When you ramp up mileage too fast or are new to running, you can be hit with the dreaded runner's knee, or pain and inflammation that occurs around or under your knee cap due to tracking issues with the knee cap that irritate the bony groove it sits in. It's different than knee pain that occurs from IT band issues, but runner's knee can make it hard to motivate yourself to continue your jogging hobby just the same.
If you're experiencing runner's knee, then make sure to R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compress, and elevate) if it's exacerbated after a run. And to prevent it from happening again, you'll need to strengthen and stretch your quads, calves, and hamstrings and incorporate lateral moves that strengthen muscles around your knee joint while improving agility. Read on for some of our favorite moves that do just that.
You can't go wrong with a wall sit — you can do them almost anywhere, and they are extremely effective for helping you strengthen your quads. To do a wall sit:
- Stand with your back against a wall, placing your feet about two feet out in front of you. Feet should be hip-distance apart.
- Bending your knees, slide your back down the wall until your knees are at 90-degree angles. Your knee joints should be over your ankle joints, so you may need to inch your feet farther from the wall to create proper alignment. Your thighs should remain parallel.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, and then stand up. Repeat for a total of three reps.
- To make this move more challenging, alternate between lifting your left heel for a few seconds and then your right. This helps to target your calves.
Weak quads and tight hamstrings can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to your knees. Loosen up hamstrings and shoulders with this tip-over tuck hamstring stretch:
- Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart. Interlace your hands behind your back. Keeping your legs straight, bend at the hips, tucking your chin and bringing your hands over your head.
- Relax the back of your neck, and if the stretch is too intense, then release your hands, placing them on the backs of your thighs, and soften your knees. Hold for 30 seconds, and slowly roll up to standing.
Check out more hamstring stretches here.
Read on for two more exercises to help prevent runner's knee.
Making sure your calves stay stretched and loosened will help alleviate runner's knee. Try this classic calf stretch against a wall.
- Stand a little less than arm's distance from the wall.
- Step your left leg forward and your right leg back, keeping your feet parallel.
- Bend your left knee and press through your right heel.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and switch legs.
Don't stop there! Learn more stretches for your calves here.
Many people neglect their side muscles, which can mean that the muscles surrounding your knee joint can be weakened. Incorporate lateral work into your routine so you help strengthen those muscles. Try doing side lunges to strengthen all areas of your butt, hips, and thighs.
- Stand with your feet and knees together, hands on your hips.
- Take a large step with your right foot to the right side, and lunge toward the floor.
- Make sure your right knee does not extend past your toes, and keep your left leg relatively straight.
- Push off through your right foot to return to the start to complete one.
- Do three sets of 10 on each side.