As a distance runner, I’m no stranger to pain. I’ve run a 50-mile ultramarathon, and I recently finished my third marathon. Sure, I was stiff and sore afterwards, but I woke up the next day with no knee pain. None. Zero. No joint pain whatsoever, to be honest.
No, I’m not a superhero and I don’t have bionic knees, but I'm consistent with these five simple tips. Whether you’re running five miles or 50, they’ll help you too.
1. Wear the right shoes.
If you want to be a runner for longer than a year, you have to be sure you’re wearing the right shoes. Do you over pronate? Do you have more of a neutral gait? Do you not have any idea what I’m talking about?
What to do: Get fitted by the pros. Find your local running store and have a gait assessment and shoe fitting. It’ll save you from a lot of pain, suffering and injuries, so you can keep calm and run on.
2. Practice balance exercises religiously.
They’ll strengthen both your core muscles and the accessory muscles in your legs to provide more stability for your joints.
What to do: Start by standing on one leg. Hold onto a wall or have a chair or railing nearby to grab onto if you need to (falling over sort of defeats the purpose!) Tighten your core and your glutes and hold for 30-60 seconds. Once you’re able to stand on one leg for 60 seconds, challenge yourself to make it more difficult. I often brush my teeth or shampoo my hair while standing on one leg — sometimes with my eyes closed. Multitasking!
3. Increase your mileage slowly.
Have you ever taken a break from running for a few weeks, months, (years?) and tried to jump right back in where you left off? You’ve done the distance before, so your mind thinks you should be able to do it again, but trust me on this one, DON’T — your knees will hate you.
What to do: The general rule of thumb is to increase your total mileage by about 10% each week.
4. Make best friends with a foam roller.
Knots in your quadriceps and hamstrings can throw you all out of whack, and a tight iliotibial (IT) band can cause lateral knee pain that will stop you dead in your tracks.
Warning: This is not for the faint of heart. There will be times you think that innocent looking, tubular piece of foam was created as a torture device, but the relief you’ll feel after you’re done is totally worth it.
5. Take a high quality glucosamine and fish oil supplement.
Glucosamine helps reduce pain and maintain healthy joints, which are a MUST for runners, and the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil help reduce pain and inflammation. I rely on a balanced, whole foods diet to keep my body healthy and I eat fatty fish, so I never thought I needed to supplement. I started taking these when I couldn’t get rid of some nagging aches and pains after I ran the ultramarathon, and couldn’t believe the difference. I rejoiced! And I keep on rejoicing because my knees feel THAT good.
Have you overcome a running injury or found success with one of these tips? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below!