Not What I Kneed Right Now....

For the last couple of weeks, I've been feeling a lot creakier than normal, especially around my knees.  G said it's just because I'm getting old.  I'm sure that's probably a part of it but of course, I'm worried that it might be a bit more than that.  For the last 3 weeks my knees have been achy and I've found the going up and down the stairs seems to really bother them.  I am generally ok when I'm running however.  It's afterwards when they feel sore.  My left one especially.   I figured it was probably due to my incredibly tight muscles so I finally went it for a massage last Wednesday after taking the previous Thursday off from running.  My run group was scheduled to do hill repeats that day and I didn't think that sort of pounding would be good for my knees so I skipped it and spent some quality time with the ice pack and some advil.  I still felt a bit creaky when I started my long run that Saturday but I was fine by the end.  I had hoped that some good stretching would help so I foam rolled and stretched really well when I finished.  Walking was fine but the stairs were an issue once again.  Despite that, I went out to do my group tempo run last Tuesday and it wasn't pure misery but it was pretty close.  I took it really easy going up and down the hills (of course it was a hilly route).  I stretched and iced my knees when I got home and hoped that my massage would sort everything out.

My massage was 90 minutes of pain.  He did a lot of work on my upper body and then focused on the area around my right knee (which was the area that was most bothersome at the time).  He did some work on my hamstrings, quads and calves and just skimmed over my IT band because we ran out of time.   I had high hopes that my knee pain would be gone.  The stairs didn't really bother me when I went down them so I figured that was a plus.  I probably should have just taken Thursday off completely but no, I'm stubborn.  I figured speed work wasn't the best idea since my legs were still healing but an easy run should be fine.  So I went out and ran an easy 11km.  Of course my legs felt like crap.  My knees seemed to be somewhat ok.  There was a bit of creaking and tweaking but I thought that was just things getting "settled" so to speak.  I had hoped all would be fine by my run on Saturday but alas it was not to be.  As soon as I started running, my knees started creaking.  After about 15 minutes in, they settled down but then throughout the course of the run, I had all sorts of weird little tweaks and pains.  Then they just ached for the rest of the day.  However, I got on the Computrainer on Sunday and had a great ride, which was strange.  I figured it would probably suck.  But, my knee seemed to be settling down so I was happy.  I figured a swim on Monday would do me good.  Monday was fin work and by the end of that 2600m swim, my knees were bugging me again.  My 15 minutes on the treadmill yesterday was not good.  I had all sorts of weird pain going on.  So much so that at one point I actually had to change my gait.  Not. Good.  Needless to say I skipped last nights tempo run.  I got on the bike instead.  While my knees feel a lot better today, I am still a bit worried that something is up.  So, to cover my bases, I've got 2 appointments at 2 different sports medicine clinics.  Paranoid much?

It almost feels like my kneecaps aren't tracking properly.   To say that I am freaking out would be an understatement.  My physiotherapist made a comment about how quad dominant I was and when I look at my legs, especially when I am flexing or engaging my quad muscles, I have to agree.  Having stronger quads than hamstrings is not the best thing  if you're a runner.  Little did I know that most women are naturally more quad dominant than hamstring dominant (so I found out when reading the New Rules of Lifting for Women).  Having stronger quads than hamstrings can end up pulling your knee caps out of alignment, especially if the quads and IT band get really right.  If there is anything that I'm incredibly paranoid about it's knee issues.  In my mind muscle issues are generally an easier fix than joint issues.  A few massages or ART sessions and you're back to normal in a couple of weeks.  When it comes to your knees, well, if you start feeling constant ache or pain in them that can never be a good thing.   It's all bone and cartilage in there and that has to be treated right! 

I suspect some of it was due to running too long in my old shoes.  I also suspect that my quads are starting to overpower my hamstrings in terms of strength so I've decided to step away from the squat rack for a few weeks and focus on adding some more hamstring work into my routine (the only thing I currently do for them is dead lifts).  I'm not going to stop squatting altogether, I'm just going to do some variations so I can work on strengthening my vastus medialis.  That little bugger is the key to balancing out your quads and keeping your knee where it needs to be.  A nicely developed vastus medialis looks pretty sexy too. 
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Since I decided to part ways with the squat rack, I spent some time wandering around the big boys area in the gym checking out the variety of machines I could use to do leg work.  I settled on one leg press machine that had individual foot plates that swung independently of each other.  I checked the little icon to see what muscles it worked and sure enough it said, glutes, hamstrings and quads.  I loaded a couple of 35lb plates on and went to work.  Knee felt fine.  I think I need to take my hips out of the squatting equation and just isolate my legs.  I'm not going to get the same amount of muscle engagement since you don't really use your core to stabilize yourself too much when you're sitting down vs when you're balancing a barbell on your shoulders but, if it helps save my knees then I'll take it. 

I also re-introduced another old favourite of mine into my workout.  I call it the wall squat but I think it's also known as the ski squat.  The key is to make sure your legs are at 90 degrees so when I am at the gym, I always do this by a mirror so I can check my form.   This is a great isometric exercise that can be done anywhere. I have been known to do these at work from time to time just for the hell of it.  Why not?

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When I got up this morning, my knees felt better.  Not 100%.  Probably about 80%.  There is still some discomfort going down the stairs, especially after I've been sitting for a while but, it's definitely better than it has been.  I think I'm going to take tomorrow off from running as well.  Another day of rest couldn't hurt.  Then we'll see what this musculoskeletal doctor I'm seeing on Friday has to say.  Fingers crossed it's nothing bad.

Have you ever had any knee issues?  If so, what was the outcome?