You could say that women’s sport is having a moment. Only, it’s not a moment….
We put together the HerCanberra ACTIVE Expert Panel to answer the health and wellness questions that are important to our readers.
Kirra Rankin is a Rehabilitation Exercise Physiologist and one of the Panel members. This week, she’s answering your questions about exercising over the Christmas holidays.
“I have more time to exercise over the holiday season (I’m usually in a high stress job, where I sit at a desk all day) – how can I increase my walking without flaring up my chronic knee pain?”
There are three main areas that I’d address. Firstly, how long have you had the knee pain for, and have you consulted a professional or specialist to give you a diagnosis or long term treatment advice? We certainly don’t want to aggravate the situation more, for example, if you need surgery or to de-load for a certain period of time. Although findings on an MRI do not correlate to pain, it will give us some knowledge of what we are working with.
Secondly, do you have a current lower limb and lumbar spine or hip strengthening program to help prevent injury? I would emphasise strengthening the hips and lower back, as well as lower body, so that you’re distributing your strength evenly. Often, knee pain can be due to poor hip stability and strength. I’d recommend following a program for a minimum of 15 minutes, four time a week.
Lastly, do you have a recovery routine after your walks? If not, start with some static stretching during your cool-down, as this is the time that your muscles are still warm and pliable, and most likely to respond favourably, and there is a lower risk of injury. Try to hold the stretch for at least 45 seconds.
It might even be time to get a bike, and de-load the knee joint so that you can strengthen the supporting muscles around the knee. Deep water running and walking in shallow water is also a great option for recovery.
“I have had hip pain for many years. Do you have a couple of tips to help manage the regular flare-ups after a walk?”
Firstly, it may be helpful to map out where your current fitness tolerance is. Over the next two weeks, write down how often you walk, and for how long. We need a guide to work with, so that we can manage the increased load. For example, if you are walking for 30 minutes, three times a week and pulling up ok, then we can try for an extra five minutes per walk and see how you recover. If you’re tolerating the load, you can keep adding five minutes per week. Try not to change too much at once, or we won’t know what’s caused the increased pain.
If you have chronic hip pain, it’s also important to consider the surface that you’re regularly walking on. Is it uneven and rocky, or on a gradual slope? Are you only walking on hard concrete paths? Try to vary the direction that you take so that you aren’t loading the same muscles and joints every time you put on your walking shoes. A soft grass will deload your hips by 15-25% compared to a harder surface.
Have a think about whether your walking shoes are supportive, and whether you’re practicing good walking posture and technique. Shoes are a deal breaker for hip pain, so it can be well worth your while to visit The Athlete’s Foot to have your feet scanned and get some advice on which shoes are best for you. Also, enlisting the help of an Exercise Physiologist, Podiatrist or Physiotherapist to assess your walking posture and technique can make an enormous difference.
“I have recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I was wondering if you had any suggestions to help me get through a busy Xmas period. I usually love doing Park Run (a free community event held regularly every Saturday) however, I’m not sure I can get through a social Xmas day if I run in the morning? Any suggestions appreciated”.
I understand your concern—I do Park Run every week, so I know how much it means to you to be a part of the healthy positive community, and how good it makes you feel! Have you considered just walking the five kilometres on the Christmas day event? You’d save some energy for the big day ahead. I’d recommend walking park run this weekend too as a trial, so you have an idea of how you feel after a walk compared to a run. Fibromyalgia is so individualised, and it’s all about finding your “green zone” where you recover well. Running often sends us into the red zone—which then takes days or even weeks to recover from. If you pull up ok after the walk, maybe try a combination where you walk for five minutes, then run for one minute.
Do you have a burning question you want answered, or issue you’d like us to explore? Whether it’s about menopause, meditation, or your metabolism (or any other body part or function for that matter), our Panel is here to help. Submit your question anonymously and we’ll put it to the experts.
The information provided in this article is provided for information purposes only. You should seek assistance from a health care professional when interpreting these materials and applying them to your individual circumstances. If you have any concerns about your health, consult your general practitioner. Information provided in this article does not imply endorsement of third-party services or products and cannot provide you with health and medical advice.