4MV #212 How I learnt to run injury free ✔ You can too

⭑ What I have learnt about how to run injury-free ✔
⭑ Stretching before exercise isn't the best ✔ Here's why
⭑ Knee cartilage requires loading to stay healthy ✔ Exercise
⭑ These 2 lunges will keep your knees healthier for longer ✔


All strength to Ukraine 🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦


I used to stretch before exercise. Always.

One day, I stumbled upon a 20-year-old Japanese research paper that found that athletes who stretched were more prone to injury than those who just warmed up.

The Japanese are experts in this type of sports research because they are meticulous and conduct well-designed experiments.

You are not alone if you are unenthusiastic about pre-exercise warm-ups and post-exercise cool-downs. Hopefully, by understanding the benefits, you'll make the time to do so in the future - please take a look at item #2.

Right now, in both hemispheres, it's a good time to run. Here are my tips for starting out and keeping going - see item #1.


01 How to Start, Stick With, and Avoid Running Injuries

In previous newsletters, I've mentioned how I hated running until I was 70. Since then, I have run thousands of km. During the Covid period, I ran 401 days in a row, partially to help myself stay sane.

It took me nearly a year to be able to run 5km. Once I had that in the bag, I started to push myself - watching my time per km and setting out each run to beat my times.

That was a mistake.

Although I ran the trails 1000+ times 99.6% injury-free, careless injuries caused me pain and grief. When you tire, you lose concentration, then you step on a tree root and you are out for 6 weeks.

What this means for you: Try these tips for enjoying running, improving without injuring yourself, and reaping the benefits:

  1. Run to avoid injuries: this should be your #1 goal, sprinkled with safe ways to challenge yourself (but the latter should not be your goal).
  2. Run to what your body tells you: use the first 1km of your run to feel what your body is capable of, then adjust your run accordingly. You might have started out "feeling great", but at the end of the 1km, your body tells you to take it easy today. In this case, take it easy.
  3. Run to your breath: as you tire, your breathing becomes rushed or irregular, and your body loses contact with your breathing rhythm. Get it back in sync by focusing on breathing in and out at your running pace. This will bring everything back into control, and you will be able to continue to put one foot in front of the other until you finish.

⇒ In the beginning, give running a month or two to start feeling better and see improvement.

Tip: To motivate yourself for a run when you're tired, spend less time thinking about starting and just start.

Related: ​I Started Trail Running At 70. Besides Being Bitten By A Dog I Love It​

and ​The Countdown - How To Start Exercising When You Can't Get Started​


02 Stretching Before Exercise Is A Mistake, Here's Why And What To Do

Most gym classes I have experienced or observed start with stretching.

Research has established that compared to warming up with mobility movements, stretching leads to more injuries.

Look at it this way - during the penultimate ride of this year's Tour of Spain "La Vuelta" the athletes warmed up for about 45 minutes. This is before a 208km race over 10 mountain climbs!

After racing those agonising 208km, the riders warmed down for 10 minutes by cycling at about 2X the average power of a spin class, followed by stretching, an ice bath and massage.

⇒ This protocol allows them to ride intensely day after day without injury.

What this means for you: A 2018 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that stretching before exercise did not reduce the risk of injury and may increase the risk of muscle strains.

On the other hand, warming up with mobility exercises:

  1. Increases blood flow and muscle temperature: raising muscle temperature - making the muscles more pliable and less prone to injury.
  2. Activates the nervous system: improving muscle coordination and power output.
  3. Prepares your body: gradually increasing heart rate, breathing rate, and metabolic rate.

Warming down improves recovery by removing metabolic waste from the muscles and helps minimise muscle soreness.

Stretching after warming down helps further, by helping release tension in the muscles and thus increasing circulation. This adds to the benefits of warming down.

Follow with some static stretches, such as holding a hamstring stretch or a quadriceps stretch. You may also want to do some foam rolling or other self-massage techniques.

By warming up and then warming down plus stretching you are reducing your risk of injuries and improving your recovery, with less pain.

Related: Rebuilding Your Fast-twitch Muscles Doesn’t Require Fast Movements. Rebuild Your Balance in 2 Minutes Daily​

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03 How Activity Protects Your Knees

People often believe that running or squatting can harm their knees. However, many studies have found no link between running, jogging, or walking and the development or progression of knee osteoarthritis.

In fact, such studies have come to the opposite conclusion.

They report that regular exercise promotes healthy knee cartilage and enhances muscle strength, providing essential support for the joint. Furthermore, physical activity helps to maintain joint flexibility, reduces stiffness in the knee, and can enhance your quality of life.

⇒ Knee cartilage requires regular "loading" or force placed on it to stay healthy.

What this means for you: If you fear sore knees, or you have mild knee pain that is holding you back from running or jogging, for example, then the solution lies in building strength through your posterior chain. This chain is the muscles, tendons and joints from your lower back to your toes.

Talk to your physio or doctor. Check that you can safely do the following:

  1. Perform strength training exercises to strengthen the muscles around your knees, e.g. squats, lunges, leg presses, and leg extensions.
  2. Try using kettlebells because kettlebell swings strengthen your posterior chain using a hinge movement rather than a squat movement.
  3. Modify your movements: If certain activities cause knee pain, modify them to ease joint pressure. For example, use Nordic walking poles while walking or replace jumping jacks with toe taps during aerobics.
  4. Pay attention to proper form: In particular, maintain proper hip, knee, and ankle alignment. You do this by pointing your knee towards your big or 2nd toe, not pushing your knees out sideways and finding where your knees feel most comfortable and strong.

Keeping your knees active and your lower body strong is key to maintaining mobility and a better quality of life as you age.

Related: ​Avoid Ankle Injuries And Gain Balance Better With These Four Everyday Simple Exercises​


04 Exercises For Building Strength and Avoiding Knee Injuries

Our exercise of the week is... lunges which will build strength. Muscle strength is what keeps your knees healthy.

These lunge exercises are specifically designed for runners.

Traditional lunges may create an imbalance between your knees and glutes.

These variations use running-like motion, where you keep your back leg straight and hinge from your hips to reach down towards your knee. This helps load your glutes and reduce pressure on your knees.

Side lunges work your glutes in a different plane of motion.

What this means for you: The combination of the front variation with the side lunges will improve your balance, strengthen your glutes for running, and give you the best chance of running injury-free for as long as you wish.

See this excellent video for the movements.

Good luck.

Related: Walking Backwards Benefits So Much More Than Your Knees​

Thanks for reading!

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>> My Latest Blog Post: Energise Your Golden Years: Boosting Your Desire to Exercise with Gut-Healthy Foods

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