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Yesterday I was chatting with a fellow in his thirties who was complaining about his knees. He's training for a big race, running several times a week, and that's a lot to ask of knees, especially if you're sporting a few extra pounds.

He's a smart guy, successful in his career, knows where he's going, with a lovely wife and kid. Apparently he sets high goals and is willing to push through the pain to achieve them. I admire that.

But I also wonder if he's made a good engineering choice for his body. As regular readers know, I see the human body as a moist robot. Happiness is a function of making sure the chemistry of your brain has the right mixture of raw materials. And to get there you need to make good engineering choices plus have a little luck.

As I see it, this fellow has chosen the one sport most likely to destroy his knees: running long distances on pavement. That's like building a skyscraper on a sand foundation. He runs a high risk of blowing out a knee or two, leading to less exercise, higher weight, health issues, and ultimately a suboptimal mixture of brain chemicals. I'll bet you can name three friends who have already taken that path.

By way of contrast, much of my life is designed to protect my knees. My preferred sport is tennis, so we're building a court at our future home that will have a relatively cushioned surface. It makes a big difference on knees, and it's the main reason we're building a home instead of buying one.

My other major exercise is indoor soccer on artificial turf, which is surprisingly easy on the knees unless I get a kick or a twist. The new artificial turfs are better engineered to avoid the injuries typical of the earlier versions. You can run all day on it and the knees feel great.

My non-sport cardio exercise involves a recumbent bike, which is ideal for knees. My doctor recommended it for that reason. Our new home will also have a pool, so I will add swimming to the mix. And I put a lot of effort into staying within my recommended weight range because experts say every pound on your buttocks feels like five to your knees.

You could argue (convincingly) that my choice of soccer isn't a good risk for my knees. But the over-30 league isn't that dangerous, relatively speaking, and I've dropped four pounds since the season started. Okay, okay, I agree that's a rationalization for "I like to play soccer." But you see the point. Be good to your knees or.

 
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-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2009
A great liniment for Knee pain (joint pain in general) is Zhen Gu Shui. It can be found in most Asian Grocery stores here in central IL so I imagine you should have plenty of sources for it. Here a bottle goes for less than five dollars. I have been using in my bodywork business for almost 20 years and in my physical therapy work for 14 years.

Have him spend 15 to twenty minutes rubbing it into his knees and he will feel much better. For more ideas on liniments find someone in your area that practices Okazaki Restorative Massage. They will probably be affiliated with a Dan Zan Ryu Jujitsu school. They will have access to some other great stuff like White Flower Oil, Four Seasons Liniment, Po Sum On, home made tiger balm, etc.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2009
I still say it's a knee jerk reaction, but I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Webster
 
 
Apr 22, 2009
The kind of every day footwear we wear is critical. A long time ago a chiropractor said because of low back and knee problems only wear soft, low rubber heel and soled shoes. Every step taken in Florsheims was pounding the back and knees. No problems since and will probably be buried in a suit wearing black Reeboks.
 
 
Apr 22, 2009
No sport is without risk of injury. It's a matter of mitigating that risk. You've chosen to reduce your risk of knee damage by choosing alternative, lowER-impact activities. Many runners do this by training responsibly, wearing appropriate footwear, maintaining a healthy weight, etc. Knee damage is NOT inevitable and I will continue to run as long as I find it as enjoyable as you find soccer and tennis.

Besides, the possiblity of knee damage years from now will be moot when I get hit by a bus tomorrow...probably while running.

 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2009
This is completely not related to the blog post, just forwarning. However, since this site is all about Dilbert, I wanted to share (ok, complain) about a very cow-orking coworker. The latest and greatest in coworker hell: we work in a very small room, just the two of us. He slurps loudly every time he drinks anything, chews loudly with his mouth open, talks with his mouthful of said half-chewed food, farts constantly, and his breath smells like something crawled in there and died. Oh, and he shouts everytime he uses his phone, and has no idea how to use a computer, meaning that I have to drop everything every five minutes to show him how to open Outlook. Did I mention he's supposed to be my boss?
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2009
Love the moist robot view of happiness, would like to hear how you see this correlating with the recently-made-trendy trend in happiness as respectable psychological research ....
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2009
Apparently all we know about running is wrong. Based upon incorrect assertions made in the 70's. I would say the article is bunk, except for the tribe that lives in Mexico.

FTA:
"Come race day, the Tarahumara don't train. They don't stretch or warm up. They just stroll to the starting line, laughing and bantering, and then go for it, ultra-running for two full days, sometimes covering over 300 !$%*!$ non-stop. For the fun of it. One of them recently came first in a prestigious 100-mile race wearing nothing but a toga and sandals. He was 57 years old.

When it comes to preparation, the Tarahumara prefer more of a Mardi Gras approach. In terms of diet, lifestyle and training technique, they're a track coach's nightmare. They drink like New Year's Eve is a weekly event, tossing back enough corn-based beer and homemade tequila brewed from rattlesnake corpses to floor an army. "

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1170253/The-painful-truth-trainers-Are-expensive-running-shoes-waste-money.html
 
 
Apr 22, 2009
You are 100% correct. I am 30 years old and about a year and a half ago I had a nasty fall in a pair of wedges. After that, I couldn't walk more than a few minutes and have been banished to a lifetime of flats. That's a major tragedy for a 5' tall woman with a 6' tall boyfriend.

Worse though, is the constant pain. And the fact that I can't ever go dancing again. Rollerblading. Heck I can barely go for a walk. And this might be for the rest of my life, which could be 50 more years. My doctor thinks there is nothing to be done. I'm seeking alternative therapy, and it's helping, I can walk now, maybe 45 minutes at a time, which is a huge benefit over a year ago.

In addition to being more stationary, I am in worse shape, meaning it's not just agony going up a flight of stairs, I get winded too. I'm chubbier. And I miss my active lifestyle. So does my boyfriend, who'd love to be out more, but is more or less stuck with me doing things in short bursts, taking transit to save my knees for when "it's worth it." I haven't had kids yet; I don't know how I'll manage pregnancy and the ensuing chasing after kids when I can barely walk without limping (at least I look cool, that whole gangster limp really works with pretty dresses and flats).

Take care of your knees.
 
 
Apr 22, 2009
You are 100% correct. I am 30 years old and about a year and a half ago I had a nasty fall in a pair of wedges. After that, I couldn't walk more than a few minutes and have been banished to a lifetime of flats. That's a major tragedy for a 5' tall woman with a 6' tall boyfriend.

Worse though, is the constant pain. And the fact that I can't ever go dancing again. Rollerblading. Heck I can barely go for a walk. And this might be for the rest of my life, which could be 50 more years. My doctor thinks there is nothing to be done. I'm seeking alternative therapy, and it's helping, I can walk now, maybe 45 minutes at a time, which is a huge benefit over a year ago.

In addition to being more stationary, I am in worse shape, meaning it's not just agony going up a flight of stairs, I get winded too. I'm chubbier. And I miss my active lifestyle. So does my boyfriend, who'd love to be out more, but is more or less stuck with me doing things in short bursts, taking transit to save my knees for when "it's worth it." I haven't had kids yet; I don't know how I'll manage pregnancy and the ensuing chasing after kids when I can barely walk without limping (at least I look cool, that whole gangster limp really works with pretty dresses and flats).

Take care of your knees.
 
 
Apr 22, 2009
I tried running last year and ended up hurting a knee (actually caused by an ankle problem) so now I'm trying swimming. It sure seems like good exercise (i.e. I feel like I'm going to expire while doing it) and no ill effects on my joints.

I just wish I could play basketball like I used to.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2009
my blocked out word is "m i l e s" not sure why that would have been edited out?
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2009
Scott - Running is not bad for the knees. The reason people have knee issues so often with running, and it sounds like your friend in this category, is that they run too many !$%*! to quickly. Smart runners gradually (no more than 10% increases weekly ever) build up !$%*! over many years before attempting a marathon or half-marathon. The body is an amazing piece of engineering indeed and it adapts to the pounding very readily with little issue, if one runs in moderation. Time and time again, I have run across former high school athletes who decide to get up off of the couch and run a marathon and 8 weeks into a training program they are shocked that their knees hurt! Running is one of those activities that, if done correctly, can be done for life. Go visit a local 5k or 10k and check out the number of athletes in their 60s and 70s...and get out of their way because they likely have been running for years and can run your a s s into the ground!
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2009
take care of your feet too.

buy the best quality shoes you can afford
replace them regularly
don't wear the same shoe 2 days in a row
get an orthotic insert if you're being extra careful

you can't go far on sore feet.
 
 
Apr 22, 2009
Funny you should write about this, Scott, as I blew out my knee skiing about two months ago. After numerous doctors visits and an MRI, the diagnosis was that I partially tore my ACL. I'm now limping around, and the doctor says that even though I probably won't need surgery to repair my knee, it will probably take a full year for me to get back to normal.

You may say that I should try some other sport that's less strenuous on my knees, but for me that would be like telling a cocaine addict that they should try something a little milder, like drinking lots of coffee; life just isn't the same if i don't get to ski.

Point being that maybe running isn't the best choice for your friend, but it may be just what he needs to increase his happiness, regardless of the potential consequences.
 
 
Apr 22, 2009
@ mobydisk

If you continue reading the article, you'll find that the benefits of running are more than just losing weight. Running also 'exercises' the joints and ligaments. It also cites an interesting study, also in support of running.

"In 2006, Dr. Fries presented research that compared rates of OA-related disabilities between 539 runners and 423 nonrunners over a 21-year period. At the follow-up exam, researchers found that the nonrunners were worse for wear--their increase in disabilities was twice that of the runners."
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2009
Admit it - You just play soccer becuase of the hot girl!
 
 
Apr 22, 2009
I almost forgot, my wife also blew out the ACL in her "good" knee playing indoor soccer (she scored on the play). Fortuantely they can fix that. A double-bundle ACL repair and that knee is as good as new.
 
 
Apr 22, 2009
I think with sports and exercise, you pay your money and you take your chances. Not everybody is optimally built for the sport or activity they have grown to love, but does that mean they should force themselves to do something the love less or don't like at all just because it is better suited for their structure?

My wife badly damaged her knee downhill skiing and finished the job with running and soccer. Now she can't run or even ride a bike very far, and she needs a knee replacement but is "too young" to be considered. But she had years of doing things she loved and ran for 10 years when doctors said she never would run again. If she did things that were "safer" for her knees, but that she liked less, who is to say how that would have ended? Maybe she'd be in even worse shape now with problems caused by inactivity. And as far as good brain chemistry goes, isn't it better to be a "has-been" than a "never-was"?

A former tennis player I work with has ruined the vertebra in his back through decades of forceful twisting. I think most would trade knee pain for back pain. So much for tennis being a "better choice".

I say do whatever you love enough to get you off the couch. Make informed choices, but it's better to burn out than to rust out.
 
 
Apr 22, 2009
This entire topic is predicated on a knee jerk reaction. I refuse to participate ... except for this bit.

Webster
 
 
Apr 22, 2009
Congrats on maintaining a good attitude, and good habits, of exercise. I didn't for too many years and now pay for it, literaly and figuratively. I have a trainer who works with me 2 times a week, once with weights and machines, and once with boxing. I have to do the treadmill on my own (why pay anyone for that) but I feel the treadmill, at a fast walking speed will protect my knees (they do let me know when it's too fast or too steep incline) and feet (3 pins in one). I'm trying to catch up with too many years of bad habits and as I look around I realize not enough folks pay attention when it's easiest to maintain, but instead try to correct problems after they/ve happened (look at the number of folks in the gyms right after the new years or right before swimsuit season.)
I don't care how you do the exercise, I'm just glad that you do (and obviously your family is supportive of you!)
 
 
 
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