One of the most common running injuries is Iliotibial band syndrome (IT band syndrome). This issue occurs when the connective fascia tissue that connects the shinbone to the pelvis bone becomes too tight. The tightness of the tissue causes the IT band to painfully rub against the femur.

Often, it is runners who experience IT band syndrome. Things like increasing running mileage too quickly, poorly-fitting shoes, and hill training can lead to IT band problems. The burning and sharp pain that comes around the knee—and sometimes hip—can make it tough to stick with a running schedule.

If you have been struggling with IT band issues or want to prevent future problems, doing things like addressing your nutrition to optimize joint health can help, along with doing these five exercises.   

1.   Planking Hip Touches

To do this move, you will need to get in the plank position, with your forearms on the floor. Once you are stable, twist at the waist and touch your right hip to the floor, then return to the starting position. Alternate touching your right and left hips to the floor with ten touches per side.

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Doing 1-2 reps as part of your warm-up can help develop greater flexibility throughout your pelvic region. Also, this exercise can help you build up your core, which will provide you with greater support for your lower body’s muscles and ligaments.

2.   Rotating IT Band Stretch

Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at 90-degree angles from your sides. While keeping your back straight, rotate at the hips and reach down until the back of your left hand touches the outside of your right foot. Breathe slowly and hold this pose for a count of 30 then come back to the start position.

You should do this 4-5 times each side as it will help you to stretch out your IT bands while also building up your flexibility.

3.   Hip Raises With Resistance Band

Slip a resistance band around your thighs and lay down on the floor with your arms at your sides and knees bent. Your legs should be spread enough in this prone position until the band gives some resistance. Once you are centered, raise your hips up and hold for 15 seconds before releasing and lowering.

Hip raises alone can help stretch out a tight IT band, but with the added resistance from the band, you can maximize the movement value of this exercise.

4.   Clam Shell Stretch

Also using a resistance band around the thighs, the clam shell stretch requires you to lie down on your side. Once you are on your side, lift the knee of the leg that is on top while keeping your feet touching. Hold the lifted position for 10 seconds, then lower it back down. Repeat this movement 8-10 times on each side.

The resistance provided by the band will help improve the quality of your stretch, allowing you to engage your anterior thigh muscles as you stretch out your IT band.

5.   Standing IT Band Stretch

To do this stretch, you will need to cross your feet, leaving a bit of space in-between the sides of your feet. Raise your arms above your head and clasp your hands while leaning to the left. You should feel a good stretch running from your knee to your waist. Hold this position for a count of 30 seconds before releasing.

As long as you do this movement in a stable position, you should be able to temporarily alleviate tightness and nagging pain due to tight IT bands.

Ways To Prevent Future IT Band Problems

You don’t have to wait until your IT bands become an issue before you address them. By taking proactive measures, you can protect yourself from IT band syndrome as well as other common running injuries.

Take Time For Proper Stretches

There are many debates on whether or not warm-up and cool-down stretches are necessary. However, those debates tend to end when someone is dealing with a strained and pained muscle that has clearly been overtaxed.

Even if all you give yourself is a solid five minutes for your dynamic warm-up stretches and another 5 minutes at the end of your workout to gently static stretch your body, you can help prevent stiff, sore muscles and some potential nagging injuries.

Add Foam Rolling To Your Routine

For those who are beginning to develop aches and pains, it is time to start foam rolling. While it can be uncomfortable to use a foam roller—since you generally are pressing sore muscles against thick, unyielding foam—the act of foam rolling can help ease tightened muscles and tissue, like your IT band.

Foam rolling also promotes better blood flow, which can be especially helpful for runners who have poor circulation. There are many different foam rolling exercises you can try, but if you are struggling with IT band issues, be sure to target your quads and glutes.    

Change Out Running Shoes

Some people don’t bother to change out their running shoes until they are unwearable, and others never get fitted with the right shoes. Running shoes are designed to last for 300-450 miles of running on average—your actual mileage may vary depending on the shoes and manufacturer. After that point, the cushioning on the shoe is pounded down, and it is no longer supporting your movement correctly.

As for not being properly fitted, if possible, get fitted at your local running store. A store that specializes in running is best, as they can give you better information regarding shoe fit. If that isn’t possible, following the rule of going up a half size from your normal shoe size is good. As feet swell while you run, you don’t want to have your feet rubbing and blistering by wearing too-tight shoes. 

Include Cross-Training

According to NordicTrackPromoCodes.com, “the repetitive, strenuous motion of running can lead to IT band syndrome, as well as other common running injuries.” That’s why it is so critical that runners include regular cross-training into their workout schedules.

With cross-training, not only is the monotony of running broken up, but more muscles receive attention. As these auxiliary muscles are developed, the main muscles involved in running are better supported, helping to prevent injuries. Along with doing things like swimming and cycling for cross-training, research has shown that weight lifting can greatly improve running economy.

Increase Mileage Slowly

It can be exhilarating to run further and faster, but it can lead to a number of injuries if the amount of miles you are running increase too quickly. Some running plans are created without considering the safe increase of running mileage.

To help protect yourself from potential injury, stick to increasing your mileage by no more than 10% a week. That means, if you are currently running 25 miles a week, you should increase only up to 27.5 miles the next week.

So, whether you decide to go run with a group or solo, be sure to make time to fit these IT band exercises into your workout routine. That way, you can protect your body for years of successful running.

Guest author bio:Kevin Jones is a full-time professional fitness expert. When he isn’t in the gym, he is offering practical research, fitness plans and nutritional tips to the world. Kevin regularly contributes to many fitness and health authority websites. With a passion for family, fun, and fitness, Kevin has found a way to manage and combine these three aspects in an effective and successful way.

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