If you suffer like a lot of runners you need these stretches!
Unfortunately, I met guest blogger, Marisa D'Adamo a few months ago after returning from my riding trip to Spain. I say unfortunately because my reason for seeking out her expertise was due to a sharp knee pain I had while walking up and down stairs and when making any similar motion with my right leg—bicycling! After asking a group of triathlete friends (thanks George!) I was introduced to Marisa and was thankful to have her in my life. After just a little over a month of therapy, I was good as new with a new found appreciation for what Marisa spends her time doing—making people feel healthier!
I've asked Marisa to contribute to Girl on the Go, because I learned a lot about knees and how troubling they can be for many of us during my time with her. If you have ever had or currently have a knee injury, you are not alone. Below is Marisa's take on why runners struggle with this super sensitive part of the body and what we can do to prevent having knee problems. The stretches she provides below really do work—I did all of them as a part of my recovery. If you have questions pertaining to knee injuries or any other physical therapy related questions please ask in the comments below and we'll address them in an upcoming blog post.
With so much information and misinformation about running, it’s easy to get confused and even wonder if it’s healthy. Barefoot, arthritis, stretching before or after...it”s difficult to weed through and figure out what is nonsense, what is a trend, and what is fact.
By far the most common and therefore predominant 'injury' we see in practice is knee pain in runners. This is discomfort, sharp pain, or a dull ache around the kneecap or just to the outside of the knee. It can be caused by many factors, but chief among them is inflexibility of the thigh yanking on the kneecap.
The three areas of concern here are the quadriceps, iliotibial or IT band, and the worst offender, the hip flexors. Especially for those who sit at a desk most of the day.
Three Stretches for Healthy Knees
1. Quadriceps: Easy and not generally the guilty party. Hold your leg up behind you with your knees close together. Hold 30 seconds, navel pulled in towards the spine.
2. IT band: Lay on a foam roller sideways and roll just below your hip-bone to just above the knee bone. Do this 20 times.
3. Hip flexor: Rest your leg on the back of a chair or couch, pull your navel into your spine, then gently lunge forward. Hold 30 seconds.
This is not to say that strengthening is not important. However, our society seems to stress strength when most running issues are soft tissue injury, not traumatic. They are generally caused by overuse, not acute injury. Because this is the case, we need to work on taking pressure off the muscles and joints initially by lengthening and resting. Strength training does the opposite. Thus, stretching is where we want to be as runners.
When to stretch? Stretching before is to help the run you’re about to take. Stretching after helps your next run. So do both!
So is running bad for your knees?
The answer depends on the person. When you are running in discomfort your body is asking you to stop. Failing to listen to this advice is what makes running harmful to the joints.
Healthy Running Weight
Running with a lot of extra weight can put too much pressure on the knee joints. Trying to maintain a healthy weight is recommended for runners.
Most of us run as an extension of walking. No training but we need to learn proper technique. To think that we 'just know' how to run is not the case. If we do not learn a proper stride, we will over-use some muscles and under-utilize others, setting us up for injury. A visit to a local running coach is worth the time and money!
Use these tips to keep you running healthy and happy!
Renee & Marisa
Marisa is a physical therapist, runner, and owner of Dash Physical Therapy in New York City. Her vision was to create a place where runners could feel understood for their unique injuries by therapists who also run themselves. She started her career in running injuries when she was chosen to work with the elites at the New York City Marathon and was able to translate this work into treating hundreds of marathon runners, from weekend warriors to competitive athletes. At any level, she believes runners need the individual attention her approach provides.