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Caring for your Knees

“Falling in love is so hard on your knees” – Aerosmith

Almost all of us have come across some well meaning soul telling us not to run so much because running will damage your knees for life. Forget the endorphins and the excellent BMI, and the killer feeling you get when you try on the trouser/dress two sizes smaller, or hit that new PB, what are you going to do if when you become 60 you need both your knees replaced.
·       So I am going to let you consider some facts..
·       The oldest male marathoner is a Sardar who is a 104 years old
·       The oldest female marathoner is a superfit and fighting 94
·       There is no longitudinal study evidence to suggest that long term endurance running causes a higher rate of arthritis
·       There is, however, good scientific evidence to suggest that people who regularly ran had a LOWER rate of arthritis than sedentary people. They were also consisitently better than their inactive peers in cognition, balance and mental health.
So the real reason why everyone suggests it is bad on the knees, is because after the foot , the knee is the most commonly injured area for runners. IT band syndrome and Patellar tendinitis aka runner’s knee are so common in the runners’ lexicon, that they are probably more knowledgeable about it than the average orthopaedician. These injuries are not easily prevented. If it was as easily prevented as experienced runners seem to suggest, then we wouldn’t see it so much, would we?
Clearly, there are some common sense rules…
The first one is one of functional over reaching. Our body is a wonderful thing, because it adapts to stress and and builds itself. But the incremental stress should be in sensible increments. Our cardiovascular status adapts very quickly in comparison to our musculoskeletal system. In runners speak, within a few weeks of running , you are less likely to be out of breath due to an increased distance as compared to a running injury. Build your mileage slowly.
The knee and the foot take the brunt of impact and when you multiply a few thousand steps with 6 times your body weight, it is a lot of impact. After you let your body adapt to the impact, you can still sustain an injury if your muscles of the core and the pelvis are not in sync or weak. Pay attention to those core workouts and strength building.
Another interesting study suggests that the impact with which you land with can lead to injuries.This couples three particularly interesting phenomena- stride length, cadence and impact.
Increasing Stride length is important in increasing speed but if that is the only thing we increase, we will have a tendency to push our leading foot forward which leads to the centre of gravity being left behind and more impact on the foot and the knee. Stride length is better increased by plyometrics and sprints than by just running faster.
Cadence is the number of steps we take per minute. Ideally the higher the cadence the more the distance travelled for the same stride length. The common mistake is to increase stride length instead of cadence. Work on your cadence and that is the key to speed.
Impact can be lessened by listening to your footsteps. Obviously the more force you land with, the more sound it makes. Tread softly and you will lessen some impact. The first few times you might be a little sore because to lessen impact you need your muscles to contract and act like a spring with every step.
Injury happens, but it doesn’t need to ruin your running experience.
Run free, run far and run happy.