Sometimes there are things the mind wants that the body just trys to resist. Take my recent 'let's get fit' campaign. After a few year sof being really into regular classes I hurt my foot and fell clean off the exercise wagon. Since then, I have spent more time doing my wily best to convince anyone who'll listen that that exercise just isn’t fitting my life right now, than I have in an actual class.
I don’t have time, I “can’t” run, I’ll faint without food, my sister's dog needs walked (which I've never done)…. You know the sort of thing; you’ve possibly said it yourself.
However, my most recent excuse was - I felt - a legitimate one. My knees felt as though they belong to the hundred year old man. That, and I almost lost my training buddy when my friend, K, thought her shins were going to splinter into a million shards. We were too old, too out of practice and now we were damaging our bodies – we’d have to stop!
“We tried, but we had to quit for medical reasons….”
'I’ll have to resign myself to a life of elastic-waisted trousers, back fat and a parachute as a coat.' I thought a few Saturdays ago, munching chocolate instead of going to Body Pump.
However, we have all been motivated / shamed in the Small City office by Rhona (now a woman who runs 5K) and Gary (training for a marathon) and so instead of rolling out my water-tight knees excuse, I asked a few people what they thought.
Turns out, this is quite common, particularly, but not exclusively, in “people my age”! I know, I hate that phrase too. But let me liberate you on this one – the best thing to do is just suck it up and deal with it. I am not 25, I am 45. My body is different and I have to work much harder to keep it a lot less able. Don’t dwell on it too much - I too was 19 a fortnight ago - all is not lost as I found out.
My problem was my knees felt sore where they “hinged” – between the knee cap and the bone underneath. I can only describe it as a tooth-achey type of pain. That long, dull, niggling feeling was especially prominent the mornings after I’d been exercising. For my friend K, if she ran anywhere, her shins were killing her just walking the next day.
As a Live Active Member, I simply asked the class instructors and was given some easy tips to try in the first instance. I also asked my doctor and although opinion is varied on this (just look online – it’s a minefield) I’m going to give you her feedback as a medical professional. Kirstin did the same re her shins and her solution was so simple I can barely believe it!
Here is the feedback:
Based on the classes I was doing the LAL instructors went to lunges and squats as the first possible issue. As these exercises seem to be standard throughout most classes, it is a good place to start.
“Get your form right!” When you do squats and lunges it’s really important that your technique is correct because when it’s not, it can cause injury. All of the Live Active Leisure instructors are fully trained and they will be more than happy to help you perfect this; please ask, you’ll be really glad you did! Also, get in front of a mirror – do it at home if you feel self-conscious in the gym – and look at yourself when you practice what they tell you.
If you're new, try their beginners' 'How to' classes which give you all the techniques and best practice moves.
“Try your lunges and squats without weights” Don’t miss a class you love because of one little part, try your lunges and squats without weights and see how you get on.
“Do either lunges or squats and see if it’s one or other” Dump the lunges for a couple of classes and just do squats. Then reverse. See if one is more likely to cause knee pain over the other.
So, I tried a combination of this and it turns out I can do squats with weights, no problem. But the minute I try lunges with weights my knees play up! I found I was in a lot of pain if I did the full Lunge Track in Body Pump so I skip the weights, do fewer lunges and I’m golden.
I also read that bike riding is excellent for working quads and this was my incentive back into spinning class - it shouldn't hurt your knees provided your bike seat is high enough. (I have to tell you, my thighs have never been in better shape). It’s also worth noting that the rowing machine never hurt my knees - probably because it has no impact.
Get your trainers properly fitted. Job Done! We couldn’t believe it. Julie also advised that I do this for my sore knees so it could be a combination of this and the weighted lunge.
Campus Sport in Perth has a machine that looks at your gait and stride and then you are measured properly – cast your mind back to the machine in Clarks when you were wee! If you can afford this, I would highly recommend it. If not, look at getting trainers that are about a half size too big – apparently you need the extra room for the impact of running.
The Doctor’s Advice:
She basically backed up everything the instructors said to me and I found that very reassuring.
It was also my doc who dropped the “women your age” bombshell – the lovely people at Rodney would never be so harsh! I asked her about using a supplement in my diet (to help my joints and bones) and she looked at me with the same scowl she used to reserve for my smoking days!
“Nicola, if you’re eating properly then you do not need supplements. They are a poor substitute for good food. How’s your diet? Do you eat a proper amount of vegetables?”
“Yes – I’m good for my five a day”
“And calcium – are you one of those women who don’t eat dairy?”
“No, I love all cheese and real butter. It’s why I go to the gym.”
“Mmm – well, that’s better than not eating any but you should also get calcium from other sources such as beans, chickpeas, kale. Mix it up a bit – not too much fat! You also need vitamin D to absorb it so get plenty of fresh air.”
So there you have it! Forget the supplements and get some calcium into your diet and fresh air into your lungs. Dump the ciggies if you can (they suck the life out of all the goodness you’re putting in) and forget those silly fad diets that drop dairy… You need balance people.
I MUST say this though; any pain or discomfort during exercise should be addressed. As much as I am saying don’t use it as an excuse to stop, you shouldn’t ignore it. If it persists get to your doctor – in some cases it can be more serious and you may need physio help. Be sensible and listen to your body.
My knees have been so much better since listening to the instructors’ advice. I've not yet gone back to weighted lunges – not even small weights – and yet I do all the classes I like, just skipping these out. Speak to your instructor and he or she will give you an alternative.
My knees are slimmer than they were this time last year (who knew knees got fat?!!) and far less painful than they were this time two months ago. They now look and feel like they belong to a gym-going 45 year old – in fact, they’d pass for 35 on a good day!
DISCLAIMER: These are not my knees in this pic!