Smoky Mountain’s Coach Benson Tip on Stretching
It is becoming pretty clear that stretching has been over-rated as an injury prevention tool. It might be highly beneficial for recovering from injuries, but flexibility exercises done incorrectly can be very counter-productive.
Before a race or hard workout, stretching should be limited to just very mild/no pain offorts to the point of mere "discomfort." This avoids irritating the stretch receptor nerves. These nerves are embedded in muscles to keep us from straining or pulling muscles and their tendons. If the nerves are stimulated too much, they actually call for a contraction in order to prevent strains. When we make it a goal to mentally overcome that reaction by bravely enduring the pain signals, we can strain things or, worse, walk away from the stretching session with the irritated nerves still calling for contractions. Hence, we are tighter than before the stretching session.
If someone's flexibility is the issue, then AFTER easy and long run days, when the muscles are nicely warmed and relaxed, then stretching can help improve it. That kind of stretching requires those mind over matter painful stretches. Just be prepared to feel a bit tighter until the irratation goes away.