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Ask Chad #6

August 7th, 2013     Ask Chad

Hey Chad,

I need your advice. I started a new fitness program on the 1st of January with the goal of getting rid of my extra 30 pounds of weight. I push some heavy weights 3x a week and jog 5x a week for 30 minutes. I have been really committed but my knee has really started to hurt. I want to keep it up but it’s getting me down. Do you have any tips on how to get around this?

John Sowry, Canberra, Australia

Hi John, thanks for reaching out from Down Under! I’ve actually been to Canberra and enjoyed a little taste of emu and kangaroo during my visit to the Australian Institute of Sport.

I’m afraid you’ve fallen victim to the “Resolution Blues”. And we’ve all done it.

After a long holiday season filled with Halloween candy, Thanksgiving stuffing and Christmas cookies we decide it’s time to get in shape. Unfortunately January’s hope becomes February’s regret when we try to do too much too soon.

You’ve simply overdone it in January. Remember, those extra 30 lbs. didn’t come on overnight (or even just over the holiday season), and it’s going to take a little time to get it off. Furthermore, make sure that you’re not falling into the trap of trying to “out exercise” a poor diet. No amount of training will get those extra pounds off if you’re eating too many calories.

First we need to address the injured knee and relieve that pain, then plan an appropriate strategy for achieving your goals without re-injury to the knee.

I certainly can’t diagnose the exact cause of your pain, and if it persists, you may need to visit a physician. But I can tell you how I would address it if it were my knee.

First I would take a few days off of training and try icing the knee 2 or 3 times a day for about 20 minutes. You may also get some relief from NSAIDs like Advil or Aleve. (Check with your physician for appropriate dosage for you.)

After a few days if the pain has mostly subsided, you can start to train again. Don’t do any exercises that cause pain to your knee joint. However, both upper and lower body exercises that don’t aggravate the knee can slowly be added back in to your routine.

When adding back in cardio training, I’d stick with an exercise bike (to promote blood flow and healing for the knee) and/or swimming (both have little to no impact on the knee) to avoid re-injury. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes daily until knee feels normal again.

Depending on the cause of the knee pain, you may also benefit from soft tissue work like massage and foam rolling on the muscles around the knee.

Once you’re feeling ready to resume your training program fully, I’d make a couple of changes.

I’m fine with weight training 3 times a week. Just make sure you warm up well and continue soft tissue work like the foam roller before and/or after your training sessions. It’s also possible you’ve tried to lift too heavy before you were ready, so dial back on the weights a bit as you ease back into it.

However, the main culprit in your knee pain is probably the 5 days of 1/2 hour jogs each week. I prefer that you either walk or run, but don’t jog.  Jogging mechanics (specifically the heel strike) tend to lead to a lot of pounding on the knee joints (and others). Either walk (or bike or swim) if you plan on doing 30 minutes plus of steady-state cardio.

If you can run, then I’d add in sprint intervals to your program. Try walking for 5 minutes and then add in 20 sec to 2 minute intervals every 5-10 minutes.

On weight training days, instead of waiting until the end of the workout to do cardio, you can intersperse the intervals during your workout. My favorite protocol is to do a 1-5 minute sprint interval after each weight training exercise.

Try varying the type of exercise. I like 400m runs on the treadmill, Schwinn Airdyne sprints, the Stepmill, and rope jumping.

Thanks again for the question John! Remember, getting in shape is about consistency over time. Just like the story of the tortoise and the hare…slow and steady wins the race!

Sample weight training with sprint interval workout:

5-10 minutes treadmill or elliptical
5 minutes Foam roller lower body
5 sets of 5 reps Kettlebell deadlift
400 meter sprint on treadmill @ 8.0 mile/hour
5 sets of 5 Bench Press
400 meter sprint on treadmill @ 8.0 mile/hour
5 sets of 5 Pullups
400 meter sprint on treadmill @ 8.0 mile/hour
3 sets of 20 Deadbugs (core exercise)