When I finally started listening to my body during workouts, I realized it was shouting at me — in the form of regular aches and pains in my knees — to reassess my cardio routine.
After gyms and fitness centers closed in March, I had no access to the low-impact resources I regularly turned to, like a pool or indoor cycling class, for a solid sweat. And because my downstairs neighbors do not appreciate high knees and jumping jacks at 6 a.m. (Can you blame them?), running became my go-to and only option for high-intensity cardio.
Going overboard with running — especially without switching things up or following a proper recovery routine — always seems to irritate my knees, and unsurprisingly, that’s exactly what happened. Missing my joint-friendly cardio methods something fierce, I decided to budget for an indoor cycling bike — justifying the cost with the fact that I didn’t have any intention to return to my gym.
A few weeks of basically little to no cardio later, it showed up at my doorstep — and I clipped in just a few hours later. The pedaling was a welcome relief from pounding the pavement, and I was thrilled later that night when I didn’t have to break out my ice pack. I’ve had my bike now for about two weeks, and I’ve never sweat so much without pain.
I always knew that cycling was a great low-impact workout, but I wasn’t as familiar with the mechanisms of this activity, so I checked in with Dr. Jasmine Marcus, PT, DPT, CSCS, for the specifics.
“Spinning is a great low-impact workout because your full body weight isn’t going through your legs the way it does when you’re walking or running,” Dr. Marcus says. “You’re sitting on the seat, but you can still get a great cardiovascular workout. This means less pressure is put on the joints in your legs, which can be great if you’re in pain.”
While many with knee pain will find cycling particularly helpful, Dr. Marcus also mentions that cycling isn’t always great for those with knee pain — others can actually experience pain during the activity. “Some people with knee pain, such as those with IT Band Syndrome, may find that the repetitive motion in biking further irritates the condition,” Dr. Marcus explains. “Obviously if you’re in enough pain that you have to alter your activity, you should seek treatment.”
While I’m so thrilled that I have a new cardio outlet, I’m being cautious not to overdo it — Dr. Marcus mentions that if you do too much too soon of any activity, you can injure yourself.