Running can be hard on your knees and bones, but some myths do prevail about how it damages your bones. Just to be clear, running is perfectly safe for your bones, unless you already have an existing condition or bone injuries that are exacerbated by running.
For those who are starting out or may have amped up their mileage considerably, knees prove to be the most commonly injured joints in the body. Even everyday wear and tear can end up hurting your mobility. The following knee workouts for runners aim to keep your joints from stiffening and help ward off several common injuries.
One invisible threat to new runners is low bone mass, which usually presents no symptoms until it’s too late. Low bone mass has a number of factors, but in addition to medical treatment, there would be a lot of stress on getting physically fitter.
That’s true for runners as well, as your lower body bones take a lot of impact during any run – short or long. So increasing bone mass must be the top priority. Weight-bearing exercises strengthen your bones and make them stronger. Doctors would advise you to stay away from activities such as hiking, jogging, running, jumping rope, and stair climbing, but low-impact weight-bearing exercises can be beneficial for those with low bone mass.
Lie on the floor and tighten your abs while lifting hips off the floor. Tighten your hamstring muscles by trying to pull your heels towards your hips. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds at first and increasing up to 20-30 seconds. Try not to arch back too much. A particularly great exercise after your run.
The ultimate hamstring and glute-maker. Squat down while reaching your hips back. Your body weight should be on your heels. Hold position for 20 seconds, then relax, 10 reps. For more advanced runners, make sure you add some variations to your squats such as wide squats or squat jumps to better prepare your body.
Using 20-30 pounds as weights, position your foot and leg in a manner so that the knee and foot are at the same height. Keeping the weight on the heel of the foot press out and hold position. Hold for 20 seconds and then do 15 reps.
When hitting the gym, focus on your hamstrings. On the weight machine, select light weights in the beginning, increasing your intensity as you progress.
These exercise should be done for 3 to 4 sets. Thrice a week of these means that your hamstrings will be strong enough to keep you steady and injury free during your runs.
Working out on the elliptical, performing light pilates and yoga sessions will help immensely as they don’t involve high-impact movements. Certain yoga positions might not be advisable for people with osteoporosis or less acute bone mass disorders. Check with your practitioner and physician about which poses to avoid.
Along with increasing your weight bearing capacity to avoid bone injuries, muscle strengthening is key, as it lets you offload some of that impact on to your muscles. Stronger muscles also supplement the bone mass growth, making you stronger overall. Using elastic exercise bands, lifting weights and performing bodyweight exercises are a few ways to gain back that strength.
You can do this at home or at a park as long as you find a clean wall to use for it. It’s a multi-dimensional knee exercise which not only targets the knees, but improves strength and flexibility of your hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteal muscles, and abdominal muscles. Consider this to be a lower-intensity alternative to squats and lunges. Touch your upper back and butt to the wall and sit on an air chair for about 10-15 seconds, before coming back up. A few reps of 20-second wall sits a few times a week is plenty for most runners.
Like wall sits, lunges also target your glutes, quads, inner thighs and the gluteal end of your hamstrings. But they add increased shock absorption capacity to your knees. An additional benefit here is that it requires you to balance on one leg during the transition phase when you switch legs, just like in running. As a result, it helps strengthen and stabilize your knees as you balance on the foot in contact with the floor. Stretch out with one leg, in front of the other and bend the leg behind, before lifting it and planting it in front of the first leg. Continue this for 5 paces.
This routine comes with several benefits: It improves your sense of balance and coordination, along with your posture – both of which are crucial for good running form. Deadlifts also work on your gluteal muscles and improve the strength and flexibility of your hamstrings. Additionally, you further improve your knee strength as you maintain your balance on one leg throughout the entire movement.
Finally, wearing the right pair of shoes can reduce the impact on your bones and muscles considerably. The shoe does all the shock-absorption and helps you maintain stability even in pronated situations. Check with a foot specialist about the ideal running shoes for you.