by Martha Hicks Leta
You know that feeling when you try to get out of bed in the morning? Like you’re the Tin Man waiting for Dorothy and her oil can to relieve your rusty joints? It’s not just the Tom Brady’s and Dan Marino’s of the world who suffer from knee problems. Most adult mortals greet the day with some sort of joint stiffness and pain. Often we accept this as a natural part of aging. But what do you do when that pain starts turning your body into a house of cards?
It goes something like this: the knees hurt, so you cut back on exercise. The lack of exercise leads to weight gain, putting more stress on those joints. Next, the supporting muscles and ligaments around the knees become weaker limiting your range of motion, or worse, leaving you open to further injury. Left to chance that bit of knee pain can lead to a host of other maladies, like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and an overall sense of misery. So, what can be done?
For Duxbury resident Nancy McDermott, years of high intensity competitive sports (college basketball, tennis, skiing, triathlons) lead to a gradual increase in knee pain from the time she was in her thirties. Over the years, she scaled back her exercise to accommodate the degrading knees and the busy schedule that came with raising a family and working full time. By the time she reached her mid-fifties, that knee pain was preventing her from doing, not only the activities she had once loved like skiing and playing tennis, but even routine things.
“Simple tasks of moving around, climbing stairs, getting out of a chairlift and getting through airports were becoming more difficult,” says McDermott. “I knew that for my overall health I could not continue down this path.”
McDermott also knew she needed an expert to help her regain her fitness without injuring herself further. That’s when she found her way to Fitness Together in Norwell.
Trainer Alicia Tasney knows knees. A lifelong athlete, Tasney was just days away from entering her freshman year at UMass Dartmouth on a full lacrosse scholarship when an accident left her with a host of injuries, including a fractured knee cap. The scholarship gone, Tasney faced an extended and challenging healing process. Eventually she decided to take what she had learned from her recovery and apply it to helping others as a personal trainer.
When Alicia took on Nancy McDermott as a client, she could see the toll the knee problems had taken on her. “When I started training Nancy, she could barely squat. She even had a hard time getting up from a chair without using her hands to assist. Same with going up and down stairs. ”
Nevertheless, Tasney had a plan. One of the first things she did was help Nancy focus on lowering her body mass index to reduce the stress on her joints. This is especially important since every pound of extra weight can add up to three pounds of pressure on the knee joints when walking and ten pounds when running. Healthy weight is a key factor in reducing knee pain.
Tasney also started Nancy on a program that would strengthen the muscles supporting her knees. “It’s a slow process but we started with a simple sitting down and standing up without using hands and doing step-ups at a very low height. From there we just progressed by adding weights or adding height to the step-ups, as well as lateral movement.”
Nancy says Tasney pushed her harder than she ever would have pushed herself, but she trusted her trainer and soon saw results. In seven months, Nancy had dropped 30 pounds, could climb stairs without knee pain and even jog. Best of all she was able to enjoy skiing again.
Her confidence renewed after a day of skiing at Bretton Woods, McDermott sat gazing out at Mount Washington and began to ponder a challenge she wouldn’t have dreamed of less than a year prior: climbing to the top of that mountain. Her brothers and sons had made the climb before and Nancy had heard about the difficulties. The weather can be incredibly hostile, and the footing can send even the most agile athlete tumbling. But as she grew stronger, she began to consider the challenge more seriously. By June she had set a date with her brother to make the trip.
“It was a difficult climb as the rocks were slippery from rain the previous night. It tested my arms, legs and core as some parts were quite steep or required good balance as I moved from rock to rock. It took us about 4 1/2 hours. My knees held up really well.”
Tasney is very proud of her client’s achievement and says Nancy McDermott is a perfect example of the important role exercise plays as we age. “Keep in the habit of exercising the older you get. Keeping the muscles strong will lower the chances of getting pains in any part of the body. We got Nancy to where she is by strengthening all the muscles that surround the knees. She is pain free now.”
McDermott is clearly grateful for the role her Fitness Together trainer has played in helping her get strength back. “It is just so great to be able to move more quickly and confidently in day-to-day things. I feel completely different in everything I do. I can not think of a better investment.”
To learn more about preventing knee pain go to Real Age
Or speak to your nearest Fitness Together trainer. In Norwell call 781-659-0034. In Cohasset call 781-383-8004. In Hingham call 781-749-2511. For all our FT Studios in Northern New England, go to FTGetsResults.com