Because I'm trying to get back in shape after having a baby, I have begun jogging again. Unfortunately, I have a great deal of knee pain within 24 hours after my runs. Someone mentioned that the pregnancy could be playing a part. Is that true?
The excessive elasticity in your joints and ligaments during pregnancy was due to the hormone relaxin -- and this hormone is still present during breastfeeding. (I'm a prime example: I had to take it slow after my baby was born because of a pulled hamstring due to this extra elasticity.) This hormone could be responsible for your current knee pain. Also, if you're running your pre-pregnancy mileage with your now postpartum weight, the extra weight could be hurting your knees.
Now, more than ever, you should be cross-training. Try walking with intervals of slow runs. I found the bike to be my most comfortable postpartum cardio exercise and the Stairmaster (on slow) worked well too. Check with your doctor, however, to ensure there's not another reason for your pain.
I want to start running again as part of a new shape-up plan, but I experienced shin splints when I ran before. Is there any way to prevent this nuisance?
First, check your shoes and running surface. The shoes should fit properly and be in good condition. As for the running surface, try to avoid concrete and similarly hard material; stick to softer dirt and grass instead.
You could also try strengthening and stretching your shins and calf muscles. Do these exercises a couple of weeks before you hit the trail, treadmill or track.
For your shins, stand about 6 inches from the wall, knees straight, back pressed against the wall. Lift your toes up as far as you can and hold for three seconds, then lower. Repeat 10 times.
For your calves, stand on the edge of a step and let your heels drop slightly. Starting in that position, raise your body up on your toes. Repeat eight to 10 times. To work another part of the calf, try seated calf raises. Sitting on a bench with an 8- to 10-pound weight across your knees, raise your heels as high as you can eight to 10 times while keeping your toes on the floor. Add weight to increase resistance.
If the above measures fail, see a sports physician. He or she can check your running gait, feet and any physical imbalances that might be causing this injury.
Stephanie Oakes is the fitness correspondent for Discovery Health Channel and a health/fitness consultant. Send questions by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. She cannot respond to every query.