Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Ten Quick Fixes to Save Your Running Knees and Joints Long Term

1.Take at least 1-2 rest days per week. This means no impact giving your joints a rest from the pounding forces that running produces. Less experienced runners may need 2-3 rest days per week.

2.Perform no more than 1-2 "break through" or high intensity interval work outs per week. Speed work puts more stress and the body, and requires more recovery time. This type of work must performed prescriptively and carefully. Try to schedule your speed work or intervals work outs the day prior to a rest or recovery day.

3.Train in 2-3 day cycles, with a rest or recovery work out in between cycles. This allows your body to adapt to the stress of training. Some athletes will need more rest and less training, especially as intensity increases.

4.Change your shoes out frequently. A good rule of thumb is at least 3x per year for a high volume runner. You may want to write the date you purchased your shoes in permanent ink on your shoes for reference. Buying shoes is expensive, but so is your insurance deductible.

5.Take the supplements Chrondroitin Sulfate and Glucosamine. I don't recommend a lot of supplements, but this combination has shown promise in clinical studies, and in control groups of people suffering from knee pain. One works as an anti-inflammatory; the other helps regenerate cartilage. I know of several orthopedic surgeons who are recommending the supplement to their patients. It is definitely worth a try.

6.Increase your volume of endurance training by less than 10% per week. Bringing your mileage up too quickly is a sure fire way to promote injury. Your body adapts to stress (training), compensates for it, and builds or gets stronger. If you put too much stress on your body, it can't compensate and breaks down further instead of getting stronger.

7.Listen to your body. In my experience your body gives you an indication that you are about to sustain an overuse injury. This may be in the form of a slight or nagging pain. If you stop training at that point, you will more than likely be all right after a bit of rest. If you try to push through the pain you may end up with a more serious injury.

8.Periodize your training. Periodization means training in specific cycles that move towards a goal (race). Your training moves from the general to the specific and from low intensity to higher intensity as you approach your peak. The implications are that you only perform your most intense work late in the season near your goal race or peak. This means less stress on the body throughout the year because you are not performing high intensity training all year long. Have a licensed running coach work with you on an annual training plan.

9.Perform strength exercises to keep your knees strong. One of the more common overuse injuries is "runner's knee." This can be caused by a patella tracking problem, much like a tire that is out of alignment. By keeping your quadriceps strong you can prevent this condition. If you are an endurance runner you do not need to overwork these muscles or use a lot of weight, but light strength work performed correctly can help prevent injury.

10.Cross train. One of the benefits that multi-sport athletes have over runners is that they are able to perform swim and cycling work outs in between run work outs. This helps reduce the stress caused by the pounding of running, but the athlete still receives the aerobic benefit of training. A good time to cross train is when you have a recovery work out scheduled or a low intensity work out. If you use a heart rate monitor you can stay in the same heart rate zone as your run work out. Swimming, cycling, stepper, elliptical trainer, or even hiking are all good examples of cross training work outs.

About the Author
Matt Russ has coached and trained athletes around the country and internationally. He currently holds licenses by USAT, USATF, and is an Expert level USAC coach. Matt has coached athletes for CTS (Carmichael Training Systems), is an Ultrafit Associate. Visit www.thesportfactory.com for more information.


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