I used to love running. Really love it. Back in 2010 and 2011 I was regularly bashing out 10kms on the treadmill and roads. It was addictive and it used to be a little different to being in the gym. But this love was very short-lived after knee injuries and it only recently that I am getting back into running after knee injuries.
Running After Knee Injuries
Suffering with Runners Knee
I love the fresh air that comes with an outdoor run and as long as I am wrapped up, will usually head out. A cold winter’s morning used to be my favourite. I did have a couple of bad experiences running in the heat when I went really cold and shivery and was told after this could have been heat exhaustion. So it always put me off the hot summer evening runs. I remember ringing my hubby to come and get me once, as was away from home, it was too hot and I was so cold!
My running fun ended quite abruptly, after completing a half-marathon back in 2011 – The Potter’s Half. It was a tough run, as a lot more hilly than I had ever trained for and when I was probably 10 miles in, I started struggling with my knees. They had already twinged a little on longer runs but I was suffering with ‘runner’s knee” which is issues with my IT bands (iliotibial bands). IT Band syndrome happens when your IT band rubs repeatedly against the lower end of your thigh bone as it joins your knee. This friction causes inflammation and pain. You can read a little more here.
I found even with chatting to physios, investing in a foam roller and doing exercises, I couldn’t run any distances anymore without pain. The issue is with your IT band (I find), is the pain isn’t long-standing. So it hurts when you run and possibly a little after, if you have really pushed it but otherwise, gets better quickly. Until you run again!!
So I accepted I was never going to run a marathon, or even another half marathon again but this was firmly stopped after my honeymoon.
Meniscal Tear and Knee Arthroscopy
I have written about my experiences with tearing my knee cartilage in the past and my recovery. This was all my own fault; climbing and acting like a child, as always (see picture below) but it left me with pain and a locking knee. My running days were well and truly over, as well as my deep squatting days for a while. I fell pregnant very soon after this injury. I had physio at work but wasn’t helping and there was no way I was going to get an MRI or any surgery with a baby on the way and a lot of lovely relaxin, affecting my joints. I had a wait. A few months after my eldest was born, a knee MRI confirmed a torn meniscus and I had a knee arthroscopy a few months later and a 9 month recovery until I was pain-free.
I never really bothered to road run again. I could run around a room in gym classes and that was fine for me. And all was fine again until after I had my second baby. Kneeling down to change a nappy I felt like I had knelt on a nail. Boom. I had torn my meniscus again! This was confirmed by a second MRI, as well as some quadricept tendonopathy. I’d been also having pain above my knee as well. You can read more about this here. Quadriceps tendinopathy is inflammation of the tendon of the quadriceps just before it attaches to the kneecap.
I didn’t really know what to do at that point. The surgeon recommended physio, see how it was and come back for either steroid injections for the tendonopathy or further surgery for the tear.
I was even stretching on holiday!
Recovering from a Second Meniscal Tear
I went back to my trusty physio and things seemed a little better. This was back in 2017. Since then, the tear has given me minimal issues, so I decided against further surgery.
However the tendonopathy has been a little different and does flare up and down depending on how much glute and quad strengthening I do. So, for example after I had the little man and was very inactive for a couple of weeks, plus with relaxin affecting my joints, the pain was so bad above my knees, I couldn’t squat over the toilet. After very recently having Covid and two weeks of resting, I was getting niggles. The body astounds and dismays me in equal measures. You lose fitness and strength within two weeks but yet after illness, pregnancy or rest you can always get it back with work. This is always a comfort to me now.
For me, regular resistance band training, glute and quad work, keeps the pain at bay. This sorts of exercises are easily found on YouTube and online.
Running After Injury
When we were locked down in November and the gyms closed for the second time, I didn’t want to go back to YouTube workouts. I was also a bit stroppy about it; if I couldn’t work out with weights properly then what was the point? I decided to try running again. I was still doing some resistance band training for my glutes and legs, so decided to head out and see how my knees were.
I knew I was never going to do huge distances again but regular 5kms would be great; more if I was able.
I’ve been able to do it! At my best I’ve ran solidly for 40-45 minutes (After some serious good food and carb loading the night before!). I know I will never get great times. I know I will need to stop and walk sometimes but I have been able to run again!
During the lockdown, I was able to get out twice a week and do a regular 5-6km for 30-35 minutes and I was so happy to do 9km with a friend recently! I was hobbling a little by the end and needed to walk towards the end, but my pain passed quickly.
Stretching my glutes, hamstrings, knees and calves are really important after a run, as well as my pelvis. I also have to keep up with the glute and quad strengthening BUT I can do this and keep running!
I now have gone back to the gym and my new plan is to run at least once a week and aim for the 2-3 other days, if I can manage it with the kids and weekend plans.
It took a little work and some patience but you can get back to running after knee injuries. You need some good physio, some good exercises and some time!
Good Luck if you are in the same boat!