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(EDITED TO BE MORE GENERAL)

I'm doing a 14 week start-to-run course to exercise more as I have a desk job and sit a lot during the day. The course is 3 times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) which should bring me up to a 5km run at the end of the course. However in week 3 I was already having knee issues. So I made this post to ask for advice and to have a single record of what to keep track off for other beginners.

My history: I'm 32 years old and haven't done any sport in at least 15 years. For the last 8 years I have been doing a desk job with my only workout being walking to and from the train station.

My issues: I started a 14 week course to 5k. At first it went well and felt great. However with little to no warmup and inadequate stretching, knee troubles started rather quickly afterwards. Thinking this was normal I continued running for 2 more even harder runs. This caused me to be nearly immobile during my daily life. With no other choice I had to stop running and recover.

So what have we learned from this? What should you be mindful of if you want to start running?

(EDIT) So things we've learned:

  1. Make sure you have good shoes. Get a gait analysis if possible.
  2. Don't run if you have pain. Take one (or more) extra rest day.
  3. Be mindful of your route. Avoid steep hills or crooked sidewalks when starting out. Soft surface paths like dirt/forest paths or a running track are best.
  4. Do warmups before your run. This can be as simple as walking (5-10min) or walking lunges and knee lifts.
  5. Stretching should be done after your workout. youtu.be/eag6V6_2fjw?t=41 is a good reference.
  6. Protein slightly helps recovery. Eat high protein foods or additional protein powder (no higher than 20mg if only running)
  7. Ice is only for swelling and actually hinders recovery.
  8. If you have lots of knee trouble, consider doing knee strengthening exercises like walking lunges and Bulgarian split squats.
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    I would advice against running tomorrow. Take a week break from running. Walk the distances instead. Then try again. If the problem persist see a doctor.
    – Andy
    Jun 22 at 9:15
  • Ok thanks, also would you recommend icing? Any other ways to speed up recovery other than the ones I mentioned? Jun 22 at 9:17
  • Don't ice, it actually slows down recovery. Look at your gait (how you're landing your feet when you run), you should be landing mid-foot or towards the front of the foot, definitely not on the heel. Without knowing what the actual issue is, it's hard to give recovery advice, but in general for desk bound folk (like me) I would look at doing some squats, or 6 points rocking (you can easily Google both)
    – Dark Hippo
    Jun 22 at 10:53
  • Oh good to know, but when do you put ice then? When would you do the squads and 6 points? On the rest days, as warmup before the run, or when? I will get my feet checked out and maybe get a new pair of shoes while I'm at it this weekend. I will let you guys know my progress and what helped. Jun 23 at 5:10
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    You may have started off too strong. When I started running after a long break, my doctor recommended run 30 sec, walk 30 seconds × 3 for the first run, progressively increasing reps and/or duration at each run, and doing lots of glut activation exercises before.
    – E.Aigle
    Jun 23 at 7:59
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I started a similar programme and also hurt myself in the middle. If running is painful, stop running! Take a break and allow yourself to heal. I tried to keep going and things got worse instead of better. I then took a week off and redid the previous week's programme when I restarted and everything was fine. Eight months later I am running 20k once a week.

Taking a break is the most important thing I think but I also thought about some other possible causes.

In my case I decided my shoes might be an issue and I searched for "best runners beginner 2021" and picked a neutral pair off the list. No gait analysis available due to the pandemic but I probably would have done that if I could. I had previously been using hiking shoes which were probably a little heavy but also have a much stiffer sole. Was that a part of the problem? Who knows.

My route had included a significant hill to start and I thought this might be bad for my knees so I switched to a much flatter route. I can do hills now without hurting myself so maybe that wasn't the problem, or maybe I needed to leave the hills until I was fitter.

I wasn't stretching properly before my runs. The initial weeks were more walking than running and I was cycling or walking a fairly long way to start my "run" so it didn't feel like I needed anything more for warming up. After hurting myself I came up with a basic series of stretches and do them before and after. I haven't hurt myself seriously since. Might be because of the stretches, might not. They probably can't hurt (despite the clickbait headline I read recently that stretches increase injuries).

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    After resting for 2 weeks, I managed to continue running. I now do a walking warmup containing (walking lunges and knee lifts) on my way to the track. Also do stretching afterwards as shown in this video: youtu.be/eag6V6_2fjw?t=41 I've cut back on the protein powder however still eat my normal meals high in protein. I've also learned that running on dirt roads and paths is much lighter on the legs. Additionally sidewalks are generally not straight so that water flows towards de street, if the angle is too much it's very taxing to run on as one leg can't do the full motion. Jul 14 at 8:11

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