Written for Knee1 by Michelle Alford
With the days becoming longer and warmer, more runners are taking to the streets. Running can be a great way to burn calories, improve cardiovascular health, and relieve stress, but running is also a common cause of knee injuries. The following tips will help you enjoy your summer runs without worrying about injuring your knee.
Avoid Injuring Your Knee While Running
Choose your footwear carefully
Warm up and cool down
Be careful where you run
Strengthen your leg muscles
Give your body time to recover
Choose your footwear carefully: This is not about finding the most expensive or highly rated shoes. It’s about finding the right footwear for you—which for some reason may mean no shoes at all. Carefully test shoes before purchasing them. Make sure that they fit your feet and that they are comfortable to run in. Don’t be embarrassed to take a couple of laps around the store. Wearing footwear that is uncomfortable or causes you to alter your natural gait can result in wear and tear to the cartilage that cushions your knee.
Warm up and cool down: Start each session with stretching and walking before you take off running. This warms up your joints and muscles and prepares them for the run. In addition, you should always have a cool down period after your run in which you walk and stretch again to remove lactic acid from your muscles and reduce soreness.
Start slow: You may be eager to jump immediately into long runs and enjoy the weather, but be careful not to overdo it. If you do not currently run regularly, start by alternating running and walking and build up to longer runs. Never increase the distance you run more than 10% a week. Challenge yourself, but if you’re having significant difficulties, set smaller goals first and work up to bigger goals.
Be careful where you run: Running on pavement puts a lot of stress on your knees. It’s better for your knees to run on softer surfaces, such as grass, dirt trails, or running tracks. If these aren’t available, asphalt roads are preferable to concrete sidewalks.
Strengthen your leg muscles: Exercising the muscles that support your knees, particularly the quadriceps and hamstrings, will help to protect your knees while running. You should strength train three or four days a week on alternating days.
Give your body time to recover: Your body needs time to heal damaged muscles. You should rest at least one day a week and alternate between long-run days and short-run days. Beginning runners may wish to alternate between run days and walk days.
The most important thing to remember is that if you’re feeling pain, it’s a sign from your body that something’s not right. Slow down and figure out what’s wrong before continuing.
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Photo: Lulu Lemon