the body will compensate by tapping into other postures to carry out that motion. However, these postures put too much workload on other tissues that are not meant to bear it, thus increasing the risk of injury to those tissues.

Understand why you are lengthening

Are we stretching to cool down after running, or to improve our range of motion? If we are trying to improve our range of motion, otherwise known as mobility, that should be done slowly and continuously over time. However, if stretching before exercise works for you then you don’t need to change it. Recommending this to others may not be a good idea though, because consideration has to be given to what works for individuals as well as the activity being performed.

Specificity of training

Comparing different activities, it becomes obvious why the warm-up and cool-down methods may not necessarily always be the same. Consider the movements involved to decide how to warm up slowly and gradually. As a general recommendation, warm up before exercise and lengthen after exercise.

To warm up before running Dr. Minard walks up and down the track, increasing his intensity with each lap. He starts with proper posturing like hinging at the ankles, then starts using free energy to run before adding more power. The duration of this warm-up varies from 2 to 20 minutes depending on different factors like recent activities, and the nature of the exercise.

Dr. Minard shows this step-by-step process of graduating intensity:

Dr. Minard shares his quick stretch after exercise:

Occasionally, after working out, Dr. Minard would walk for 10 minutes and still stretch afterward, especially after a more intense workout.


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