Train like an athlete for your knee replacement (or to avoid one!)
Oct 24, 2017
You don't have to be a competitive athlete to train like one. You just have to want the results of preparing your body for the event – in this case the event is a knee replacement. The good news is that your training may even help you avoid a knee replacement and enjoy life for many years before moving ahead with surgery.
In fact, I have successfully added 22 years (!) in delaying a knee replacement. I am now 56 years old and I was told, when I was just 34, that I needed to have my knee replaced “but I was too young”. I know things have changed now and replacements are done at an earlier age but this wasn’t an option for me.
But now I’ve made the decision to replace, I’ve been training for it like it is an athletic event. Many doctors will require you to participate in a “pre-hab” program for knee replacements. I highly recommend this or to do it on your own – which was my choice.
Both of my knees “qualify” for a knee replacement, but only my left one is having the mechanical issues that finally prompted me to say yes. My right knee is functioning and my secret recipe keeps it in good shape.
THE HEALTHY KNEES SECRET RECIPE
In all those years I found the secret recipe to reducing knee pain and living an active life has just 4 ingredients:
- Ride a Bike – minimum 2X per week using the Healthy Knees method. You can substitute some other cardio activity, but I have found that cycling is the absolute best for knees. Start with indoor cycling! You won’t fall over or get left behind. Then, if you want, take it outside…there is a whole world to explore just waiting for you and your bike. If you want to learn the healthy knees basics, check out my book Healthy Knees Cycling to guide you along the way (it also includes freebies for strength training and stretching).
- Strength Train – minimum 2X per week – Get as strong as you can be for your surgery and you’ll recover much faster – or heck, you might feel so much better that you put off your surgery. (Healthy Knees Strength Training plan coming soon!) Since so many people ask what I do, I videoed one of my training sessions with Tyler Brown, Personal Trainer at our Club (Bellingham Training and Tennis Club). You’ll hear his commentary in the background.OF COURSE, I did not start with the exercises you’ll see here, I worked up to it. I started with the basics and made sure I had GOOD FORM before advancing. I do leg specific exercises... but it is about so much more than just your knees. Remember the song "Your ankle bone's connected to your knee bone, your knee bone's connected to your hip bone...." its that kinetic chain from ankles, calves, knees, upper legs, butt (hips), and core are all key for healthy knees. Keeping your joints juicy, through mobility movements and stretching, is also super important. Think you can't squat because of your knees? Think again...it is all about form. I'll have to do a special blog on a proper squat if you are interested.
The first exercise here, the step ups, form is super important to push through the heel and not let my knee slide forward. I struggle a little with this on my left leg.
Healthy Knees Strength and Stretch from BTTC & Healthy Knees on Vimeo.
- Stay a Healthy Weight – Body Mass Index or BMI is a good starting place to see how you rate for health. A BMI of 18.5 – 24.9 is considered normal weight. If you are curious about your own BMI, get your calculation here from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Here’s the rub - extra weight you carry means extra wear and tear in your knees. When you walk, the forces through your knees are 2-3X your body weight, when you run its 6X, when you jump its 9X. An extra 20 lbs means 60, 120, 180 pounds of force….yikes! If you need to lose weight, get moving on steps 1 & 2. You probably already know what you should reduce or cut out of your current diet, so do it.
- BE CONSISTENT. I can’t say enough about creating your own operating standard – you can’t just train for 3 or 4 weeks and be done. Training doesn’t stock up, it’s more like brushing your teeth. You need to do it regularly to receive the benefit.
Repeat this to yourself until you do it and it becomes a truth “I am the kind of person who rides my bike 2X per week and strength trains 2X per week so that I can live a healthy active life.” Of course, you can always add more to that equation or substitute some other cardio activity for the bicycling, but if you want the best for your body, it’s what you need to do. Period.