I Had Bad Knees until I Started Running
Sunday, January 03, 2021
I joined an online women’s running forum back in 2002. One of my online friends had a tagline, “I had bad knees UNTIL I started running.” She explained to me that once she took up running and strengthened her leg muscles, her knees were no longer working so hard and her pain went away. I found that interesting because among the unsolicited advice I used to receive (“Your uterus will fall out,” “Your lungs will freeze,”) what I heard most often was, “You’ll ruin your knees.”
Between September 2019 and March 2020, I was super busy at school, as I had to develop a curriculum for the brand new Adaptive Music class. I stayed late at school all the time and worked on the weekends, too. I barely ran at all. During this time, I noticed one knee was starting to hurt when I climbed the stairs. Over time, it got worse. Then my other knee started to hurt, too. My first thought was, “Oh my gosh. Running really did ruin my knees.”
At the end of March, the Virginia governor closed schools for the rest of the year. I remembered my online running friend’s tagline. I decided to regain my fitness, and turned to my longtime favorite cardio activity. After all, my knees only bothered me when climbing stairs, not when walking or running.
In April, I started walking in the mornings, and also running about 10 miles a week. By the end of December, I was running about half of my weekly mileage. Yesterday I was climbing the stairs and it suddenly hit me… hey, my knees don’t hurt at all. When did that happen?
My legs are a lot stronger now and I have much better endurance. All I can suppose is that, like my friend, my leg muscles were weak and it was putting undue stress on my knees. I can’t point to weight loss as the reason, because I haven’t lost any. (Hooray for being 51 and in perimenopause.)
I am glad that instead of ruining my knees, running has apparently saved them.
I should remind anyone reading this that running will indeed aggravate certain medical conditions (osteoarthritis, bone spurs, etc.) It’s not a cure for everyone’s pain, and if you have any medical conditions, you should consult your physician before trying a new activity - especially a high-impact one like running.
Also, if anyone reading this should decide to try running, remember that increasing gradually is the key to avoiding injury. Look up online beginner running plans. If you experience pain, RICE it (rest, ice, compression, elevation), and consult a physician, if necessary. Don’t let minor aches and pains put you off. Lots of athletes (from pro to casual) work through them (and even major injury) to reap the benefits of physical fitness.