Strengthen joints for running

  • Creator
  • #24761


    I’m almost through my first run of a 24-week program which I build myself based on the book. Before this I used to do quite a lot of sports like: biking, rowing (machine), hiking and even Taekwondo, but I’ve never engaged in long distance running, at least not for over an hour in one go.

    During training I figured out that my limiting factor was therefore not my aerobic base (I can easily run quite fast while staying in HR zone 1), but rather my knees and leg muscles which aren’t accustomed to running. After the first four weeks I had to stop running because of a bad chin splint, which I could resolve with pediatric insoles and 2 months of physiotherapy (I also started running solely on soft ground and altered my pace). Then I was fine for another 10 weeks until I started feeling my patella hurting, which is now constant whenever I run longer than 40min.

    Even though I started at a very low volume (2h of aerobic training, I maxed out at 5h), I couldn’t keep myself from injury. Next year I’m planning some weeks before the transition period to focus on strengthening my joins before engaging into training again. Any tips on filling in this period?

    Thanks a lot!

  • Participant
    cnikirk on #24772

    I’m sure others will chime in but I can speak from direct experience. Running always seemed to introduce shin splints, plantar fasciitis or some kind of knee issue. I think what Scott or others will say is add no more than 10% volume each week, but even that amount was too much for me. It literally took me about 2 – 3 years of slow build up to be able to tolerate running on a regular basis.

    I changed several things along the way which you may find helpful. I run with green superfeet insoles, and hike and climb with them as well. I no longer run on asphalt, concrete or even treadmills. Only dirt. I don’t use gel shoes or super padded shoes. I also build in walking periods to my runs even if you can stay in Z1 the entire time which I cannot do, I recommend having a minute or two every couple of miles to just walk briskly and give yourself a small break. I also stopped trying to run uphill. I could get better at it, but it caused injury flareups.

    With those mods and time, I seem to be able to run when I want and about as often as I want. I also like to take a couple of ibuprofen beforehand which not everyone recommends, but I found that helps with the aches and pains especially during the early part of the runs.

    Hope this helps.

    Foster on #24782

    Some things that have worked worked for:

    1. Keep the individual workout mileage low, even if that doesn’t conform to the plan.
    2. Trail running is much lower impact that pavement. Reduce pavement miles as much as feasible. Run short loops or just go out and back if you have to.
    3. Technique! Spend time practicing good technique, including sprinting and footwork, separate from the actual volume work. A competent coach is helpful.
    4. Onset of pain or tension, is a good notice to stop and walk it off until it releases. Works for ITB Syndrome.

    Anonymous on #24789

    Thanks for the great recommendations cnikirk and Foster.

    I want to correct one thing: It is not your joints pieterjan that need strengthening. It is the all the connective tissue (muscles, tendons, fascia etc) that need strengthening.

    Running is HARD on your body and it takes many many miles (at least 100) to develop the sort of strength in the connective tissues to absorb the repeated impacts. We alway start folks who have not run in years with a run/walk progression. It might be as short and simple as run 2 min walk to min and do the 10 times. The we build from there to 3+3, 4+2, 5+1. We build this up over months and months to allow the time needed to adapt.

    I second Foster’s comment about technique. While running “should” come naturally to humans, many people run very poorly and this causes excessive impact. Learn to run well. There a many video tutorials on line. Watch the Kenyan stars to see what running is supposed to look like.

    Most running injuries come about because of doing too much, too soon. Take it slow.

    Patella pain is common with runners and typically is caused by tight lateral quadriceps. I suggest rolling those muscles to length them and remove the tension that causes the pain in the patella. Read this article

    Slow and easy does it till your legs can handle the running. In the meantime supplement with hiking.


    pieterjan on #24799

    Thanks a lot everyone! Those are all great pointers! Great to receive some personal experience on this one as well. I found I do have very tight quadriceps, since they hurt like hell when foam rolling.

    Does anyone has any experience with bare foot running? It’s supposed to help improve the muscles in the legs and feet and help with technique as well, because the running speed drops and the pace quickens (which is healthier). It has to be very carefully build up of course. I haven’t tried it yet because of fear for injury.

    briguy on #24808

    Scott – I doesn’t look like the article you mention in “read this article” is showing up. Can you clarify the link for that?

    Anonymous on #24837

    Shoes can also contribute to knee and shin issues if they’re dead. They are designed to last 200-300 miles, which comes pretty quickly with regular training. In terms of shin splints and technique, overstriding is often a culprit. Here’s an article on downhill technique, but it applies to all running. Barefoot running can be helpful to feel good technique, but as you mention, incorporating it in gradually is important. I’ve seen many people trade knee issues for calf issues due to going too much too soon. Work on it when you’re fresh and for a few minutes at a time so your body can adapt to the changing forces and load, and it will gradually be more natural.

    Anonymous on #24938

    I used to be a heel-striker, and I would regularly have IT band issues. Over the course of a couple of years, I changed my technique to landing more mid/fore-foot. Check out this Bobby McGee video for the drills that I used.


    BE CAREFUL: When I changed technique, I gained 30″ per km at the same heart rate pretty quickly. But it took years for my calves to adjust. If changing run technique, rest at the earliest signs of any tweaks or pains. Don’t trade one problem for another.

    Now that I’m fully switched over, my calves have no issues with my current technique, and if I try heel striking again, it feels absolutely horrible… (To see what I mean, walk down a flight of stairs on your heels.)

    us on #25085


    Regarding Barefoot running ..
    It definitely improves gait, efficiency but above all it is great fun… liberating!

    Needs to be introduced very slowly.
    A. Run on soft surfaces e.g. grass or synthetic track.
    Avoid hard/mixed surfaces – concrete / tar / trails .

    B. Run slow and less. Better to start with a run 1 min + walk 1 min routine.
    Idea is to get a feel of the surface and how your body reacts to it without any additional layers.
    C. Every barefoot run to be done only after recovery from earlier.
    D. Massage calves and feet after the run. Be careful if you have any history of plantar fasciitis.
    E. Once you master the short duration running / recovery cycles on soft surfaces you can add more time.
    Over the period ( in a couple of months) you can slowly introduce hard surfaces.
    On hard surfaces you can also use minimalist instead of the thick running shoes.

    Barefoot running may not give you quick results but will definitely get back the fun in running.

    valerie_ie on #25094

    One of the major contributors to lower limb injuries are biomechanical imbalances further up the kinetic chain – usually the gluteal and hamstring muscle groups.
    Weak glut medius will result in the knees “falling in” while running which puts extra stress on the IT Band and the patellofemoral joint. Also if the glutes and hamstrings aren’t firing when you’re running, the small muscles in the lower leg are overloaded instead – leading to shin pain and calf tightness.
    The box step ups and heel touches will really help with these but key is to make sure your knees tract directly in line with your feet. You could also add some other glute strengthening exercises/activation exercises such as glut bridges, clam shells, crab walks with a resistance band.

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