Running is a great way to add some movement to your weekly routine, without having to tackle the logistics of signing up for a scheduled class. You can run at any time, for as long
Running is a great way to add some movement to your weekly routine, without having to tackle the logistics of signing up for a scheduled class. You can run at any time, for as long as you want, and you can listen to your favorite music while you do it!
Particularly if you’re running on asphalt however, the exercise is high-impact and can be hard on your joints. A lot of people are especially concerned about the impact that running has on their knees, as knee pain for runners is a common affliction.
Knee strengthening exercises
A great way to keep your knees happy and to improve your running is to strengthen the muscles around your knee. If you are running regularly it’s a good idea to add in knee strengthening exercises that build the muscle and stretch the iliotibial band which runs down the outside of the thigh, ideally as part of your warm-up or cool-down. This will help protect the knee itself from impact.
Good exercises to include are:
- Knee bends
- Thigh contractions
- Straight leg raises
- Hamstring stretches with thigh contractions
- Iliotibial band stretches
- Squats (traditional, wide-leg stance and one-legged)
- Lunges (extra effective if carried out while walking)
Don’t neglect strength exercises elsewhere
According to Runners World there is actually no evidence that running damages the knees. Runners are commonly afflicted with runner’s knee, though in general it is not usually caused by running itself but by issues elsewhere, including weak hips and glutes.
The runner’s knee article includes a link to a strengthening program that you can try, or alternatively you can incorporate strengthening exercises into your routine by taking up yoga or pilates.
As you age it becomes more likely that your knees will start to weaken or cause you pain. Regular exercise is a good way to avoid this. If you are already experiencing chronic knee pain check out this article from BioXcellerator for advice on what you can do to avoid knee replacement operations and keep running.
Be mindful of your running technique
If you are running with bad technique, you can cause strains and injure your body over time, particularly your knees. When you are starting out it’s worth joining a running club or seeking some tuition so that you know your technique is right. In general, some things to bear in mind are:
- Avoid heel striking. Make it a point to never step out past your knees, and learn to let your legs swing rearwards rather than forwards.
- Don’t lift your knees when you run. Lifting the knees is good advice for sprinters, but if you’re running anything over a mile then it causes unnecessary stress. Instead, concentrate on bending your knees so that your heels lift up behind you.
- Lean your body forwards when you run.
- Keep your knees soft and bent. Don’t over straighten your legs while running.
- Keep your feet aimed in the direction you are running. Splaying your feet means you are running on a twisted knee and that just isn’t good!