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How to Protect Your Knees While Running Long-Term?

Whenever we talk about running, some people will jump out and say that “running hurts the knees.” Some people say it because of their experience after running injuries. There are also many people who have never run themselves and just hear about it and dare not start trying. Does running really hurt your knees? If so how to avoid it?

Any material will wear when exposed to long-term stress. Aluminum alloy, rebar, concrete, including the bones, meniscus, ligaments and muscles that make up the knee are no exception. From a static perspective, long-term use of the knee will cause wear and tear, just like all materials and equipment will wear and age. But our bodies are not static devices that remain fixed from the moment they appear.

It will change accordingly after being stimulated by the outside world. For example, fragile skin can develop calluses. Bones and muscles are no exception. Long-term exercise will make your bones denser and your muscles stronger. In other words, the more you exercise, the higher the wear resistance of your knees will be.

But when the wear and impact force during running exceeds the ability of the skeletal muscles, or the increased intensity exceeds the growth rate of the skeletal muscles, injuries will occur. If the muscles and bones are strong enough to outweigh wear and impact, there will be no pain.

Therefore, the advice given by doctors every time after a knee injury is to rest and not move. Some experienced runners recommend continuing to run. There is also a so-called “jogging cures knee injuries”. In fact, both statements are reasonable and one-sided. The key lies in how to control wear and impact and the degree of bone and muscle growth and recovery.

After knowing this basic principle, the way to avoid knee damage during running is to reduce wear and impact and improve the strength of bones and muscles. Instead of not running or exercising for a long time, the muscles and bones will degenerate, osteoporosis or minor impacts will cause various injuries. At the same time, lack of effective aerobic training will cause various problems in cardiopulmonary capacity, resistance, blood pressure and other physiological functions.

Therefore, you must not give up running simply because running may cause wear and tear on your knee joints. Excessive or unreasonable training in any exercise can cause physical harm. Choosing scientific training methods is the best solution.

So how can you run without hurting your knees?

Before explaining this problem, let’s briefly explain the structure of the knee. The knee is the most complex joint in the human body. The thigh bone and calf bone are connected here through the knee joint and need to bear most of the body’s weight.

Every time you run, the rotation of your joints is driven by muscles and the ligaments stretch. There are two small pads between the thigh bone and calf bone, which are responsible for cushioning called menisci, and there is also a joint capsule responsible for secreting synovial fluid for lubrication. It works like a machine, with the muscles as the engine, the ligaments as the transmission belt, the meniscus as the shock-absorbing pad, and the joint capsule as the lubrication device. But the human body is not as simple as a machine.

The force buffering when landing is not done by the meniscus alone, but by the instantaneous contraction and relaxation of muscles and ligaments to help complete the buffering. Therefore, the higher the strength of the muscle, the more powerful it is, the better its elasticity, and the less likely it is to be injured. Let’s talk about wear and impact. The impact of each landing during running is 2-4 times the body weight. The cadence is 120-160 times per minute. The longer you run and the more miles you run, the greater the impact and wear will be, making it easier. Injuried. The faster you run and the higher your cadence, the higher the pressure on your knees. Therefore, you are more likely to be injured if you run faster.

Although the main range of motion of the knee joint is front and back, it also has a certain degree of external opening on the left and right, usually 3-5 degrees. This creates a lateral impact force. However, the main ability of bones to withstand impact forces is on the front, so incorrect posture can also cause additional impact forces and lead to injuries.

The above mentioned a lot of boring theories, how can I run without hurting my knees? How can we control the wear and impact force to be less than that of muscles and bones?

This is basically a combination of running volume, training intensity, running posture (efficiency), muscle strength and muscle recovery. And according to the “barrel theory”, the shortest part will determine the likelihood of knee injury. Therefore, to avoid knee injuries caused by running, we must start from these aspects.

Factors that contribute to knee injuries during running include running volume, training intensity, running form (efficiency), muscle strength and muscle recovery. But how to control it to achieve balance? Control running volume, to what extent? Is speed training really not something that should be done? How important is running form?

To control the risk of knee injury, you need to do the following:

Control running volume: There are different opinions on the incremental amount of running volume, such as no more than 10% or 5% per week. However, each person’s individual differences are huge, and the running volume base is also different. Simply using percentage control is only a statistical result and is not very reasonable.

So how you feel every time you run is important. This feeling is how tired your muscles and body are.

After running for a period of time, you can feel tired more accurately than before. Various factors such as daily temperature, physical condition, and diet will cause different points of fatigue in the body. When the leg muscles are tired, in addition to slowing down, a very important point is that the control of the steps and landing becomes worse.

The more tired the muscles are, the greater the impact force the meniscus will bear, and when it exceeds its cushioning range, it will damage the femoral head. Many injuries to the meniscus and femoral head are irreparable. For experienced runners, during the pre-race period when the running volume is increasing, they must first feel whether it is easier to run the same running volume as last week. If so, they will feel unable to control the running volume at any point in the excess running volume. You should stop every time you pose.

If you don’t feel any easier than you did last week, don’t choose to run more. After continuously increasing running volume or performing high-intensity training for 3-4 weeks, a one-week interval should be designed to reduce running volume to about 70% of the peak to allow for adequate recovery and rest. Then continue to increase running volume and training intensity.

For novices, it is more reasonable to increase running volume once every two weeks. It is equivalent to improving one week and consolidating results one week. And the amount of increase need not be limited to deliberate proportions. Pay attention to your body and stop immediately when you feel your landing becomes heavier or if you feel pressure on your knees.

Reduce speed training:

For the same amount of running, higher speed means greater impact, which may cause greater damage to the knees. At the same time, at higher speeds, the running posture will deform in order to lengthen the pace and increase the speed. The unconscious legs did not bend at all when landing, losing the muscle buffering ability when the joints were bent, and the impact force was directly transmitted to the knees. This is also the reason why many first-time runners get injured when they run very little in the first two months of running. Although the running volume is only 2 or 3 kilometers per day. But he ran as fast as he could, and when the muscle protection was not strong enough, he injured his knee with a huge impact. For long-distance running and endurance running, even for an experienced runner, the speed training volume generally does not exceed 10% of the total training volume. And there is generally only one interval speed training session per week. Beginner runners don’t need to arrange speed training at all. You can even admit it jokingly

There is no need for speed training for runners with a marathon time of less than 3 hours and 30 hours. As long as you accumulate a reasonable amount of training and arrange rest, your performance will steadily improve.

Adjust your running posture: The impact of running posture on your knees has been described in detail in the NHK documentary “Marathon Legion”. Reasonable control of running posture can allow Patrick Makau (marathon world record holder) to reduce knee impact by more than 25% than Japan’s top marathon runners. Although ordinary people cannot achieve the amazingly coordinated running posture of Ma Kao. However, the postures that cause the most knee damage to ordinary runners are as follows:

The first is that the foot lands in front of the knee, causing the knee joint to straighten or even lock (every time you stand up, you will find that the knee joint seems to be stuck in the final stage. This is a natural mechanism. In order to increase standing stability). At this time, considerable forward force is fed back through the ground and impacts the knee joint. Therefore, when landing, control the position of the ankle to be directly below the knee as much as possible, or slightly behind the knee. The bend at the knees will provide excellent cushioning.

Secondly, the foot landing position should be controlled as much as possible on the forefoot, especially the center of gravity should be placed directly on the forefoot between the big toe and the second toe. This gravity position is the stress point for the legs to be properly aligned. Whether the stress point is closer to the outside, inside or rear of the foot, it will cause a lateral impact on the knee, leading to injury.

The other thing is to control the stability of the body and don’t sway from side to side. Because rocking left and right will cause the center of gravity to continuously change laterally, giving the knees lateral impact. The front of the knee has the strongest ability to bear weight. Therefore, do not swing your arms excessively or step forward excessively during running, as these will cause increased body instability.

What muscles should you train to protect your knees? Does stretching and relaxation really have such a big effect? What other ways can you avoid running knee injuries? Can “barefoot running” really prevent injuries? Just listen to your body.

Strengthen muscle training: Strengthening the muscles of the legs, especially the thighs, can provide corresponding protection for the knee joints. Especially the quadriceps and tensor fasciae fasciae fascia fasciae muscles on the front. The quadriceps are strong and can reduce the impact on the patella and meniscus when landing. This is the cause of many frontal knee pains. The tensor fasciae fasciae fasciae fasciae fasciae fascia fascia fascia fasciae fasciae fascia fascia fascia fascia fascia fascia fascia fascia fascia fascia fascia tract is related to the iliotibial band, and a lot of pain on the outer edge of the knee is also caused by the iliotibial band.

There are many ways to exercise thigh muscles, such as lunges, squats, climbing stairs, and squatting against the wall. However, since the silent squat against the wall is a static movement, the knee joints are not retracted and released, so the impact is smaller. Therefore, it is an important part of leg muscle training for many runners. But don’t pursue static squat time and intensity from the beginning during training. Pay attention to the standards of posture, such as not bending over, keeping the hip bones stable, placing the knees vertically above the ankles, etc. Make sure the entire leg is aligned correctly. Only in this way will there be no additional stress on the knees during training.

Pay attention to stretching and relaxation: Post-run stretching is ignored by many runners, especially after high-intensity training. They are tired and just want to eat something quickly, take a quick shower and rest. Stretching is often skipped. But stretching is very beneficial for muscle recovery and growth. Muscle work is achieved by contraction, and in addition to muscle size, a very important factor in strength is the contraction amplitude. Many people pay attention to the degree of muscle tightening, but not the degree of muscle extension. But the contraction amplitude of a muscle is determined by two indicators: maximum contraction and extension.

After training, fully stretch your muscles, ligaments, and even fascia to quickly recover from fatigue. Becoming more powerful when reborn. If you do not stretch after running for a long time, the muscle stretch will become smaller. Not only will it affect the size of your stride, but it will also affect your running posture.

The relaxation and warm-up phase before running are also necessary. Many sports injuries occur in the early stages of training, when the body has not fully adapted to the state of exercise. The joint capsules in places such as the knee joint have not yet secreted lubricating fluid. If you start intensive training at this time, it is equivalent to starting to drive 200 kilometers at a high speed before the car is warmed up. Therefore, you must warm up adequately before each run. If you do not want to warm up on the spot, you can use the first 1/4 of the mileage to relax and warm up by jogging. When your body feels light and you are coordinated, do normal rhythm running or interval running training.

These factors influence each other, and one cannot be said to be the decisive factor. The protection of the muscles and the impact on the knees are in a state of canceling each other out. When increasing running volume and speed, you must be cautious, fully understand your own abilities, and make sure your body can bear it before increasing the amount. As my level improves, I train more and more miles and run faster and faster. It is necessary to improve running posture and strengthen the muscle capacity of the legs.

“Listen to your body” is mentioned in many articles introducing running training. This seemingly vague statement is exactly an important principle for protecting your knees. The better you understand your body, the more control you can have over it, and the less likely you are to suffer knee injuries.

Finally, let’s talk about a very controversial topic: barefoot running shoes or protective running shoes. Barefoot running shoes by themselves do not protect your knees or strengthen your muscles. But precisely because there is no protective mechanism, the stimulation to the body itself is stronger, and it can stimulate the muscles more under the same training volume or the same speed, allowing the muscles to become stronger faster. But the premise is still to exceed the impact force. Once the impact force is too strong, there will still be damage. Barefoot running shoes will affect people’s running posture to a certain extent, allowing people to use the forefoot more, which is more suitable for running postures with less impact on the knees. However, the correct running posture is more than just the point where the forefoot touches the ground, so wearing barefoot running shoes cannot directly and completely correct the running posture.

The author of “Born to Run” is an advocate of barefoot running. In this somewhat legendary running book, almost all the characters he introduces are extremely talented and train intensely. For example, “Taylor”, the earliest barefoot runner, was an energetic guy. In the first half of the year, he ran the marathon in 3 hours and 10 minutes. This is obviously not the physical fitness of ordinary people. The “minimalist slippers” running method of the protagonist, the Tarahumara, is an ability that has only been acquired through training since childhood. Even though the author himself believes in barefoot training, it took 8 months of training and posture correction under the guidance of a professional coach before he set foot on the Copper Canyon Cross-Country Race track.

It’s just that these important factors have not been taken seriously under the aura of “barefoot running”.

Barefoot training is a long-term, gradual process. When the calf and plantar muscles are not strong enough, you can first wear more protective shoes, gradually transition to lightweight running shoes, and then start barefoot training after you have sufficient ability. Don’t start blindly when you see a concept. It seems that many people see the concept of “vegetarian health” and follow suit. Little do they know that “vegetarian” celebrities all have nutritionists or good medical insurance, so they can regularly check their nutritional status and make dietary adjustments. It’s not about becoming healthy by being vegetarian. If simply being a vegetarian is healthy, why are so many people who eat corn and wild vegetables every day malnourished and unhealthy in times of material poverty?

Choose running shoes based on your ability and level, even if you really believe in “barefoot” training. It is recommended to gradually progress from a few hundred meters to 2 or 3 kilometers in the beginning. Instead of changing into barefoot running shoes, and then continuing the previous high-intensity training when the body’s muscle structure cannot adapt. Causes various sports injuries.