5AM Runner

I Get On My Knees

KneeShave1 713352As I promised earlier this week, let’s talk about the knees and let’s talk about the damage they sustain when they belong to a crazy 5 AM Runner, or any runner for that matter.  And what a perfect occasion to cover this topic – what I did to myself, and specifically to my knees this morning can only be classified as self-abuse, and should be called illegal in most states.

Just one of those days when you really don’t feel like doing much, especially that early on, but push yourself outside and go for it anyway, however, mid-way through the routine definitely feel that you will not be able to complete the run and may as well quit right about then.  Of course, there you tell yourself to keep going, which is when your legs begin to feel as if they weigh a ton each, every step becomes painful and you promise yourself you will just run until that next traffic light and walk home from there.  Obviously, when you reach the traffic light, you simply tell yourself the entire notion of quitting is simply ridiculous and you will just go slower and get at least another mile in.  And so it continues on.  In short, you fool yourself into completing the same distance, only slower and by living through so much pain, you feel you should be given a medal!

Needless to say, after an experience like that you can’t stand on your feet, your legs are useless for about 24 hours, knees hurt like hell, as does just about your entire body.  Well, since it is pretty much a foregone conclusion that I will not quit this self-punishing routine, the question remains – will my knees hold up for a few more years, and hopefully longer, or am I slowly destroying them by choosing this form of exercise over other, more peaceful methods of cardio?

Probably because we have all read so much about this topic, and because of the pain normally associated with it, the most common belief is that running, especially when done consistently, is bad for the knees.  Hey, it is difficult to argue here - with each step, a typical runner's knee withstands a force equal to 7-8 times his body weight!!!!  So, for an average 170-lb. person that represents nearly 1,300 lb. of impact!!  Crazy, but true – according to the popular science anyway.

Well, despite this common belief and the supporting data, I can dig up just as much research that will demonstrate that running does not cause any lasting damage to the knees and joints.  Or even the opposite, how about them apples?!

What if I show you research that actually claims that running may even help protect people from joint problems later in life?

In a very important, yet hardly-publicized study by Stanford University, long-term runners and non-runners were compared over a period of nearly 20 years!  None of the participants had arthritis when the study began, but many of them developed it over the course of the study period.  When the Stanford team analyzed the collected information, which was later published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2008, it found that the runners' knees were no more or less healthy than the non-runners' knees.  “…Their joints are the same," said James Fries, a professor of medicine at Stanford and the leader of the research group.  And the study also found that runners experienced less physical disability and had a 39% lower mortality rate than the non-runners.

Oops – you are not about to argue with the results of a Stanford study, are you?  What we know about the knees and the damage that allegedly comes from running – all is basically a result of some common theory passed on from generation to generation that seemingly has no backing to it in any real research.  Of course everything hurts after a good run, your legs are killing you and you can’t stand up straight – probably means you did something right!  The knees are also sore, but again, simply a result of a powerful cardio workout, nothing you can do, however, there is no long-term damage there, just pain that will in fact go away.

Everything else can just be chalked up to excuses.  “I will not run outside because I want to avoid possible damage to my knees”, some people may say – well, sounds like a good excuse, if you personally believe it – great.  I certainly don’t, and as long as I can still stand on my two feet and even crawl forward, I will continue to