Ted loved to run, and he excelled at it. Even in his 40s he would finish in the top 500 out of 35,000 runners in the 10,000 meter Crescent City Classic. His wife did her strength training with me. She said to me, “Ted will never do any strength training. He is a runner”… until he wasn’t.
In his late forties running began to bother his knees. His knees got progressively worse. He iced them. He tried everything he could to get back to running pain-free. He took extended breaks from running. However, each time he began running again the pain returned. At age 54 his doctor advised him to stop running, or he would be looking at a knee replacement with into two years.
He started strength training with me with the intent to getting back to running. We used MedX strength training equipment which when used properly is gentler on the joints. He worked hard, his strength improved each week, and best of all, he didn’t have a hint of knee pain.
He worked up to 450 pounds on the leg press machine. It convinced him that he would be able to run again. He said, “This is amazing. I will be able to run again”. One day he did – just a mile - and his knee pain returned. Lifting 450 pound on the leg press did not result in knee pain, but running a mile did; there is a reason for that.
According to one study a force of up to three times one’s body weight can be exerted on the human foot while running, and it can be much higher at times. Multiply that by each foot fall, and you have tons of weight absorbed through the joints and connective tissues with each mile of running. Multiply that by decades of running, and you have knees like Ted’s.
According to a Runner’s World article 75% of runners will suffer some sort of injury within a year of running; The New York Times pegged that number at 80%. That was my experience during my years of running. Those injuries can come back to haunt you decades later – that was also my experience.
Running is a wonderful exercise, but like any exercise there is a trade-off between improvement and injury. Running five days a week instead of four days produces a decreasing marginal positive health benefit for that extra day of running, and it produces an increasing marginal risk of injury. If you run a lot you have to accept that risk or take steps to avoid it.
The type of strength training we do at our Austin Fitness Training facility will produce a significant (See graph of pulse rate) cardiovascular effect, and an increase in strength that will protect the joints. Each week if you take a day off from running to strength train your joints will thank you for it. Following such a plan the progressive deterioration of Ted’s knees might have been deferred, and he might still be running.