Knees were all the rage at our last Minimalist Monday workshop.

Bending knees properly while running is very important for reducing impact force when your foot hits the ground. Your knees add springiness to your step, which is often disregarded when running in shoes with thickly supported heels. Bent knees also help us save energy during the swing phase, when we bring our rear foot forward. Finding the right balance of springiness is the key, as too much will lead to excess bounciness and lost efficiency while too little can cause a jarring impact and muscle strain.

To illustrate this point, Doc Sanatan used three weights tied to elastic bands. He had volunteers from the class hold the weights at different lengths to show too much bounciness, too little bounciness and a moderate amount of bounciness. We were asked to imagine our knees working like each of these examples while running. It was no surprise that the weight on the longest band bounced very slowly and heavily, and it looked like it required a lot of energy to keep it going. The weight on the shortest band bounced neurotically, and it was easy to imagine how that would be uncomfortable on a run (and probably make you dizzy). The Goldilocks weight in the middle, however, was just right.

Bouncing weights

Sanatan then had us put these ideas into practice and try our Soft Tops drill at different bouncing intervals. Still using each of the weights as a guide, we were asked to bounce our knees to their rhythm and experiment until we found a nice level of bounciness.

Soft Tops, from Week 3

We also incorporated a knee lift into our previous Arabesque drill by bringing the knee forward on the upswing, just like in running:

Modified Arabesque, from Week 6

We then moved to the grass and he asked a brave volunteer to sit in a knee pose. Like a common yoga or meditation pose, this meant simply sitting on your knees and using a towel above and/or below your ankles if it felt too uncomfortable. Sanatan recommended sitting this way for 5-10 minutes at a time to help improve joint flexibility. He also made the point, as illustrated in the photo below, that this pose puts your knees in a very similar position as running:

Only three more classes left! Next week: how running changes with speed.

Minimalist Mondays is a free injury-free running workshop that meets weekly in downtown Portland, Oregon. It is taught by Dr. Sanatan Golden and Dr. Ray McClanahan. Everyone is welcome! For more details, including recaps of past lessons, visit the Minimalist Mondays website.


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