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Couch to 5K
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Do your knees get stronger?

I have just done W3R1 and although I managed all the runs as per the programme my knees were constantly niggling. I don't get sharp shooting pains it's more like a dull ache, and so far it hasn't made me feel like I need to stop but I wonder if this is something I just need to work through or if I should actually stop...?

I have read lots of posts on here about the strengthening exercises (squats) which I am doing, I go to yoga once or twice a week, and before starting C25K I did a lot of walking so I didn't expect this to be so hard on my knees, particularly at this early stage. I am also doing the recommended stretching after the runs, and the last couple of times I have put ice packs on my knees afterwards too.

Any thoughts / advice / experience you can share would be welcome as I really don't want to give up, but nor do I want to injure myself...!

Thanks :)

12 Replies

Hi Lynne. You are doing all the right things and the niggles might just be your knees getting used to running. Have you got proper running shoes? If not then I'd strongly recommend that you go to a specialist running shop like Sweatshop and have a gait analysis. They will suggest the right shoes for you. With Sweatshop you have a 30 day period in which you can return the shoes if they are not right for you.

I had runners' knees at about the same stage as you are now and they were so painful I could hardly walk! I didn't run for about 2 weeks but the pain eventually disappeared and they are stronger than ever now.

Well done on getting this far in the programme.


I have what I think are good running shoes - I am in Tenerife and went to the Adidas shop where the assistant was very knowledgable and helpful but they don't have a gait analysis machine so I just went with what felt right and she said was a good supportive running shoe.

I do wonder if I should stop for a week or two and let them calm down and then try to start again, or just work through it...


One thing I would recommend would be to check your footwear!

When I started running, I knew I had a weak knee and by week 3 was needing to wear a knee support. That helped the knee, but then I had problems with my hip. Being of a certain age, I assumed I was just wearing out and put up with it, but eventually had to address the problem.

One pair of proper running shoes later and both the knee and hip problems went away. It is amazing what a difference your gait makes and getting shoes that support your posture correctly may well help some of your problems now.

The other thing to look at is to make sure you are not taking too long a stride (I always thought that running involved striding out!). You want to make sure you are taking short steps so that you are landing on your foot when it is under you, not thumping down on your heel as you try to catch up with it. Short steps = less stress on your joints and shins. It might make it feel as if you are not going anywhere, but the speed will come later.


Definitely no long strides for me - I saw a quote which I thought described my 'running' style quite well -

"Like a three-legged tortoise wading through peanut butter"



I nearly gave up at Week 3 and had to take a week or 2 out to let me knees calm down. I swapped to running on grass for a bit on the advice of a 'proper' runner friend, and that gave me the time to get used to running without the heavy impact of the pavement. It was dead boring though ... round and round and round the playing field ...


Thanks - I just looked back through your earlier posts and its good to see someone went through the same thing and got better!


I used Sports Direct black tubigrip style knee supports for quite a few weeks as well. My knees are super duper now and I don't need any extra help! Good luck, and don't give up if you have trouble - just rest up and try again when your knees recover. They WILL get stronger as you get stronger, but they shouldn't be over worked initially :)


Could be that an extra rest day between runs will sort you out while you build up the muscle. Nothing wrong with taking your time to complete the program.


Running on trails instead of concrete might help, at least for a while. Your knees get stronger the more you run, as does everything else.


Keep up the lunges and squats - they will definitely help. I started taking glucosamine and think they have helped too.


I had exactly the same problem. Eventually things got so bad I saw a physio who said all runners need to do quad strengthening exercises to protect their knees. I've been doing them ever since and haven't had any further problems ( touch wood!!!) The link below is to a post I did of the exercises he gave me:


There are other knee exercises on the NHSChoices website too. Good luck

Edit: Forgot to say, I got some cheap gel insoles for my shoes. They act as miniature shock absorbers and have made a huge difference to my running.

1 like

Thanks everyone for the advice - am doing a bit more icing and will try some rest and elevation later, with a glass of something fizzy in hand :) Have a Happy New Year!


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