7 Exercises To Help Combat Runner’s Knee
Injuries can certainly be a setback, but you know what else they can be? A GIFT. A gift of adversity, challenging us to work harder and to be innovative in achieving our goals. In running, adversity is something we had best familiarize ourselves with. We must see setback not only as a challenge but also as an opportunity to grow. Can you think back to an obstacle you’ve overcome that made you stronger? More courageous? More confident? Maybe it even led you to become the runner you are today. Well, Runners Knee, or Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), is a common setback for many runners. It’s been plaguing the running world as far back as we can remember. So, let’s first discuss exactly what Runner’s Knee is and then, get into the 7 exercises that will help combat the injury.
What is Runner’s Knee?
The definition for Runner’s Knee found on Runner’s World website is:
They say somewhere in the neighborhood of 65-80% of runners each year get injured and overuse is the culprit for the majority. Furthermore, Runner’s Knee is one of the most common overuse injury there is. So, let’s get into it. Here are 7 exercises to help combat Runners knee.
Please note: I am not a medical professional and this information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.
Exercise #1: Standing Quad Stretch
This exercise can be done anytime anywhere. If it’s while playing in the yard with the kids or brushing your teeth at night, grab a foot and pull. To perform this exercise properly, hold your foot behind you while flexing your foot. The same side hand should be holding the same side foot. For example, hold your right foot with your right hand. In addition, make sure your knees are pressed together and push your hips forward. Hold this pose for 30 seconds than switch to the other foot. This process is considered 1 rep, perform 2-3 reps.
Exercise #2 : Butterfly
While attempting the butterfly exercise for the first time, think just that – butterfly. To perform the exercise properly you must first sit up straight. Next, press the soles of your feet together forming a shape of a, you guessed it, butterfly. Now while keeping your back straight, visualize pushing your knees to the floor. You can even use your elbows to push them down further. Hold for 30 seconds and release, for 1 rep. 2-3 reps is sufficient.
Exercise #3 : Hip Flexor Stretch
Remember – it’s all in the hips. For this exercise, start off by kneeling on your right leg while taking a long step forward with your left leg. As you lower yourself slowly, lean into that left leg feeling your hips open up. Raise back up and switch legs. Stretching both sides is considered 1 rep, repeat 10 reps. A hip flexor stretch can be done anywhere from the local gym, to the bedroom, or even the office floor.
Exercise #4 : Wall Squat With A Ball
Different types of squats are recommended in the fight against runner’s knee. Although I would definatey not recommend adding any extra weight, I would recommended using a ball for assistance. To perform this exercise correctly, first line up your back, shoulders, and head against a wall. Make sure your feet are approximately three feet from the wall and a shoulders width apart. Once your in position it’s important to keep your eyes looking straight ahead. Next, place some kind of ball behind your back. This could be anything from a professional gym ball to that soccer ball that has been sitting in your back yard for years. With your back against the ball and the ball against the wall slowly begin to squat down until reaching a 45 degree angle. Hold this position for 10 seconds and slowly make your self back up to the starting position. Repeat 10 times. Progressively increase your holding seconds and repetitions to strengthen your knee. Remember, we expand by demand.
Exercise #5 : Cross Leg Side Bend Stretch
Do you know why I love this stretch so much? Not only because it’s simple, but you can perform it periodically on your recovery run to prevent reoccurring knee pain. It’s important to stretch your IT Band because all the muscles around the side of your hip and thigh will also pull on your knee joint if they become tight. How does one perform this standing IT Band stretch? Easy. First, stand tall and put one leg in front of the other. Whichever leg is back is the same arm that must be raised. For example, if your right leg wraps behind your left leg, then your right arm should be raised in the air. Next, bend to the opposing side of your raised arm. So, if your right arm is raised than bend to your left side. Hold this pose for 20-30 secs than release. Reposition and stretch the opposing side. During your runs, it’s beneficial to stop every mile or so and perform this stretch. It can really make the difference between a successful run while making your come back or heading back down the road to recovery.
Exercise #6 : Pool Running
Pool running seemed to be a workout I was naturally drawn to during my own experience with knee pain. When I was facing a troublesome time from injury I decided to physically run laps in the pool. I literally ran back and forth hundreds of times until the bottom of my toes ripped apart. I’d recommend wearing water shoes and just going after it. You can play around with the exercises, do side steps, run backwards, alternate a run lap with a swim lap…you name it. The pool is an incredibly effective place for recovery and is probably the one and only place you can run while injured.
Exercise #7 : Foam Roller
If I could recommend only one type of exercise to effectively combat Runner’s Knee, the foam roller would be the winner. It loosens up the quads and the IT band, helping relieve tension and tightness in the knees surrounding muscles. When they become too tight it can cause a poor running form ultimately creating knee pain. If you are new to the foam roller it will most likely be extremely painful because the tissue is still very tender. But if you stick through the pain, it will eventually feel much better. The pain you feel on the roller today will eventually be the relief you feel tomorrow. For me, rolling at night can certainly be eventful. It typically consists of my two sons jumping on top of me for a ride while trying not to run over my eight-pound dog in the process.
These 7 exercises to help combat runner’s knee will do just that, help combat the injury. But don’t let any injury bring your down. We all learn from adversity. We learn to overcome it, we learn to do better, and we learn how to keep moving forward. Injuries are one of the toughest adversities athletes must face, both physically and mentally. Your body can stand just about anything – it’s your mind that you have to convince. We must convince ourselves to step outside of the norm and train differently, recover faster, and to be confident that it will all be worth the extra effort. It’s tough not being able to do the things that we love–trust me, I’ve been there. But with the right recovery plan in place and the execution of that plan, it’s possible to not only make a comeback but to come back stronger than ever, and maybe gain some well needed time off in the process.