A Small Trick to Avoiding Knee Injuries

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If you've never had any knee pains from running, you're one of the few, lucky people who haven't. Count your blessings and go find something else to read. But, if you're like the rest of us who have dealt with some form of “runner's knee,” here's a pretty easy way to prevent the most common impact injuries to the knee.

The next time you go out for a run, listen to the sounds your feet make as you land. What do you hear? If it's a skidding sound, a thud or a slap, your feet could be telling you that you're creating unhealthy impact  that, if left uncorrected, could lead to knee pain.

Let's look at each of the different sounds and what causes them. I'll talk about how to correct all three at the end of the list because the same fix applies to all three situations.

1. The Skidding sound: Those of you who have been studying ChiRunning for awhile, might already know how this happens. It usually means that your leg swing is more pendular than circular; that your knees don't bend enough; and that you're most likely running in a vertical body position instead of falling forward in a slight lean. The skidding sound is the sound of horizontal braking which creates a forward, jarring force to the back of your knees.
2. The Thud: The runners who land with a thud are what I call heavy runners, which means that they come down hard on their feet because their mind is directed towards coming down onto the ground instead of moving across the ground. These are the people I wouldn't advise to run across a frozen pond. They feel the airborne nature of running and therefore focus on the landing as “returning to earth” at the end of the flight phase of their stride. The thud is a sign of vertical impact to the knees… like jumping up and down.
3. The slap: This is the sound I hear from people who tend to bend at the waist and who also dorsiflex their ankles as they reach forward into their next stride. This makes them hit heel-first, which in turn makes their forefoot slap the ground as it hits. The slap, like the skidding sound, is a sound associated with horizontal braking.

Here's how to correct all three sounds… run quietly. Have it as your personal running goal to not make any noise when you run. You should be able to sneak up on someone running ahead of you. Of course, this is easier said than done. So, here are some focuses and visualizations for adding some silence to your stride. But, if these focuses are too much to think about when you're running, just go back to having the intention to run as quietly as you can.

1. Focus solely on lifting your ankles with each stride instead of coming down onto your feet.
2. Imagine your center moving along a line parallel to the surface of the Earth.
3. Relax your lower legs to the point where you feel like you don't have any lower legs.
4. Allow your toes to drop as you lift your ankles off the ground; and keep them dropped until you touch the ground again on your landing.
5. Keep your posture tall and straight while allowing your center to fall gently ahead of where you feel your feet during the support stance of your stride.

Whether you're working to reduce impact using these focuses, or whether you just try to run quietly, and you could be adding years to the future of your knees.

Posted in Mindfulness

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