When a good workout leaves my muscles sore, I know I'm getting stronger every day and revel in the pain. But when a long run leaves me with achy knees, I'm reminded that I'm getting a little bit older and a little more creaky. Unfortunately, my knees have been talking back a lot lately — just another reminder that as your age increases so does the amount of time you need to spend doing body maintenance. A long run requires a long yoga session and hours on the bike translate into time spent stretching and strengthening. With all that in mind, here's my happy knee to-do list:
- Roll it: I roll my iliotibial bands religiously (here's more details on rolling the ITB). The ITB is a band of fascia that runs from the outside of the pelvis to just below the knee. Unlike muscle, fascia is not very flexible — I call it the body's shrink wrap. Using a foam roller and slowly rolling out this band can do wonders for knee pain by adding a little length to the tightened band. Turn the 60-minute guilty pleasure of your fave reality TV show into body time and roll out your legs in front of the boob tube.
- Stretch 'em: Tight hamstrings and calves, both of which cross over the back of the knee joint, can yank on the joint, pulling it out of alignment. Keep your hamstrings loose with these stretches and stretch your calves regularly, especially if you run, is imperative to keeping you on the road. As you age, it's important to hold your stretches for a little bit longer to reap the benefits. Increase the time in the stretch to 45 seconds to a minute.
- Strengthen: Strong hips make for a happy runner, and at least two times a week I work my glute meds, the stabilizing muscles on the outside of the pelvis. Strong glute meds decrease the sway of the pelvis, cutting down on both low back and knee pain. I do two to three sets of 20 side-stepping squats with a theraband.
With a little TLC and common sense, you can prevent many problems of the weekend warrior. If your pain doesn't go away with time off and rest, make an appointment with a physical therapist. Having a trained professional diagnose an injury early on can prevent it from becoming a chronic condition.