5 ways to prevent knee injuries while running
Many of my clients tell me that running causes knee pain. Some of them haven’t been able to run for years. Because running is an extremely effective way to lose weight, I try to correct the problem so they can run again. I’ve also suffered from knee pain and with some simple steps my knee pain was resolved. There are many different reasons that you may have knee pain and it’s important that you talk with your doctor before you start a rehabilitation program.
Build Lower Body Strength
The focus of a strength program is injury prevention and building a strong lower body. This helps prevent many injuries, including knee pain. When planning a lower body program, the best exercises are compound exercises. Compound movements involve multiple joints that work together. Here are some examples of compound movements; squats, dead lift, leg press, and lunges. If you build a program with these exercises you will see big gains. When you first start out, make sure that you start with no weights or light weights. Lifting weights is safe if done correctly. If you’re doing big lifts for your lower body properly your body will start to correct its alignment. After a few weeks, your hips and knees will start to point straight ahead and your gait will start to correct itself. A great way to make sure that you’re doing the movements correctly is to get some objective feedback from a friend or a fitness professional.
Build Stronger Hips
The hips and knees work together to keep your body in proper alignment. People with weak hips tend to suffer from knee and back pain while running. When first training many of my clients I observed their knees caving in during a squat assessment. This can be easily addressed with some simple hip strengthening. If you see your knees caving in while doing a squat you can correct this with a few simple exercises before the problem turns into an injury. Resistance band squats, Tube walking and hip bridges can help correct knee alignment issues. After a week of following a hip strengthening program you should start to see your knees pointing straight ahead. This will help keep your knees healthy because just like your car your body needs proper alignment to prevent ware and tare. If you’re unsure if your knees are caving in you can use a mirror or hire a professional to assess this for you.
Foam rolling your muscles on a regular basis can keep you in the game. When we workout our muscles get tight and this tightness can lead to injury. A foam roller can break down tight spots in the muscles and help promote blood flow which can accelerate healing.
A friend of mine told me that he suffered from knee pain for over 10 years and felt hopeless when doing distance runs. From what he told me I concluded that the pain was coming from a tight IT band. After a week of foam rolling the IT band he said that his knee pain went away and that running was not a problem.
When you foam, roll look for the tight spots and roll over them slowly for about 90 seconds. When you first start foam rolling, you might feel very tender. If this is the case use lighter pressure and start adding more pressure down the road. After a few weeks of foam rolling you should see some results. Focus on rolling out the quads, calves, IT band and glutes. This will loosen up the lower body helping you to run loose and injury free.
Stretching is very important in if you want to have healthy joints. Many of us lack flexibility and this causes our muscles to pull harder on our joints which can lead to injury. Before you run make sure to warm up with a dynamic stretching program. An example of a dynamic stretch is lunges. Lunges activate all the muscles used while running. When doing lunges make sure to use full range of motion, this will help open your joints and you will feel great on your run.
After you’re done running you should preform static stretching. Static stretching is when any stretch that is held from 20-30 seconds. You should feel a slight discomfort while doing the stretch. If you follow a stretching program for a few weeks you will start to feel better during your runs. You will slowly feel the tightness and your body will thank you for it.
Finding the Right Shoe
Incorrect shoes can cause knee pain and I’ve seen this problem with many of my clients. The are many kinds of shoes and everyone is different. When I first started running I picked a shoe with lifted heels and a lot of support in the shoe. This caused me to heel strike and I ended up with a knee injury. After the knee injury, I had to sit out running for a few months. After that I decided to read up on the subject and I found that there is a lot of different information out there. The best advice I can give is to go to a local running store and get fitted for a shoe. If the shoe isn’t right, then change shoes and keep trying. After a few shoes, you should find one that fits your needs. For me zero drop shoes worked. You might need something completely different.
The Take Away
Knee pain can get in the way of our goals and put us on the sidelines but if we follow a simple program to keep the joints healthy we can avoid injury and enjoy years of pain free running. If you’re unsure on how to start a program, try hiring a fitness professional at your local gym or have one come to you. Good luck your program and keep enjoying your runs.