Today’s post is comes from Jill Conyers! This post deals with helping you stay injury free as a runner. In her next guest post (part 2) Jill will have the answers to the rest of the amazing questions everyone asked.
Guest Post by Jill Conyers
People seem to often think running is synonymous with knee problems. I have been running since 2006 and I am happy to say I’ve been knee-problem and pain free. My husband is an ultra runner (he runs distances beyond 26.2) who started running in 2005. He has stayed almost entirely injury free! Knees included!
Based on my experience and research, running does not automatically mean you’re going to have knee problems. My advice? Do what you can to avoid injury and stay healthy overall including your knees. What I mean is train smart.
- based on your where you are with your running have a plan and follow it
- don’t over train.
- cross train
- strength train
I was specifically asked about how to strengthen your knees for running. I’m not aware of any exercises that can strengthen the knee specifically but there are exercises that can be done to strengthen the surrounding muscles (the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles) and help prevent knee and other running related injuries.
Use the following simple leg exercises to begin your lower-body strengthening program:
Bodyweight Squats (Muscle: Quadriceps):
1. Begin standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width and your toes turned out slightly. Your hands are by your sides with your palms facing inward. Pull the shoulders down your back toward your hips.
2. Engage your abdominal/core muscles to stabilize your spine. Keep your chest lifted and your chin parallel to the floor. Shift your weight back into your heels as your hips begin to push toward the wall behind you.
3. Begin the downward phase by hinging at the hips, shifting them back and down. Your hips and knees bend simultaneously. As you lower your hips the knees bend and will start to shift forward slowly. Prevent your knees from extending forward past the toes. Keep the abdominals/core muscles engaged and your back flat.
4. Continue to lower yourself until your thighs are parallel or almost parallel to the floor. Avoid dropping your hips below your knees.
5. Keep the knees aligned with the second toe and body weight evenly distributed between the balls and heels of both feet. If you can view this from the side, your shinbone should be parallel with your torso and the low back should appear flat or may be showing the beginning of some rounding.
6. While maintaining the position of your back, chest and head and with the abdominals engaged, exhale and return to start position by pushing your feet into the floor through your heels. The hips and torso should rise together. Keep the heels flat on the floor and knees aligned with the second toe.
Stability Ball Hamstring Curl (Muscle: Hamstring)
1. Lie on your back on a mat, placing the backs of your lower legs and heels on the top of a stability ball . Your feet should be lined up with your hips and your toes pulled slightly toward the ceiling. Gently contract your abdominal/core muscles to flatten your low back into the floor. Try to hold this gentle contraction throughout the exercise. Extend your arms out to your sides with palms turned to the floor to help stabilize your body during the exercise.
2. Gently exhale. Keeping the abdominals engaged, lift your hips up off the floor. Press the backs of your lower legs and heels into the ball for additional stability. Do not lift the hips so high that the low back begins to arch. Your abdominal contraction will also help avoid excessive arching in the low back. Continue to press upwards until your body is in a straight line from your heels to your shoulder blades.
3. Exhale. Slowly bend your knees and pull the ball toward your hips until you can rest the soles of the your feet on top of the ball. Your toes may point away from your body in this movement. The hips will continue to lift as you pull the ball toward your hips. Keep the torso stable.
4. Inhale. Slowly press the ball away from your hips until the knees are straight, stabilizing with the core, hamstrings, glutes and arms. Repeat for a prescribed number of repetitions and slowly lower yourself back towards your starting position.
Calf Raises (Muscle: Calves)
1. Position your feet shoulder-width apart, side-by-side, with your toes pointed forward or slightly outward. Shift your weight over your heels.
2. Exhale and slowly raise your heels off the floor, allowing your entire body leaning slightly forward to maintain balance. Do not lose your alignment, especially in the hips and low back. Keep your knees straight and abdominals strong. Continue rising until your weight is on the balls of your feet. Hold this position briefly.
3. Inhale and slowly lower your heels back to the floor. Shift your weight back into your heels and stand up tall.
Glute Bridge (Muscle: Hips)
1. Lie on your back on an exercise mat or the floor in a bent-knee position with your feet flat on the floor. Place your feet hip-width apart with the toes facing away from you. Gently contract your abdominal muscles to flatten your low back into the floor. Attempt to maintain this gentle muscle contraction throughout the exercise.
2. Gently exhale. Keep the abdominals engaged and lift your hips up off the floor. Press your heels into the floor for added stability. Avoid pushing your hips too high, which can cause hyperextension (arching) in your low back. Keeping your abdominals strong helps to prevent excessive arching in the low back.
3. Inhale and slowly lower yourself back to your starting position.
Start with 1 set (8 reps) of each move gradually increasing reps and/or sets as you get stronger. If that is too much decrease the number of reps and gradually build up to 8. If you’re fitness level means 8 reps was too easy increase the reps to 10 or increase the number of sets. Most importantly start from where you are!
Start with strength training 2 days per week. Increase to 3 days if time permits and as get stronger.
Lastly, keep track of your strength training. Nothing motivates more than seeing the numbers that show your progress.
I’m a wife, mom of 2, full-time psychologist, Swiftwick, FitFluential, Fit Approach and Girl Gone Sporty Ambassador that is passionate about running, plant-based nutrition, fitness and an overall healthy lifestyle. I believe living a healthy life is not about perfection. It’s about commitment, effort and progress!
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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I am not a licensed nutritionist, dietician or fitness trainer. I’m simply a healthy and fitness enthusiast who enjoys sharing information, experiences and ideas. Views expressed in this article are based on my own personal research and experiences. Please consult your doctor with any medical issues, or before beginning a training program.