Runners hear it all the time and novices try to warn others off of the sport for this one perpetuated myth. So let us clarify that running, as a sport, is not bad for your knees.
Do you know what is? Bad running.
“If you train properly and run with good technique, running does not have to be bad for any joint,” clarifies Holly Perkins, CSCS, author of Lift to Get Lean.
It’s true, you can hit the bricks running any ‘ole time your heart desires. But like most things, there is a right way and a wrong way, especially if you don’t want to bang up your knees and other joints, get shin splints, or any of the other side effects that result from bad running.
Proper Training Requires Strength Training
Holly describes proper training as at least 4-6 weeks of full body strength training before you ever run a single step. Strength training can reduce the risk of injury, including aches and pains, substantially by improving joint mechanics. Her recommendation includes complex, compound moves each week:
Single Leg Deadlifts
“I have had massive success with my runners by making them have an off-season where they don’t run at all, and instead focus on strength training to correct muscle imbalances and joint misalignments,” she said. “Once you experience what’s it’s like to run with a strong and resilient body, you will never make [the knee] comment again. It’s incredible.”
Good Technique is All in the Cadence
Holly goes on to explain that good technique the next complement to proper training, and it is mostly related to improving your running cadence.
“One mistake many runners make is to spend too much time with their foot on the ground, striking with their body mass behind the foot. A running cadence of 90 cycles per minute (180 foot strikes) significantly helps to decrease joint issues and general fatigue from running,” she explained.
Good Technique is in the Shoes
The other side of the good technique two-headed monster is on your feet. Runners love to talk about shoes as much as they love to post a sweaty finish line picture… but it’s not without cause. Shoes are serious business. Holly recommends keeping them fresh and using the right technology for your body.
“It’s critical that you determine your foot strike style and select a shoe that supports your needs. Then, it’s important to keep your shoes fresh. If you run more than three times per week, it’s a good idea to have two pairs of the same shoes that you can alternate during the week. Then, replace your shoes every 3-4 months, or at the first sign of new joint aches.”
Don’t Swap Accuracy for Speed
“Nearly every runner I have ever worked with automatically emphasizes running speed over running technique. The speed/accuracy tradeoff rule states that the faster you move, the less accurate your movements are,” reminds Holly.
She says that in order to become a good runner, you’ve got to slow down a bit. Ensure you’ve got the training, mechanics, and cadence in place before working to increase speed. Holly has corrected many of her clients’ knee issues by simply having these runners slow down for a month to just focus on technique.