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My indoor rec league is killing my knees. What can I do?

The question: I am joining an indoor soccer league. Are there exercises I can do to protect my knees from the impact of running on hard concrete floors?

The answer: Strengthen your lower body and core with traditional strength exercises like squats, deadlifts and lunges. Strong lower body and core muscles help with shock absorption.

When you run, each time your foot hits the ground, the leg has to absorb roughly six times your body weight and transfer it appropriately up through your kinetic chain. Soccer requires running and quick directional changes. Prepare your body to handle the demand of running with single-leg exercises.

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Since you work each side independently in single-stance exercises, you also ensure your stronger side does not dominate, giving your weaker side an opportunity to train harder.

I learned the importance of single-leg strength the hard way. The left side of my body has always been weaker than my right. About six months ago, this weakness caught up to me and caused me to injure my left hip while running. I had always known that a strength imbalance could cause injury, but I guess I never thought it could happen to me.

Learn from my mistake. Do single-leg exercises to help equal out your body's strength from side to side.

Try a single-leg squat and reach

Stand on your right leg. Your weight should be equally distributed through the ball of your big toe and the two sides of your heel. To perform the exercise, bend at your right ankle, knee and hip to sit into a single leg squat. As you squat, reach your left hand across your body so your fingers reach the outside of your right foot. Engage the bum muscle of the right leg to push you up to standing. Repeat eight times and switch legs.

To increase the challenge, try holding weights. To make the exercise easier, rest the toes of your non-standing leg on the ground, but only allowing them to take minimal weight.

Trainer's Tip: Cross-train with cardio workouts that involve less impact. Try jumping on a mini-trampoline, swimming, pool running or cycling.

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Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.

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