Part 2 of this series explored the vital role proper nutrition plays in your running performance. Part 3 gives you four easy ways to protect yourself against injury.
Part 3: Build an Injury-Proof Body
"The knee accounts for about half of all running injuries," says Robert Gillanders, P.T., D.P.T., O.C.S., a physical therapist with Sports + Spinal Physical Therapy in Washington, D.C. "But knee problems are usually indicative of a weakness in the hips, glutes, and core. If those areas aren't solid and able to stabilize you as your foot strikes, your knees take the brunt." Gillanders is a fan of simple exercises you can do anywhere; here are four of his favorites that will downsize your risk of knee—or any other—running injury. (And always follow these 10 Golden Rules for Injury Prevention to avoid major training mishaps.)
Targets: Glute strength, hip-stabilizing muscles, plus opens hips
How to: Lie on your back with your feet hip-width apart, arms out to the side. Engage your core and lift your hips up; if your back hurts, don't raise your hips as high. Focus on squeezing your glutes to hold your hips up. Hold for a count of 5, then slowly lower and repeat 10 times. Work up to two sets of 15. Up the challenge: With your hips up, "march" by lifting one foot a few inches off the ground. Don't let your pelvis move. Lower and alternate. Work up to three sets of 30 reps.
Clam ShellTargets: Hip rotators and core
How to: Lying on your left side, stack your legs on top of each other and bend both knees 90 degrees. Rest your head on your extended left arm. Bracing your core muscles and keeping your ankles glued together and your hips facing forward, raise your right knee six to eight inches off your left. Slowly lower. Do two sets of 10 to 15 reps. Up the challenge: Rest on your hands and knees and engage your core. Raise one leg, knee bent, directly out to the side. Again, keep your pelvis and lower back as still as possible. Do two sets of 10.Want more runner-friendly workout moves? Try these Strength Exercises That Make You Faster.