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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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0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 29, 2009
Come on... you're trying to protect your knees by playing TENNIS??? I love the game, but easy on the knees it is not.
 
 
Apr 24, 2009
Cycling is better than running. It's faster, it's more energy efficient, it's more useful (commuting to work by bicycle is far more feasible than running to work) and it's much easier on the knees.
 
 
Apr 24, 2009
I've realised I do need now (or past 35) to do some strength training to avoid injury at soccer. Squats and lower leg work like ankle raises seem best. Glucosamine does seem to work for me too - or maybe it is psychological, but that is good enough for me.

Cycling (12 m i l e s each way) to work has really helped my back - I have no idea why, but squash seemed to give me bad pain from twisting and the cycling has stopped that completely. Unless it was something else.

Would piles (p i l e s) be censored too? I think words with l e s might get cut - let's see.
 
 
Apr 23, 2009
On the other hand I'm 53, stand 6' 1" weigh 220lbs. I would have agreed with you before I took up distance running a year ago. My knees never felt better. I regularly play racquetball and occasionally tennis, and both put more stress on my knees than running because of the stop and go and side stress. Most running injuries are caused by overdoing it.
 
 
Apr 23, 2009
Stanford prof Philip Zimbardo recently published a book on this subject:

http://www.thetimeparadox.com/

I attend his book lecture at Google (Zimbardo's co-author now works there) and my takeaways were these:

1. In a healthy life, we spend some fraction of our time "living in the moment" (dancing, jumping into public fountains, smelling the roses) and some fraction of the time "living for the future" (e.g., thinking about knees, working hard to put money away for retirement) and some fraction of the time "living with the past". (Quoted terms are my paraphrase).

2. Many well-intentioned social tools (like Nancy Reagan's "just say no") are useless because they use techniques that rely on the ability of thinking about the future (e.g., "think about the consequences") to change the behavior of people who only have the ability to think in the present (e.g., "I want a high right now.")

 
 
Apr 23, 2009
mobydisk: I just realized that the only reason I responded to your comment was because I misread it, oops. After rereading the comment I understand completely what you're saying. I personally prefer a combination of both running and swimming. To each his own.
 
 
Apr 23, 2009
I don't run much since breaking my ankle (at over 50) playing roller hockey. Later discovered that hiking up steep trails conditions much the same leg muscles as used in roller hockey. I seldom get the knee and ankle pains from hiking that I did from running (on pavement).

I also strongly recomment some sort of upper body exercises. Pull ups and dumbbells at home works fine, if you know what you're doing. I'm 60, and probably have as firm a build as I had when I played football in college.

 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 23, 2009
I wish somebody had told me this 20 years ago. I'm now 45 yo, 25 pounds overweight and in the worst shape of my life because I need a knee replacement. This is due not to chronic damage due to running, but from a traumatic basketball injury that led to ACL reconstruction and the loss of most of my meniscus at the age of 30, and the long-term deterioration of my knee post-surgery. Ugh.
 
 
Apr 23, 2009
I suspect censoring the word "m i l e s" is some sort of social experiment contrived by Mr. Adams to mess with us...we will all be the subject of a future blog about it.

 
 
Apr 23, 2009
I suspect censoring the word "m i l e s" is some sort of social experiment contrived by Mr. Adams to mess with us...we will all be the subject of a future blog about it.

 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 23, 2009
In an earlier comment, the word 'm i l e s' was censored. I thought, "That's odd, maybe it means something dirty in another language." I enjoy finding phrases to use to evade my corporate email filter, so I wrote a quick script to use the google translation tools to find what it means. No luck. Then I searched for acronyms, still no luck. Now it's driving me nuts, what on earth could possibly cause this to be censored? Maybe it was just a glitch for that post? Only one way to test. Five kilometers equals three point one !$%*!
 
 
Apr 23, 2009
You would do well to caution your friend, at least from my own experience. I run fairly regularly and the aches and pains from running on pavement take considerably longer to dissipate than those from trail running or even tarmac.

Beyond that, your friend does need to make sure he has the correct shoes for his running style (but from what you've said he sounds like he's probably addressed this) and to make sure he has a series of stretches and exercises to build support to the muscles around the knees, plus his core.

So, one thing to take away - concrete bad!
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 23, 2009
For a man whose ulimate goal is to have his brain attached to an immortal robotic body, you sure worry a lot about your knees.
 
 
Apr 22, 2009
When I was an engineering student, I used to sell Glucosamine Hydrochloride capsules for extra money. The manufacturer claimed that they help rebuild knee cartilage. I didn't believe the stuff worked yet was selling it.

I was surprised when some of the people who bought the stuff called me back and thanked me. They said the pain had reduced significantly and they could move around a lot more than before.

I remember a post where Scott mentioned that he took a Magnesium supplement and his joint pain reduced.

If your knees hurt, Magnesium and Glucosamine Hydrochloride may be a solution worth trying.
 
 
Apr 22, 2009
Right. 20 years ago, I was actively nagging my mother-in-law to follow through the knee replacement her doctor recommended. (She is way to sweet to nag - so someone had to take up the slack...) Anyway, she flatly refused, didn't want to go through the physical therapy (someone told her it was hard work and it hurt), and felt that she was getting around just fine, thank you very much. I distinctly remember asking her to picture herself in 20 years, when she would be 85 - and possibly too old for the surgery. How would she feel if she needed it then, but couldn't do it? She laughed it off, saying she had no idea whether she'd be around in 20 years....

Results are almost too sad to type. She is around 20 years later, but with strictly limited mobility due to her bad knees. She is seriously over weight now because she can barely move without pain. By rights she should be in pretty good health right now. Everything that is wrong with her begins with her inability to walk because she has bad knees.

Take care of them puppies. You may need them some day...
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2009
For almost a year a minor but unrelenting arm injury has left me able to lift heavy things if I'm well positioned but not change a tyre or even fling a frisbee. It's bound to recuperate but I know now that if I don't wait until it feels tip-top I'll suffer another year. Meanwhile I can cycle. Then again an acquaintance of mine goes skiing in a wheelchair so, as ever, horses for course innit.
 
 
Apr 22, 2009
What if the shoes he was using when jogging provides the same padding and protection on the knees as your artificial turf? Would that change your view on jogging?
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2009
$^$%&^%^&^***

CAN'T Spell . . . . .

Gezzzzzzzzzzz
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2009
And yes, I am an engineer and can spell!!!!!
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2009
As a 40 year old moist robot who decided he was over wieght and unfit five years ago - I decided to do something about it - I took up Mountian Biking.
In those five years I have been in hospital twice thanks to bike offs.

a small price to pay for beinjg fit and loving it.

I know ride MTB enduros - 12 hours, 130 km things - that leave me shagged for days.

I live.

the alternative is not to live.

Get a life, take a risk I say.

or remain bubble wraped on your couch.
 
 
 
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