If your knees are as wrecked as mine, I think you’ll enjoy this post, and hopefully get some useful workout tips.

I’ve been through the ringer when it comes to knee stuff. I’ve had five surgeries on one knee and now that one’s my “good” knee. So, yeah.

My issues are cartilage related. At the ripe old age of 36, I had severe chondromalacia (arthritis) requiring reconstruction. Within the span of a few months, I went from running marathons to struggling to turn a full circle pedaling a recumbent bike. Rehabilitation was riddled with setback after setback, and I’m not just talking about the physical. My spirit was crushed, too.

Here I am, about 7 years later, on the other side of some intense hardships. I’m reminded of what I’ve been through when my knees swell up on occasion like they are right now. Last weekend I did 150 double-unders and some heavy squat cleans, so now this week my knees are like, 🖕🏻! 

But back when I was trying to pedal that bike at physical therapy, high on oxy and pretty sure I’d spend the rest of my life on a couch with a bag of peanut m&ms, I would have never imagined I’d be squat cleaning and double-undering (that’s probably not a word) ever again.

The road back was long, and I’m grateful for it. It made me a smarter athlete and it definitely made me a better trainer. I don’t do marathons anymore, but who wants to run that far anyway? Here are some things I learned along the way…

✔️If your knees crackle and pop when you move them, it’s not the end of the world. As long as there isn’t pain associated with it, you’re ok. I mean, it’s not great, but it’s not an SOS situation. It’s called crepitus in case you want a new fancy word to throw around.

✔️I love my Rehband knee sleeves. Wearing them doesn’t fix anything, but it makes my knees feel more supported when I’m working out.

✔️If your knees are stiff and swollen, you might find some relief from an anti-inflammatory protocol. I’m not a doctor, so check with yours before taking medication.  I take Aleve for a few days after I do dumb things like too many double-unders. I also stay away from inflammation-causing foods - dairy, sugar, gluten - and up my turmeric and fish oils. 

✔️If you squat, go to parallel or lower, even if you need a bench or a box target to sit to. Now, squatting form will vary greatly from person to person; one person’s “good” form can look very different from someone else’s “good” form. But generally, doing little mini squats can often be worse on the knee joint. Our joints often prefer to go through a fuller range of motion. They’re made to move. They want to move. If your knees are really cranky, and squatting feels bad, don’t squat. There are other ways to set your legs on fire. 

Instead of knee dominant strength movements like squats and lunges, try hip dominant strength movements like hinges and deadlifts, hip bridges and hip thrusts, 1 leg Romanian deadlifts and kettlebell swings.

Other knee-friendly ways to fry your legs are GHD, assault bike, ski erg and hiking uphill. Even hopping on the row erg and focusing on driving through your heels can be surprisingly ouchie (in a good way) on your entire posterior chain. If you don’t mind getting weird looks, find a hill and do running repeats backwards up it!

To save yourself mental anguish, focus on what you CAN do instead of what you CAN’T do. 

✔️This one’s a little woo-woo, but hear me out. Knee problems are associated with an inability to bend and be flexible (stubborn, ego, pride, and fear). So, as we move forward in life and approach the unknown, it can be helpful to try and go with the flow. I’m the worst at this, so I’m mostly including this for myself. 🤪

I love talking about knees, and helping people with junkie knees. I hope your knees feel great, but if they don’t, I’m here!