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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.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    38 days ago
  • 52BINCE
    Glad your knees have improved!
    38 days ago
    Are you telling us your uterus never foot foot fell out?

    A couple of years ago I found a private personal trainer who built a little gym in her garage and I worked with her for six months.
    She pushed me a bit more than I was doing myself, almost all strength training.
    Well, lo and behold, my hip pain of years duration practically disappeared as did my knee pain.
    Like you, I assume I developed the muscles to support my joints.
    I even slept better because I didn’t have hip pain at night.
    Thnx for the friend add, am adding you, as well.

    40 days ago
    Yes, exercise is great to get rid of pain, while lack of exercise weakens muscles and increases pain. Good advice!
    118 days ago
    good for you!
    122 days ago
    That is wonderful news! Thank you for your insights and helpful tips!
    122 days ago
    Good for you! Knees are nothing to ignore, especially if they are causing pain. Might I suggest a conversation with your doctor to make him aware of the changes you've made, and the improvement you've experienced. IMHO, it's always a safe choice to check with an expert.

    Stay safe. Be well. emoticon
    122 days ago
    I am so glad you remembered that tag line. It was an easy fix for your problem! Woo Hoo you!! emoticon
    122 days ago
    I loved running but did have to give it up -- arthritis, osteoporosis. Happy for those who can still enjoy it!!
    122 days ago
  • THOMS1
    emoticon emoticon
    122 days ago
    For so many years (ten plus), I couldn't even consider running because of the severe (bone on bone) arthritis in my right hip. I finally got a hip replacement this year, and now I can at least consider it. Years and years ago, I used to run a lot. I even did 10K races. Maybe, just maybe, I could get there again.
    122 days ago
    i understand what you are saying have knee pain every winter some in summer but when i do my lunges and squats and strengthen my legs it doesnt hurt as much . if i sit and sont move it hurts a ton good bog Hugs
    122 days ago
  • ALICIA363
    122 days ago
    Makes sense
    122 days ago
    Yep, your final paragraph gives the needed caution: start and increase gradually, to avoid aggravating / injuring.

    emoticon emoticon
    123 days ago
    Oh my Gosh did i need to read this!!! Up until my separation this summer, I had been running two to three days a week, anywhere from 3 - 6 miles, along with yoga, different cardio workouts and strength training.

    Mid-July I was working 10 - 16 hours a day on a project, LOTS of sitting! Then my ex said he was leaving and there was a lot of sitting and curling up on the couch, yoga stopped, cardio and strength training stopped, running and walking stopped and soon EVERYTHING hurt! Taking the stairs hurt. Besides crying over him, I was crying over letting myself go.

    As he was packing up to leave, I got myself out the house with a Facebook group for a weekly virtual 5K. Intermittently, I escaped into workouts and running again.

    Just in the last two weeks have I been consistent with strength training, yoga and cardio workouts in addition to running and I'm beginning to feel more like myself each day.

    thanks for the reminder!!

    123 days ago
    That is exactly what I discovered especially once I learned that having the proper shoes made all the difference. Not just "good" shoes but the right ones for your particular feet.
    Of course, you knew that already.

    Statistically, runners have fewer knee problems than non runners.
    There's much more of a correlation with obesity.
    There will always be the anecdotal evidence of "I knew a runner who needed a knee replacement"
    To which I can respond that I know plenty of people getting knee replacements who never ran a step in their lives"
    Many people also try to do too much too soon and injure themselves, but you can do that with any form of exercise. I did it with yoga.

    Of course, as you said if there is some abnormality then running isn't advised, but otherwise go for it.

    123 days ago
    Glad your knees are feeling better. I like to walk and hike and do various strengthening exercises.
    123 days ago
    I know--having lived this long--there is no one size fits all in anything. It's working for you--and that's what counts. Until a couple of years ago, i loved swimming--water aerobics and lap swimming, but had to stop because the extremely cold water played havoc with my hips. (some mild arthritis) ... So I found plenty of other things. I do know that before I retired, i worked ten years in a large Orthopedic clinic where large crowds of people came in and were treated for both knee and hip pain. X-rays often revealed the absence of knee cartilage--and knee replacement was advised. Many of these folks were avid joggers---I am not preaching against running or jogging---But as these orthopedists advised----If it is running you love---then just try running on trails and avoid running on hard surfaces---as that can and does break down cartilage. I think if a person experiences pain in the knees or hips, it is good to get x-rays to determine if they have a good cushion---or cartilage. One of the Orthopedists--stunned me---I worked alongside him briefly---and i heard him caution his patients about choosing soft ground as opposed to running on concrete. Yet, on his lunch hour, I saw him take off all the time and go running---on the highway! So go figure. Another Orthopedist/surgeon also often advised, Do climb stairs---going up the stairs is a good weight bearing exercise BUT HE never at any time was seen coming down the long grand stairwell in the clinic. He said for every extra pound---with each step a person puts 5-6 pounds of pressure on the knees--which breaks down cartilege. (I never forgot that advice and have taken it to heart) ..... Again, I think it is whatever works for each individual is what works. Best wishes for an abundantly prosperous new year!
    123 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/3/2021 4:09:34 PM
  • BJAEGER307
    That's why I chose the recumbent bike instead. I also do my treadmill, but the bike is now becoming my favorite.
    123 days ago
  • HOLLYM48
    I ran for a few years and did quite a few 5k's and 1 10k before 8 decided that maybe running was not exactly for me. I walk, hike and enjoy using my leg muscles every single day! I am glad it is working for you and you are enjoying it once again! It is definitely a great cardio workout and I am so envious of those that make it look so effortless!
    Enjoy your Sunday and keep on sparking!!!
    123 days ago
    Glad your knees are feeling better! I have had 2 knee replacements, but still 'wog'. The key for me is listening to what the knees are telling me!

    Nice to see your post.
    123 days ago
    I’m much older than you, but when I had to admit that I needed a knee replacement, I knew I wanted to wait three months to have it done. The best advice I got was to exercise (wisely, of course) to strengthen my legs as much as possible, even though it was tempting to just sit down and never use my legs for those months. I followed the advice and exercised religiously. The operation and recovery went as smoothly as possible. I was already in the habit of exercising, so physical therapy didn’t loom as a frightening thing. And walking, walking, walking to build stamina after p.t. was over did just what you said for the OTHER knee, the one I thought would need to be replaced soon, too. I now marvel at how mobile I am and there is no foreseeable reason to contemplate having the other knee done. The first knee was too damaged to save, but the second wasn’t. It’s counter intuitive, but it can be REAL.
    123 days ago
    Glad that your knees are feeling better!
    123 days ago
    123 days ago
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