Today on the Doc On The Run Podcast, we’re talking about how stretching is like a rest day, finite pain that pays off.
I know a lot of people are not even going to listen to this episode because I’m talking about stretching, and I think a lot of runners don’t really like the topic of stretching. But if you get injured and you go to a physical therapist, you can take it to the bank that they are going to give you some stretching exercises to do. Why? To waste time? No, because it helps when you have tissue that is predisposed to injury because it’s too tight, and when you have that issue, you need to stretch that tissue. Simple as that.
Now, stretching, generally speaking, is uncomfortable. Every time I show someone how to do stretches in their home, I basically tell them, “Okay. Do this. Lean here. Push there. Bend there. Keep that straight. Now, it should feel very comfortable right here,” and I’ll touch the muscle, the tendon, the tissue that we’re trying to stretch and explain to them, “It’s supposed to feel uncomfortable.
It’s not supposed to really be painful per se, but it is supposed to be uncomfortable.” You’re not supposed to enjoy it, and since it doesn’t feel like exercise to you, you’re probably not going to think it’s as productive as going for a run, but stretching is really important, especially when and where it’s needed. If you have an area that’s injury prone, you need to do something about it, and stretching can be one of those things, even though it’s uncomfortable.
We also know that days off are uncomfortable for runners, especially when it’s needed. I mean, big blocks of training make us feel powerful. They make us feel like we’re accomplishing a lot of things, but lasting power, and big progress, and training really comes from well-timed rest. Remember, you don’t get stronger when you train. You get stronger when you rest afterward, so you need to really recover like your finish depends on it.
Don’t think of recovery as a thing we’re sitting around and wasting time. The same way you wouldn’t think of stretching as really wasting time when your physical therapist told you to do it. You need to have well-timed rest days, and you need to respect those rest days. If you have a rest day after a big, long run, don’t spend the day taking surfing lessons. You need to do something that’s actual rest so that your tissue can actually recover fully.
So don’t think of the pain. Don’t think about it as time-off. You need to think about the progress that you’re going to get that is going to be the payoff from that added recovery and the additional rest that you factor into your schedule as you get stronger, as you’re training, as you’re getting back to running, as you’re recovering. That will really help you get back to running as quickly as possible.