Originally Published on 8/6/19
Earlier I talked about all of my knee injuries and how it affected my running. Today I want to talk about my favorite things for running with a weak knee. If you missed the post, I have torn my ACL and meniscus 3 times and had 3 surgeries on the same knee within 4 years. My last surgery was almost 3 years ago now, and I’m just now to the point where I can get back into running.
My son and I are doing Couch to 5k together, which is a training plan to get you from sitting on the couch to being able to run a 5k over the course of 9 weeks. The workouts are a mix of walking and jogging, i.e. walk for 2 minutes, run for 1 minute, and they change weekly. Last night my son and I did week 3, day 1 of Couch to 5k. It was the most difficult run and the longest increment of time we’ve run at one time together – 3 minutes straight, twice – and I’m happy that he did something he didn’t think he could do, and that my knee didn’t hurt during or after. Double win like a double rainbow.
Here are a few things and products I legit use to maintain the best knee health I can.
One thing I dealt with for the past 6 years since my first surgery was super intense scar pain at the incision. It got worse with each surgery, eventually getting to the point where I couldn’t even stand up for more than an hour, much less run without pain and swelling. I’m serious, I had to sit and rest my knee after standing up to cook dinner. It was terrible and make me feel hella weak.
Then I found Flexible Anatomy – a physical therapist that works on correcting your fascia. Y’all, this isn’t just foam rolling. She had me doing all sorts of stuff that you wouldn’t think would make a difference to your knee, but I swear I walked out of there on Day 1 with a brand new scar and significantly less swelling. I went back once a week for a few weeks and my knee is like a brand new knee. I still have some pain if I push it, but it’s nothing like before. I mean, I could stand all freakin’ day and not have scar pain. That wasn’t the case 6 months ago.
Check them out if you live in the Dallas area – it seems completely crazy until you do what they ask and it fixes you.
The single most important investment for a runner is a good, quality pair of running shoes. I love the Brooks Ghost series, and I just got a fresh pair of Brooks Ghost 12s. My old Brooks Ghost 8s (yeah, I was wayyyy overdue for a new pair) have been demoted to yard work shoes, and now I run in cupcakes with my 12s – don’t worry, they have other colors and styles if running on ice cream isn’t your thing. (I need a shirt that says “running on ice cream”.) When you’re logging lots of miles, you need to replace your shoes more often – once or twice a year. I always order from Zappos, because you get fast, free shipping and free returns if they don’t work for you.
Pro tip: Order a half size up in running shoes. Also, you can go to a running store like Run On and they will watch you walk and jog and fit you for the appropriate shoe for your feet and gait.
After my last ACL surgery, I went full-elderly and got fit for some custom orthotics as suggested by my doctor. It was not cheap, but neither is surgery. He said they would help take pressure off my knee to prevent another injury, which I am 100% on board with. I have a pair for athletic shoes and a smaller pair that fit in some high heels. Ironically, the orthotist said that my feet actually do better in heels than most people, just because of the way they’re shaped. Surpriiiise, not all bodies are the same. Weird, right?
I am what one Instagram follower described as “hefty in the boob area”. Not all sports bras are created equal, especially if you’ve got tig ol’ bitties. My absolute favorite sports bra for running is the Moving Comfort/Brooks Fiona – Moving Comfort is a sister brand of Brooks, so I’ve seen them branded both ways. The Moving Comfort Juno is also great. I prefer the Fiona is because the back is a triple clasp closure like a standard bra, so you don’t have to contort like you’re in Cirque do Soleil to take it off when you’re sweaty. It’s also less expensive. You can choose your actual bra size with both of them, which is excellent and necessary.
Nobody wants chin bruises from bouncing, mkay?
I wear compression capris every time I exercise, and if I wear shorts, then I wear a compression sleeve on the knee I had surgery on. Compression helps with circulation, which helps to reduce inflammation and swelling.
My fave workout capris are Old Navy Activewear. It’s affordable and effective and I’m on board with all of the things.
My fave compression sleeve is the Tommie Copper performance sleeve, seen in action below.
I’ve been doing my runs in the evenings sometimes. When I workout in the evenings, I take pre-workout just because adulting all day has drained my energy by that point. When I workout in the mornings, I just use my natural energy from a nice and refreshing good night of sleep. Holla.
My fave pre-workout right now is Flow Supps Pre. I discovered it because I follow Zachary Levi on Instagram, and he created it. Side note, he’s one of my fave celebrities to follow because he talks about mental health, gratitude and the power of loving yourself a lot. Also he posts a lot of Texas sunsets, which are the best sunsets. Anyway, after comparing ingredients to other pre-workouts, I liked what I saw, so boom. I ordered some. Definitely do your research though. Sometimes supplements are marketed as healthy, but they have ingredients that are……..not. If you decide try it, start with half a scoop and work up to a full scoop. Personally, half a scoop gives me the boost I need to get a little pep in my step.
I also love love love a new phone grip I got called a Love Handle. Not the kind on my body, but yanno, I have those too. Y’all, this phone grip is AWESOME. I hold my phone when I run, I always have. I can get to the skip song button, look at my running app, etc so much easier if it’s in my hand and not in an arm band. I had a pop socket for a long time, but the Love Handle is so much better! It’s a little strap with super sticky adhesive that you stick to your phone case. When I’m running, I just slip my fingers through it and I don’t even have to grip my phone.
I’m using the Active Couch to 5k app. It’s $2.99. I’m sure there are free ones out there, but I haven’t looked because I like this one.
If you’re past the 5k point, check out Hal Higdon’s training plans for half marathons and marathons. I used these plans to train for my half marathons way back when, and now he has an app too! I haven’t downloaded it yet because I don’t want to jinx myself, but it’s highly rated in the app store.
For regular runs that aren’t part of a program, I use Map My Run. You can get it on the Apple Watch too, which is neat.
I use Amazon music for music. I’m not sure how to share a playlist, but you can get a free trial of Amazon Music Unlimited here. I like it because it works well with Alexa too, and we basically ALWAYS have music playing at home. We’re the family that sings all the songs. We even sing our conversations sometimes, like a musical awkwardly adapted to a movie. No lie, no shame.
I use this massager on my feet and my knee scar almost every day. It’s the best. It comes with all different attachments, but I like the flat round one because you can use the flat side, or you can turn it and use the edge.
I also use these ice packs almost every day. I discovered them when I was in physical therapy after my second knee surgery, and bought 2 so I could ice my knee 2 rounds in a row. Legit. The. Best. This brand also has ice packs that fit around specific body parts, i.e. ankle, hand and shoulder. I’ve had these ice packs for 5 years now. I love them. Love them. I even took one with me when we went on our Texas road trip earlier this summer. And earlier this year when I went down to Austin for the Mom2.0 Summit. I can’t adequately put into words how much I love these ice packs more than any other ice pack.
And that’s where I’m at! I’m cautiously optimistic about the potential to run long distances again. I’m realistically optimistic about taking it day by day at this point and finishing Couch to 5k for the second time in my life, but for the first time with my son, who is 7 and absolutely freaking rocking it.