First is my personal story. You can skip to the bottom where I get into some research about how your running form and timing may affect your joint pain. Also – links to the information!
I’ve been dealing with a knee issue for a couple years now. Not sure how I came to injure my knee, there’s no moment I can point back to and say “hmm that’s probably the culprit”. I do know winter was ending and over that winter I was lifting heavy with my trainer and hardly running – hello Maryland winter.
I complained to him about it and we really concentrated on proper form, keeping knees out during squats especially, and strengthening the muscles around it. This helped some. And as soon as it started to hurt we’d pull back.
I went to a doctor for an X-ray a couple months after I initially had pain and they told me nothing was wrong and essentially shooed me out of the office like I was a pest or faking it. That was it, no other advice and nowhere to turn. I felt defeated and therefore never went anywhere else for a second opinion. I’ve just sucked it up and tried caring for it on my own – much to the dismay of my husband.
The pain itself has been hard to figure out. I would be fine for days, weeks, even months, and then one day I would get this incredibly sharp pain in the side of my knee, like a knife was just sitting in it, turning. It really started back up when I began running regularly. Usually I’d feel fine during my runs but a few hours later I would feel that sharp twinge. I would have nights where I would roll over in my sleep but my knee wouldn’t follow and it felt like it was ripping open and I would wake up in tears.
Concentrating on form during workouts seemed to help, reverse lunges took some pressure off, running less often worked. But no amount of rest has actually fixed it.
So now, finally, I Googled for answers. I know I know how stupid not to do that before. Well I did, a bit, but I never got the info I was looking for. And I’m a little stubborn and obviously don’t care for 2nd looks… so here we are.
Today, after running with Canon, he mentioned how the military often uses long and slow runs for training but it can cause a number of people a lot of injuires, like shin splints or knee problems due to form and the slow pace or just physical inability to go the distance. (He’s going the distannnnce, he’s going for speeeed). That got my brain grinding a little bit and we talked about some different points I should look into…
Here’s what I found:
DISCLAIMER: I’m not doctor, expert, assistant, or anything else close to giving medical advice! I’m sharing my journey and if you can relate, then I hope my research helps. Don’t hold it against me if not!
I took a couple hours to do some research regarding running stride, speed and injury. Since I’m so tall, I just assumed I should have a longer stride, especially when I’m running for distance and not speed. Pushing off nice and long, like a gazelle. I’ve tried pushing a longer stride and a. its feel unnatural and b. as soon as I stop concentrating on it I fall back to normal strides.
Anywhos- all the research I read stated that you should shorten your stride but quicken your step strike. 180 strikes/ minute is ideal. OR, or increase your cadence by 5-10% at a time Say you’re striking the ground at 160strikes/minute, try to up that 5% to 168 strikes. You don’t have to be at 180 exactly right away, it’s an ideology.
The science behind this says that at 180 strikes/minute you spend more time with your feet in the air, less time hitting the ground and absorbing that energy, thus putting less stress on your joints. It also helps keep your center of mass, well, centered, instead of being spread out across a long stride.
In one study, the participants upped their strikes, which they said felt awkward, unnatural and felt they looked goofy, and it seemed they were expending more energy. Scientists showed them video of their runs and the participants agreed they looked like normal runners. As for the energy, your expending more to get your feet up faster, but it isn’t actually a hugely significant amount. It’s because you’re moving faster and more efficiently than usual. And it also can take a few weeks for it to feel right. Sooooo, don’t give up!
Also- with a long stride we tend to step more narrow. Especially women because of our hip shape. During the long stride we have more time for our legs to come out and around and land inward. When we have a short, quick stride, there’s less time for our legs to move around the hip and we just drop them right where we picked them up from, in line with our center of mass. A shortened stride helps our knees and hips stay in place.
Finally, pay attention to how your foot is striking the ground. You probably fall into one of 2 categories, forefoot or heel striker. Both have pros and cons.
Forefoot striking tends to reduce the impact on joints and lessen injury. Heel strikers may be overstriding. It seems like a lot of runners are advocates for forefoot running but being a heel striker doesn’t necessarily mean you have bad form. (Honestly, I didn’t find a lot of pros for heel striking. Mostly that it’s OK if that’s natural for you even with a short stride).
The real goal is to try and keep your landing as close to your body as you can. Let the foot fall as it wants to or you could injure yourself forcing it to do something unnatural. This article was a pretty interesting read on the topic, and short! : Footstrike 101
Welp- those are some of the things I’m going to try and work on. Shorten my stride, try for 180strikes/minute and keep my landing close under me. It’s a good thing my neighborhood is so big and full of people I don’t know – cause even though that article said the participants didn’t look goofy – I’m sure I’ll feel like an exception.
Links to the information I reviewed:
Run Forefoot: http://runforefoot.com/forefoot-striking/
No Meat Athlete: http://www.nomeatathlete.com/injury-proof-your-running-stride/
National Institute of Health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3022995/
Beginner Triathlete: http://www.beginnertriathlete.com/cms/article-detail.asp?articleid=2608