I’m pleased to announce that the September issue of Runner’s World quotes me as an expert on stretching in an article called “The Rules Revisited,” which questions several bits of conventional running wisdom. Contributing editor Bob Cooper contacted me a few months ago and asked me if I could summarize my 5000-word article on the mythology of stretching: “Can you tell me everything you know about stretching in 4 or 5 sentences?” An interesting challenge! Here’s the result:
“Most runners have an unjustified faith in the benefits of stretching,” says Paul Ingraham, a runner, massage therapist, and health journalist (saveyourself.ca) in Vancouver. “Plentiful research has shown that stretching doesn’t help someone warm up, ease muscle soreness, prevent injury, or enhance performance. In fact, no measurable, significant benefit of stretching has ever been proven.”
Runner’s World, “The Rules Revisited,” September, 2009, p. 59
Cooper adds some nice points:
Why is it that many Kenyans don’t stretch? Why was legendary coach Arthur Lydiard not a fan of stretching? Why does Galloway say, “In my experience runners who stretch are injured more often, and when they stop stretching, the injuries often go away”?
The whole article is excellent. In addition to stretching, it challenges several other pieces of conventional wisdom with valid alternative views:
Buy the issue to find out what the alternative viewpoints are!
I have excavated a mother lode of irony from this issue of Runner’s World magazine: a more or less perfect demonstration of how difficult it is to communicate the results of science to a general audience.
There’s another article in the issue — “All in the Hips,” p. 46 — that uncritically promotes the idea that hip strengthening can treat and/or prevent lower leg injuries. This idea is primarily the pet theory of Dr. Reed Ferber of the University of Calgary’s Running Injury Clinic.I have excavated a mother lode of irony from this issue of Runner’s World magazine.
Ferber’s confidence in his theory is well out of proportion to the evidence. He regularly promotes it with press releases and new scientific review papers that simply repeat his interpretation of the same old inadequate evidence. When he first started doing this a few years ago, it might have only been a case of excessive optimism. Years later, it seems increasingly obvious to me that Ferber is much more interested in his reputation than the truth.
So he’s in Runner’s World promoting a new myth to a new generation of runners … even as I am quoted trying to debunk the (still prevalent!) myths of the last generation. There is basically no hope that the average reader will know that Ferber’s advice is really weak. Most will believe the article. About a million Runner’s World readers are going to conclude that hip strengthening “probably” works!
While my message is now pretty much always to “curb your enthusiasm” about virtually every popular idea in pain and injury science, it’s drowned out by the roar of other experts who are promoting their pet theories to a public that does not have a fraction of the savvy (or time!) that they require to call foul.
What a mess!
For those who care to take the time to dig for the truth, you can read all about the weakness of Ferber’s theory: