Runner’s Knee: What is It?

ankle sprain, pain


No doubt you’ve experienced a number of running-induced pains. From back pain to leg cramps to fasciitis, most of us can ramble on the ailments we’ve dealt with by participating in this sport. This post focuses on runner’s knee. I’ve heard about it, but don’t know much about it so did some research.

What is runner’s knee? 

It is pain that you feel around and under the knee cap, which occurs because the knee cap isn’t properly moving in the correct place. Because you need your knees to run, continuing on with this pain can only make things worse over time.

What can you do to avoid it? 

1. Weightlifting is the best way to proactively avoid runner’s knee. Building up the muscles around the knee cap will help it hold in place. You should work on the quadriceps, especially the inside quad muscles. People with pain tend to run abnormally, which causes weak quads. Also, work out your IT band.

Once or twice per week, focus your weightlifting routine on legs.

Do monster squats. To complete a monster squat, hold a barbell over your shoulders and squat all the way down. It’ll be tough to come back up from this position so make sure the barbell isn’t too heavy or you risk improper form. Also add in the leg press. Start pressing with a closer foot position and move to a farther foot position to work your inner and outer thighs.

IT Band:
Lie on your side on your floor. Bend the knee of the bottom leg while keeping the upper leg straight. Lift the upper leg again, isolating motion to the hip. Do these leg raises 10 times for 2-3 reps.

2. Watching how you bend your knee. Stand in front of a mirror and do a single leg squat. If your pelvis drops to the opposite side, you could be straining your knee. This can be improved by simply being aware of it and running with your hips in line and focusing on not allowing one of your hips to drop below the other. Running square will keep your hips aligned and in turn, your knees aligned.

Hopefully you can avoid this painful problem with these easy steps.

Runners’ Hydration Levels

heat_0I was so thirsty during a weekend half marathon a couple days ago. It was hot, but I normally don’t get THAT thirsty. I drank so much during the race, I got waterlogged and it was tough to finish. I clearly wasn’t hydrated properly.

This caused me to pause and start researching hydration. What is the best hydration technique for an endurance runner in a marathon?

In the article “Fluid Replacement During Marathon Running,” by Tim Noakes, M.D., published in the “Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine,” it states, “During endurance exercise, about 75 percent of the energy produced from metabolism is in the form of heat, which cannot accumulate. The remaining 25 percent of energy available can be used for movement. As running pace increases, the rate of heat production increases.”

The greater the body mass, the greater the heat production. Thus, to keep oneself cool, you need to drink fluids to ensure proper sweat availability for evaporation and circulatory flow.

But how much is enough? Surprisingly, the article didn’t give specifics. Rather, it just states for runners to drink ad libitum, meaning, drink what you need, but no more than 400 to 800 mL per hour. Drinking too much water can lead to hyponatremia, which is when electrolyte balance falls too low. Too much body water can dilute the serum sodium.

I conducted more research and found helpful information from the International Marathon Medical Director’s Association (IMMDA). Being a visual learner, this chart helped me to discern proper fluid intake levels:

Fluid Intake for Marathoners During a Race*

Finish Time
Race Pace
Fluid Intake
Fluid Intake Total
< 4 hours 10-12 oz / 20minutes 3.5-4.0 liters
< 8 minutes/mile 30-36 oz / hour
1000-1250 ml/hour
4-5 hours 8 oz / 20 minutes 3.0-3.5 liters
9-10 minutes/mile 24 oz / hour
750 ml / hour
> 5 hours 4-6 oz / 20 minutes 2.5- 3.0 liters
> 10 minutes/mile 18 oz / hour
500-600 ml/hour


For anyone running in an upcoming race, this hydration chart is helping me to gauge what I need to do to not feel so water logged and hopefully finish strong.


Lighten Up on the Nighttime Caffeine

ankle sprain, painIt should go without saying that drinking a caffeinated beverage will keep you up at night. This hurts morning time running–we all know how important sleep is to repairing and restoring your body for optimum performance. However, no research has showed that evening caffeine delays the internal circadian clock, until now.

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England discovered that evening caffeine delays the circadian clock–the internal clock that tells  when to get ready for sleep and when to prepare to wake up.

The research team showed the “amount of caffeine in a double espresso or its equivalent three hours before bedtime induced a 40-minute phase delay in the roughly 24-hour human biological clock.”

Researchers used five participants: three females and two males in a double-blind, 49-day study and tested in four conditions:

1. Low light and a placebo pill.

2. Low light and the equivalent of a 200-milligram caffeine pill based on the participants’ weight.

3. Bright light and a placebo pill.

4. Bright light and the caffeine pill.

Participants who digested the caffeine pill under low-light conditions had a roughly 40-minute delay in their nightly circadian rhythm compared to those who took the placebo pill under the same conditions.

In addition, bright light alone induced circadian rhythm delays of approximately 85 minutes and bright light combined with caffeine induced circadian rhythm delays of approximately 105 minutes.

“This is the first study to show that caffeine, the mostly widely used psychoactive drug in the world, has an influence on the human circadian clock,” said Wright, a professor in CU-Boulder’s Department of Integrative Physiology. “It also provides new and exciting insights into the effects of caffeine on human physiology.”

What does this mean for the runner? With the amount of daylight decreasing, your workouts may be either morning or midday. To keep yourself on track, do not take in caffeine at night and keep off the lights while you are in bed. Keep your computer and phone off once you get into bed and make sure your blinds are shut to keep the bright light out to ensure you are properly rested for your earlier workouts.


Do Runners Need Protein?

Runners fuel their bodies with carbs, energy gels and bars, and sports drinks. They carbo load before races and replenish electrolytes after a long run with fruity drinks endorsed by athletes. Perhaps they take in a protein shake after a workout, but are they really getting enough protein? Most are not.

Protein needs are higher for those who run because you burn through your fuel stores at a much quicker rate. For runners, a general gauge should be to maintain a daily diet of 0.5 grams to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight. This is according to a 2009 study published in the Journal of American Dietetic Association. This is quite substantial quantity higher than in a typical diet of someone sedentary.

Here is a standard calculation for determining just how much protein you should take in daily:

Step 1:  Take your weight in pounds divide that by 2.2.

Step 2: Take this number and multiply it by 0.8-1.8 gm/kg = protein gm. Use a higher number if you’re a training for race such as a marathon.

Here is an example for a 140-pound female runner:

140/ 2.2 = 64. This is her weight in grams rounded up.

64 x 1.3 = 83 grams rounded up. This is the total number of grams she should shoot for each day. The number 1.3 is used because she is in a heavy part of her training program for a marathon.

It is possible to achieve the recommended dosages with a little advanced planning. For breakfast, try adding in yogurt into a smoothie. For a mid-day snack, eat a hard-boiled egg. For larger meals such as lunch and dinner, add healthy protein such as grilled chicken to a salad, lean red meat to a sandwich and try adding beans into side dishes.

If you fall short on protein, the risks aren’t worth it. You’ll lose your ability to build up your muscles that you need to run and train at an optimal level.


Why You Should Add Omega 3s to Your Running Diet

untitledRunners burn through calories and often, for endurance athletes, they dip into their fat storage for long runs. To execute workouts at optimal performance, runners need to gauge their nutrition just as much as they track their Garmin numbers.

We all know how hard it is to follow a proper diet. We are all busy and taking the time to make nutritious meals takes effort–but so does following your running schedule. It’s almost best to cut back on workouts to take the time to fuel your body with the right nutrients.

One vital nutrient runners need is Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3s do help with larger lifestyles issues such as controlling blood clotting, heart disease, and potentially cancer, stroke and inflammatory bowel diseases.

However, on a smaller scale, they are helpful to runners in that they can limit inflammation. Even with stretching, icing and taking Aspirin, another way to change how your body reacts to inflammation from a long run is by adding Omega 3s into you diet.

Omega 3s also help in weight management. The leaner you are, the less exertion you need to make as you run.

According to a study published in “Advanced Nutrition” in 2012, Omega 3s do keep you healthy and aging properly–allowing you to keep running for a long time.  But because our bodies don’t naturally produce some omega-3 fatty acids , it is necessary to obtain proper amounts through fish and fish-oil products.

You can either add Omega 3 supplements to your diet or start eating foods such as soybean, canola, flaxseed, vegetable oils or fatty fish like salmon. If you don’t like to eat fish, it’s best to add in an Omega 3 capsule of 500 mg per day to receive the maximum benefits.


Using HIIT in Your Running Training


As fall approaches (the unofficial season begins Labor Day weekend–next week!), you may want to start thinking about shaking up your workout routine. Back in school, you may have access to a track after class lets out or maybe if you aren’t a student, the track is finally open and not under lock and key. Below describes a new trend in workouts.

A popular acronym found in the running world is HIIT. Although the running industry seems filled with odd vocabulary words such as FARTLEK, tempo and bonk, we generally don’t see as many acronyms. This new one stands for High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)—meaning, performing short speed workouts for various time periods.

If you’re training for a marathon, for example, you do most of your training at a level of 5 or 6—tough, but not high exertion. In HIIT, you go all out—running up your heart rate to the point it feels like it’ll pound outside of your chest. You sprint and give the interval your all. They are performed at a level of 7 or higher and vary from 30 seconds to 3 minutes, which is about all your body should be able to handle. If you can go for longer, you aren’t trying hard enough.

You then recover with the equal amount of time, or longer if necessary, (which it is often.)

It is a good idea to incorporate a HIIT into one running session a week. You may not look forward to it, but it’ll help you with speed and endurance all at once. You’ll strengthen your heart and find yourself getting stronger in your running. It also increases both your anaerobic and aerobic fitness levels, decreases fasting including and increased insulin sensitivity—great for a pre-diabetic like me, and reduces abdominal fat—also good for your overall heart heath.

It’s a win-win situation. It’s just hard work.

Try this:

Warm up for 5 minutes

Run at tempo for 4 minutes

Run at high intensity for 1 minute

Walk for 1 minute

Repeat four times: 4 minute tempo run, 1 minute high intensity, walk 1 minute

Cool down 5 minutes

This workout works on a treadmill or track best.

Good luck with your training!


Running Mistakes

imagesThis weekend I completed two half marathons and for the first time, I felt tremendous arm pain from running. It was only my right arm but the pain was so intense, I almost bought a sling to keep me from moving it. Even the slightest move caused total agony. I couldn’t figure out what it was until I started doing a little research.

Turns out, I was holding my car key in my right hand (as I am right handed) and clutching my fist for 13.1 miles made my entire arm sore. I sometimes do carry a water bottle or a key in my hand, but perhaps I’ve hit an age where little things like this won’t work anymore. Carrying anything is a mistake.

I’ve rounded up some running mistakes people make:

Running in asymmetrical fashion
If you come down harder on a certain side, you are setting yourself up for hip pain. Try looking at the bottom of your shoes first. Does one side look more worn out? This is an indication you push down more on one side. You may not even be aware of it, but it’s something you should check for to save yourself pain down the line.

How to fix: It is best to visit a running store to have them videotape you and see your running style. They can fit you with proper shoes as well based on your gait.

Not aligning your legs
Your knees should obviously stay in line with your hips, but this isn’t how most people run. If your hip muscles are weak, they won’t support the knees, which will cause your knees to bow inward–setting you up for knee problems.

How to fix: It is a good idea to go to the track and have someone videotape you to watch your body alignment. You should also start hitting the gym and doing exercises to build up the gluteus maximus. Try adding squats and lunges to your routine.

Not swinging your arms
In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers found that swinging the arms during running reduced energy by 3 percent compared with holding the hands behind the back, 9 percent compared with holding the arms across the chest, and 13 percent compared with holding the hands on top of the head. Some runners try to hold their arm swinging to conserve energy or swing to much to burn more calories–this does not work researchers found.

How to fix: Do not start any run feeling tense. Relax your body so you will run in a natural fashion. Do not carry anything in your hands to disrupt your natural swing.



When Races Go Wrong

heat_0This weekend I participated in a half marathon race. Of all the half marathons I completed, this was the hardest. The weather turned from a nice cloud cover to a heat advisory all weekend. Race directors even offered vans to escort runners to the finish line because of the anticipated number of dropouts. Ambulances raced to the course for those suffering from heat exhaustion and finish times increased exponentially.

I finished in my worst time ever. I almost stopped to take a break–something I’ve never done in a race, ever. I could barely walk at mile 12, when the course turned into a hill that kept going for the last mile. The heat really got to me. Here are a few other moments when races did not go as intended:

In 2008, I ran a half marathon in the desert of Arizona. Police officers directed runners to keep running on a road, rather than turn to a trail, which was the actual course. We all ran an additional two miles off course. Once we figured out what happened, runners were running over hills, jumping over a wire fence, anything to get back on the proper course.

In 2006, I did a half marathon in which the buses didn’t show. We had to wait for an hour and a half for a bus to pick us up. This meant I started the race super late after the official start. I had to run in between the walkers and try to jump around people.

In 2010, in a holiday 12K, the police officers were all new to directing traffic for races. They thought they were supposed to stop the runners and let cars pass. Therefore, they held up large groups of runners to let cars go. The race directors were not happy and apologized at least.

In 2011, I was doing my first ultramarathon through trails. I got lost and couldn’t figure out which way to turn when I came to a fork in the trail. I made the wrong choice and ran an extra mile.

What are some of your race fails?

New Findings in Exercise

race-day-720x288Every time I log in to social media, I find links to relevant new studies on exercise. Here are a few you may glean some content from that you can use in your training or daily life in general:

Drink Beet Juice
Downing beet juice before you go out for a run may help you improve performance and blood flow. In a study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, male subjects drank beet juice for 15 days had lower blood pressure and more dilated blood vessels at rest and during exercise. “Blood vessels also dilated more easily and the heart consumed less oxygen during exercise with beet juice consumption,” the researchers said.

Sports Helps You in School
A new study out of the University of Montreal shows participating in extracurricular activities makes you a better student, even as young as kindergarten age. Sports teaches you the discipline needed to become a good student. “By time they reached the fourth grade, kids who played structured sports were identifiably better at following instructions and remaining focused in the classroom,” said study leader Linda Pagani. So if someone says sports takes away from school, tell them no, it doesn’t.

Drink When Thirsty
In a study published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, researchers discovered drinking too much water is dangerous. For those who’ve never heard of hyponatermia, it’s when your body has low blood sodium. This occurs when you have more fluid than sodium in your body, which often occurs when running outside in the heat.  We always hear “stay hydated” from every running coach, runner and even non-runners, but researchers discovered you could drink when you become thirsty and don’t run the risk of hyponatremia. It is possible to drink TOO much.


Safety Tips for Runners

Goodshoot 1

I watched a Netflix documentary this weekend that I found captivating. It’s called Desert Runners and I highly recommend it. It follows four “regular” runners (non-athletes) as they attempt to run through the four deserts of the world in various ultramarathons. I want to watch it again because it really captured what that world is like and the production was unparalleled–not to mention highly motivating at getting me off my couch.

One disturbing element to the documentary was a young girl who was grabbed and nearly assaulted as she ran alone through the Sahara Desert. It made me think of my own safety precautions to take while running, especially as the days start to get shorter.

For those running enthusiasts, however, it doesn’t matter if the sun sets at 10 p.m. or at 5 p.m., they run no matter whether its light or dark. If you are one of these runners, here are a few safety precautions to take in the dark:

1. Bring your cell phone. While we all hate to carry extra weight, the GPS tracking device can assist if you get lost and need to phone for help. One way to combat the weight is to download a playlist program such as Pandora and listen to it while you run. You can skip bringing your iPod and bring the cell instead.

2. While listening to Pandora (or an iPod or radio), try running with one earbud out of your ear. You can then listen for cars and any suspicious noises.

3. Wear reflective gear. Gone are the days of wearing large, heavy construction jackets. Now you can find lightweight reflective material that you’ll not even notice. Wearing blinkers is also a good idea.

4. Stay on the sidewalk. If you can’t find a high school track or somewhere completely devoid of traffic, be sure to stay on the sidewalk instead of running in the street. Depth perception is off at night and you may be closer than you appear to drivers.

5. Change up your route. You never know who is watching. Changing up your route will make you less vulnerable to stalkers.