How Joe The Runner Eliminated His Knee Pain Using 3 Exercises He Learned During A 5 Minute Consultation With A Health-First Fitness Coach
So, my brother, Joe, who lives out of state, showed up in town for an unexpected visit. We got together to catch up, and during the madness, he mentioned that his knees have been bothering him while running. Apparently, ever since he started training for his first half marathon last year – which he crushed, by the way – his knees have always been giving him trouble. It was just a slight annoyance at first, but it’s gotten so bad over the past several months that he really couldn’t run without being in pain, which meant very little running for him at all.
When he mentioned it, I immediately asked him if I could take a look. Truth be told, I think I actually caught him off guard because he looked back at me with a befuddled expression, indicating that he was thinking, “what, right now?“
But I insisted with, “come on, let’s do it. It’ll only take a few minutes, and I’d like to try my hand at figuring this bad boy out.” And he agreed!
So, I asked him a few questions about the issue he was having, looked at how he moved a little bit, and I even man-handled his legs for a minute. While we were playing doctor, I quickly discovered that along with the ever-so-common hip tightness and immobility, Joe’s iliotibial bands (ITB) were extremely tight – unnaturally tight – which is a very common issue among runners. These tissues are supposed to be springy – almost rubber-band like – but his were like steel cables (much like mine had been in years past).
So, I said, “I think we’ve found the problem” (or, at least a problem). And over the next few minutes, I taught him a few exercises that would help to alleviate the tension, increase his range of motion, restore the tissue quality, and put a bounce in his step, if you will. I had no idea if it would actually eliminate the knee pain or not, but at first glance, it looked like it was the primary contributor and I knew it was worth a try. And heck, it wasn’t going to hurt him and would do him some good regardless of the outcome. So, 5 minutes later, we were done. I’d given him a few exercises to work on regularly and we got back to whatever nonsense we were up to before. A few days later, Joe returns to his home state.
About a month later, I received this comment on my Facebook wall…
Pretty cool, eh? And yeah, that’s how it usually happens…
“Oh by the way, my life is much better now because of exercise. Who knew, right?”
All kidding aside, I’ve received a lot of good feedback from my clients over the years, but that note from my brother hit pretty close to home. I mean, I spent almost three years in physical therapy and was literally disabled for years after that because of a little something that started as a tiny pain in my knee that I ultimately chose to ignore. And that’s exactly why I jumped at the opportunity to help. I didn’t want Joe to ignore this, and possibly end up going through the hardships I faced.
Now, you’re probably wondering what exercises I taught him. I mean, what could be the magical solution to end knee pain for all mankind? Well, if you must know, here are the exercises I taught him (if my memory serves me)…
1) Leg swings, especially laterals to outside/inside (video demo here)
2) A skill-appropriate half seated spinal twist, aka half lord of the fishes pose (video demo w/ creepy voice here)
3) A skill-appropriate pigeon pose (video demo here)
note: I may have also taught him shinbox (and shinbox switch) to help him with pigeon – can’t remember.
Now, I know what you’re thinking.
Yep. Pretty much. Doing those exercises for a few minutes a day meant the difference between Joe being able to run and not being able to run.
Now, here’s the thing: there’s nothing special about this list of exercises. It isn’t the Holy Grail of runner’s knee sufferers. In fact, knowing the exercises I gave to Joe isn’t the point. You see, this was a quick-fix solution for a unique problem. I detected a lot of tension in Joe’s hips and especially in his IT bands, and gave him a few drills to get rid of that tension. And we got lucky because it appears that was the source of the knee pain. Obviously, it doesn’t address Joe’s overall needs as an athlete. Just a very specific need that was preventing him from doing what he loves. After another month or two of running, he may be dealing with a whole other set of issues. But that’s beside the point.
What I really want to convey to you is this…
This stuff called exercise works. And if we would just get that, then many of our health problems would literally disappear. Vanish. Vamoose.
In closing, nobody is a blank slate. Everybody faces a unique set of circumstances. The details matter. And the best way to solve any problem is to identify the source and then implement targeted solutions (ie precision fitness) instead of just ignoring the problem or worse yet, just winging it.
Now, if you’re a runner who’s struggling with an injury or chronic injuries, then it’s probably because one of these 7 Building Blocks Of Becoming a Strong, Resilient Runner is out of whack. So, if I were you, I’d start there. You should identify the most likely source of the problem, and then implement a targeted solution. You got this.
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CST Coach, CST-KS
Health-First Fitness Coach
Disclaimer: If you have runners knee or another running injury, then these exercises are just as likely to help you as they are to make matters worse. So, this is not medical advice. Never has been – never will be. The disclaimer will clear everything up. Capiesce?