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Rules of the Road: Tips For Staying Fit And Keeping Joints Healthy Through Running

Running is one of the most common forms of exercise, among elite athletes and regular, fitness conscious people alike. Whether you jog three-to-five times a week to keep active – like myself – or you regularly train for ultra-marathons, there is always that underlying risk of injury. Runner’s knee, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, hamstring issues – all common injuries we don’t like to say out loud, but unfortunately are often associated with running.

However, no need to hang up your running shoes yet. Following are key tips for safe and healthy running:

  • Support means everything. This comes from both the shoes you wear and the terrain on which you run. Having the right support in your running shoes is key. Be sure to take note if you are arched or flat footed, then do some research on the best running shoe for you. A lot of specialty running stores, like Fleet Feet Sports here in Raleigh (where I go), can help determine the right shoe for you. You should also consider where you will do the majority of your running. If you run on hard ground such as concrete, you will probably need more cushion than you would should you choose to mostly run in grassy and soft-grounded trail-like areas. The “give” of the terrain plays a major role on how your joints react to the impact of your strides.
  • Listen to your body. Even the most experienced runners can still experience sharp pains brought on by joint fluctuation and agitation. This is especially common in knees. Although hips have a smooth ‘ball and socket’ joint and ankles are designed to accommodate impact and rotation, knees tend to fall short in the functionality department. Cartilage and tissues can rapidly wear down from over-exertion and lack of support and stability. Make sure you rest between runs and stretch liberally during your warm-up and cool-down.
  • Cross-train. From preventing and rehabilitating injuries, to improving overall fitness, cross-training is key. Supplement your running with strength training, swimming, biking, yoga – whatever tickles your fancy.
  • Jump on the yoga bandwagon. Yoga helps strengthen your core and makes you more flexible – two elements that can keep you running injury-free.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you lace up and hit the streets or trails. Happy running!

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