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Running as a lifelong sport: How to avoid knee problems

zimlikiTara102912_optBY TARA ZIMLIKI
COMMENTARY

As a certified trainer, and Bootcamp founder I am certainly not lacking physical fitness in my daily regimen. However, I still find my outlet in my daily run. This started at the young age of 7 and now at 32 I still feel the same joy when I sprint. Whether my run is 2 or 22 miles I still feel the same-- relief, energy and strength.

But I continually have people ask me the same question, “How are your knees?” I am sure if you are a runner you may hear the same question. I always reply, “just fine.” But I know most people believe my knees are fine because of my young age, thinking that the pain will occur later. What they do not realize is that many people are without pain at any age because they cross train, run on soft surfaces and they are not harboring extra weight. I have had clients that run between the ages of 7 and 70 and they are without pain or injuries. If you are a runner, chances are you have fielded the same questions not from medical professionals but from non-running friends or mere bystanders. I am here to help you by providing more knowledge and showing you that you can choose running as a lifelong sport!

Osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis, occurs when cartilage, the spongy tissue that cushions our joints, breaks down and deteriorates, making weight-bearing activities painful. From there, many people believe that running accelerates this process. And while most of us credit our running for keeping our cardiovascular system healthy, mild pain in an ankle or stiffness in a knee makes us question if our nonrunning friends are right and our joints are bearing a large burden.

The beauty of the sport is you can run well and decrease the likelihood of an injury if you:

--add cross training to your fitness regimen

--stretch well before and after a run (dynamic stretches)

--wear supportive shoes and replace them when worn out (usually every 6 months)

--add rest days into your weekly regimen

The number one risk factor in developing knee problems and osteoarthritis is excess body fat. For runners this is usually not a problem since running decreases body fat. Non active, overweight people are 45 percent more likely to develop knee problems and arthritis than those who are active. "The more you weigh, the more pressure is placed on the joints, which seems to accelerate the breakdown of cartilage," says Patience White, M.D., chief public health officer for the Arthritis Foundation. Since losing weight is one of the best ways to prevent osteoarthrisis (OA) losing 10 pounds can take about 45 pounds of pressure off the knee, and running is one of the most effective calorie burners, so going for a run can help you sidestep joint issues.

But running does more than just decrease body fat and help you look great ascetically. Running improves body functions including joint health. Some medical professionals say running lubricates your joints. When you run (walk or perform any aerobic exercise), the cartilage in your ankles, knees and joints compress and expand. This draws in oxygen and gets rid of out waste products, strengthening and keeping the cartilage healthy. By being nonactive, cartilage gets weak and non efficient.

Now that I have outlined that you can make running a lifelong sport get out and go for a run. If you are brand new to the sport consider hiring a running coach to help you in the correct form, attire and a schedule. And if you are an avid runner keep enjoying the sport you love! And let the nonrunners watch you on the sidelines as you get great results, strength, lose weight and actually have fun while you run. I hope to see you out there!

Tara Zimliki is a Certified Personal Trainer and founder of Tara’s Bootcamp, the Premiere Bootcamp of New Jersey. She has completed 19 marathons, hundreds of 5ks and has trained with top athletes at the University of South Carolina where she was awarded a full cross country scholarship. Tara has a degree from Rutgers University and specializes in fat loss and nutrition. In 2005, Tara ran the NYC Marathon while 8 months pregnant with her 2nd daughter, Ella. In 2008, Tara placed in the top 500 women for the NYC Marathon. And in 2011, Tara ran the NYC Marathon 6 months pregnant with her 3rd baby, Brent. Tara has been featured on many television segments including Fox, WPIX, NJ 12 and written dozens of articles on health. Tara’s practices what she preaches in all aspects of fitness and health and for this reason she is a trusted trainer that produces results. For more information on Tara visit www.tarasbootcamp.com.

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