Please do not skip stretching

The most memorable story I have heard about why people skip stretching is from a police officer. This patient told me, as he told all his trainees, if you need to chase after a thief, you cannot do your stretching first, right? Wait until you have stretched your hamstring, stretched your calf, the thief ran away already! So why you worry about stretching? Just run!

So off he runs, years after years. Then he ended up seeing a physio.

I have also seen marathon finisher who had to stop running because of knee pain. He had been running for so many years with no habit of stretching. Every single muscle in his legs were unbelievably tight. Me, as a fresh-grad physio back then, had no idea where to start. When I finally got over my astonishment, I scratched through my memory and gave him all the basic stretching I remember. And miraculously, the pain went away with stretching only, and he soon went back to running!

The thing about stretching is that, if you skip once or twice, it is probably not going to do any harm. And indeed research has shown that doing stretching does not significantly affect the risk of injury in that particular session of exercise. But if you skip stretching for the long run, your muscles are going to get tighter and tighter until you start to develop pain.

So please do not skip stretching, but you don't necessarily need to do it before or after exercise. I like to stretch my calf muscles while waiting for the bus. And you can give your tight chest muscles a good stretch while waiting for the lift. The more exercise you do, the more stretching you should be doing.