Training for a marathon is hard work at the best of times and if you’ve sustained a knee injury, it can feel like an uphill struggle from the word go. But as all good sportsmen know, there’s nothing more rewarding in life than overcoming a challenge.
Whether you’re starting your marathon training with a knee injury or have sustained one during practice, this expert guide will help you rebuild strength and optimise your performance in time for the big day.
Knee Injuries from Running
Some of the most common knee injuries in runners include:
- Patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner’s knee)
- IT band syndrome (ITBS)
- Knee ligament injuries (e.g. ACL tears)
While all of these can be painful and some might even require surgery, they can all be overcome to a greater or lesser extent. The two most important things to remember are (1) to build your strength back up gradually and (2) to consider the whole body and not just the knee.
Training with a Knee Injury
Jumping straight back into your previous training schedule will do more harm than good. Instead, take a gentle approach to rebuilding your core strength, focusing particularly on the muscles that support the injury. Remember that these may not be directly linked to the knee; for example, strengthening the muscles around the hips will help keep your pelvis level and your thighs in a neutral alignment.
Similarly, subtle abnormalities in your gait, such as in pronation (the inward roll of the foot) and stride length, can have a knock-on effect on the knee joint, so it’s important to address these. If you’re unsure, we can provide you with a bio-mechanical assessment to identify any problems and advise you on the best course of action.
A knee ligament injury can cause individuals to experience long-term instability. Without adequate control and support, repetitive movement can wear down the covering of the meniscus and articular cartilage, causing pain and inflammation and potentially leading to osteoarthritis.
If you have torn your medial collateral (MCL), lateral collateral (LCL), anterior cruciate (ACL) or posterior cruciate (PCL) ligament, a knee brace can provide you with the added control and support you need to stay at the top of your game and prevent further injury. Read our buyer’s guide or contact us for help finding the best knee brace for your injury.
Whether you wear a knee brace or not, it’s important that you only run for as long as you feel comfortable. It is often advisable to begin with 20-minute power walk on alternate days, building in the occasional jog once your knee starts to feel more stable. Avoid steep inclines to begin with, and if you do experience any pain you should stop straight away.
This may be frustrating initially, but so long as you’re patient and treat your body with due care, you should be back up to a decent level of performance in good time for the marathon. If you do experience any pain and inflammation following exercise, take ibuprofen according to packet instructions and place an ice pack on your knee for ten or so minutes.
When training for a marathon, with or without a knee injury, the most important thing to remember is that your body is like a machine in that each component must be working to its full potential in order for the whole to function effectively. Treat it with the respect it deserves, and it’ll reward you with a great performance on the day.
To enquire about knee bracing or book a biomechanical assessment in one of our 12 UK clinics, call Technology in Motion on 0330 100 1800.