How to Feel Satisfied You've Worked Hard, Even if You Have Knee Pain

I just want to feel like I’ve worked hard Lyz, despite this knee pain

Carol tells me she used to run.

I’m going to share a short story about Carol who’s developed arthritis in her knees meaning she can no longer run.

She started to pile on the pounds, feel stressed and frustrated that she’s missing out on the only time she had for herself.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis affects joints causing pain and stiffness as well as swelling. It reduces the amount your joint can move (range of movement). Someone with arthritic knees likely has problems bending them to more than 90 degrees – which means kneeling and doing squats (sitting down on a sofa uses the squat pattern) becomes painful and difficult.

In Carol’s case it also means her knees pop and creak whenever she bends them or puts any shear force through them (think forward lunge movement). Whilst that doesn’t necessarily cause her any pain (it makes me feel quite nauseous I must admit) it’s just better for her to avoid.

What exercises can she do?

In my experience, people who have degenerative knee conditions mostly just want to feel their quads burn – this seems to be a popular measure of a good and satisfying workout!

The usual way to do that would be weighted squats – that’s a no-no for these guys so we need to be more inventive with exercise choices.

Carol’s arthritis means she also needs to avoid any impact exercise such as jumping and of course, running.

These activities will just cause further damage to her knees in the long run.

Static hold exercises (Isometrics)

During static hold exercises joint angle and muscle length do not change during contraction. Perfect for anyone with joint limitations where dynamic movement causes pain. The plank is a good example of this kind of exercise. They raise your heart rate and, done correctly, are hard work.

Given Carol’s restrictions it was a challenge to get her feeling like she’d had a good workout. But she now has a format that makes her quads burn again, gets her out of breath and get a sweat on – without causing further deterioration to her knees.

In fact, strengthening her legs has improved movement and reduced pain in the knees. She was telling someone the other day that she’s “more flexible and a lot less clumsy” since joining us.

She can get up and down off the floor a lot easier – she “no longer feels like a 90-year-old woman!”

An exercise to try at home…

We got Carol to feel her quads working by doing wall sits (an isometric exercise).

Perfect because her knees stay in one position, avoiding any dynamic movement that could cause her pain whilst building stabilisation and strength in her quadriceps muscles.

*Don’t attempt this, or any other isometric exercise if you have high blood pressure*

The wall sit

  1. Find a space on a wall
  2. Sit against the wall – imagine you’re on a chair and the wall is the back rest
  3. Put your arms by your side and make sure your pelvis, backs of shoulders and head all stay in contact with the wall
  4. Your knees, hips and ankles should be in alignment and thighs parallel with the floor
  5. Hold for as long as you need to feel quads burning (start with 30 seconds, build up to 1 minute)
  6. Take 30 seconds rest and go again, three times in total.

I guarantee you’ll feel your quads working with this one!

If you’ve ever had knee pain – what’s worked for you to feel better?

Looking forward to hearing your stories 🙂


P.S. If you (or someone you know) have long-term pain and are struggling to exercise, so piling on the pounds and generally feeling ‘bleurgh’ …I can help.

If you’d like a free-of-charge consultation to chat about how we can get you back to feeling like you, call me on 0779 381 3605 or email

*I’ve changed my client’s name to protect their identity – the story is based on a real conversation.

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