My mother used to warn me that running would eventually wreck my knees. Maybe that’s true but I am already many decades in and have had runner’s knee exactly once. The thing is, I try to care for my knees as best as I can and I think that’s paid off for me. Are you struggling with some knee pain? Here are a few things runners (especially younger ones) do that can ultimately harm those precious knees.
1) Not warming up properly. I know this one personally. For years, my warm-up consisted of running the first mile or so of my route slower than the rest of it. That probably wasn’t a horrible thing to do but it certainly wasn’t a complete warm-up either. Now I spend at least 10-15 minutes doing dynamic stretches before I even head out the door. My knees (and the rest of my body) thank me.
2) You’ve gained weight. Yes, this can be an issue for runners of all ages but it becomes particularly important as we age and it is harder to metabolize food. Knees are the largest weight-bearing joints in our body. The pressure exerted on them in just the simple act of walking is many more times your actual body weight. Therefore the more you weigh, the more pressure. Reducing your weight safely is one good way to preserve your knees.
3) Overdoing it. There is a reason I love trail running and it turns out not doing the majority of my miles on pavement probably has saved some wear and tear on my knees (and other joints). Cross-training is advised as well as strengthening the supporting muscles and ligaments around the knee. Yoga or Pilates, anyone?
4) No rest. I understand that some of you are “running to burn off the crazy.” However, you can risk accident and injury if you are not building rest into your routine. The very act of exercise tears down specific parts of your body and rest is the time when your body repairs itself in order to come back better and stronger than it previously was. You’ve heard it before and you likely will hear it again - rest days are just as important as training days.