5 things you need to do before your next run + How I run with a bad knee

Hello current runners, new runners and future runners! My running journey started in high school when my gym teacher convinced me to join the Cross Country Team. I had no clue what cross country running was but she said I would be good on the team….and when Mrs.Watson told you to join a team, you joined that team. I was always pretty athletic so it wasn’t hard to get into running. I loved it, even though my nerves were really bad before races and running in the mud kinda sucked sometimes. In grade 12, I quit because my nerves got to me and I still regret quitting.

Fast forward two year later and I was in my second year of College. I haven’t really worked out in over a year and haven’t ran in two years. I become really self-conscious with my body because I was the heaviest I have ever been. Like I said before, I was athletic in highschool and took gym class every single year. First year of College, I barely worked out because it was the first time I had to be accountable for my body and health. I wasn’t confident, I hated my body and was eating super unhealthy.

So, in second year of College I vowed to get back into a good fitness routine. I started working out 2-3 times a week and slowly started to form better habits. I always wanted to get back into running, but whenever I tried my knee would flare up and cause a lot of problems. I could run for 5 minutes MAX and then my knee would start to pinch and give out. So, I stopped trying to run until last September. I wanted to be able to run and add more cardio into my workout routine. I did cross country in highschool and loved distance running, so I wanted to be able to run like I used to. I was determined to strengthen my legs, protect my knee and get my body back into long distance running mode.

It took me about six months of training to get to where I am today. Today, I can run around 30 minutes without any discomfort. Somedays are not so great and I still have some pain, but I am happy with my progress and thankful for the good days. For anyone who wants to get into running but doesn’t know how to prep your body or might have a bad knee, I hope these tips help you like they have helped me. Because of COVID-19, I have more time to run at home and train which has helped a lot.

Note: I am not a professional or a doctor. Listen to your body/your doctor and do what is best for you. These are just my tips that helped me and my body.

Start with an active warm up

This is what has helped me the most! I need to make sure my legs and knees are completely warmed up before even stepping on my treadmill. I used to just stretch for five minutes to get my muscles loose, but that was causing so much pain in my knee because my joints were cold. Now, I do an active warm up for the first 10-15 minutes of my workout. This is what the beginning of your warm up should look like:

Note 2.0: Don’t do deep squats or deep lunges right away, only go as low as your body can go. This is just a warm up so your legs may be tight for the first bit. Feel free to customize this to work with your body and complete this as many times as needed. There is no rush!

  1. Stretch lower body, starting from hips to ankles (I usually hold each stretch for 10-20 seconds)
  2. Active warm up (60 seconds each)
    • Jumping Jacks
    • Rocking Side Lunges (rock side to side slowly, hold on each side for 3 seconds. Pulse for more burn, if wanted)
    • Slow Butt Kicks (Feet hip width apart, slower steps/kicks instead of running, arm on hips)
    • Quick (-ish) Lunges (knee touches the ground, 60 seconds each side)
    • High Knees (at your own speed, you can take a break at the 30 second mark if needed)
    • Rocking Side Lunges
    • Narrow Squats
    • Sumo/Wide Squat Pulses (You can Pulse for 3-5 seconds and then come back up for a break if you don’t want to pulse for the full 60 seconds)
    • Slow Butt Kicks
  3. Stretch Calf muscles and Quads Again (hold each strecth for 10 seconds)
  4. Speed Walk on Incline (if possible) or 5-10 Minutes

This is what I do before running. The goal here is to get your legs warmed up and get them burning a little. I want my legs to feel slightly worked before running so nothing is tight. I always focus more on my upper legs/quads when stretching since that is where my pain comes from and effects my knees the most.

Start on a Treadmill

This may not be possible for people who don’t have a treadmill at home or have access to one after all of this social distancing/quarantine/isolation/ FREAKING PANDEMIC is over. But, I always recommend starting on a treadmill to anyone who is just starting out or just getting back into running. Especially for runner who has sensitive joints, treadmills are more gentle and have a bit more support. Pavement and even tracks are more rough on joints which can cause pain or injuries.

Like I said before, I always start with an active warm up and walking before. The walking really helps because on my treadmill I can up the incline so my legs get a good burn. If I don’t start with walking to help my legs adjust, I can really feel it in my knees when I start running. Try to get to a treadmill, but if you can’t, you may need to follow my next tip.

Running Shoes Matter

I know money is tight right now for many people who can’t work, so I have two options here:

First option, is to use the most supportive running shoes you currently have but don’t do anything more than a speed walk. You can get a good cardio workout in by just walking, without good support running could make your knees worse or start new problems. If you already have running shoes that are supportive and fit properly, then you can skip this step!

Second option, is to do your research and buy yourself one good pair of running shoes. This involves understanding how you run and what your feet need. If you can understand what your body needs and what shoes to buy, you only have to buy one good pair that will last. I have wide feet and run pretty evenly on them but can lean more on the outside of my foot sometimes (also called Supination, there are different variations of this). So I just need really good all over support and wider soles. I tend to stay away from stylish brands, like Nike or Adidas, because they are usually not as supportive as proper running shoes and can be more expensive. You may have shoes from these brands that you love (I still love Adidas!), but I would focus on brands that create products specifically for runners. There is a lot of information online to help you find what you need: starting reading online articles, watch YouTube videos and get advice from professional runners.

For anyone who has wider feet, I recommend trying On. This brand is awesome for helping you find the perfect pair of running shoes. You can let the website select shoes for you depending on what you need on their shoe finder, or you can find a style you like and compare their sizing to your current running shoes. I used my old Adidas runners from high school and my newer Mizuno runners to find my perfect size for some of their shoe options. I have been using them for strength training and running, and I am in love with them. They also have a 30-day try on so that you can test the shoes out at home!

For anyone with more narrow feet, I tried and still loved the Mizuno Wave Runner 23 shoes. The cushion and support on these shoes are amazing, it’s literally like running on a cloud. I have wider feet, so after a while these shoes made the outer edges of my feet sore. But, for those who have slim feet, I would recommend trying these out.

Build Up Leg Muscle

For about two months before I started running, I focused on strengthening my leg muscles. I did the Sarah’s Day Sweat it to Shred it 8-week challenge and thankfully, a lot of the workouts were focus on legs and core. I would also recommend trying the workouts that Lululemon posts on their YouTube channel, they even posted a core workout just for runners. For about one month before you start running, I would do leg workouts 3-4 times a week to get your legs strong and ready.

Get Extra Help

This is definitely a post-Covid thing to try if you can afford it, or if you live with a Massage Therapist. But, I have been going to a Registered Massage Therapist since November for my neck, back and knees. This has helped a lot because of how tight my muscles can get. Massage therapy can help to disconnect muscle from joints or tendons that might be causing pain or tightness, which is what I needed. When I was going, I would get a 30-minute massage every 2 or 3 weeks but it really helped when I was just starting to run. Sometimes your muscles just needs a painful but good deep tissue massage to make them less stubborn.

I also run with a knee brace. It’s not an intense new brace but it adds some compression around my knee. I use a knee sleeve that says it has “copper” in it. But, having the compression around my knee has really helped.

I tried to gather together my best tips that can be done at home, sadly some things that really helped me might not be available right now. Getting into a good running routine does take time. In the beginning of my training I felt fine, until my knee started to act up and I realized I wasn’t prepping my body the right away. It took me six or so months to achieve a painless 30 minute run, so take it slow at first. Even if you can only run for five minutes and have to walk the rest, that is progress. Listen to your body because it will tell you what you really need.