Before Running- Part V: Bulletproofing Your Hips, Knees, and Ankles

Running is a great way to stay in shape. However, I find that we forget about how harmful running can be on our hips, knees and ankles. As a runner in my early 20’s, I regarded joint pain to be a problem of old folks. Then, last night I came home from my nightly run. Oh my dear Lord did my ankles flipping hurt! After popping an extra-strength Motrin, I started investigating why we experience such discomfort and how to minimize it without using medication. So, today I will be focusing on ways to bulletproof your hips, knees and ankles.

Physics 101
According to a study entitled,”The Science Behind the Shoes- Biomechanics” by Saucony, Inc.”The Forefoot Phase … the force exerted actually increased to between four and seven times body weight. (That means the foot of a 150 pound runner can be called upon to support a weight of a thousand pounds or more!!)” That’s a lot of pressure my friends. For long distance runners, this pressure being put on the body over a long period of time will eventually lead to a loss of cartilage which can lead to arthritis pain later on in life (Ouchies!). Younger runners (like myself), are likely to experience pain from not having done any type of strength exercises.

How are strength exercises going to help my joints?
Good question. After all, joints are made of bone and cartilage; not muscle. So, how exactly would these work-outs strengthen my bone? Here’s the down and dirty. Bones are connected to your muscles by tendons. Without this connection between the muscles and bones that are responsible for controlling body movement, it would be impossible for the body to move in the way it does. Since tendons are imperative for body movements, it is crucial to keep them healthy.

Tendons can be damaged if overstrained or improperly cared for. Overuse can cause the collagen fibers to form small tears, a condition known as tendonitis. Damage most often occurs in the knee, ankle, shoulder, wrist, bicep, calf, and back of the heel, which is called the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon connects the heel to the back of the calf, and since it is used so frequently, it is one of the most commonly damaged.

Increasing Hip Stability
So, way back when (a little more than three years ago), I enlisted in the United States Army. When I left for Basic Combat Training, one of the first things I was told about was the amount of injuries females sustain from hip injuries. Keeping this in mind, I started to really focus on taking as much calcium as I possibly could. Because of this occurrence, the Army developed exercises to strengthen hip muscles. Here’s a link that shows you the type of hip strengthening exercises we did: http://www.armyprt.com/special_conditioning_programs/hip-stability-drill.shtml

Keeping Your Knees Strong
I found these exercises to be very helpful for developing strength for my knees. http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/fitness_articles.asp?id=363

Invincible Ankles
Here’s a YouTube link for ankle exercises that looked pretty good.
http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=0q0qBzbb7Bs&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D0q0qBzbb7Bs

Mother always said that prevention is better than cure.
I’m pretty sure that I mentioned in another blog entry how my mother has taught me to live by this phrase. Preventing an injury is wayyy easier than having to cure one. This is especially true when it comes to the health of your tendons. If they are injured, it can put you on the bench for a long time. And who likes being benched? Not me. With this final point in mind, try to motivate yourself to do these workouts everyday to help bulletproof your joints and prevent future injuries. 🙂

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