You might think running is the bee's knees, but not if it makes this joint ache with pain. Runner's knee is a common ailment, but it doesn't just affect runners. Any type of exercise that involves bending your knees repetitively such as biking, hiking, and skiing can cause pain around the kneecap, and here are some ways to prevent it.
Whether you've signed up for a race or are inspired by warmer weather, it's important not to increase the intensity of your runs too abruptly. Follow the 10 percent rule to gradually increase mileage, and be sure to take rest days to give your running muscles a break.
If the muscles in your legs are weak, then it's your joints that absorb the impact of each pounding step. So be sure to spend time doing strength-training moves that target your quads, calves, hamstrings, and glutes, and incorporate lateral moves that strengthen muscles around your knee joint while improving agility — try this 10-minute leg workout. Strong quads and strong glute meds, the muscle on the side of the pelvis, can also help prevent iliotibial band syndrome, which causes pain on the outside of the knee, so do this wall squat exercise to target that area.
Tight hamstrings or quads can prevent the knee from going through its full range of motion, which can negatively impact the soft tissues that work the knee. Here are eight essential stretches to do after a run to target your lower back, quads, hip flexors, and hamstrings. You can also use a foam roller to loosen stiff muscles, so try this 15-minute routine.
Check Your Feet
Those with low arches or flat feet tend to overpronate (ankle rolls inward), and those with high arches tend to underpronate (ankle rolls outward). If you don't wear sneakers that support your foot type, then it could result in knee pain. And if you can't remember when you last went shopping for new sneaks, chances are they're so old they're not supporting your feet properly, which is also a recipe for knee joint and other pain.
Mix It Up
While running itself can make your legs stronger, constantly using the same muscles means overusing them, which can be one cause of your pain. Incorporate other types of heart-pumping exercise such as swimming, biking, and cardio classes to target your total body while giving your running muscles a little break. And when you do run, mix up the surface you run on, trying to choose between softer ground such as trails or a track.
Watch the Scale
Running can be considered a series of connecting hops, and the force of landing on your knees is considerable. Excess weight just increases the force of pressure your knees endure while running, so maintaining a healthy weight can also prevent pain in this joint.