How to run to avoid knee injuries
Learn the basic rules of running and how to protect your knees in this article.
Running has been used for many goals, increasing endurance - for athetes that are practice sports that require prolonged activities for example tennis players. Running few miles a day is usually a great idea, and recommended by many elite athletes and trainers to increase your endurance.
Furthermore, running can be used to increase your power and muscle strength, for instance running types like sprint have been used by athletes to increase their jump high - which is important for sports like basbketball, voleyball and many other activities.
There are many other benefits to our overall health, for instance - running regularly improves cardiovascular health, decreases the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, improves your mood and helps reduce the excessive body fat. Being active has many pros, but one of its coins is joint issues, especially common in knee joints for people that run actively on a daily basis. We want to discuss with you some of the basic rules of proper running, that could help you avoid any joints issues in your knees.
Basic rules of proper running
To avoid injuries and keep progressing and increasing your performance, we would recommend you to follow the basic rules of proper running. They are not complicated but people often neglect them and forget to do them, which usualy means that you are at a higher risk of knee issues.
- 1.Warm up
Do not stretch before running session. Stretching has been shown some negative effects like decreasing runner's performance. Instead you can warm up with 5-10-15 minutes slow walking and/or jogging before the running. This way you are going to prepare your joints, muscles, cartilages and ligaments for the running session. This would of course decrease the chance of injuring your knees and other traumas.
- 2.Run on grass
Running on concrete is really bad, especially if you do it regularly, when you run on such a hard surface it increases the stress on your knees, more stress increases the chance of injuries and inflammation of your joints. There are places designed for runners with softer surface to run on, however if you do not have such near you, you can pick parks or anything similar to run, the grass would be great idea too, running on softer surfaces should decrease the stress on your knee joints. If there is not a running area or a park near your place, you can try run on pathways or similar places.
- 3.Do not overdo it
Many athletes try to run a lot, they run few hours every day and they consider this a hard work, which should help them progress. It might actually help your progress but, you have to make sure that you are eating healthy, a lot of vegetables and fruits and well hydrated - about 2-3 liters of water every day, and make sure that you feel good. If you run more than 1 hour a day and you feel less motivated, with lower energy than usual, then this might be a strong sign that you are doing it too much. Fruthermore, your joints recover a lot slower than your muscles, so too much too often, without prober recovery, which includes healthy eating and getting plently of sleep and few days a week of the running activities, is nod helpful for your progress and your health. One of the best approaches would be to increase your running activities times slowly and see when you start to feel demotivated and weak in your knee joints and/or feel any pain in that area. If you feel great and do not experience any issues in your knee joints, then this is a good sign that you are doing it properly. Other thing you can do is to consult with a professional trainers and/or athletes to advise you more about apropriate amount of running based on your goals.
- 4.Pick comfortable and supportive shoes
As we previously mentioned, running on hard surface is bad, and if you cannot avoid it, the next best thing you can to is to pick soft and comfortable shoes. This will prevent your joints from being too active and would avoid the stress that would damage them, if you run on a harder surface with improper shoes.
Most running shoes are with soft soles and they provide a great feet support. They also endure a lot of using, so we would not recommend you to buy cheap ones, if you are serious about running and you are doing it regularly. Many of the most popular brands offer shoes for active people and they are really great for support and endurance, take a look at brands like Nike, Addidas and Asics.
- 5.Use knee support if you have to
If your doctor have recommended you to use any type of knee support, especially if you have had any trauma ot injury previously.
If you haven't had any injuries and issues in your knees, knee support might not be necessary, however if you feel small pain or weakness it might be okay if it goes away, but try to understand when occurs (surface, shoes and any other factors) and try to fix it.
You can use knee support in this case and if the pain is persistent you should talk to a physician to make sure that your joints are healthy and you can run safely.
- 6.Cool down
After the running is over, don't stop right away. Keep walking fast and then slowlier. This would ease the stress from the joints, muscles and ligaments. Instead of stopping, this is a grood practice in many sports and you should take advantage of it after running sessions.
- 7.Do not compare yourself with professional athletes
Now if you have just started running it would be really a bad idea to compare yourself with professional runners. They have been running for years and they have put a lot of work into their goals. If you run too much right from the beggining it might hurt your knees. Like any other sport it would be best if you start with small steps and constantly build your endurance. For instance you can start with 15 minutes a day for the first few weeks and then increase it by 5 minutes every 2-3 weeks, but this is just example you have to pay attention to the way your muscles and joints feel when and after running.
- 8.Drink a lot of water
Hydratation is crucial for health and performance. Drinking water should help you with your progress and also could protect your knee joints, since joints stay healthy when they are used but also when the synovial fluid is increased and they are well lubricated, and of course water is strongly connected with that. You should bring with you a bottle of water and drink it after the run but try not to drink too much during or before the running session. As a general rule you should drink about 2-3 liters of water every day (about 1 gallon) and if you are active, you should drink atlesat 500-1000ml more to make sure that you are well hydrated and ready for the running exercise. Hydratation has been shown to increase the performance of your muscles and if you are dehydrated to decrease it.
Other advises how to avoid knee injuries when running
- Consider talking to a professional trainer
If you are running for pleasure and you have never spoken with any professional athlete or trainer you should really consider this, because it is always good to have a advise from a more experienced, in this area, person. They could help you by pointing anything that you might not notice yourself, things that you are doing while running for instance. You can purchase few sessions with them to check your running technique or to record a video of your running activities and show it to people via youtube for instance.
- Did you have any injuries in your knees?
If you have previously injuried your knees, the following running rules might change a little for you. You have to make sure that you are not experiencing any pain or weakness when running, to make sure that it is okay for your to run after knee injuries, it would be best if you consult with your doctor.
- Do your knees crack ?
Cracking joints it's a little bit of a complex topic, since the cracking itself may not be damaging the joints, but it is definately something to be concerned if happens a lot. Cracking usualy happens because of gas in your joints, but if it happens almost every time you move, then this might be connected with muscle imbalance or tendon issue. Stretching your hamstrings and quadriceps might help you with that, but if your knees crack and you run regularly it might become an knee issue.
- Do you feel week in your knees when running?
If you feel weakness in your knees when running, this might mean many things, generally it means that you do not get enough rest or your recovery is not good enough - meaning that you do not get enough sleep, eat poorly or are dehydrated. If you get enough time off the running and you still feel weak, it might be because of muscle imbalance or previous knee issues, you can try to wear knee support like sleeves, but if the feeling is persistent we would advise you to consult with a physician.
- If you are overweight, it would be a great idea to start slowly and to eat healthy to decrease the weight. If you run to lower the weight it is great, but do not run too much especially if you have just started and in you are in a hurry to lose the extra pounds.
Running if you are overweight is more damaging to the joints, because of the extra pounds that they have to bare.
Joints should be protected and running alone might not be enough to decrease your weight. Nutrition is so important for your health and for the bodyfat percentage, if you run a lot but you eat too much it might help you lose any weight. Combination of both is usualy the best idea, and to make sure that you are doing it properly, you could consult with nutritionist to make sure you are eating enough and healthy.
- Do you eat poorly?
As we mentioned eating is really important, so if you eat poorly, foods like - french fries, burgers, cookies and etc then do not expect a lot of progress in the sport areas. Your performance is strongly connected with the food that you eat, so if you want to continue to progress you should consider changing your food. Healthy food, would help you recover faster, by decreasing inflammation and suppling your body with the vitamins and minerals that it needs to perform better. If you eat better, you would have more energy and you would see better results. General common sense diet should help you with that idea, but just to point you to the right direction , try to eat and make your own homemade juices from froods like oranges, apples, bananas and etc. They taste great, they have a lot of vitamins and are really low calory foods. Homemade would be a lot better choice than the ones from the supermarket, because they are filled with things like preservatives and other that are not necessarily helpful for your progress and beneficial for your health.
If you run often, make sure that you are doing it properly, in a healthy manner and in a way that helps you progress without damaging your joints. If you are experiencing any joint issues when or after running and the rules that we shared do not help you, we would suggest you to talk to a professional trainer and a physician to perform x-rays and other tests to check your joints' health status and give you further advise.