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5 Things Physical Therapists Want Runners to Start Doing Now

The Odds of Getting Injured

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Did you know that as a runner you have up to a 56 percent chance of getting injured? Yep, that's right. More than half of all runners could be nursing an injury this year, according to a study published in the journal Sports Medicine. (And if you've been there, you know how emotionally painful recovery can be.) No one likes being sidelined because of an injury, so we asked physical therapists who treat injured runners for the scoop on what they want you to start doing now to avoid injury later.

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Warm Up and Recover Properly

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It's tempting to skip a proper warm-up or recovery session due to time constraints or laziness, says Andrew Fenack, D.P.T., F.A.F.S., a physical therapist at Finish Line Physical Therapy in New York City. But it's an essential part of the workout that serves to keep runners healthy, he says. "If you have an hour to train, only run for 45 to 50 minutes and spend the other 10 to 15 minutes warming up with dynamic stretching and recovering by foam-rolling an overused muscle group such as your quads," he says. (You might want to skip your IT band, though.) "By doing this, you'll reduce injury risk without losing fitness—and you'll feel better than you did if you only spent the hour running."

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Do Single-Leg Exercises

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"Running is a series of single-leg hops performed repeatedly," says Lauren Alix, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., a physical therapist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. "To be a strong runner and reduce your chance of injury, you need to be strong and stable while standing on one leg." To improve strength and stability, Alix says to "add two sets of ten reps of single-leg Romanian deadlifts to your strength training routine."

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Move In Different Directions

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Running is primarily a forward-moving activity, but to propel forward every joint and muscle in the body moves in three planes of motion (forward, side to side, and rotationally), explains Fenack. "Stretching in multiple directions helps protect your body from repetitive movement injures," says Alix. Take a traditional hip flexor stretch and add movement to it to make it a dynamic stretch, suggests Fenack. While stretching your hip flexors, do side-to-side bends and rotate the torso left to right to move the hips in all directions, he says.

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Hold a Plank for 60 Seconds

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When you run, your core muscles control your pelvis and keep your hips even, says Alix. "A weak core can lead to uneven hips during running, reducing your efficiency and increasing your potential for injury," she says. "Planks engage nearly every muscle in the front of your body, including the rectus abdominis (the muscles that give you a six-pack), obliques, and lateral stabilizer muscles." A strong runner should be able to perform three 60-second planks in a row, she says. If you're not that strong yet, start by doing three sets of 30-second planks instead, and increase your time by 5 to 10 seconds as you build strength and stamina. (Better yet, join the 30-day plank challenge and you'll be crushing those sets in no time.)

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Stop Pushing Through Injury and Fatigue

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Runners struggle with knowing when they should skip a workout due to fatigue or a twinge of pain. They tend to be stubborn and often push through injury and pain just so they can get a workout in, says Fenack. "If you are consistently sore in one specific muscle, address this before soreness becomes an overuse injury that sidelines you." Running through fatigue also poses injury and health risks. How do you know if you should skip your workout? Watch for these five times when muscle soreness is actually a bad thing.

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