The Times has had a number of good running articles in its Health section. JT pointed to “Why Exercise Makes You Less Anxious.”

I came across one on stretching. I’ve always felt a tad guilty, although not guilty enough to do anything about it, about the fact that I don’t stretch. But it seems that one wants to avoid “extreme” tightness in the hamstrings but strive for some tightness.

Gretchen Reynolds in the Times: “Phys Ed: How Necessary Is Stretching?“:

    The inflexible men were more economical than the women, and for both men and women, those with the tightest hamstrings had the best running economy. They also typically had the fastest 10-kilometer race times. Probably, the researchers concluded, tighter muscles allow “for greater elastic energy storage and use” during each stride. Inflexibility, in other words, seems to make running easier.

    For years, flexibility has been widely considered a cornerstone of health and fitness. Many of us stretch before or after every workout and fret if we can’t lean over and touch our toes. We gape enviously at yogis wrapping their legs around their ears. “It’s been drummed into people that they should stretch, stretch, stretch — that they have to be flexible,” says Dr. Duane Knudson, professor of biomechanics at Texas State University in San Marcos, who has extensively studied flexibility and muscle response. “But there’s not much scientific support for that.”

    In fact, the latest science suggests that extremely loose muscles and tendons are generally unnecessary (unless you aspire to join a gymnastics squad), may be undesirable and are, for the most part, unachievable, anyway. “To a large degree, flexibility is genetic,” says Dr. Malachy McHugh, the director of research for the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York and an expert on flexibility. You’re born stretchy or not. “Some small portion” of each person’s flexibility “is adaptable,” McHugh adds, “but it takes a long time and a lot of work to get even that small adaptation. It’s a bit depressing, really.”

In the end,

    “Flexibility is a functional thing,” Dr. Knudson says. “You only need enough range of motion in your joints to avoid injury. More is not necessarily better.” For runners, extremely tight hamstrings and joints have been found in some studies (but not all studies) to contribute to overuse injuries. But somewhat tight hamstrings, as the Nebraska Wesleyan study showed, can make you more economical. Some degree of inflexibility may make you a better runner.

A couple of weeks back there was a discussion on stretching on the Runners Round Table. There was a bit of nomenclature trouble; what Yuri Elkaim referred to as “active stretching” would be what I would call a “drill.” (Here are some good drills from Pete Magill.) “Passive stretching” is what I at least think of as “stretching.”

The USATF is doing a study on the efficacy of pre-run stretching (although one wonders when the results will be distributed). Like many runners, I’m not big on stretching. I don’t do it. I need to improve my core work, but that’s different.

Of course the Times seems obsessed with Christopher McDougall and the Tarahumara tribe. One can’t have everything.

Thanksgiving Bonus

The sound got a bit out of sync. And don’t expect anything terrible or crazy.