The Best Exercises to Prevent Running Injuries
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 u2014 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.
- Sit in a chair or stand against the wall with feet flat on the ground.
- Keeping your heels on the ground| lift and lower your toes in a quick motion. Try to keep your toes from touching the ground the whole time| if possible.
- Repeat for 30 to 60 seconds.
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.””
- Stand against the wall with your head| shoulder blades| and butt touching the wall (move your feet out slightly| so they aren’t touching the wall).
- Bend your elbows 90 degrees| so your arms are out on each side of your body| pointing up| so your body looks like a goal post.
- Slowly drag your arms up the wall| and keep reaching until they are straight and next to your ears. Make sure your shoulder blades maintain contact with the wall the whole time you are doing this.
- Drag your arms back down so that they are back to a 90-degree angle| engaging the muscles in your shoulders| so they stay in contact with the wall.
- Repeat for one minute.
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.
- To begin| hold a barbell or two dumbbells in each hand with palms facing forward (or toward each other| if you are using dumbbells). Raise up your weights| so your arms are straight and the bar or weights are over your head.
- Take a controlled lunge (or large step) backward with your left foot.
- Lower your hips so that your right thigh (front leg) becomes parallel to the floor and your right knee is positioned directly over your ankle. Keep your left knee bent at a 90-degree angle and pointing toward the floor. Your left heel should be lifted.
- When your left knee is almost touching the floor| hold. Then| slowly push with your left foot to raise your pelvis up a bit| and then straighten your knees and return your left leg back to starting position next to your right leg.
- This completes one rep. Complete 10 reps before repeating the movement and the repetitions on your right side.
| 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 u2014 do not swing your legs.
- Start on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
- Keep your right knee at a 90-degree angle as you slowly raise your leg behind you until your thigh is almost parallel to the floor. Pulse your flexed foot toward the ceiling by squeezing your glutes. Your back should remain perfectly still in a neutral spine. The motion should be small and controlled with the muscle| not momentum| doing the work.
- Return to start position to complete one rep. Do 20 on each side| two to three times.
Eric recommends adding fire hydrants 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.””
- Stand upright holding a pair of medium-weight dumbbells in each hand| arms at your sides| with your knees slightly bent.
- Keeping your arms straight and knees slightly bent| slowly bend at the hips (not your waist)| and lower the weights as far as possible without rounding your back| which should remain straight.
- Now squeeze your glutes to slowly pull yourself up (don’t use your back).
- Do three sets of 12 reps.