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How to avoid running injuries and ensure a better stride

Why do you run?

It’s a question that we hear often. Is it because it makes you happier or more brave? Or perhaps it’s because of the health benefits, including lowering your risk for diabetes, cancer and heart disease?

Whatever your reason, there’s one thing we can assure you: Running, like any other way to sweat, is much, much better injury-free.

In his book Dr. Jordan Metzl’s “Running Strong,” Metzl has the perfect prescription for enjoying your stride without sacrificing your well-being.

Here are eight must-follow rules for injury-free running:

>> Train for your level of fitness and your goals: Don’t run more miles or harder miles than your body can handle. Not every runner needs a formal training schedule. If you run for fitness and your goal is 30 minutes a day, that’s cool, but if you are just starting out, you need to get there gradually.

>> Wear the right shoes and use inserts if you need them: You will hear, if you haven’t already, lots of opinions about whether running shoes really help prevent injury and whether you should even wear them. I’m in the camp that believes the right running shoes can help correct foot-motion issues that lead to injury, and that some of you may need a little added assistance from inserts.

>> Foam-roll all your muscles every day: You have probably seen them: high-density foam cylinders about 6 inches in diameter that generally come in lengths of 18 or 36 inches. Get one. Get to know it. It will be your body’s best friend.

>> Get seven to eight hours of sleep every night: Maybe six hours is all you need or nine is your ideal. But be honest about how much sleep you need and stick to it. Don’t get all caught up in the puffery around the water cooler about how much everyone is doing on five hours of shut-eye. The cool runner is the one who wins the race and the promotion. Sleep will get you there.

>> Fuel your body right for running and recovery: A good pre-run meal plan is one that keeps you stepping strong. After a workout or race, you need to deliver the right nutrients to all the microscopic body rebuilders in your muscles so they can do their job and get you back into tiptop shape for your run tomorrow.

>> Make time (and a budget) for massage twice a month: Your body will thank you. Regular massage is an investment in healthy muscles, faster recovery, and post-workout pain relief. Believe me, it’s worth every penny.

>> Pay attention to pain: I know runners. I have seen plenty of you as patients. You don’t quit until you are hobbling around like a lame horse. But by that time, your injury may have progressed to the point of no return to the road for weeks. Here’s my rule: When pain changes the way you run, stop running, figure out what’s going on and treat it.

>> Have fun: Isn’t that why we do this?

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