Knee painI recently received the following email from Mike Terhar:

I am trying to run primarily on trails due to the modulation in pace from obstacles or rocky terrain. I think this is helping me avoid re-injuring my knee. (itb and patellar tendinitis) I run in different shoes and different distances on different paths. I also do a shorter, fast run on pavement weekly.

Are there other things you recommend people do when they have a knee that isn’t cooperating?

If you have a similar problem as Mike, then he is following a great plan by working in as much trail work as he can. It’s definitely a better way to stay healthy, whether you have had previous knee injuries or not. I’ve actually written a few articles on that very topic (Benefits of Trail Running, Trail Running for Road Runners, Trail Running 101.)

When it comes to knee problems, I do have one additional suggestion and one thing to watch out for based on what Mike said in his email.

First, I’d recommend working in some weight training to strengthen your muscles. You can do body weight exercises so you don’t need an expensive gym membership or to go out and buy a lot of equipment; functional movement that hits a lot of different muscles at once are best and if you do need more resistance then you can use every day objects or buy something cheap like a 50 or 60 pound sandbag at your local home improvement store.

Some exercises that are worth doing include squats (both double leg and single leg), pushups, lunges, deadlifts and pull ups. Bodyweight lunges and squats are probably the best place to start given your concerns about your knee.

One thing that you want to watch out for, especially if you have a history of knee problems, is switching out shoes that are too dissimilar.

I use a lot of different types of shoes, mostly depending upon where I’m running, but most of those shoes are pretty similar one to another; they are neutral shoes with a minimal (or non-existent) heel lift.

A few years ago, though, I was switching between heavier shoes with a lot of cushioning and ultra-light weight minimal shoes from day to day to day, and my hips started to bother me as a result because my body didn’t know what to make of the situation. (Plus, the heavy shoes just weren’t appropriate for me.) Switching back to just one general type of shoe made that problem go away within a few days and I still got the advantages of variety by using different models of shoes.

If you aren’t feeling any pain right now then you are probably fine with your current shoe choices, but I just wanted to make sure that I mentioned it.

Have you got a training question that you’d like answered? You can contact me here on the website, or ask a question right on the wall for my facebook fan page (which is probably the quickest way to get a response.)