There’s no disappointment quite like when you’ve wedged yourself into your spandex, laced up your sneaks, perfectly curated your playlist, allotted time in your busy day, and finally head out for a run only to feel shooting pain through your knee. Or even to have a great run only to be hobbling around for a day or two afterwards nursing aching joints.
As a runner with knee problems, I’m always on the lookout for ways I can take care of my knees. Whether it’s something to get ahead of the problem, like a muscle-strengthening exercise, or a post-run soothing remedy, I want to find whatever does the trick to keep me running as pain-free as possible. Especially now that I am getting older. I used to be able to go run or play sports, sleep it off, and then get back out there the next day. No longer.
So let’s chat about what I’m doing and trying in order to keep running:
I’ve basically discovered that you just can’t do the same thing every single day. I mean, you could, but if you did you’d notice a few things:
- You make less “gains.” Our bodies have muscle memory and can be trained. If you do the same activity every day, go on the same route every day, have the same workout routine every day, your body gets used to that. You see less results and less progress.
- Repetition can lead to injury. By doing the exact same thing every day, you’re doing the same movements and using the same muscles every single day too. This leads to wear and tear that can go beyond soreness. “Overuse injuries” are definitely a thing.
- You get bored.
Basically our bodies, and our minds, crave mixing it up. It’s important to do other activities beyond the one (or three) that you love to keep your body (and your mind) guessing and working in different ways. Biking and swimming are GREAT cross training activities for runners, especially those with knee problems. Boxing keeps my shoulders and core burning beyond yoga and handstands, and challenges me mentally. Hiking, skiing, surfing, bootcamp – I love it all!
Physical Therapy and Strength Training
I’m a big believer is physical therapy. As I’ve talked about many times, I thought I was done running (at 24 years old!) but an awesome physical therapist got me back out on the trails running in no time. And a lot of his treatment for me featured exercises that strengthen the muscles that affects the knees: glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Going out running is only part of a runner’s training. Making sure muscles are strong and working together to support a run comes from strength training. Here’s my PT exercise routine!*
Stretching and Rolling
Something that I don’t do nearly enough of is stretching. Funny considering I’m a yoga teacher. But I’m way more likely to play with handstand than I am to stretch out on a bolster for my hamstrings.
But that’s starting to change. Lately with my hip and knee problems, which apparently is sourced in my hip flexor and psoas, I’ve had to back way off in my practice. I’ll post up in the back of class and do about 50% of the teacher’s flow, though modify. For the second to last round of flow I’ll do a juicy, stretchy version of whatever he or she is teaching. And then for the last round I’ll just do my own thing with stretches, tennis balls, straps, and blocks. Though I miss my full practice and going hard on my mat, I find I’m enjoying this stretchy, juicy, more laid-back place in my yoga right now.
I’m also loving rolling, rolling, rolling! Getting on tennis balls and foam rollers is always one of my favorite yet most painful ways to release muscle tension. Massage, Graston, and dry needling are all great ways of varying pain (in a hurt-so-good kind of way) levels that I love too.
What I’ve recently tried and am totally amazed by is acupuncture*! One of our students and my friend Kate does acupuncture out of Flex & Flow. She’s also an MD, which has to come in handy. I’ve had only two sessions with her and am feeling less pain than I have in months!
Beyond acupuncture, she also tried Moxa on me during my last treatment, which she thinks really worked well for me. Moxa is actually an herb used in a Japanese therapy. The moxa is burned in order to increase heat, blood flow, and qi to an area. It’s supposed to be very affective for pain and injuries.
Have you tried acupuncture? Did it work wonders for you?
I’m usually not the biggest fan of supplements and dietary additives. In the past I’ve tried the glucosamine and fish oil tablets favored by a lot of runners but didn’t really notice a difference. However I’ve found two that I am pretty excited about:
My chiropractor gave me a powdered magnesium to try out about a year ago, and I found I really liked it! Calcium is kind of the glory hog when it comes to bone health and strength, with magnesium as it’s lesser-known counterpart that helps bone health but also eases muscle cramping and aches. The way my chiropractor explained it is that we use calcium and exercise to build strength, and then the magnesium helps smooth everything out.
Collagen is definitely having a moment right now. When I first started hearing about it, the idea of it kind of grossed me out. But we’ve been doing some research and testing over at Fit Approach. And I’m a convert.
Collagen is a protein that occurs naturally in our bodies, but the development of it decreases as we age. Which is why we start to develop more muscle and joint aches, our hair loses some shine, and nails become brittle over time. Adding collagen back into our diet can help counter all of that! Plus, it’s pretty much tasteless. So for those of us that love the taste of coffee, it’s no big deal to sprinkle some in to a morning cup of joe. Here are four sneaky ways from Alyse to add collagen into your diet.
Want to give collagen a try, too? Get 20% off your Great Lakes Gelatin order through March 15, 2018 with the code GLGLife20.
*Please note I am not a physical therapist, homeopathic doctor, or acupuncturist, and am not qualified to dole out therapeutic advice. Please ask someone who is and find the regimen that works for you.