Local expert thinks NY Times writer is stretching the truth

A San Diego pain expert believes a new book extolling the virtues of not stretching could lead to more injuries for runners and other athletes.
May 11, 2012 - PRLog -- In a recent interview on NPR, NY Times writer Gretchen Reynolds talked about stretching in a way that rubs personal trainer and massage therapist Matt Hsu the wrong way.

"Her comments on stretching are preposterous," says Hsu. "If people actually follow her advice on stretching, you're going to see the numbers of running injuries skyrocket in San Diego and across the country."

And that's exactly the opposite of what Reynolds intended. In the interview, Reynolds remarks on estimated injury rates for runners being as high as 75% per year.  She recommends reducing speed and distance to reduce the amount of impact and says that stretching isn't really worth doing to prevent injuries.  Flexibility, she claims, is genetically determined, and stretching won't actually improve it.

"That's the part that makes the least sense," says Hsu. "If you look at ballerinas, ice hockey goalies, acrobats, gymnasts -- they all stretch on a consistent basis to ensure that their bodies can handle the demands of their activities. For every one of those kinds of athletes you find who says they never stretch because they're genetically blessed, you'll find countless others who have spent countless hours stretching to improve their flexibility. If you want to tell runners to reduce their mileage, you might as well just tell them to stop altogether."

Hsu says to avoid injuries it's the kind of stretching and the duration that matters. For most runners and weekend warriors, stretching is a short activity that lasts only a few minutes every once in a while. And he says that kind of stretching really won't improve your flexibility or reduce your chance of injury.

"To really make a difference, you have to stretch on a consistent basis and in a way that restores proper muscle balance. Ten to thirty second stretches done once every few days or weeks  isn't going to make a difference. You have to hold for at least a minute to get muscles to even relax properly to stretch.  And you have to think about how the stretches affect your body.  If you do the right stretches for the right amount of time, you can make running a joy."

In the last several months, Hsu has been working with runners and triathletes preparing for marathons and competitions. One such runner, Lauren, had complained about soreness in her hamstrings after long runs. None of the massages, chiropractic adjustments, foam rolling, or acupuncture she tried could keep it away. Finally she sought out help from Hsu. Once she got used to her stretching routine, she attempted the 2012 La Jolla Half Marathon.

The results brought a smile to her face. "I had no soreness in my hamstrings at all, which is a really big deal."

A video of Lauren's experience is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FA6xtMh1f0

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Tags:Gretchen Reynolds, Stretching, Running Injuries, Injury Prevention, Muscle Balance, San Diego
Industry:Health, Fitness
Location:San Diego - California - United States
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