A main cause of injury, especially amongst beginning runners is a sudden increase in mileage. This can lead to a kind of injury called chondromalacia patella, or runners’ knee – a dull pain behind the kneecap. Most running experts recommend increasing the distance you run by no more than 10% every week, even if you feel able to do more. The knee relies on a balance of thigh muscles to move up and down properly, and overrunning can accentuate any muscular imbalance and wear away the knee cartilage causing soreness.
One way to avoid this kind of injury is to rectify any muscular imbalance that might exist. The main cause of this comes from either ‘pronating’ (running with your foot turned outwards) or supinating (running with your foot turned inwards). Also, if you hit the ground with your heel while running, the shock travels more up your leg than if you hit with the middle of your step. It might be worth taking the time to shorten your run distance, whilst keeping your concentration during your runs on making sure your foot hits the ground properly. Running stores stock shoes specially geared for pronators or supinators, and purchasing shock absorbing soles for your runners can also be a very good idea, reducing the impact of the ground on your knees.
Another type of injury comes from the ‘ITB’ – the iliotibial band, a band of tissue running all the way down the side of your leg. During running this band can tighten up and rub against the knee, causing a pain just above the knee to the side. This can also come from overtraining, specifically from not stretching the iliotibial band enough after exercise.
There are many leg stretches that can help with this problem, most of which stretch the side of the upper thigh and the hip area. One stretch is done by lying down, feet out, and bringing the left leg across the right, and bending the left leg so the left foot is beside the right knee. Then we take the left knee and slowly push it to the right feeling the strain on the hip. Hard stretching is generally not recommended before exercise. Instead, slow warmup is preferred, followed by some dynamic stretching; for example standing facing a post, hold the post and swing each leg from one side to another like a clock pendulum. After exercise, along with stretching, a light massage is very effective in loosening up those muscles again.