Knee Maintenance and Care For Runners – Go Easy!
The human “second gear” is perhaps the most natural, simple, and effective form of exercise for our species. Walking, of course, is an excellent way to improve heart, respiratory, joint, muscular, and digestive health. Running simply pushes this benefit to a higher level. The whole body clicks into overdrive: it is the flight response used for centuries by our ancestors. Add some adrenaline to our run, and we leave our pursuers in a cloud of dust. These days, we mostly have a “personal best time” as our adversary. Yet we must also be careful; other adversaries exist that cannot be ignored.
One of the main complaints of both first-time runners and their seasoned counterparts is knee pain. Running puts considerable strain on the knee joint. If a runner is new to the sport, it is easy to over-train at the beginning. Take it slow, build your leg and joint strength. Establish a base of knee stability to prevent injury down the road. Experienced runners who are working on adding mileage for a new race distance should also take care: 10-kilometer conditioning and strength needs to be carefully modified if a 26-mile marathon is the goal. Knees will adapt to this new challenge if given the stability to do so. If two miles of moderate running cause pain at first, back off and rest. Give the knees time to stabilize.
Stability is essential to keep the knee working properly. Correct leg muscle development, obtained through gradual increase of mileage and intensity, will create stability. The quadriceps (on the front of the thighs) and hamstrings (on the back of the thighs) work in conjunction with each other, pulling on different areas of the knee at the same time. If these muscles are developed correctly, the knee joint will glide over and under itself without undue strain. Let’s not forget the tiny, yet indispensable patella, as well. This engineering marvel glides over the front of the knee, adding stability and providing a liaison between thigh and lower leg bones. Thus the knee has been described by medical literature as being three articulations in one: draw a circle in the air with your toe, and you get the idea.
If more than a casual couple of miles per week are the runner’s goal, it is mandatory that he or she invest in correct running shoes. People come in all shapes and sizes. Some people pronate, or roll the weight of their body to the inside edge of the foot. Others supinate, or roll the weight to the outside edge. Men and women even have different angles from hip to knee. This is why there are specific running shoes by gender. The best way to be fitted for running shoes is to visit a store that provides treadmill analysis. A shoe fitter will watch, or even video, the runner’s heel strike to determine what kind of shoe is best to support the customer’s body and running style. Yes, these shoes will probably be twice as expensive as the bargain-rack pair. However, to a runner, healthy, pain-free knees are well worth the price.