3 Essential Exercises Every Runner Should Be Doing

Looking for the best ways to improve your running performance? Want to prevent injuries and keep your joints strong? The key to optimum performance is to train smart. Certain exercises can make you faster, leaner, and stronger while reducing your risk of injury. Ideally, your training routine should include a mix of stretching, pilates, strength exercises, and core work. These moves will help you build strong bones and muscles so you can sprint across the finish and stay injury-free.

So, here are three essential exercises that every runner should be doing:

The Squat

Touted as the king of leg exercises, the squat improves your flexibility and balance, builds lower body strength, and boosts functional fitness. This multi-compound move also engages your core, and strengthens the muscles around your knees and joints as well as your glutes and back muscles. Depending on your fitness level, you can try barbell squats, front squats, dumbbell squats, wall squats, or single leg squats.


The Plank

This exercise works the rectus abdominis and oblique muscles, improves your balance, and lowers injury risk. Doing planks regularly helps build a strong core, which is essential for distance runners. Having strong abdominal muscles is crucial forbalance, endurance, breathing, and flexibility.  Try front and side planks, reverse planks, walking planks, BOSU topside planks, and plank hip dips.


Pilates

Pilates is one of the most efficient workouts for runners. This training method helps create a stronger core, increase spine flexibility, and fix muscle imbalances. It also makes it easier to maintain good posture and strengthens the muscles of the pelvis, hips, shoulders, and legs. Some exercises speed up recovery from injury. Others increase flexibility and range of motion, expand the diaphragm, and elongate the spine for better stability. Compared to other training methods, Pilates is safer and requires no equipment. Additionally, most moves can be adjusted to any fitness level.

How to Prevent the Most Common Running Injuries?

Running is a great way to keep fit and relieve stress. Compared to other types of exercise, it's safer and can be done anytime, anywhere. Each year, people of all ages join marathons, races, and other sports events that involve running. About half of them experience injuries. Over 65 percent of all runners are injured at least once a year. Most times, this is due to poor running form, lack of running experience, or overuse.

It can take months to fully recover from stress fractures, muscle strains, and ruptured ligaments. The best thing you can do is to prevent running injuries in the first place.

Runner's Knee

Also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, this type of injury occurs when you put too much stress on the knees. Running too much or for too long increases your risk. Pain usually gets worse when jogging uphill, walking, or climbing the stairs. The best way to prevent runner's knee is to opt for flat running surfaces, and do squats, lunges, deadlifts, and other exercises to strengthen the muscles supporting your knees.

Plantar Fasciitis

This running injury is due to irritation or inflammation of the plantar fascia. Common causes include prolonged standing, improper footwear, weak core muscles, and overtraining. To prevent plantar fasciitis, stretch your heels before running and wear quality sports shoes with extra cushion. Increase your mileage gradually and give your body time to recover from training.

IT Band Pain

Iliotibial band syndrome causes pain outside of the knee. It is usually triggered by downhill running, increased mileage, weak hips, and over-pronation. This injury can be prevented by strengthening the muscles on the outside of the hip, such as the gluteus medius and tensor fasciae latae.

Other common running injuries include Achilles tendinitis, patellar tendinitis, shin splints, and tibia stress fractures. To prevent these problems, stretch properly before running and build up your mileage by no more than 10 percent a week. Keep a training log and don't push yourself too hard, especially if you're a beginner. Listen to your body and stop any activity in case of sharp pain, dull aches, and other signs of injury.

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