Naturally it isn't just runners who occasionally have knee problems; injuries can be common in many sports as well as the general population. Knees are complicated joints and have to be strong in taking a lot of punishment over the years. I also come across many people who often say they would love to become a runner but their knees aren't up to the job.
With this in mind, here are my top tips for taking care of knees:
I have blogged many times before about the need to have the correct running shoe. This does not mean simply paying a lot of money for the latest in fashionable trainers. No. It means getting shoes which are the correct size and are suitable in terms of whether you over or under pronate as you run.
To achieve this I recommend ALL runners starting out have a proper gait analysis done at a running shop. This is either done on a treadmill and you're filmed in slow motion to see how your feet land and roll forward, or you simply run around the shop and you're observed by an expert eye.
Getting the right shoes not only benefits your feet but your whole position as you run, this includes how your knees perform.
Correct saddle height
This applies if you're a cyclist. Many cyclists ride with the saddle too low, especially on these horrid Bike Shaped Objects which people buy from supermarkets for £99. These heaps of junk do more harm than good.
By making sure your saddle is at the correct height in stretching your leg nicely - but not completely - when you turn those pedals will make your ride more efficient, comfortable and less likely to cause injuries.
When you're exercising
I mentioned above that knees are complicated joints, therefore it's important to take note of any discomfort or pain when you are exercising or training. This is especially relevant to all runners, as the constant pounding our knees and ankles take can be considerable. Also this applies equally to people who have had replacement knees as well as those who haven't.
I have heard some runners say they run through the pain. That's all very well but when joints, such as knees, become painful it is because something is wrong and it is important not to make things worse. There's simply no point in being "tough" and regretting it later on. Beware of any twists or strains, which can happen with sudden changes in direction, or trips and falls. If you notice any kind of restricted movement or instability, a pain that won't go away etc. it could be time to visit your Doctor.Take the stairs
In my office we have stairs and a lift serving all three floors. I always take the stairs to get a little exercise whenever I need to move around the building. Sometimes I simply walk up one stair at a time, usually I go two steps at a time.
Last week I had a large box delivered which was too heavy to carry and I used the office trolley to collect it from reception. I popped it into the lift, pressed the 2nd floor button and raced the lift. Beating the lift is actually easy as it's not fast at all. When I got to the 2nd floor some of my colleagues were there waiting for the lift and were amazed, puzzled and completely unsure of why I had raced the lift. But then, you take a look at them and you can see what I mean (use your imagination here....).
Gaining down the stairs I always take care not to "jar" my knees by landing all my weight onto a completely straight and rigid leg. The foot and knee is designed to absorb such shocks and it's important we allow that to happen. This also applies when running and I take care to land softly when coming down hill (by the way, including a few hills is brilliant running for me - love them!).
Keeping your weight right
Many people with knee problems are overweight. I believe for many people who are a little overweight, problems with knees and ankles can become a vicious circle and this is where expert help is required. After all there's no point in soldiering on trying to lose weight while causing further injuries in the process. A Doctor or Sports Physiotherapist will be able to advise. For some non-weight bearing exercise might be appropriate to strengthen knee joints i.e. swimming, cycling and other non-weight bearing exercises.
This connects to having the right shoes. When I run, I often try to be aware of my "form"; this is how my body is working and how my legs, feet, knees, hips, arms etc are all working together to run well. Getting this right is a wonderful thing and for most runners it takes some doing.
Sometimes when I run, there's a certain magic when everything comes together to make a particular run so perfect. Many other runners describe the same and I recommend any runner takes time to concentrate on achieving this. Once you've got it, you know your body has worked well and it feels good. When you run, you become aware of all of the many parts of your body working well with each other and your own control is as close to perfection as you can possibly achieve.
Eating the right foods
A sensible diet brings many benefits as we all know these days. Going a little further there are some foods which will protect against diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, which is relevant here. Foods such as beetroot, various berries, curly kale, mango, nuts and sunflower seeds or oil are all beneficial.
How to look after your feet