Prevent the five most common running injuries

It doesn't matter if you're just beginning to run or you're a marathon veteran: running injuries can happen to anyone. And when a runner gets hurt, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), shinsplints, or runner's knee usually is the diagnosis. Allison Lind, a physical therapist in New York City, developed an exercise program that will make you less vulnerable to these five injuries. Do them together as a prerun routine.

1. Prevent ILIOTIBIAL BAND SYNDROME with side-leg raisers Prevent ITBS by strengthening the gluteus medius muscle near the hip. When it's weak, another upper-leg muscle overcompensates and pulls on the ITB, causing pain along the outside of the leg, down to the knee.

Lie on your side with your hips and legs stacked. Lift your top leg up, keeping it straight, but point your toes inward and toward the ground to isolate the gluteus medius. Hold for 30 seconds, then release. Roll over so your opposite leg is on top, and repeat. Do three sets on each leg, working up to one minute per set.

2. Prevent SHINSPLINTS with heel walking and big-toe raisers Prevent shinsplints by strengthening the muscles that attach to the shinbone. A. Walk in place barefoot for one minute with your forefeet off the ground. Do three sets. B. Lift the big toe of one foot as high as you can, lower, repeat 10 times. Switch feet. Do three sets.

3. Prevent RUNNER'S KNEE with half-squats on a downward slope Prevent runner's knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome, by strengthening the quads to keep the kneecap aligned. Stand facing down a hill or on a decline board. Squat halfway between the start position (straight leg) and a full squat (90 degrees). Do three sets of 10. Too easy? Try single-leg squats.

4. Prevent ACHILLES TENDINITIS with calf drops Prevent Achilles tendinitis by strengthening the calves.Stand barefoot with the balls of your feet on a step. Rise up on your toes with both feet. Shift your weight to one foot; lower down on that foot. Rise up on both, lower on one. Do three sets of 10 on each side.

5. Prevent PLANTAR FASCIITIS with arch raisers Prevent plantar fasciitis by strengthening foot muscles. Stand barefoot on one leg. Imagine your foot is a tripod and place even pressure on your big toe, pinkie toe, and heel. Ground these three points as you "scrunch up" your arch. Hold for 30 seconds; repeat three times.

How do you stay injury free? Stretching? Yoga? Strength Training? Let me know in the comments.

Susan Rinkunas is an associate editor at Runner's World, a magazine (and website) that informs, advises, and motivates runners of all ages and abilities-and we mean it. Her blog on Yahoo! Shine offers tips on running technique, nutrition and weight loss, shoes and apparel, and balancing fitness and life.

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