Smutty Fitness: Arthritis learn-to-run

April 29, 2014 13:46:34 Posted at April 29, 2014 13:46:34
Hayley Posted by Hayley

Hi Hayley,
I've never been athletic in my life, but I'd like to start running.   I can walk all day and I try to get in at least half an hour each day, but I'd like to step up my game.  I have mild arthritis in my knees which has shown improvement since I started walking daily and lost weight, but it's not severe, so I don't think that should deter me.  Do you have any advice on running safely for a beginning runner in her 40's with creaky knees?  :)  Thanks!!!


You need to start slow. The biggest mistake I see when people take up running for the first time is they go too hard, too long and too fast. Running is not an easy sport to do well and it takes years and years of experience to master and if you ramp things up too quickly then you will burn yourself out.

Step one is to get yourself on a progressive learn-to-run program. Back in the day when I started we did not have things like apps and smart phones so I would lug running books with me to the treadmill. Download a running app and buy the polar heart rate monitor that is read via Bluetooth onto your phone. Start with learn-to-run, building up to 20 minutes of continuous running then work up to running 5km. Until you can run that 5km distance, keep up with your longer walks as they will help maintain your aerobic fitness as well as burn calories. You will probably be able to walk a lot farther than you can run so do not give up walking yet (or ever for that matter).

The second step is learning how to cross train. Keeping your running muscles and bones strong and healthy is the only way to prevent injury. Because you have arthritis it is extra important to stay on top of your cross training. I would recommend one spin class a week (trust me on this, it will improve your running fitness by leaps and bounds) and 2 strength training workouts that include a good stretch, especially of your calves, glutes and hamstrings. If you have time a yoga class would not hurt or simply trade a strength workout for yoga. A few key exercises you should be doing are lunges, squats, calf raises and planks.

The last step is you must follow the program exactly which means no missed workouts. When you are trying to improve at something, progression is very important and learn-to-run programs are designed specifically to ensure you are able to ramp up your running workouts each week. If you miss one or two workouts then the next week you should repeat that same week because if you try and build on missed workouts you will be unsuccessful. And do not let yourself be pushed by others. You know your limits so stay within them. Just because your best friend is running for 45 minutes does not mean you should be as well.

Listen to your body too. If it doesn't like what it's doing it will let you know. Have a good physiotherapist or chiropractor or massage therapist on speed dial and get in as soon as you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable in your body. If you let it fester it could takes weeks, if not months to fix. And invest in a good pair of shoes, your feet will thank you.

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