So, before we start this blog, let me begin by stating that I am not a medical professional and none of the advice given here should substitute for the advice of a medical professional. If you are experiencing any new or recurring pain in any part of the body, see your family doctor or physiotherapist, please!
You might have heard I have a knee injury. I don't have bad knees, generally. I have very long thighs and my knees get a bit stressed sometimes by the amount of impact and repetition they get in an average week, but usually no trouble. One can only do jump squats 6-7 days each week for so long, though. Lately, the 1-3 workouts per day have been piling up and my knees have been protesting a bit. But I finally REALLY gave myself a knee injury when I fell down a few concrete steps last month and landed directly on my left knee. It filled with fluid, couldn't hold my weight and needed pretty much complete rest for several days. I was super super super super sad and disappointed to miss the Warrior Dash with the always impressive Sharon DeVellis and the rest of the YMC team, but after 2 weeks of physio and finally making a bit of progress, I had to make the decision not to race and instead to continue on my path of healing. It is getting better and I'm able to work, though I can't do everything I normally would. I have begun to do more of the lower body work in Belly Bootcamp classes and I even jogged a bit (just a few minutes at a time) with a client yesterday morning.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because I never really learned how to be concise, despite 4 years of university. Also, because knee pain is one of the top complaints we personal trainers hear, and one of the foremost excuses for inactivity.
You may not be back to running/strength training as quickly as I was, simply because you can afford to rest longer. This is what I do for a living. If your weight is a concern, remember that a lower activity level means a lower need for calories. So stay away from the Cheetos until you're back to your normal workout routine (or maybe just stay away from the Cheetos, period.).
You can, however, do plenty of exercise with a minor knee injury. Here are just a few of my suggestions to help you stay lean and fit while you rehabilitate a knee injury (or to help you stay active for life if your knees are permanently damaged).
There are plenty of cardiovascular training options that are low- or no-impact for your knees:
cycling - there is virtually no knee injury that cannot withstand cycling.
boxing - depending on the injury, kicking & pivoting might be risky, but simply hitting a bag can really get your heart rate up using just the upper body.
treadmill or outdoor walking - add some gentle hills to recruit more lower body muscle and keep the pace at a brisk but natural pace.
swimming - perfect for many joint injuries, swimming is no-impact & burns tons of calories.
Since it's summer right now, here's a cardio & calisthenics workout you can take outdoors! If you are pain-free when running and your physiotherapist/doctor has given you the green light to jog lightly, you could jog the "speedwalk" portions of this workout (but switch to walking if pain or swelling results).
1. Begin with cardio and some toning for the gluteal (butt) muscles, which are key to the alignment of the hips and knees:
Warm up - moderate walk 5 minutes.
Speed Skaters - stand on left leg with right foot lifted, hands tucked behind back. Exhale as you squeeze right leg back and slightly to the side (about 4:00 or 5:00 on the clock for the right leg, 7:00 or 8:00 for the left leg). Try to remain balanced on standing leg as much as possible. Complete 20 reps on each leg. Repeat for a total of 2-3 sets. Focus on squeezing the muscles of your butt.
Speed Walk - fastest pace possible without pain, 2 minutes / Recovery: moderate walk, 1 minute. Repeat 6-10 times.
Cool Down - moderate walk back home, minimum of 5 minutes.
2. As you wind up back at your front door, use your outdoor steps (or a wall, bench or indoor steps) to tone upper body with the following two moves. Complete 8-15 reps of each exercise, back to back. Repeat for a total of 2-3 sets.
Push Up - place hands on a stair (usually between 1st and 4th stair is an appropriate height - the higher, the easier) and stand on toes so your body is straight on a diagonal above the stairs. Inhale as you bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the stair; exhale as you press up. Focus on squeezing the muscles of your chest.
Tricep Dip - sit on bottom step with hands beside hips, gripping edge of stair with fingers down; lift bum and pull shoulders back so chest & eyes are angled upward. Inhale as you bend your elbows and lower bum toward ground; exhale as you press up and move shoulders back until they are above wrists again. Focus on squeezing the muscles on the back of your upper arms.
Finally, stretch the muscles of the legs and chest, in particular!
You may complete this workout 3-4 times per week, preferably with a day in between for recovery or other cardio, yoga, or strength training on the back, shoulders & core (not included significantly in this workout).
Next time... strength training for the lower body when dealing with knee pain!
Do you have a knee injury? How do you stay active? How much pain are you willing to tolerate in the name of fitness?