It’s that season, late summer, when all the NYC marathon runners start putting in their heavy miles. I’m seeing runners all over the city now, at all hours, and all sizes and shapes.

As a fitness pro, I have to wonder: How many of them are giving as much attention to their knees, hips and ankles as they are to their mileage?

How do knees wear out? Is it inevitable? Or is it just too much pounding on the pavement? Of course, there are many obvious reasons for a joint to fail, but we wanted to share some of the not-so-obvious reasons, plus things you can do to help make your knees and other joints last as long as possible.

Now that the life expectancy for healthy individuals can reach well in to the 80’s, 90’s and 100’s, having and using better strategies to protect our knees from the constant stresses of life is paramount. It doesn’t matter what your current age is, the tips we are about to share go for all of us, throughout our entire lives.

Here are Nimble’s top tips for happy and strong knees:

  1. SELF-ASSESSMENT. In Nimble Fitness, we often call the knee the “innocent bystander” between the hip and the foot. I believe I got that from one of my mentors, Alec Helner, years ago. What this means is we have to look at the whole picture of the leg, so take some time to assess your feet and hips. For your feet, compare the function, range of motion and tissue quality of both feet. Make notes if either seems more rigid, tight or sensitive, these could be indicators that your alignment may be off. The better we understand our bodies, the better we can start to take good care of them.
  2. KNEE FUNCTION. Our knees don’t simply flex and extend; they also rotate. When this rotation gets stuck, or significantly limited, the chances for discomfort and, eventually, injury increase. If your knees feel “stuck” in certain ranges of motion, you might need to be assessed by a professional personal trainer or physical therapist.
  3. NEVER TRAIN (OR RUN!) WITH PAIN IN A JOINT. This is a 100% rule! Many injuries happen after a person has already had signs or symptoms that something is off. Pain is your alert that the joint is out of alignment, muscles are not firing in the proper sequence, or at all, and that the fascia may be restricting quality movement.
  4. FASCIAL HEALTH.  At our Nimble Fitness functional strength and conditioning facilities, we often start training sessions with getting a client’s fascial tissue hydrated and neurally prepared for the workout ahead. Our fascia encases our muscles and helps provide stability to this mobile, changeable body we have. If our fascia gets dehydrated, filled with scar tissue or glued, stuck together it can affect the function of our joints. Cleaning up the glide of our fascia often clears discomfort in joints. Take a little time to understand self-massage techniques and it will pay major dividends!
  5. STRENGTH. This means specifically building integrated strength in your core, hips, legs and feet. Your ability to load and unload with any real power is significantly diminished if you lack strength in the hips and glutes, putting the risk of a potential knee injury on high alert. Having strength also helps prevent wear and tear on the mensici and tissue in general. Circling back to self-assessment for a bit, this is the reason we have to know our bodies well. Knowing where you need more strength is key.
  6. FLEXIBILITY. We mentioned strength first, then flexibility because they are always dancing in your system together. Muscle length, i.e. flexibility, is only good for you in the range where the tissue is strong. Outside of the strength range sets us up for injury! Stretch with your strength exercises, yoga and as many other quality techniques you can learn, and your body will repay you with better function!

You can use these tips to get a good general sense of yourself and whether your knees are healthy and ready to handle running or other life stresses. You are an organic being, not a machine. This means your 70 trillion or so living cells are constantly striving to maintain their health. Those muscular, organ tissue and fascial cells need movement, hydration and quality fuel to thrive.

I hope these ideas help you on your path to having high functioning knees. Remember you have to look at your core function, hips and feet to get the whole picture! Having a personal trainer or coach can help with setting up a plan that will help keep those knees healthy. Make sure to reach out to the Nimble team with questions! Email me at daniel@nimblefitness.comor call us at 212.633.9030.