Like many runners, stretching is not my favorite. First off, it’s confusing: one day I hear that stretching’s bad for distance runners, and the next I hear we’re too tight and slower because of it. It also takes time but doesn’t have an easily-measured relationship to running performance.
What I do know is that I feel good when I move my body in non-running ways, without lingering in any one position for too long. And my favorite time of day to do it–also my best bet for actually doing it–is in that post-dinner, pre-bed window. Typically, Will and I put on an episode of whatever we’re currently into, I sprawl out on the ground and do my stuff, and by the time the credits roll, my body’s gotten some major TLC and my mind knows it’s about time to sleep.
I don’t think the specifics of a stretching routine matter as much as the consistency of one. But the sequence I’ve grown to love was introduced to me by my good friend Chelsea (Reilly) Sodaro about five years ago. I’ve basically been doing it since! Created by Jim and Phil Wharton, it’s a rope-assisted active-isolated stretching routine, which means that you use a rope to stretch one muscle at a time for no more than two seconds, while at the same time contracting the muscle opposite to it. You release that stretch, repeat it several times, and then move onto the next muscle.
For a way better description, I highly recommend checking out The Whartons’ Stretch Book or watching whatever relevant YouTube vids hold your attention. For an extremely unhelpful but fun demonstration, here’s this:
I end every session by focusing on two areas that are chronically stiff/tight/locked up: back/thoracic spine and hip flexors.
I figure if I can spend a few hours a day getting ready to run, driving to run, running, strength training, and cross training… I can probably cede 20 minutes at night going easy on my body and kick-starting the recovery that happens when I sleep.