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The Best Exercises to Prevent Running Injuries

Feb 16 2016 - 1:16pm

If you're a runner, chances are you've experienced a running-related injury or two. "The most common issues I've seen from runners include knee pain, shin splints, tight hip flexors, and IT bands," says trainer Eric Chen, who's spent years teaching injury prevention classes. "Most of these injuries can be prevented with regular foam rolling, increasing range of motion, and adequate rest." All it takes is a few minutes a few times a week, Eric says, to strengthen weak areas of the body, so you can run without pain. He shared with us his five favorite exercises that help keep runners injury free. Bonus: you can do the first two almost anywhere, anytime — starting right now!

Throughout the Day

1. Toe Flutters

Raising and lowering your toes activates the tibialis muscle, which runs along your shin bone. You can do these toe flutters while sitting at your desk or standing against a wall (ideally without shoes with heels on). Do these three times a day to "strengthen and increase range of motion to prevent those shin splints," Eric recommends.

2. Wall Drags

If your normal day involves you hunched over your desk, this exercise is for you. It may seem simple, but it is an excellent way to open up your chest, fix your posture, and make running feel easier. "The muscles in the shoulders and neck are actually pretty important for running, because everything's connected, and you get a lot of arm drive from them," Eric explains. "Just by doing [wall drags] once a day, you'll activate those muscles that rarely ever get touched if you're sitting at a computer."

After doing wall drags, Eric recommends one minute of wall flaps, as well. Start at the same position, with arms at 90 degrees pointing up and backs of hands touching the wall. Then hinge them over at the elbow, so they are making 90-degree angles but are now facing down and palms are flat against the wall. Repeat for one minute.

During Your Workout

Supplement the above do-anywhere exercises with these moves you can add to any workout. Doing these at least two times a week will increase your range of motion and strengthen important muscles, Eric says.

3. Overhead Reverse Lunge

This move opens up the chest while stretching posterior muscles and hip flexors.

4. Donkey Kicks

During this exercise, keep your back straight and in neutral alignment, and pay special attention that you don't arch your back. Use your muscles to create a slow, controlled movement — do not swing your legs.

Eric recommends adding fire hydrants [1] to the mix as well. Instead of lifting your leg back, lift it to the side, so your thighs are parallel to the floor and the soles of your feet are facing the wall behind you.

5. Deadlifts

"Your core isn't just your abs!" Eric says. "Deadlifts are great exercises to strengthen that posterior chain. If you're an endurance runner, you need a strong core to support yourself."

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